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Excerpts from Hurricane Katrina briefings

Following are excerpts of transcripts of briefings on Hurricane Katrina for President Bush and other officials.

Aug. 28

Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center: "I really don't expect to see any significant weakening. So I think the wisest thing to do here is to plan on a Category 5 hurricane."

"I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very grave concern."

President Bush: "I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared to not only help you during the storm, but we will move in whatever resources and assets we have at our disposal after the storm to help you deal with the loss of property. And we pray for no loss of life, of course."

Col. Jeff Smith, state of Louisiana: "I'll just tell you that the evacuation process is going much better than it did during Hurricane Ivan. ... we do still have heavy traffic coming out of New Orleans, but by and large that process is going very well."

Michael Brown, the head of FEMA: "Number one, you know that the mayor has ordered the Superdome to be used as a shelter (missing) first resort. I didn't hear about any other shelters for people to go to as they left New Orleans.

" ... As you may or may knot know, the Superdome is about 12 feet below sea level, so I don't know what the heck (missing). And I also am concerned about that roof. I don't know whether that roof is designed to stand—withstand a Cat. 5 hurricane."

Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security: " ... are there any DOD (Department of Defense) assets that might be available?"

Brown: "We have DOD assets over here at the EOC (Emergency Operations Center). They are fully engaged, and we are having those discussions with them now."

Noon, Aug. 29

Mayfield: "The storm surge ... for the Biloxi Basin ... is going to be very, very devastating. Again, the strongest winds are on the east side, so that will pile that water out on the Mississippi coast. ... we are talking about (incomprehensible) the Gulfport, Biloxi, all the way over to Pascagoula, we will have very significant storm surge, and I would expect extensive damage to that area."

Brown: "I talked to the president twice today, once in Crawford and then again on Air Force One. He remains very, very interested in this situation. He's obviously watching the television a lot, and he had some questions about the Dome, he's asking questions about reports of breaches. He's asking about hospitals. He's very engaged ... "

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco: "We have not breached the levee at this point in time. That could change ... "

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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