Here's a link to the interview with Mayor Nagin that pretty much describes the awfulness. It's grim and very long, but it's the best account I've found of the damage. The good news is that the bridge he describes as being "gone, totally gone," the Twin Span between NO and Slidell, might have just been under so much water that the FEMA people in helicopters couldn't see it. It may be just badly damaged, but not washed away as feared.
Uptown, where I lived and my sister and her family lived until last fal (glad they moved out of the state) was probably the least affected with "only" a few feet of water, lots of trees knocked down, and probably no power for the next month. Most of the grand houses on St. Charles Ave. will survive, compared to the 9th ward projects and ghettos. I'm sure someone will have something to say about the unfairness of that, the poor are always hardest hit etc.. Tell it to the guy who just built a new mansion on the lake or just put down 50 large to join Southern Yacht Club (it somehow managed to sink and burn at the same time). Nobody got off easy here.
The bullet was certainly dodged, in the sense that the storm weakened slightly before hitting the city and it veered east enough to keep it from being a direct hit. Believe it or not, it could have been much worse. When the bullet is this big, though, dodging it doesn't mean a whole lot. If it lands next to you, you still get blowed up.