By R. Neal

Lousiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said on CNN last night that the situation was "dire." Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour called it "catastrophic."

There are at least 50 confirmed fatalilties in Mississippi. Officials in both Louisiana and Mississippi expect the death toll to climb as search-and-rescue teams are able to deploy today. Flood and wind damage along the coast is massive.

Portions of Highway 90 in Mississippi are destroyed. There are reports of damage to bridges on I-10 in Louisiana. Over 1.3 million are without power. FEMA is rushing in provisions. The Red Cross reported last night that more than 75,000 people were being housed in 240 shelters. Evacuees are being told to stay where they are while officials assess the situation.

Here are some reports from around the region:

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Biloxi Sun Herald: Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi Coast Monday with a force not seen since Camille 36 years ago, sweeping aside multimillion-dollar casinos, burying the beach highway and killing at least 50 people in Harrison County. [..] Before telephone contact was lost Monday morning, Hancock County officials reported that a foot of water swamped their Emergency Operations Center, which sits 30 feet above sea level. The back of the Hancock County courthouse, where the center is located, gave way. "Thirty-five people swam out of their Emergency Operations Center with life jackets on," said Christopher Cirillo, Harrison County's Emergency Medical Services director. "We haven't heard from them. The only person we can raise on the radio is the sheriff in his car."

Jackson Clarion Ledger: "Complete devastation," Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said after the eye of the storm had passed the area. [..] Much of the land south of I-10 was under water, while in some areas of north Biloxi and Gulfport, the Biloxi and Tchoutacabouffa rivers had escaped their banks, leaving homes and business under 8 or more feet of water.

Jackson Clarion-Ledger: Harrison County EMA supervisor Connie Rockco, who found three bodies, said calls for help came throughout the storm, but emergency workers were powerless to help because of the winds and floodwaters. [..] "We have catastrophic damage on all levels," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said. [..] Although Katrina's winds weren't as forceful as Camille's, the hurricane caused waves to swell higher than Camille, reaching 28 feet on the Gulf Coast. As a result, some boats crashed into buildings, and others wound up on the Coast's busiest thoroughfare, U.S. 90, which was seven feet under water. [..] Spraggins said he saw the Copa casino "sitting in the parking lot of the Grand (Casino)" and that it would likely be months before casinos reopen.

Biloxi Sun Herald: Closing coast casinos costs Miss. $500,000 a day in tax revenue

New Orleans Times-Picayune: A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new .hurricane proof. Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina's fiercest winds were well north. The breach sent a churning sea of water from Lake Pontchartrain coursing across Lakeview and into Mid-City, Carrollton, Gentilly, City Park and neighborhoods farther south and east. [..] In Lakeview, the scene was surreal. A woman yelled to reporters from a rooftop, asking them to call her father and tell him she was OK, although fleeing to the roof of a two-story home hardly seemed to qualify.

NOLA Times-Picayune Tuesday Front Page (PDF, photos)

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