Hurricane Rita Arrives
Evacuees hit traffic from Houston to Dallas on September 22, 2005.
(Photo: Lawrence Jenkins/Getty Images)
By Tiffany Chaparro
Friday, September 23As Hurricane Rita traveled toward the Texas-Louisiana coast, as many as 2.5 million people jammed the roads, heading inland. Cars lined up along 100 miles of highways leading out of the Houston area. It was the biggest evacuation, or departure of people from a dangerous place, in Texas history.
"This is a great test for our people in this state," said Texas Governor Rick Perry. "But we are going to get through this because we are prepared. We are going to get through this because so many of our citizens took the evacuation order seriously."
New Orleans was protected by levees, or banks built up near a river to prevent flooding. On Friday morning, the storm caused water to pour over the levees. Floodwaters gushed into the neighborhood known as the 9th Ward. The 9th Ward, which is the poorest section of New Orleans, was badly flooded by Hurricane Katrina just three weeks ago.
Like Katrina, Rita first brushed the tip of Florida as a Category 1 hurricane, which is a rainstorm that mostly damages trees and power lines. It gained strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Soon its winds reached 160 to 175 miles per hour, making it the worst kind of storm: a Category 5 hurricane. By Friday afternoon, the winds had slowed to about 125 miles per hour, making it a Category 3 storm.
Weather experts predict that Rita will come ashore somewhere between Houston, Texas, and Morgan City, Louisiana, just west of New Orleans. It should hit land by Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.
The Gulf Coast of Texas was boiling hot on Thursday. Cars overheated and ran out of gas. Traffic moved so slowly on the main road from Houston to Dallas that people had time to get out of their cars, walk to nearby stores, and return to find that cars had barely budged.
"We are working to get tankers of gas to people as fast as we can," said Texas Governor Rick Perry in a press conference on Friday morning. "For those who have stayed in the coastal areas, we are going to provide shelter."
"Be calm, be strong, and say a prayer for Texas," said Perry.
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