Taking Rita's Punches

High water covers a trailer and a shed in port city of Lake Charles, La., after Hurricane Rita pushed ashore Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005. (AP Photo/LM Otero) AP

It could have been worse. That's the refrain we heard over and over again here. Chief of Police Don Dixon says they took a punch, but not a killing, CBS News correspondent Harry Smith reports.

"Our main mission is to go through the neighborhoods and only look at the houses that look like they have some kind of catastrophic damage; to look if somebody injured might be inside," Dixon explains.

Trees are down, streets are flooded and in some places houses are underwater. Brent MacManus evacuated with his wife and two kids on Thursday. He came back to Lake Charles to find the lake had taken over his home.

Asked what he will tell his wife, MacManus says, "She thought that we were gonna lose everything, like the house being blown down and I'll tell her she was halfway right I guess.

"We had flood damage, so it might have been best we lost everything but, I don't know," MacManus says, "It's gonna be tough."

Katrina might have set the standard for misery, but, in Lake Charles, Rita seemed to be setting a new standard for longevity. Just when things calmed down, she blew back up again. More than 12 hours after the hurricane came ashore, the weather was fierce, nasty, dangerous.

Lake Charles is a mess, but, folks here by and large heeded the warnings to evacuate. Those who stayed behind, like the Chief of Police, were a little nervous.

"It was dicey. It was dicey to sit there knowing there wasn't a thing you could do and know that your city was bein' torn up and there wasn't a thing you could do," Dixon says.

Rita was a big storm. But our now keen awareness, honed by the devastation of Katrina, makes this all look somehow minor. With power and phones out and the huge cleanup that is just beginning, it will only be minor to we who are passing through, Smith concludes.
  • Sean Alfano

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