NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (Reuters) – Shopkeepers sandbagged galleries and stores in the French Quarter of the vulnerable Gulf Coast city of New Orleans and workers boarded up city hall as Hurricane Katrina strengthened dangerously on Sunday into a top-ranked storm. Officials in the low-lying city famed for its Mardi Gras parades urged residents to evacuate and stranded tourists to shelter on at least the third floor of their hotels as Katrina threatened to make a second and possibly more deadly assault on the U.S. coast after killing seven people in Florida. “This hurricane has the potential to cause extreme damage and large loss of lives if they don’t take action very soon,” Max Mayfield, director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center, told WSVN television in Miami. Katrina grew into a Category 5 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale by 7:05 a.m. EDT (1105 GMT), with winds of 160 mph (260 kph) capable of causing catastrophic damage. The storm was around 250 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The hurricane center warned it could come ashore with a storm surge of up to 25 feet, and douse the Gulf coast with up to 15 inches of rain in some area. We were scheduled to go to New Orleans for a short but much needed vacation on the 9th. My fingers as crossed as tightly as they can be that this won’t fuck everything up.