Gulf Coast Residents Brace for Hurricane Rita's Wrath

September 23, 2005

As Hurricane Rita churns toward Texas, residents along the U.S. Gulf Coast are preparing for yet another pounding from a powerful storm.

The latest in a series of devastating hurricanes has already caused new flooding in storm-ravaged New Orleans.

The fringes of Hurricane Rita have dumped more rain in the Crescent City, and the Associated Press reported this morning that levees protecting the city from Lake Pontchartrain have failed again.

Floodwater is now pouring into New Orleans, which had only recently been pumped dry after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana on August 29.

On the Approach

Hurricane Rita is expected to come ashore near the Texas-Louisiana border around daybreak on Saturday and will cause more heavy damage, said Steve Rinard, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

"I see this thing as a four-pronged problem," Rinard said. "You've got storm surge problems, high wind problems, tornado problems, and—long after the event—extensive flooding problems. There's a potential for 25 inches [64 centimeters] of rain.

"[Rita's] going to move inland and lollygag around," he added, "so it'll not be over when it moves ashore."

As of 8 a.m. EDT today, Hurricane Rita was a Category Four storm with top winds of 140 miles an hour (225 kilometers an hour). Rita will be the fifth major hurricane to strike the Gulf Coast since last summer.

The storm's impending landfall has sent millions of people inland to escape fierce winds and a deadly storm surge. Wendy Wong, a meteorologist at the Houston-Galveston National Weather Service office, said most residents have left the island city of Galveston, Texas.

"Most of Galveston County looks pretty empty," Wong said.

The same is true up the coast in Louisiana: Rinard said most of Lake Charles's 60,000 residents have evacuated. In nearby Cameron Parish, nearly all 6,000 residents have left and police have blocked all roads leading into the parish.

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