Hurricane Rita made landfall on Saturday, September 24, 2005, at 3:30 AM EDT as "a Category 3 storm just east of Sabine Pass, on the Texas-Louisiana line, bringing a 20-foot storm surge and up to 25 inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center said." 
- 1 Waiting for Relief
- 2 Evacuation
- 3 Oil and Gas Supplies
- 4 September 22, 2005: Rita "potentially catastrophic"
- 5 Preparations
- 6 "Hurricane Greg"
- 7 Bush Looking for His Swagger
- 8 Related SourceWatch Resources
- 9 External links
Waiting for Relief
"Nearly four days after Hurricane Rita hit, many of the storm's sweltering victims are still waiting for electricity, gasoline, water and other relief. The situation prompted one top emergency official to complain that people are 'living like cavemen'," the Associated Press's Abe Levy reported September 28, 2005. "'We have been living like cavemen, sleeping in cars, doing bodily functions outside,' said John Owens, emergency management coordinator for Port Arthur. 'And meanwhile we're the victims, and we have families here.'"
"In a Port Arthur neighborhood not far from a grocery store that reeked of rotten food, three FEMA trailers delivered ice, ready-to-eat meals and water. ... About 476,000 people remained without electricity in Texas on Tuesday, in addition to around 285,000 in Louisiana. About 15,000 out-of-state utility workers were being brought to the region to help restore power."
- Robert T. Garrett, "Nursing home evacuations run into snag," Dallas Morning News, September 21, 2005.
- "Hospital and nursing home patients are evacuated as Hurricane Rita plows across the Gulf of Mexico," Associated Press (Gainesville.com), September 21, 2005.
- "Governor Perry Urges Evacuation of Texas Coast," WOAI.com (San Antonio), September 21, 2005.
- "New Orleans, Rita Mandatory Evacuation, President Bush And Katrina," BayouBuzz.com, September 21, 2005.
- "Mandatory Evacuation Order Issued For Galveston County," 10 KWTX (Waco, Temple, Kaleen, TX), Sepember 22, 2005.
- Joe Stinebaker, "Is Houston ready for the big storm? Evacuees' delays may bring deadly consequences," Houston Chronicle, February 20, 2005.
- "Houston residents struggle to get inland," Associated Press (USA Today), September 22, 2005.
- "Millions Flee Path Of Hurricane Rita," Sky News (Yahoo! Ireland & UK), September 22, 2005.
- Mike Grackyk, "Texans Flee Rita for Major Traffic Jams," Associated Press (Guardian Unlimited (UK)), September 23, 2005.
- Howard Karger, "It Happened In Houston," AlterNet, September 24, 2005: "Attempting to flee Hurricane Rita, a Houston resident tells an all-too-familiar tale of gridlock, government incompetence and empty gas pumps."
Poor & Homeless Have No Way to Get Out (again)
- Joe Stinebaker and Ruth Rendon, "Officials: Region lacks plan to help vulnerable survive. Residents with special needs would have few options to find a way out," Houston Chronicle, February 19, 2005.
- Deborah Hastings, "No Way Out: Many Poor Stuck in Houston," Associated Press (Yahoo! News), September 23, 2005.
- "Houston abandons its neediest ahead of Hurricane Rita," Agence France Presse (Yahoo! News), September 24, 2005: "... scores of homeless people [were] left to brave Hurricane Rita on the streets because of a lack of communication, coordination and shelter space. City officials said they did their best to help the city's most vulnerable evacuate by bus or air but to many left on the street in the rain, they hadn't tried hard enough."
- Julian Borger and Jamie Wilson, "Evacuees burn to death on bus in exodus gridlock. Two dozen nursing home patients killed as 2.5m flee," Guardian Unlimited (UK), September 24, 2005.
Oil and Gas Supplies
- Vikas Bajaj, "Refineries and Rigs Shut Down for Storm," New York Times, September 22, 2005.
- Madlen Read, "Oil prices jump as Hurricane Rita nears," Burlington Free Press, September 22, 2005.
- "Hurricane Rita Threatens Oil, Gas Supplies," RedNova, September 22, 2005.
- Carola Hoyos, Sheila McNulty, and Thomas Catan, "Rita causes record damage to oil rigs," Financial Times, September 27, 2005.
September 22, 2005: Rita "potentially catastrophic"
Hurricane Rita, "the third-most intense storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, speeded up as it bore down on the Texas coast. The Category 5 storm [was then] more powerful than Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,000 dead last month in Louisiana and other states," Bloomberg News reported September 22, 2005. With "winds of 175 miles (280 kilometers) per hour," the National Hurricane Center said that Rita was "potentially catastrophic."
The "projected path of Hurricane Rita shifted east Thursday, [September 22nd,] pushing the storm on a track toward the Houston or Galveston areas."
