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Can anyone move my other Hurricane Rita news here?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,23889-1795360,00.html
New Orleans back under water as levees give way
FLOODWATERS breached damaged levees and poured back into New Orleans yesterday, threatening the city with a second catastrophe less than a month after Hurricane Katrina.

To the horror of army engineers, who had predicted that the levees could withstand six inches of rain from the outer edge of Hurricane Rita, water began pouring into the city’s already devastated Ninth Ward after less than a quarter of an inch of rain, with days of rain to come.

With water waist high in the Ninth Ward and rising fast by lunchtime, Major Barry Guidry, of the Georgia National Guard, said: “Our worst fears have come true. We have three significant breaches in the levee and the water is rising rapidly. At daybreak I found substantial breaks and they’ve grown larger.”

As rain from Rita’s outer edge began to fall, engineers faced their greatest nightmare: New Orleans, almost pumped dry yesterday morning, being submerged again.

Brigadier-General Robert Crear, of the Army Corps of Engineers, said that wind gusts from Rita’s outer edge, combined with the rain, had caused a surge of water that had poured over the top of the levee.

He conceded that the rapid onset of a second crisis had taken him and his men by surprise. “We had not expected to get this level of surge this early,” he said. Because of the wind and rain, he said, “we cannot do anything at the moment”.

He said that all his engineers could do was to stockpile boulders and aggregate and try to block the damaged levee again when the bad weather had passed, a wait that could take two or three days.

The Ninth Ward, one of the lowest-lying areas in New Orleans, was the neighbourhood of the city hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Most homes were reduced to piles of rubble. Yesterday searches by rescue teams, who have been going door to door seeking remaining storm victims, had to be suspended as the water poured in.

The Army Corps of Engineers had worked round the clock in recent days to repair the breach in the Industrial Canal levee above the neighbourhood, which links the Mississippi River, south of the city, to Lake Pontchartrain, its northern edge, but after just a few hours of rain yesterday water seeped over the repaired section then poured through the levee in the form of a waterfall at least 30ft wide.

The outlook for New Orleans was bleak last night. Forecasters predicted that once Rita makes landfall, with its eye about 200 miles west of the city, it could effectively stop for several days, depositing heavy rain over a 300-mile-wide area, including New Orleans.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/23/national/nationalspecial/23cnd-storm.html?hp

Hurricane Rita Weakens a Bit; President Cancels Texas Visit

HOUSTON, Sept. 23 - As Hurricane Rita churned closer and grew wider this afternoon, coastal Texas and southwest Louisiana residents who had not yet evacuated were warned to stay put rather than risk being caught in the storm. More than two dozen elderly people died on the road in Texas, all but one in a bus fire.
Hundreds of thousands of people were still in the middle of a mass exodus inland, trying to reach safety before the storm's projected landfall near daybreak on Saturday near Port Arthur on the Texas-Louisiana border. And in New Orleans, damaged levees failed in places, sending waters flooding back into areas inundated by Hurricane Katrina nearly a month ago.

President Bush canceled plans to visit with emergency workers and officials in Texas, citing the storm's shifting path and a desire not to impede preparations, but he still intended to monitor the storm's progress from a military facility in Colorado instead of Washington.

Even as Hurricane Rita continued to weaken in the Gulf of Mexico this afternoon, though still a strong and dangerous Category 3 storm, its turbulent winds widened their reach, lashing out with tropical storm-force winds as far as 205 miles from its churning center.

The National Hurricane Center said at 1 p.m. that Rita's peak sustained winds had ebbed to 125 miles per hour, with hurricane-force winds of 74 m.p.h. or greater extending 85 miles, and that the storm was moving northwest at 12 miles an hour. Government meteorologists said the storm could send tides surging 15 to 20 feet wherever it hits. Rainfalls up to 15 inches could beset coastal areas of Texas and western Louisiana.

In Baton Rouge, La., Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco warned people to now stay in place, after calling on Thursday for the evacuation of nearly half a million people in the southwestern portion of her state.

"If you have not evacuated, it is probably too late for you to do so," Governor Blanco said at an afternoon news conference. "The weather is becoming very unstable and you need to find a safe place to be."

"It is not safe to find yourself stranded on the highway," she added. "Get to the highest ground or highest building in the area that you know of. Call your local authorities if you think you need rescue."

