The Day After Rita: How Texas and Louisiana Fared

Hurricane Rita caused some heavy damage to Texas and Louisiana, but not the large-scale devastation that was seen after Hurricane Katrina. Here's how some cities in Louisiana and Texas are doing the day after Rita.

New Orleans

New Orleans was not directly hit by Hurricane Rita, but just over two inches of rain and the accompanying storm surge was more than enough to cause flooding.

The areas hardest hit by Katrina -- the Ninth Ward and St. Bernard's Parish -- were drying out just days before. Now they are under close to 10 feet of water again.

The fragile levees, patched together after Katrina, breached in two spots. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco fears more levees may be at risk.

National Guard helicopters will once more drop sandbags into the breach, and dump trucks will then unload stones into the gap.

And yet, in New Orleans, Hurricane Rita delivered less rain than feared.

But south of the city, a seven-foot tidal surge prompted dozens of evacuations, including a pregnant woman and her 4-year-old son, who were stranded in Lafourche. A Coast Guard rescue team hoisted them to safety.

Lake Charles, La.

Lake Charles survived the winds, but now it must face the rising waters. The waterways are overflowing, engulfing homes and swamping streets.

Overnight, the last remaining residents were sent out of Lake Charles on buses.

Theresa Smith had fled to Lake Charles from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and now she's on the move again.

"I don't know what's going to happen at this point," she said.

Local officials want the town empty so they can focus on cleaning up after a harrowing 24 hours.

Sitting to the east of the eye, Lake Charles endured some of the most intense wind and rainfall, snapping trees and bending metal.


Jacqueline and Paul Suarez took Hurricane Rita seriously. They spent three nights last week with friends 100 miles north of Houston.

On Saturday, they went home.

"We had a friend come down and notice we had power," Paul Suarez said. "We might as well come back."

They were hardly alone in their decision. Many Houston residents began returning almost as soon as the skies -- and the hurricane threat -- had cleared.

City officials urged residents not to rush back, but to wait a few days instead.

"Traffic lights are out," said Houston Mayor Bill White. "Power is out. A lot of trees are down. So, there's nothing to rush to get to on Sunday morning. Our property is secure. Our police department is doing a good job."

Roughly a quarter of Houston residents have no electricity. With few gas stations open, motorists risk being stranded.

Houston is basically closed down. Still, people just want to go home.

Officials said heavy traffic could impede the flow of emergency services to Houston where they are staging their operations to the east.

But there was an unspoken concern -- that a mad dash home could trigger a repeat of the horrendous traffic jams that occurred when the same people fled last week.

Woodville, Texas

In Woodville, Texas, a small town with a population of 2,400, Rita's winds tore apart a rooftop and hid main street shops behind sheets of metal.

"I think if you would just put Tyler County in a round circle, it looks like somebody threw a stick of dynamite right in the middle of it," said Sheriff Jessie Wolf.

Jasper, Texas

In Jasper, power lines are tangled. There are half a dozen utility workers here and about a hundred downed poles. County leaders say it's going to be a week before power is back on.

"It's hit us a hard lick and we're going to get through it," said Joe Folk, a Jasper County judge. "But it's going to take working together to do that."

For families trying to return to the town, it's been an exhausting experience. Highway 1-90 to Jasper is littered with trees.

With their own chain saw, Gary Cameron and his father carved their way through, one tree after another. They estimated they cut through 10 or 15 trees.

Further down the highway was a welcome sight: Volunteers cutting though the trees from the other side.