Hurricane Katrina has grown to 160 mph or Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
These numbers don’t mean much to most of us. What frame of reference is there? You’ve never experienced 160 mph winds (and hopefully never will).
The Hurricane Center’s categories are based on a scale which relates winds speed to specific damage. Here’s what Category 5 really means:
Winds greater than 155 mph (135 kt or 249 km/hr). Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required.
And, like the old time movies with the heroine tied to the railroad tracks, a lumbering train is moving toward New Orleans and there’s no way to escape.