Col. P. Jeffrey Smith, a deputy director of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Secuity and Emergency Preparedness, said that 150,000 residents had evacuated southwestern Louisiana, and that 35,000 evacuees from Rita were already living in Louisiana shelters.In Texas, Houston residents who remained in the city - some had turned back after stalling in traffic for hours - were similarly advised by Mayor Bill White to now stay where they were. While he said at a news conference that the city does have a plan in the works to shelter people with "special needs and who are most at risk," there will be no shelters for the general population.

"We are not encouraging the general public to go on the streets to seek shelter," he said. Instead, they should stay where they are and "shelter in place."

In Beaumont, Tex., many people chose to stay behind despite a mandatory evacuation order and repeated warnings that the Nechos River port city was directly in the path of Hurricane Rita. Even in normal times, parts of the town of 113,000 people floods during rainstorms.

Among those who stayed was Shawna Cabrera, 28, her husband Jorge, 24, and their friend, Felicito Vides, 28. Their car, a 1991 Chevy Blazer was simply not up for a long drive, Ms. Cabrera said.

"I moved from Wichita Falls and all those tornadoes to here, and I know this is something bigger than that, but if I can survive that, I can survive this," she said. A news program on television in the next room was imploring people to leave town.

"We'll be all right here," Ms. Cabrera said. "I'm praying to God."

On the highways, many drivers remained stranded today after running out of gas on Thursday during the peak of the mass evacuation. When the long-promised state gas trucks had still not arrived by 9 a.m. today, the city and county dispatched sheriff's vehicles with limited supplies of gas, enough to get people off the highways and to a safer place. About 300 volunteers also arrived overnight to help the Salvation Army take water to the waiting evacuees.

As many as 2.5 million people jammed evacuation routes beginning on Thursday, heeding days of dire warnings about Rita and with the images of the devastation of Katrina still fresh. Some people were still stuck on highways this morning, though vehicles were flowing much more freely near Houston. Mayor White promised that no one would be left stranded on the highways when the hurricane arrived.

"We will make sure that will not happen," he said. Yet the roads were proving deadly. With the storm still more than 200 miles from the Texas shore, the authorities there reported the first storm-related deaths: at least 20 elderly evacuees who died in a bus fire, and an elderly evacuee who died of dehydration in a traffic jam. President Bush cancelled his plans to watch the storm preparations firsthand in Texas only minutes before his scheduled departure. He will instead fly straight to Colorado, said Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary. Mr. McClellan said the president wanted to avoid getting in the way of search and rescue teams in San Antonio that were now in the process of shifting position to follow the storm.

Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, said that more than 1.5 million people had been evacuated from the storm's path.

A warning of tropical storm winds - 39 to 73 miles per hour - combined with a rainfall of three to five inches was also issued for the southeast coast of Louisiana by the National Hurricane Center. The area includes New Orleans, which is still struggling to recover from Katrina, which burst the levees that held back Lake Pontchartrain, releasing deadly floodwaters into the city.

The waters breached the city's industrial levee late this morning, submerging the Lower Ninth Ward. "It's a very bad situation for New Orleans," said Timothy J. Schott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Washington.Total accumulations of more than 25 inches are possible across eastern Texas and western Louisiana over the next several days as the storm slows as it moves inland, the hurricane center said.

"We may not know the full scope of the damage for hours, or even days, particularly if this storm is very slow moving and pours a lot of rain into some of the areas of Texas and Louisiana," Secretary Chertoff said at an afternoon news conference in Washington.

Low-lying areas of Terrebonne Parish, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans, were also inundated after a storm surge from Hurricane Rita. "We've got levees poppin' here," said Maj. Thomas Odom of the Terrebonne Sheriff's Office, as he directed evacuations using boats and large army-style trucks.

More than five feet of water stood in some areas composed largely of rural residences and part-time fishing camps. Evacuees were ferried to make-shift shelters at schools in areas of the parish that are on higher ground. The parish's civic center in Houma is still full with New Orleans-area Katrina evacuees, Mr. Deroche said. "We were the helping brothers this week," he said. "We need time to catch our breath and regroup."

In Wilmer, Tex., just southeast of Dallas, a bus carrying 45 people from an assisted living center in Houston caught fire on a gridlocked highway and at least 24 people were killed, the Dallas Country Sheriff's office said today. The fire is believed to have been caused by mechanical problems, which led to the explosion of the patients' oxygen tanks.

Near Cleveland, Tex., an 82-year-old woman died of dehydration while stuck in traffic in the stifling heat, Mayor White of Houston said at a briefing this morning.

