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Hurricane Rita Blog Sept. 22

This is a running list compiled by staffers of the latest developments of Hurricane Rita as the Gulf Coast braces for another hit. For a look back to fast-breaking events of the Katrina disaster, see our previous blog.

8:32 p.m.
NEW YORK (AP) — Television networks are plotting their coverage of Hurricane Rita with the lessons of Katrina fresh on their minds.

As cable news screens repeatedly showed satellite views of Rita as a swirling orange blob in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, network stars like Brian Williams, Charles Gibson, John Roberts, Matt Lauer, Shepard Smith, Anderson Cooper and Stone Phillips were either in place or traveling to where the storm might make landfall.

"Just as the enormity of Katrina has created a new context for Rita, it has also done so for us," CBS News President Andrew Heyward said.

8:15 p.m.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In a grim opening salvo from Hurricane Rita, a steady rain began falling Thursday on New Orleans for the first time since Katrina laid waste to the city, and engineers rushed to shore up the broken levees for fear of another ruinous round of flooding.

The forecast called for 3 to 5 inches of rain in New Orleans in the coming days. That is dangerously close to the amount engineers said could send floodwaters pouring back into neighborhoods that have been dry for less than a week.

7:31 p.m.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee-LSU game scheduled for Saturday has been postponed to Monday because of Hurricane Rita that is threatening the Gulf coast, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive announced Thursday.

Kickoff was set for 6:30 p.m. CDT, and it will be televised by ESPN2.

5:51 p.m.
(AP) — Hurricane Rita has the potential to flood an area almost twice the size of New Orleans when it reaches shore early Saturday, causing tens of billions of dollars in damage to the Houston metropolitan area and plunging yet another major Gulf Coast metropolis into disarray.

A study performed last year by the engineering firm Dodson & Associates found that a Category 5 storm could inundate 369 square miles of Harris County, which contains Houston and some of its suburbs. The study estimated the total cost of a worst-case storm at $80 billion, with 75 percent due to flooding and the rest from wind damage.

4:54 p.m.
(CBS) — CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller reports that to show he's focused on Rita, President Bush will go to Texas Friday afternoon. Mr. Bush plans to visit Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where emergency supplies and personnel are standing by.

Before Rita hits, Knoller reports Mr. Bush will head to the Northern Command headquarters in Colorado to track the military response once Katrina makes landfall.

4: 39 p.m.
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — Hundreds of Mexicans living along the Texas Gulf Coast were rushing home Thursday to avoid Hurricane Rita while authorities in northern Mexico readied shelters and prepared for heavy rains.

In Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas, Mexican families coming from Houston, Galveston, South Padre Island, Corpus Christi and Pasadena, Texas, waited in long lines to purchase a government temporary import permit for their cars.

Sept. 22, 2005
2:45 p.m.
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho weatherman says Japan's Yakuza mafia used a Russian-made electromagnetic generator to cause Hurricane Katrina in a bid to avenge itself for the Hiroshima atom bomb attack — and that this technology will soon be wielded again to hit another U.S. city.

Meteorologist Scott Stevens, a nine-year veteran of KPVI-TV in Pocatello, said he was struggling to forecast weather patterns starting in 1998 when he discovered the theory on the Internet. It's now detailed on Stevens' Web site, the Idaho Falls Post Register reported. Scientists discount Stevens' claims as ludicrous.

2:37 p.m.
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Six people suspected of trying to sexually exploit children displaced by Hurricane Katrina have been arrested by the state attorney general's office.

Attorney General Charles Foti says the suspects entered an Internet chat room and started conversations with investigators posing as teenage girls. The investigators claimed they had lost their parents. Foti says all six suspects tried to set up dates with the agents.

2:12 p.m.
CAPITOL HILL (AP) — California Congressman Tom Lantos says a number of pet owners may have died during Hurricane Katrina because they wouldn't have been allowed to take their pets with them if they left.

Lantos and Congressmen Chris Shays of Connecticut and Barney Frank of Massachusetts are co-sponsoring a bill that would require provisions for household pets and service animals in order to get FEMA funding.

National Humane Society officials estimate that while more than 6,000 pets have been saved in Mississippi and Louisiana, tens of thousands may still be abandoned.

Meanwhile, Texas officials are credited with being more understanding about people taking their pets as they flee ahead of Hurricane Rita.

1:58 p.m.
Watch's Web Exclusive coverage of Hurricane Rita:

12:51 p.m.
The Houston Chronicle reported that residents can expect disruptions to communications, especially cell phones. Callers in the Houston area were already experiencing "all circuits are busy" messages because of congestion on parts of cellular networks.

Cell phone companies are urging callers to keep their phone calls brief, and use text messaging whenever possible, because text messages use less bandwidth and are routed differently than voice calls.

