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Look like Rita is wreaking another havoc

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Look like Rita is wreaking another havoc

Postby Infineon » Fri, 23 Sep 2005 6:46 pm

Look like Rita is wreaking another havoc..God save them!! :( ... r=homepage


Published: September 23, 2005

HOUSTON, Sept. 22 - Heeding days of dire warnings about Hurricane Rita, as many as 2.5 million people jammed evacuation routes on Thursday, creating colossal 100-mile-long traffic jams that left many people stranded and out of gas as the huge storm bore down on the Texas coast.
Acknowledging that "being on the highway is a deathtrap," Mayor Bill White asked for military help in rushing scarce fuel to stranded drivers.

The unending lines of vehicles heading out of Houston were only one indication of how seriously people along the Gulf Coast regarded the threat of Hurricane Rita.

Hurricane Rita
As the storm nears possible landfall early Saturday, officials are warning of the potential for widespread damage.

Marko Georgiev for The New York Times
In Houston, Eugene English, foreground, and his nephew Bobby English were going nowhere after their car broke down on I-10.

Mr. White and the top official in Harris County, Judge Robert Eckels, admitted that their plans had not anticipated the volume of traffic. They maintained that they had not urged such a widespread evacuation, although only a day earlier they invoked the specter of Hurricane Katrina, and told residents that the "time for waiting was over."

Officials also made matters worse for themselves by announcing at one point that they would use inbound lanes on one highway to ease the outbound crush, only to abort the plan later, saying it was impractical.
The unending lines of vehicles heading out of Houston 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 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, with landfall expected early Saturday between Galveston and Port Arthur, Tex. The shift 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.
In Baton Rouge, La., Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco called for the evacuation of a nearly half a million people in the southwest portion of her state.

"Head north, head north," she said. "You cannot go east, you cannot go west, head north. If you know the local roads that go north, take those."
Noting the difficulty medical examiners have had in identifying the dead from Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Blanco offered morbid advice to those who refuse to evacuate. "Perhaps they should write their Social Security numbers on their arms in indelible ink," she said.

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.

After crawling only 10 or 20 miles in nine hours, some drivers turned around to take their chances at home rather than risk being caught in the open when the hurricane struck.

Starting Wednesday night and throughout Thursday, the major evacuation routes, Interstate 45 north to Dallas, I-10 West to San Antonio, Route 290 to College Station and Austin, and 59 to Lufkin grew into hundred-mile-long parking lots. Drivers heeding the call to evacuate Galveston island and other low-lying areas took 4 and 5 hours to cover the 50 miles to Houston. And there the long crawl north began in earnest.

The delays were long enough for one ice cream seller on I-45 to do a brisk business on the highway, as drivers left their stopped cars to buy refreshments. Cars overheated and broke down and others ran out of gas, worsening the crush.

"The question is how many people will be gravely ill and die sitting on the side of the freeway," said State Representative Garnet Coleman, Democrat of Houston. "Dying not from the storm, but from the evacuation."

Mr. Coleman's family had tried to leave the city Thursday at his urging - he is traveling on the West Coast - but they gave up after 12 hours of stalled traffic, without even passing the city's outer ring highway.

"If you can't move outside the city of Houston in 12 hours, then nobody else is getting out," Mr. Coleman said. "This is it. Because even if you tried to leave now, you would not move fast enough to get out of harm's way in advance of the storm."

The situation raised serious worries about how the city would handle something like a terrorist attack, he said.


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