At the Beaumont Civic Center, about a dozen buses lined up on this overcast morning to take hundreds of stragglers six hours north, to Wichita Falls. Many were elderly African-Americans, worried about their medical conditions, carrying only a bag or two of belongings. One little girl arrived barefoot.

Frankie Roebuck, 82, was apprehensive about leaving with her 85-year-old husband, Leroy; they had been unsuccessful in getting him a new supply of oxygen before finally deciding to leave. "We just decided it was time to go," she said. "We thought we would ride this one out, like we did the rest of them.

Eric Williams, 37, also said he was trying to hold out, but then he saw everyone else leaving. "It was a ghost town, so I said, 'Let me get on,'" he said, carrying a single gym bag of clothes.

Did he know where he was going? "I don't know. I'm just taking a ride."

Landfall for Rita is expected Saturday morning somewhere on the northeast Texas and Louisiana border, but Mr. Schott warned against placing too much emphasis on the exact location.

"This is a huge storm and it will impact a huge area," he said.A hurricane warning was in effect from Port O'Connor, Tex., to Morgan City, La., and the high winds and heavy rains will emerge as Rita approaches the southwest Louisiana and upper Texas coasts late today or tonight, the hurricane center said.

Saying that the storm would be "a great test" for everyone involved, Texas's governor, Rick Perry, said at a news conference that the state was prepared because its people had taken the evacuation seriously.

"We're going to get through this," he said, adding that thousands of relief workers were on standby, that 54 Red Cross shelters were open, and that law enforcement would be in full force after the storm.

"Be calm, be strong," he urged his constituents, and "say a prayer for Texas."

At 1 p.m., the center of the storm was about 190 miles southeast of Galveston, Tex., moving northwest at about 10 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Center said it expected that Rita, once of the strongest Category 5 storms on record, would continue to weaken as it neared the Texas-Louisiana border, but that it remained "dangerous hurricane."

The unending lines of vehicles heading out of Houston on Thursday were only one indication of how seriously people along the Gulf Coast regarded the threat of Hurricane Rita, particularly after the devastation and death caused less than a month ago by Hurricane Katrina.

As the day progressed Thursday the storm weakened slightly, from Category 5 to Category 4 status, as the maximum wind speed fell from 175 miles per hour to about 140. The hurricane also shifted course toward the north, which offered a glimmer of hope to the panicked Houston area but threatened further flooding in New Orleans and other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

But officials warned that the storm still had the potential to cause widespread damage to Houston, and after witnessing what happened in New Orleans, few people here were willing to take their chances.

Galveston's mayor, Lyda Ann Thomas, said at a news conference that the city had set up a modest refuge for the few residents remaining, but she warned that it was intended to protect people during the storm's most turbulent hours, expected to be between 8 p.m. and midnight. It has only a few cots and some food and water, she said. "Please don't plan to stay there" past the storm, she said. "There are no nurses, no doctors, no triage."

The Houston area's two major air gateways, Hobby Airport and Bush Intercontinental, suffered major delays when more than 150 screeners from the Transportation Security Administration, facing their own evacuation concerns, did not show up for work. The agency later rushed in replacements, a spokeswoman said, but passengers, already burdening the system with extra luggage for their trips to safety, waited for hours to go through security.

While the storm is expected to hit the shore with as much strength as Hurricane Katrina did, forecasters added an additional concern Thursday, saying it was likely to stall inland for several days and disgorge enormous amounts of rain.

The storm is expected to wreak billions of dollars of property damage on the Texas coast, which is one of only a handful of states to have such high property values in coastal areas. Eqecat, a risk management firm based in Oakland, Calif., estimated today that insured losses would be between $9 billion to $18 billion, adding to a projected $14 billion to $22 billion in insured losses from Hurricane Katrina.

Because the central coast of Texas is home to the country's largest concentration of oil operations, Hurricane Rita has also threatened to put further strain on fuel supplies and inflate gas prices. But its movement northward has lessened some of that concern, and Citgo Petroleum Corporation said the employees of its Corpus Christi refinery were returning to work today. Hurricane Katrina, while similar in intensity and size, did not cause inland flooding after hitting the Gulf Coast because it was swept out of the South by the jet stream, said Mr. Schott of the National Weather Service.

But the jet stream, a high-altitude, east-flowing river of air, has shifted to near the Great Lakes, Mr. Schott said, and so cannot be relied on to "scoop out" the swirling, Georgia-size mass of moisture and rain clouds that will be left behind this weekend as Hurricane Rita moves over East Texas, Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas.

