Experts say it's a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Thousands of people trying to escape the fury of Hurricane Katrina have taken shelter in the Louisiana Superdome. The big arena is the most solid of New Orleans' refuges of last resort. It's doors have been opened for those unable to get out of the city. The poor, homeless, and frail were let in first. The rest lined up for blocks as National Guardsmen searched them for guns, knives, and drugs. Heavy, steady rain drenched hundreds of late arrivals. People were told to bring enough food, water, and medicine to last up to five days. One man lamented that his cigarettes and lighter were taken. The Superdome has 77,000 seats and bare floors. The National Guard estimated 25,000 to 35,000 refugees are in the dome, but an arena says there are closer to 9,000 in the stands, with more on the floor.
America's already tight oil refining capacity could suffer a serious blow from Hurricane Katrina. Analysts say the result could be still higher prices for gasoline, heating oil, jet fuel, and other products. Refiners have closed more than one (m) million barrels of refining output along the Gulf Coast. One expert says the actual amount could be higher. The vice president of risk management at an energy firm in New York says if Katrina knocks out significant refining capacity, "we're going to be in deep, dark trouble."
The possible impact of Katrina is already sharply affecting the New York Mercantile Exchange, early electronic trading had crude oil futures jumping $4.50 a barrel, to above $70.
Some Gulf Coast refineries were damaged last September by the less powerful Hurricane Ivan.