FEMA Workers Leave Galveston Ahead of Rita

Galveston, Texas, faces a mandatory evacuation order as Hurricane Rita threatens to strike -- and apparently, that means the feds, too.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has ordered a local team of nine support staffers providing relief to Hurricane Katrina refugees to evacuate the Texas city and county.

"There is a mandatory evacuation [and] we're not above the law," said Frank Mansell, a FEMA reservist who was the senior federal officer at Galveston. "We obey the laws of the local authorities."

Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas said mayors of all the towns in the coastal barrier island county would formally issue the mandatory evacuation order this evening.

"At six o'clock or shortly thereafter, the inbound lane on the causeway will be closed by the department of public safety," Thomas said, according to ABC News Radio.

Thomas told ABC News' Mike von Fremd that she would be staying in Galveston to manage the evacuation. She said the state of Texas had positioned supplies and National Guard troops nearby, so they would be ready if needed.

"I don't know about FEMA," she said. "We're doing what we need to do right now. And we hope that wherever FEMA is, they'll help us when we need them."

Katrina Relief

In Galveston, the FEMA team was operating a disaster recovery center with other agencies and aid organizations -- helping Katrina victims get answers to their questions, housing, jobs and aid.

With most Katrina refugees in Galveston already placed in apartments, the local shelter was almost empty, Mansell said. So once the remaining shelter residents had been evacuated, the FEMA workers would head inland to Dallas, where they would work with a similar team assisting Katrina victims.

A permanent relocation of the Galveston recovery center was possible, "depending upon how much damage there is to Galveston" from a possible Rita strike, Mansell said.

ABC News' Luis Martinez and Michael S. James contributed to this report.

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