The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is illustrating the dangers of opining with too little data. As the storm moved north yesterday, a number of commentators, both online and in the major media, were already starting to yowl that the pre-storm predictions of mass destruction were overblown and unwarranted. After all, they said, the thing went through New Orleans, and look–the city’s still there. There’s no ‘giant bowl of toxic gumbo’ (to paraphrase many, many comments). Heck, I can see the Superdome on CNN, and it’s beat up, but it’s not an island or anything!

With one of the major levees failing this morning, several parishes under water (few of which could be reached by people with cameras yesterday), an entirely unknown death toll, hundreds of people trapped by flooding, and untold devestation on the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf coasts, it’s starting to look like the instant post-storm criticism was itself premature.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has, for the first time in its history, published an electronic-only edition today–a notably ironic achievement, since almost nobody in the city has electricity, much less internet access. It’s in .pdf format, and it’s heartbreaking.

Here’s similar coverage from the Biloxi Sun Herald.

UPDATE: After riding out the actual storm yesterday, the Times-Picayune staff is now evacuating their building in downtown New Orleans.

Tuesday, 9:40 a.m.

The Times-Picayune is evacuating it’s New Orleans building.

Water continues to rise around our building, as it is throughout the region. We want to evaucate our employees and families while we are still able to safely leave our building.

Our plan is to head across the Mississippi River on the Pontchartrain Expressway to the west bank of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. From there, we’ll try to head to Houma.

Our plan, obviously, is to resume providing news to our readers ASAP. Please refer back to this site for continuing information as soon as we are able to provide it.

MORE: Just heard from a friend of mine that his sister’s family is evacuating Baton Rouge due to a rapid rise in the Mississippi River. The situation in New Orleans is deteriorating; this from WDSU’s hurricane blog:

11:04 a.m.: Looting Out Of Control
New Orleans police say looting is out of control in many parts of the city. Officials are focusing on the rescue effort, but a crackdown on looting is expected after the martial law declaration. — WDSU anchor Kriss Fairbairn

10:30 a.m.: Martial Law Declared New Orleans is under martial law, according to state officials. It could be weeks before displaced residents are allowed to return. — WDSU chief meteorologist Dan Milham

10:27 a.m.: Blanco Expects Death Toll To Be High
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said her office has not confirmed any deaths but expects the loss of life to be high. — WDSU chief meteorologist Dan Milham

10:25 a.m.: Superdome ‘Miserable’ The Superdome is filthy. Garbage bins are overflowing with trash and the bathrooms are filthy. In addition, the plumbing does not work. City officials say conditions are “miserable.” — WDSU chief meteorologist Dan Milham

10:21 a.m.: Water, Travel Conditions Poor Residents are urged to avoid drinking the water in New Orleans. It is not safe. The only way in and out of New Orleans is the Crescent City Connection. — WDSU chief meteorologist Dan Milham

10:20 a.m.: Twin Span Bridges Destroyed
The twin span bridges into east New Orleans have been destroyed [These are the bridges on Interstate 10 from Slidell/Gulfport; the only highway in or out of New Orleans is now I-10 on the west side. –WC]. It’s still not clear whether the entire bridges are destroyed or just sections of them. People are warned not to drive across any high-rise bridges. Their integrity may be compromised by the impact of the storm. — WDSU chief meteorologist Dan Milham

10:17 a.m.: Hospitals Face Dire Situations
New Orleans’ hospitals are facing even an even greater crisis. Tulane Medical Center said the water is rising quickly and could disable its emergency generator. Tulane is trying to evacuate and airlift all patients from its hospital and charity hospital. Ten hospitals in New Orleans are running on emergency generators. — WDSU chief meteorologist Dan Milham

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