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National Hurricane Center:
Hurricane Katrina was Category 3, Not 4

by Kevin Caruso

December 21, 2005

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, the National Hurricane Center reported the storm as a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph maximum sustained winds, but the final report issued by the center on Tuesday indicated the Katrina hit land as a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 127 mph when it made landfall near Buras, Louisiana. (Category 3 hurricanes have maximum sustained winds between 111 and 130 mph; Category 4 hurricanes have maximum sustained winds between 131 and 155 mph.)

Hurricane Katrina had maximum sustained winds of 121 mph when it made its second landfall on August 29 near the Louisiana-Mississippi border.

“As the center of Katrina approached New Orleans, it stayed to the city's east, meaning the strongest winds corresponding to that intensity were likely present only over water to the east of the eye,” the hurricane center said. “The sustained winds over all of metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain likely remained weaker than Category 3 strength. [Thus] the majority of New Orleans likely experienced winds equivalent to a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, although those winds would be stronger for those on upper floors of high-rise buildings.


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