Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hurricane Rita May Rival Katrina's Strength, Forecasters Say

A storm/ hurricane frequently changes direction, therefore the forecast that it will hit Texas on Friday-evening, is to be taken with a lot of caution. It could well hit Louisiana again.


Hurricane Rita May Rival Katrina's Strength, Forecasters Say
Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Rita, moving westward in the Gulf of Mexico, may grow as strong as Hurricane Katrina, the most costly U.S. disaster, forecasters said.
The so-called Category 2 storm with 110 mph (175 kph) winds will become a Category 3 storm with at least 111 mph winds this morning and may strengthen to Category 4 this evening, according to an 11 p.m. National Hurricane Center advisory last night. Katrina was a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds when it slammed Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama three weeks ago.
Thousands of coastal residents in Texas moved inland, including some refugees from New Orleans who fled there after the flooding that followed Katrina's arrival.
Rita is expected to hit land ``sometime late Friday,'' Colin McAdie, a meteorologist with the center, said in a telephone interview yesterday.
``If this becomes a Category 4 or 5 storm, we can expect the same type of damage in this area'' as with Hurricane Katrina, said Frank Gutierrez, the homeland security coordinator for Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located. Even with less flooding, ``we could have just as much damage here.''
Insured losses resulting from Katrina may be as much as $60 billion, making it the most costly disaster ever, storm modeler Risk Management Solutions Inc. said earlier this month.
May Strike Louisiana
While Hurricane Rita is forecast to land anywhere from Corpus Christi to Galveston, Texas, it may veer east and strike Louisiana's coast, the center said yesterday. The threat to the region devastated by Katrina prompted New Orleans's mayor to halt plans for residents to return and Texas officials to call for some evacuations.
Rita, the ninth named hurricane of the season, was about 95 miles (150 kilometers) west-southwest of Key West, Florida, as of 11 p.m. local time, the center said. The storm is moving west at about 13 mph.
Mandatory evacuations in the city of Galveston will start at 5 p.m. today, the Houston Chronicle reported last night. Galveston County announced that mandatory evacuations of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities would begin at 6 a.m, and moving out all others in the county will start at 6 p.m.
Galveston, about 50 miles southeast of Houston, is the site of the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, a hurricane that killed 8,000 to 12,000 in 1900. The city declared a state of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Rita. City services will continue, with the city council will stepping aside in favor of the mayor and the city manager.
Texas Prepares
Eighty buses will help evacuate people who don't have cars, Craig Eland, a member of the Texas House of Representatives told CNN. The bus drivers will be allowed to transport their families on the first run, he said.
Neighboring Brazoria County plans to begin mandatory evacuations at 6 p.m., John Vanden Bos, assistant emergency management coordinator, said yesterday. School buses will carry residents who can't leave on their own.
A mandatory evacuation requires evacuees to travel only to predetermined locations and allows them exclusive use of highways. Those who flee during a voluntary evacuation can go anywhere, Vanden Bos said.
A recorded message at the office of the Emergency Management Department in Corpus Christi, about 250 miles southwest of Galveston, said the department is ``closely monitoring'' Rita and urged residents to check back for ``any potential announcements.''
Texas Governor Rick Perry recalled the Texas National Guard and other state emergency personnel from Louisiana in anticipation of Rita. Emergency forces will be redeployed to areas near the Texas coast should current forecasts hold. Texas has 367 miles (591 kilometers) of coastline, according to the Texas Almanac.
The Texas National Guard and the U.S. Transportation Department are helping transport more than 7,000 Hurricane Katrina victims staying in coastal Texas communities to other states, Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman David Passey said yesterday.
Four thousand evacuees staying in Houston will be sent to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and 3,000 staying in San Antonio will be moved to Tennessee. Texas state officials are requesting that Nebraska begin accepting some evacuees from various Texas cities tomorrow, he said.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco yesterday asked President George W. Bush to declare a state of emergency in the state in anticipation of Hurricane Rita. She said Katrina will result in as much as $1 billion less tax revenue.
New Orleans, Again
New Orleans, which is now 90 percent dry after draining flood waters caused by Hurricane Katrina, is now preparing for Hurricane Rita, which may bring rain and cause storm surges, Mitch Frazier, a public affairs officers with the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers said. The corps plans to use sand bags and pumps.
This is the first time since 1995's Hurricane Tanya that the storms, named in alphabetical order, have reached the letter ``R.'' Hurricanes are measured on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph. A Category 2 storm has winds of at least 96 mph, a Category 3 has winds of at least 111 mph, and Category 4 hurricanes have winds of 131 mph.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Heather Burke in New York at
Last Updated: September 21, 2005 00:18 EDT


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