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Bard
09-22-2005, 12:15 PM
Rita's Rain Begins Falling in New Orleans




Sep 22, 1:04 PM (ET)

By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Outer bands of rain from Hurricane Rita began falling in New Orleans on Thursday, and forecasts of between 3 and 5 inches of rainfall in the coming days raised fears the patched levee system could fail and flood the city all over again.

A direct hit from Hurricane Rita was still unlikely, but the Category 5 storm veered on a more northerly course toward a Saturday landfall in Texas that put New Orleans on the eastern edge of tropical storm warning.

Rita's rains and a predicted 3- to-4-foot storm surge could bring New Orleans dangerously close to predictions that the fractured levees can only handle up to 6 inches of rain and a storm surge of 10 to 12 feet.

"Right now, it's a wait and see and hope for the best," said Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mitch Frazier. He added that the new forecast brought renewed urgency to efforts to shore up levees with sandbags and bring in more portable pumps.

Thursday's showers were the first measurable rainfall in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina's Aug. 29 landfall broke the levees in several places and flooded 80 percent of the city. Only spotty showers were falling at midmorning, but forecasters said there could be brief periods heavy downpours as Rita's squall bands moved through.

Frazier said his biggest concern was the storm surge, which the National Hurricane Center said will be 3 to 4 feet above normal in the parts of Louisiana and Mississippi affected by Katrina. But a slight turn could increase that dramatically. A tidal surge of 15 to 20 feet was expected from Corpus Christi, Texas, to south-central Louisiana.

Engineers say a 10- to 12-foot surge was required to overtake the levees at 17th Street and the London canal in New Orleans. But in neighboring St. Bernard Parish, a surge of 5 to 6 feet was all that was needed to swamp the area again.

If the levees fail again, the areas of New Orleans that are most likely to flood are the same neighborhoods inundated by Katrina, many of which have been dry for less than a week.

"If it's a quick, fast rain, we'll see localized flooding," Frazier said. "There no doubt about that."

The process of getting the water from Katrina out was nearly complete, with only about 10 percent of the city still flooded, and the Corps is confident it will be able to quickly pump water out again.

Searchers looking for bodies continued smashing into homes that had been locked or submerged under Katrina's highest floodwaters. The death toll in Louisiana alone increased to 832 on Thursday, pushing the body count to at least 1,069 across the Gulf Coast region.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin continued to urge residents to get out of the city. A mandatory evacuation order is in effect for the entire east bank of the Mississippi, and some 500 buses were standing by at the convention center, but few seemed to be taking advantage. Only 27 people had been evacuated by the end of Wednesday.

Thursday's shifting forecast for Rita prompted Gov. Kathleen Blanco to urge evacuations for everyone in the coastal parishes of southwest Louisiana, an area of 300,000 to 500,000 people.

"Rita took a turn to the east last night and southwest Louisiana is now in danger," she said. "Hurricane force winds will rip much of western Louisiana."

National Guard and medical units were on standby. Helicopters were being positioned, and search-and-rescue boats from the state wildlife department were staged on high ground on the edge of Rita's projected path. Blanco said she also asked for 15,000 more federal troops.

"Prepare your family and prepare your house," she warned. "I'm urging Louisiana citizens to take this storm very seriously."

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Associated Press Writers Michelle Roberts, Allen Breed and Mary Foster in New Orleans contributed to this report.

gabby
09-22-2005, 12:51 PM
Here is a link I have been watching hurricane Rita moving in on.

http://www.wunderground.com/satellite/vis/1k/US.html

There is other areas to go into and it doesn't require membership either.