Major movements of people, emergency personnel, military, supplies and equipment have begun ahead of Hurricane Rita’s approach to the Gulf Coast.
On one hand, FEMA is repositioning emergency supplies in the vicinity where the storm is expected to make landfall. Florida has become a military staging area for the Coast Guard and National Guard. And millions of residents are heading to inland Texas and Louisiana, causing major gridlocks on highways.
CNN has reported that for the first time in history Houston—a city of three million-- is undergoing a mandatory evacuation.
Current forecasts call for Hurricane Rita to make landfall Saturday morning just east of Galveston, TX, according to the Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT) website. Galveston residents, with a population of 60,000, are undergoing a mandatory evacuation, as is New Orleans, reported CNN.
In Texas, all lanes on I-45 and I-10 in the coastal area are being converted to outbound traffic to get evacuees out safely. Emergency personnel seeking to enter Houston are being advised to take U.S. 290 east.
TxDOT announced it has:
- dedicated three lanes, and if needed will add a fourth lane, for northbound traffic on I-37 out of Corpus Christi
- closed ramps on I-45 in Houston later today to facilitate the northbound flow of traffic out of Galveston.
- positioned officials to quickly begin clearing highways of debris to allow emergency response to damaged areas. This preparation includes stocking up on fuel, generators, pumps and emergency communication devices such as satellite phones. Meanwhile, federal resources are being allocated to support emergency response efforts in the counties of Texas located in the path of Hurricane Rita.
FEMA is positioning water and ice to forward staging areas:
- 50 truckloads of water and ice and 20 truckloads of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are at federal facilities in Florida.
- 45 truckloads of water, 45 truckloads of ice, and eight truckloads of MREs are being staged in Texas. The U.S. Coast Guard is ready with helicopters from Air Station Houston and Air Station Corpus Christi. Coast Guard damage assessment teams, emergency response and reconstruction teams, and personnel at Station Fort Pierce are in Miami. Coast Guard Air Station Miami has helicopters ready to respond.
Additional military measures include:
- The National Guard positioning resources in preparation for the anticipated landfall of Hurricane Rita.
- The USS Bataan will resupply at Mayport, FL, embark six additional helicopters and follow behind Hurricane Rita to support potential relief efforts.
- The USNS Patuxent will remain in the area to support repositioning ships.
- Mobilization centers for FEMA at Homestead and Patrick Air Force Bases in Florida are pre-positioning commodities such as ice, food, water and equipment.