"This is looming as a big problem," Mr. Schott said. "The storm could spend three days hanging around there" and could easily produce 10 inches or more of rain, enough to cause intense flooding.

Forecasters said the pinwheeling bands of thunderstorms radiating several hundred miles from the eye of the hurricane could produce up to five inches of rain in New Orleans, near the limit of what Army Corps of Engineers officials said the city's taxed pumps could handle.

Governor Blanco of Louisiana appealed for 30,000 more Army and National Guard troops to respond to Hurricane Rita. Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, director of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, said he would forward to request for to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.Brig. Gen. William T. Grisoli, commander of the North Atlantic Division of the Army Corps of Engineers, said this afternoon that there was little danger of water spilling into the city again from Lake Pontchartrain, as occurred after Hurricane Katrina, because the storm surge was only about 4 feet.

The Department of Transportation said today that two ships docked at Beaumont would shelter more than 70 of the city's emergency vehicles so that they could lumber ashore immediately after the storm passes. It also said that the S.S. Potomac, a pipeline vessel currently at the Port of Orange in Texas, would serve as a floating gas station, providing fuel for emergency and relief operations along the Texas and Louisiana coasts.
 

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Rita crashes into US Gulf Coast, spares Houston

Rita crashes into US Gulf Coast, spares Houston
GALVESTON, Texas (Reuters) - Hurricane Rita slammed into evacuated towns and oil-rich swamplands of the Texas-Louisiana border on Saturday, causing widespread damage and power outages and threatening heavy flooding.

The powerful storm crashed into the U.S. Gulf Coast with 120 mph (193 kph) winds and punishing rains, then weakened slightly as it moved inland.

It spared Houston, the fourth-largest U.S. city, a direct hit. But the oil city of Beaumont, Texas and many of the largest U.S. refiners were in Rita's path, and the extent of damage was not yet known.

Much of New Orleans was flooded again, less than a month after Hurricane Katrina, as water poured over levees.

Officials across the region said high winds had toppled trees, destroyed buildings and fanned numerous fires. A container ship broke loose, fallen trees trapped people in their homes by fallen trees and floodwaters again swept into devastated New Orleans.

Police chief Ricky Fox in Vinton, Louisiana, between Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Beaumont, Texas, told KLPC television there was widespread damage.

"I never seen anything like it ... Most of the larger buildings, the roofs are gone from them," Fox said.

Beaumont, where the U.S. oil age began with the discovery of the Spindletop oil well in 1901, was one of the hardest hit. In Lake Charles, the storm knocked a huge container ship loose from its moorings in Lake Charles and the vessel threatened to strike an interstate highway bridge over the lake, news reports said.

About two million people were without electricity in Texas and Louisiana.

"It's unbelievable," Lake Charles Police Chief Tommy Davis told a Louisiana television station. "There's going to be a lot of destruction out there."

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the commander of relief operations in New Orleans, told CNN there was significant damage to the airport at Lake Charles, and ABC reported 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 metres of floodwater in the city's southern section.

A fire engulfed three buildings in Galveston's historic downtown and another building collapsed in the same area as Rita raked the island city, which nevertheless escaped a direct hit.

Centerpoint Energy and another utility company, Entergy, said at least 900,000 customers were without power, meaning around 1.8 million people were in the dark and without air conditioning.

The storm's eye hit land in extreme southwestern Louisiana, a swampy, lightly populated area just east of Sabine Pass, Texas, the U.S. National Hurricane Centre in Miami said.

When Rita was over the Gulf of Mexico earlier in the week, it was a roaring Category 5 storm with 175 mph (281 kph) winds, but those dropped to 120 mph (193 kph) at landfall. That made it a Category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, and a slightly weaker storm at landfall than Katrina, which killed more than 1,000 in Louisiana and Mississippi three weeks ago.

By 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the storm was midway between Jasper and Beaumont in Texas and its maximum sustained winds had dropped to 100 mph (160 kph), making it a Category 2 storm, the hurricane centre said.

Forecasters had predicted a 15- to 20-foot (4.5- to 6-metre) storm surge would spill over local levees in the low-lying region and that rains up to 25 inches (63 cm) were possible.

The refinery town of Port Arthur, Texas, better known as the hometown of late rock singer Janis Joplin, was expected to get severe flooding, officials said.

