Landfall: 6:10 p.m. Monday, August 29, between Buras and Triumph, Louisiana, about sixty miles southeast of New Orleans

Just before the eye of a hurricane comes ashore, things grow frightfully quiet. There are no birds. The wind dies down. Rain stops. Then the storm's back end moves inland and all hell breaks loose. From inside their basement, James and Stephanie Irwin could hear the tall pines in their yard snapping in half like matchsticks as Katrina passed over Louisiana. It sounded like gunfire.

By early afternoon, the worst of the storm had passed. Irwin and his family left the basement and went upstairs to see what Katrina had left behind. They stood on their screened porch, connected to a balcony perched thirteen feet above the ground. Their backyard runs alongside wetlands on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain, normally a beautiful spot. But that afternoon, the lake had turned into a swift-moving river, and the Irwins watched helplessly as the water rushed at them. Deer ran from the marsh, bounding onto the balcony to escape the water's current. Tree limbs and debris swept by as the lake roared past. After an hour and a half, the flood stopped. Everything was still. Surrounded by water, the family sat inside, and waited.

Renee Peck awoke early Monday morning in the hotel in Baton Rouge and turned on the news. Katrina had made landfall southeast of New Orleans. There was some wind damage and some of the surrounding communities on the north side of the lake were hit by the storm surge. But it appeared the city's luck had held out. "We dodged the bullet. It missed New Orleans," Renee e-mailed her eldest daughter, Megan, a student at Dartmouth College.

When news trickled in that the city was flooding, the Pecks began to worry. Renee received word that the newspaper offices had closed and everyone had been told to evacuate. Then she and Stewart heard that water in the 17th Street Canal--just a few blocks from their home--had burst through the levee and was pouring into the streets.

By Monday, most of the Tulane students had left Jackson State, having been evacuated to Georgia or Texas once officials realized Mississippi would take a beating from Katrina. Carly had been on the phone with the airlines for hours on Sunday and managed to snag a seat on one of the last flights out of Jackson Monday afternoon. She left for Philadelphia at 5:00 p.m. Katrina's winds could already be felt in Jackson. The airport closed as soon as her plane left the ground.

By the time Katrina made landfall, morning had dawned on the first day of classes for the 2005 fall semester at Kenyon. Frankie Gourrier and Josh Flood were exhausted. Neither had slept much and both had risen early to see what Katrina had decided to do. Josh tried to reach his parents, but his cell phone had a New Orleans-based number, and nothing with a 504 area code worked that day.

When the flooding started, the first area to fill with water was Orleans Parish--where both Frankie and Josh lived, just five minutes apart. In between classes, Frankie returned to Snowden and Josh to the firehouse, as they scoured the Internet and TV for a glimpse of their neighborhood or of Methodist Hospital, where Josh's parents were working. As the day wore on, and the flood waters rose, finding landmarks became impossible. All they saw was a city of rooftops and none looked like their own.

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