Hurricane Rita Blog: Sept. 26

Tammy Hollis, in red, loads a generator into a truck bed in Buna, Texas Monday, Sept. 26, 2005, as the area remains without power in sweltering heat following hurricane Rita. (AP Photo/Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. Earl Nottingham)
This is a running list compiled by staffers of the latest developments of Hurricane Rita and the recovery efforts underway on the Gulf Coast. For a look back to fast-breaking events of the Katrina disaster, see our previous blog.

Sept. 26, 2005
10:24 p.m.
Watch CBS Evening News coverage of Hurricane Rita:

10:16 p.m.
(AP) — Hurricane Rita's path of devastation along the Texas-Louisiana coast became shockingly clear, as rescuers pulled stranded bayou residents out on skiffs and Army helicopters searched for thousands of cattle feared drowned.

The death toll from the second devastating hurricane in a month rose to nine. Authorities discovered the bodies of five people who apparently were killed by carbon monoxide from a generator they were running in an apartment. A Texas couple was confirmed killed by an uprooted tree that fell on their home.

9:05 p.m.
(CBS) — Later this evening, CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger spoke with a spokesman for FEMA, Russ Knocke, who confirmed that Brown remains on the FEMA payroll. He also said that technically Brown remains at FEMA as a "contractor" and he is "transitioning out of his job." The reason he will remain at FEMA about a month after his resignation, said the spokesman, is that the agency wants to get the "proper download of his experience."

6:44 p.m.
(CBS) — CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Michael Brown, who recently resigned as the head of the FEMA, has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate its response following Hurricane Katrina.

4:22 p.m.
(AP) — Eight months before the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, an internal Homeland Security Department review warned that the nation was woefully unprepared for a medical disaster and lacked a coherent plan for taking charge of mass casualties.

Government medical teams had difficulty coordinating and delivering help during 2004 hurricanes in Florida, said the report obtained by The Associated Press. The report also said there was inadequate planning for dealing with a surge of patients during a disaster like a biological or nuclear attack.

2:57 p.m.
(CBS) — Traveling back to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast tomorrow, President Bush isn't taking a gas-guzzling car. Instead, he's flying in Air Force One. CBS News Radio White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports that Air Force One, a 747, uses 3,840 gallons of aviation fuel per hour.

Plus, the president plans to travel in motorcade when visiting the hurricane zone.

2:45 p.m.
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Army used Blackhawk helicopters to search for thousands of cattle feared stranded in high water Monday amid reports that more than 4,000 may have been killed in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. "Take all the coastal parishes, they all had cattle," said Bob Felknor, spokesman for the Louisiana Cattlemen's Association. "It could be more than 30,000 in trouble."

1:01 p.m.
BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) — Officials in Texas blame another five deaths on Hurricane Rita. Rescuers found the five people in an apartment in Beaumont. Officials say the people were apparently overcome by fumes from a generator they were using for power after the hurricane swept throught. Officials now blame seven deaths on the hurricane.

12:06 p.m.
HOUSTON (AP) — Last week's idling cars on the highway and long lines at gas stations around Houston are replaced today with smooth traffic and long lines for coffee. With Hurricane Rita gone and the damage minimal, hundreds of thousands of evacuees are either home or on their way. Roads into Houston were congested yesterday and last night, but today, they are moving. A downtown Starbucks that has just reopened has a long line of customers. And, the hot weather hasn't kept customers from sipping their drinks outside.

11:37 a.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said Monday that the government is prepared to again tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to alleviate any new pain at the pump caused by Hurricane Rita's assault on the center of the nation's energy industry. With early indicators offering reason for optimism and a speedy recovery, Bush nonetheless warned Americans to expect some affect on energy supplies.

"A lot of our production comes from the Gulf and when you have a Hurricane Katrina followed by a Hurricane Rita, it's natural, unfortunately, that it's going to affect supplies," Mr. Bush said after a briefing at the Energy Department.

11:23 a.m.
(CBS) — Marty Evans, president of the American Red Cross, told The Early Show's Harry Smith that though the Red Cross is spending $2 billion to help Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims, it has only raised half that amount.

Also, she says the Red Cross still needs volunteers.