ON THE HEELS OF KATRINA

Rita was the second powerful hurricane to strike the Gulf Coast in less than a month, following Katrina.

Together, the two storms knocked out nearly all energy production in the offshore oil fields of the Gulf of Mexico and 30 percent of the nation's refining capacity onshore.

Houston, the centre of the U.S. oil industry, got gusty winds and intermittent rains. But it did not take the direct hit that officials feared when they ordered a mass evacuation of the city that turned into a chaotic, 100-mile (160 km) traffic jam.

"It's too early to say Texas dodged the bullet -- Houston did -- but we haven't seen what kind of flooding there might be," said Kathy Walt, spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Local officials urged all those who evacuated to take their time coming home to avoid creating a huge inbound traffic jam.

In Galveston's Poop Deck bar overlooking the Gulf, the mood was light as bar-goers drank and watched the roiling surf.

"Mother Nature must be a Yankee lady," said chef Samantha Gallion. "It's like she's angry at the southern coast. She's hit us all now. I'm joking in the face of disaster."

Most of the storm area was devoid of people after more than 2 million fled in the evacuation.

The traffic jams had clogged highways leading out of Houston, stranding thousands of motorists who ran out of gas as they inched along for hours.

The chaos turned fatal on Friday when a bus carrying residents of a Houston nursing home caught fire near Dallas, killing 24 people.

Even though Rita hit 200 miles (320 km) to the west of New Orleans, the scarred city felt the effects when high tides from the storm spilt over the city's fractured levee system.

In scenes reminiscent of the days after Katrina struck on August 29, water from the city's industrial canal filled up streets in the Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish where nearly all the homes are already ruined.

"There'll be some significant flooding. We've already got reports of six feet of water on highway underpasses," Army Corps of Engineers Col. Duane Gapiski told CNN:
And thus religious nuts will claim it is a "sign from god"
 

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Yes, the christians will say it's a sign from god that it missed Houston and those from islam will say it only hit the oil as a revange. I wounder what they'd say about the earthquake in Iran, that it was Bush fault I guess.

It's horrible to involve religion in natural disasters. Let's all have our thoughts with the victims instead.
 

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US relieved as Rita rolls past

[font=arial,helvetica,sans-serif]US relieved as Rita rolls past[/font]

