New Orleans Devastated

By Hurricane, Floods

* "The devastation is greater than our worst fears. It's just totally overwhelming."

That's how Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco yesterday described the destruction that Hurricane Katrina caused when the deadly storm slammed into the Gulf Coast on Monday.

Thousands of people are in shelters, unable to return to their homes, or what is left of them. Power lines are down, water supplies are polluted and entire neighborhoods are under water.

Two embankments, called levees, protecting New Orleans broke yesterday and the city began rapidly filling with water. Officials had hoped that dropping 3,000-pound sandbags from helicopters would help, but thousands of people in shelters were told they would have to leave.

More than 60 people died when Katrina blasted ashore with winds up to 145 miles an hour. The total tally, both in lives and property lost, won't be known for weeks.

Gator, Dude!

* The search for an alligator in a Southern California lake has been called off, at least for now.

The gator was first spotted Aug. 12 in Lake Machado in Harbor City. But it hasn't been seen in more than a week, frustrating gator handlers who hoped to catch and move it to a more suitable home.

"We are considering this halftime," said reptile wrangler Tim Williams. "He's won the first half."

Many cities and towns do not allow people to keep exotic animals. Two people thought to have turned this gator loose at the lake have been arrested.

Fortunately for the gator, Lake Machado has plenty of crawfish and frogs to dine on.

Elvis Has Left a Message

* Elvis the hamster was keeping Peter Ash's sister awake at night, running for hours on his exercise wheel.

The restless rodent gave Peter an idea: Could he harness Elvis's energy, using the exercise wheel to generate enough electricity to recharge a cellphone?

Peter spent 13 months building his gadget, and it works!

"Every two minutes Elvis spends on his wheel gives me about 30 minutes' talk time on my phone," said Peter, 16, who lives in Somerset, England.

The experiment became Peter's high school electronics project. Grades were posted last week. Peter got a C on the project (teachers grade tough in England!) but passed his electronics exam.

Peter Ash and the restless Elvis.