12:23 p.m.
(CBS/AP) — Gulf Coast newspapers in the projected path of Hurricane Rita scrambled Thursday to finalize plans to keep employees safe and readers informed, mainly through Web sites. The Galveston County Daily News evacuated its barrier island offices in Galveston and Texas City but hoped to continue printing after landfall, Publisher Dolph Tillotson said in a recording left at the offices.

"For the duration of the storm we plan to continue publishing a paper each day," he said. "However, it will be small. Our ability to deliver it is very limited."


  • Read CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann's reporter's notebook explaining a few stresses and perils of covering a hurricane.
  • Check out a past CBS blog entry about a reporting hazard a St. Petersburg Times reporter encountered.
  • And visit our new media blog, which is keeping an eye on how CBS News and other news media cover the Gulf Coast disaster.

    12:01 p.m.
    (AP) — The Pentagon is preparing to send five communications teams and 20 active-duty helicopters, some to transport rescue teams, U.S. Northern Command spokesman Michael Kucharek said. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has activated some 5,000 National Guard troops. Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, said an additional 1,300 National Guardsmen from Texas were returning from Louisiana. He said some active duty troops were involved in preparations.

    11:08 a.m.
    The White House has confirmed that due to President Bush's issuing of an emergency declaration Wednesday for Hurricane Rita, it is officially an incident of national significance, CBS News Radio correspondent Mark Knoller reports. The classification gives Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff authority to oversee all federal agencies responding to the storm.

    11:04 a.m.
    HOUSTON (AP) — Hurricane Rita may lose a little oomph before it comes ashore this weekend. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say it may dip to a Category 3 with winds up to 130 mph. But, they warn it could still be a dangerous storm. Rita is still a Category 5 hurricane with 165 mph winds, down from 170. It's still deep in the Gulf, about 450 miles southeast of Galveston, and moving toward the west-northwest at about 9 mph.

    10:49 a.m.
    NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks rose slightly in early trading Thursday even as Wall Street hunkered down and waited for Category 5 Hurricane Rita to hit land.

    A dip in consumer sentiment and a surge of unemployment claims didn't deter optimistic traders, who may be hoping that if the economy takes a turn for the worse, the Federal Reserve may halt its year-plus streak of short-term interest rate hikes.

    9:39 a.m.
    (AP) — Texas interstates are nearly at a standstill and gasoline shortages are already being reported as hundreds of thousands of people try to escape Hurricane Rita. Near Houston, the traffic jam is reported to be up to 100 miles long. Gov. Rick Perry has ordered southbound traffic on Interstate 45 shut down and all eight lanes redirected north for 125 miles. Texas officials say that's a first.

    Houston Mayor Bill White says decisions will be made later on east-west interstates.

    9:00 a.m.

    reports from the Houston Astrodome on how residents are bracing for a possible hit by Hurricane Rita in a exclusive.

    8:45 a.m.
    CAMERON PARISH, La. (CBS) — Sheriff Theos Duhon hopes all 95,000 residents are out of this area by Thursday evening, either on their own or on buses used to evacuate Katrina refugees, reports CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick. Duhon's worried that if Rita stays on its current track its storm surge could flood the area, which is surrounded by the Gulf and marshes.

    for another wave of flooding.

    8:43 a.m.
    (CBS/AP) — Texas has decided to make Interstate 45 entirely one-way to handle the amount of northbound from Houston to Buffalo. The change will be effective at about 9 a.m.

    8:41 a.m.
    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush's administration has declared Hurricane Rita a national emergency days before its expected landfall in Texas as federal authorities brace the already-battered Gulf Coast with aid ahead of the surging Category 5 storm.

    The Homeland Security Department declared Rita an "incident of national significance" late Wednesday, officially releasing a quick and massive federal response to the destruction now expected to exceed state and local capabilities. The storm was expected to strike the Texas coast by early Saturday.

    Such a federal designation for Katrina was not triggered until a day after that storm hit three weeks ago.

    8:23 a.m.
    HOUSTON (AP) — Forecasters said Rita could be the strongest hurricane on record to ever hit Texas. Only three Category 5 hurricanes, the highest on the scale, are known to have hit the U.S. mainland — most recently, Andrew, which smashed South Florida in 1992.

    8:15 a.m.
    MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Alpha? Tropical Storm Epsilon? Before this year is out, TV forecasters and coastal residents may have to break out their Greek dictionaries if the Atlantic hurricane season keeps up its frantic pace.

    There are only four names left for tropical storms and hurricanes this year: Stan, Tammy, Vince and Wilma. After that, names switch to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and so on through Omega, if needed.

    Read previous disaster blogs:
    Sept. 20; Sept. 19; Sept. 18.

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