"As Hurricane Rita prepares to hit the Texas coast in the early morning hours on Saturday [September 24, 2005,] with wind gusts of 175-mph, state and local officials up and down the coast (and Louisiana officials) [September 21st] issued mandatory evacuation orders. Americans feel sympathy and concern for the thousands of evacuees and are praying that the aftermath of Rita will not bring the same devastation as Katrina brought. As recently as two months ago, Texas mayors did not have the authority to order mandatory evacuation orders as major hurricanes approached. In July, Gov. Rick Perry signed a law giving mayors that authority; previously, Texas had been one of only two states along the Gulf and Eastern seaboard that did not have a mandatory evacuation law. Along with the new law, Texas also 'overhauled its evacuation plans for metropolitan areas on the coast.' The new evacuation authority and evacuation plans have been in place for only a few weeks, thus placing a greater burden on the leadership of local authorities. While Gov. Perry claimed that Texas has 'run a great many training exercises for an event just such as this,' the state's hurricane preparedness will face its first major test since the new law was passed." --The Progress Report, September 22, 2005.
- Patricia Kime, "Coast Guard readies for Rita, diverts relief teams," Navy Times, September 21, 2005.
- Polly Ross Huges, John W. Gonzalez, and James Pinkerton, "From Austin to the Gulf, officials say we're ready. Many towns in the Coastal Bend are nearly empty," Houston Chronicle, September 21, 2005.
"About a year and a half ago, emergency management teams from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security gathered in Colorado Springs — the same facility where President Bush will monitor Hurricane Rita Saturday [September 24, 2005] — to run an exercise involving a hurricane hitting the Texas Gulf Coast... a mythical Cat 4/5 called 'Hurricane Greg'," NBC Investigative Reporter Robert Windrem reported September 23, 2005.
"However," he wrote, "the weeklong exercise in February 2004 is unlikely to be much help to emergency planners since it involved not just a hurricane but a whole series of disasters taking place at the same time."
"The after-action report for the exercise ... states that the exercise was unrealistic because so many events were piled on top of each other. That has been very typical of DHS, DoD and FEMA exercises post-9/11," Windrem wrote. "Moreover, it said that one of the critical needs of Hurricane Greg was not adequately addressed... shelter. Does that surprise you?"
- Read the Report (110-page pdf) NORAD and USNORTHCOM Master Exercise Summary Report. Vigilant Overview 04-2 and Unified Defense 04, July 14, 2004, posted online by MSNBC.
Bush Looking for His Swagger
President George W. Bush flew to Colorado Springs on Friday, September 23, 2005, "ahead of Hurricane Rita ... to show command of a federal disaster response effort that even supporters acknowledge he fumbled three weeks ago," Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker wrote in the September 24, 2005, Washington Post.
"A president who roamed across the national and world stages with an unshakable self-assurance that comforted Republicans and confounded critics since 2001 suddenly finds himself struggling to reclaim his swagger," VandeHei and Baker said.
In stark contrast to the fact that Bush remained on vacation at his Crawford, Texas, ranch until August 31, 2005 (then making only a flyover in Air Force One to view the devastation in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama) -- the third day after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005 -- the White House announced September 23, 2005, that Bush "[would] fly to Texas and Colorado ... to visit with emergency workers and U.S. Northern Command headquarters ahead of Hurricane Rita."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that the "visit will enable Bush 'to get a firsthand look at the preparations that are under way for Hurricane Rita and to show our support for the first responders as they get ready for the response to Hurricane Rita'."
During Bush's visit to the FEMA emergency operations center in Washington on September 23, 2005, Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory "asked the President what good he thinks he could do traveling to the hurricane zone later today in anticipation of Rita. He initially brushed off questions, but then spun around to say, 'We will make sure that my entourage does not get in the way of people doing their job.'"
No Texas Stopover ... because it was too sunny?
Bush cancelled his stop in San Antonio, Gregory reported. Although Bush had planned "to visit search and rescue teams staging for the storm," because those "teams [were] moving east to follow the storm track ... the White House [said] the President didn't want to slow that down. Mr. Bush will ride out the storm in Colorado at Northern Command to view the military response to Rita."
However, New York Times reporter David E. Sanger reported that the reason Bush did not stop in Texas was because "the weather did not cooperate. ... It was too sunny."
"Another White House official involved in preparing Mr. Bush's way noted that with the sun shining so brightly in San Antonio, the images of Mr. Bush from here might not have made it clear to viewers that he was dealing with an approaching storm," Sanger said.
"This hurricane gives him his first major test and opportunity. Aides concede the biggest mistake made during Katrina was that the President trusted the word he was getting that the federal response was adequate. An aide told me this morning — I'm paraphrasing: look, if you are going to say mistakes were made last time you are obliged to see for yourself what's being done in preparation now," Gregory wrote.
"Bottom line is, these are photo ops," Gregory said. "White House aides admit they want Mr. Bush to be seen in briefings and personally tending to the government's response. Mr. Bush has no choice but to be in the middle of the action. Disaster relief and rebuilding are now the canvas of his second term. Between storms and war, the President's vision may face less scrutiny than his administration's basic competence."
Related SourceWatch Resources
News Sweeps & Status Reports
- Yahoo! News links, 5:50 PM, September 22, 2005.
- Matthew Wheeland, "Howlin' Hurricane Rita," AlterNet, September 23, 2005: "Although Rita has weakened in recent hours, it still poses considerable danger. Here's a roundup of the latest news, from journalists and bloggers."
- National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center Forecasts and Advisories show details on the path of the hurricane.
- Hurricane Rita Blog, CBS News.