[font=arial,helvetica,sans-serif]She was no Katrina, but there are still millions stranded, four days of torrential rain expected and growing anger over the evacuations[/font]
[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Who knows what she will find. Maybe her home has been tossed onto its side by the hurricane, its expensive innards flung across the neighbourhood. Chances, though, are that the family home in suburban Houston will be just as Abbie Huckleby left it.[/font][font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Hurricane Rita may have whipped winds up to 120mph, left a million without power and sheared off the front porch of at least one home in Louisiana, but the initial reaction as America surveyed Rita's aftermath at first light yesterday was a national gasp of relief. The sentiment was shortlived. Then everyone remembered Rita had precipitated one of the biggest civil evacuations in history, an exodus that last night saw families displaced in makeshift shelters hundreds of miles from home. Almost three million citizens like Huckerby remain stranded. In the face of acute petrol shortages and traffic chaos, Rita has provoked misery for millions.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]The first signs of unrest surfaced last night amid criticism that too many people were forced to shift for a storm which although it left a million without power and flooded at least one city, never came close to mimicking the brutality of Katrina. Public safety officials are already wondering whether they can ever persuade so many to evacuate again.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Even as the Pentagon announced last night it was sending five mortuary teams into Texas, the situation remained that the huge evacuation had claimed more fatalities than Rita herself. Responding to orders to flee the coast, a bus carrying elderly passengers exploding late Friday killing 24, the inferno intensified by oxygen tanks the patients needed to breathe.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Rita arrived as suddenly as she faded away. The first images of a white catherine wheel appearing on weather maps last Monday afternoon. As she moved west, so she grew. Experts at the Florida-based National Hurricane Centre started to describe 'a monster.'[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Then came the news that the US, still in a state of near-panic from the aftermath of Katrina, had been dreading. Rita had outgrown her brutal predecessor; a 35,000 swirling vortex that could bring destruction to an area as big as that from London to Manchester was heading to the already ravaged Gulf Coast. Winds had reached 175mph. Rita was a category 5, the most dangerous of all. And now she was heading for one of the most populous corridors of President' Bush's home state.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]In Rita's track lay Galveston, scene of America's worst natural disaster, along with its fourth largest city, Houston. Not surprisingly Bush, seen strumming a guitar in the sunshine of San Diego on the morning New Orleans woke up submerged, seemed genuinely panicked. The sentiment was shared; calls for a mandatory evacuation wrought havoc. By Thursday night, a large swathe of the central US was malfunctioning. Major airports were shut; freeways stationary as 100-mile traffic jams built up. It is known at least 2.8 million fled Rita, many on mandatory evacuation orders. Red brake lights streamed out of Houston. Motorists complained of travelling four miles in 12 hours. Huckleby admitted 'screaming' as she sat still traffic as Rita approached. 'If I would have known it was this bad I would have stayed at home and rode out the storm' she said.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Then the fuel ran out. Drivers throughout the petrol-rich state of Texas were forced to push their cars to the side of highways after running out of gas. As Rita came within 150 miles of the Texas coast, the nightmare scenario of thousands left stranded on roads became a reality. Texas authorities begged the Pentagon for help in getting gasoline to drivers. In its eagerness to avoid the horrors that befell New Orleans, the world's wealthiest nation had unwittingly orchestrated chaos in the heart of its president's favourite state. As resident John Bridges would point out from the safety of a Houston barstool on Friday night: 'The real disaster is being stuck on the highway for 24 hours in 100 degree heat. It floods all the time.'[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Now they are heading back, enduring similar gridlock and heartache.Yet what many experts appreciate is that the majority of hurricane fatalities do not occur from the initial storm rush, but the flooding that follows. Up to 20 inches are expected to fall on the Texas and Louisiana border this week.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]When Rita finally struck in the pre-dawn darkness, it was to the crackle of exploding electricity transformers. Power lines felled by gusts of up to 120mph sparked a series of fires across the region, including the destruction of historic houses in Galveston. At hotels in Beaumont, close to where Rita came ashore, windows were reported blown through. Perhaps worst affected was the city of Port Arthur, which found itself submerged in waist deep water yesterday after taking Rita's force head on. Small flat bottomed boats were seen negotiating areas of deeper water for signs of the few who had stayed behind.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]But the catastrophic devastation predicted never came. Rita veered towards the Texas/Louisiana border and away from the populous Houston region. Empty coastal highways and deserted towns were pounded with Rica's most ferocious winds and rain. 'It looks like the Houston and Galveston area has really lucked out,' said Max Mayfield, director of the hurricane centre. CNN, who like the rest of the world's media had spent days preparing bases at Galveston, where up to 12,000 died in a hurricane in 1900, likened the settlement's escape as similar to 'dodging a bullet'.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Many though were most delighted by the reports of the glowing torches of the oil refineries off Texas burning brightly as the storm raged on. Initial reports suggest the facilities and chemical plants may have escaped serious damage, a let-off that is unlikely to prevent fuel prices surging once again this week. The act of protecting them meant shutting a third of US petrol refining capacity, bringing them back into service could take days.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]As Rita's damage is assessed this week, already it seems her lasting legacy ultimately still belongs to Katrina. The initial storm surge of Rita once again inundated New Orleans - the town had barely recovered from the devastation inflicted by Katrina when she came ashore on 29 August. Weakened levees easily succumbed, sending vast quantities of water into already devastated neighbourhoods days after they had been pumped dry.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Further hazards throughout the region will arrive in the form of tornadoes, spawned as Rita moves inland. Meteorologist Steve Rinard said last night he could not keep count of tornado warnings across southern Louisiana. 'They were popping up like firecrackers.'[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Today more than 30,000 members of the National Guard will begin picking through affected areas for survivors. Bush, who watched the storm unfold at US.Northern Command in Colorado, has promised another 300,000 if required. A deployment of the British consulate will similarly head south from Dallas while the Salvation Army will begin moving 38 fully stocked mobile canteens towards badly affected areas. The relief operation is, according to those in charge, incomparable to the blundered reaction that left New Orleans stranded for days.[/font]

[font=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]With a more developed infrastructure, a wealthier population and a political elite with strong ties to federal agencies in Washington, Texas was, though, never in danger of repeating Louisiana's mistakes whatever Rita's strength. And early this morning there were no reports of fatalities in the immediate aftermath of Rita's impact. Yet the concern remains whether so many will ever respond to evacuation orders when the next major hurricane strikes America. The US is on course for a record breaking Atlantic hurricane season since records began in 1851. More are expected in the next month or so.[/font]
Well......That was unexpected
 
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