10:10 a.m.
(CBS/AP) — In response to the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005, the U.S. government has, among other efforts:

  • Deployed more than 72,000 federal personnel
  • Deployed 50,000 National Guard personnel
  • Restored 73 percent of affected drinking water systems in Louisiana and 78 percent in Mississippi
  • Funded 717,000 households with a total of more than $1.5 billion
  • Deployed more than 87 FEMA National Disaster Medical System Teams
  • Released an EPA public advisory warning of potential environmental health hazards when returning to home and businesses after Hurricane Katrina
  • Established, through the Department of Labor, a new Web site to connect workers impacted by Hurricane Katrina with employers who want to hire them

    9:50 a.m.
    VERMILLION PARRISH, La. (CBS) — Venturing as far south in Louisiana as Henry, in Vermillion Parrish, is extremely difficult due to unnavigable roads and harsh living conditions. But Jude Duhon knew a dog was trapped at his cousin's house there, so he made every effort to free it, CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick reports. To reach the dog, Duhon had to smash through a wall — walls that on the inside, he found, were coated in mud. After witnessing all the hurricanes' destruction in order to save a pet, Duhon's dog is safe and sound.

    8:54 a.m.
    NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Visible signs of renewed life Sunday included the reopening of restaurants and ubiquitous utility crews working to restore electricity. Mayor Ray Nagin's plans to repopulate the city were back in motion, too. Nagin wants to start allowing residents into dry parts of the city starting Monday or Tuesday.

    Kappa Horn, owner of the Slim Goodies diner in the city's Garden District, eagerly drummed up business a day after Hurricane Rita caused more flooding in New Orleans. "You wanna burger?" Horn called out to a steady stream of police and others who came by.

    8:11 a.m.
    (CBS) — President Bush returned to Washington late yesterday from the most recent of his many trips to the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina struck four weeks ago. The weekend trip was a three-day, three-state tour, and officials aren't ruling out a return to the region later this week.

    7:45 a.m.
    PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Rita has created deadly surf in parts of Florida. Officials say two swimmers died over the weekend. One was a Kentucky man killed at Miramar Beach, and the other an unidentified man who died at Pensacola Beach.

    Officials say dozens of other people had to be rescued from the rough surf. A Santa Rosa Island official says it's been a bad week and people have been told to stay out of the surf.

    7:00 a.m.
    (AP) — Traffic is heavy north of Houston as people return to the city following Hurricane Rita. One petrochemical plant is looking at weeks of repairs. The storm didn't cause major damage to the industry.

    In southern Louisiana, people are boating across floodwaters to see if the storm wrecked their homes. One man says his "little piece of paradise" on the edge of a bayou is gone.

    Louisiana's Cameron Parish and Vermilion Parish were hit hard. Police say some 1,000 people were rescued in Vermilion Parish. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco says there's hardly anything left of Cameron's fishing villages. Meanwhile, the cleanup and draining of New Orleans, delayed for a few days by Rita, is resuming. Tonight, LSU plays its first home game of the college football season in Baton Rouge. Tennessee is the visitor.

    6:40 a.m.
    PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Authorities in the Florida Panhandle say two swimmers died and more than a dozen others had to be rescued this weekend from rough surf kicked up by the remnants of Hurricane Rita.

    6:35 a.m.
    CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — Gasoline prices that reached all-time highs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina fell by an average of 20 cents a gallon in the past two weeks as some Gulf Coast refineries resumed production.

    The weighted average price for all three grades of gasoline was $2.84 a gallon on Sept. 23, said Trilby Lundberg, who publishes the semimonthly Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations. Self-serve regular averaged $2.81 a gallon nationwide. Mid-grade was pegged at $2.91, while premium-grade was at $3.01.
    Decreased demand also played a role in the decline, since sales were virtually nonexistent in flooded and storm-ravaged areas like New Orleans, and the price spike prompted drivers in other parts of the country to reduce consumption. The survey was taken before Hurricane Rita struck oil-producing Texas and Louisiana on Saturday. Damage was far less than had been feared, but is still being assessed.

    "There will be some modest disruption of supplies of gasoline and other products," said William Veno, an analyst at Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "But I don't think it's going to be as severe a situation as Hurricane Katrina."

    Read previous disaster blogs:
    Sept. 25; Sept. 24; Sept. 23, Sept. 22; Sept. 20; Sept. 19; Sept. 18.