Heavy rains and strong winds threaten the island chain with a six-foot storm surge.
Rita, which became a category one hurricane Tuesday morning, is now a category 2 packing 100 mph winds. Thousands of residents fled the Keys in advance of Rita.
At least eight segments of U.S. 1 were flooded, covered with debris, making it impassable.
Scattered power outages were also reported. Hurricane Rita is headed for the Gulf of Mexico and state disaster teams are headed for the Florida Keys.
Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate says they’re just waiting for the weather to clean before a relief convoy heads out for Key West.
Craig Fugate says, “We will have our search and rescue teams and our scout teams going in later on this evening as conditions improve and we’re literally going to roll down U.S. 1. If there are any damages to U.S. 1 where we cannot continue, General Burnett’s Blackhawks and Chinooks will provide airlift capacity to bring those teams to the victims.”
Rita is the fifth storm to hit Florida this year and the seventh full blown hurricane in the past 13 months.