Hurricane Rita Brushes New Orleans, Ready to Pounce on East TX, West LA

By  | 

Although it's been downgraded to a category three, Hurricane Rita is still a dangerous storm expected to do heavy damage along the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

If it maintains its course, the storm will likely slam into the oil and chemical centers of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas. Damage to refineries would be felt nationwide, but for officials in this region, priority number one right now is protecting lives.

Rick Perry, Texas Governor, says, "We are pre-positioning search and rescue personnel, doing the same for mass care strike teams."

Despite massive traffic jams, the governor says more than two million people have been relocated in the past few days, but evacuation efforts took a horrible turn early Friday when a bus burst into flames on a crowded highway near Dallas.

More than half the 43 elderly people on board are believed to have died. Oxygen some of the elderly evacuees were using for medical conditions may have fed the flames.

Houston has all but shut down ahead of this storm. Places like the city's well-known Galleria Shopping Center would normally be teeming with people, but not a soul.

New Orleans is reeling once again. Rains from Rita have spilled over a newly patched levee and are flooding a deserted neighborhood.

In Beaumont, elderly and sick patients were still being airlifted on Friday. More than 2,000 people have been evacuated from this coastal town in the last two days.

FEMA says it has resources in position in key areas throughout the region, hoping not to repeat the mistakes made after Katrina hit.