As Rita grows weaker and slower, flooding, wind and rain still an issue for the Gulf Port region.
LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana (CNN) — The remnants of what had been Hurricane Rita dragged closer to their demise, but residual winds, flooding threats and darkness have forced an end to search-and-rescue efforts in southwest Louisiana.
Wind whipping at 30 mph is heaving water from Vermilion Bay and the Vermilion River onto land. Rescuers say they will wait until those conditions subside before resuming rescue missions.
The storm surge that created flooding should begin subsiding along the southeast Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, though tides could be 4 to 6 feet above normal with large waves, the National Hurricane Center reported.
AP; Perry, Blanco Fly Over Cities Hit by Rita
Hurricane Rita’s imprint — washed-out towns, wind damage and trapped residents — became ever-more apparent Sunday as authorities took stock of the wreckage and Houston braced for the return of nearly 3 million evacuees. While Rita didn’t match the destructive power of Hurricane Katrina, it still left a massive trail of destruction in Texas and Louisiana. The storm caused “tens of millions of dollars” in structural damage in the Houston area alone, Harris County Tax Collector-Assessor Paul Bettencourt estimated.
Texas officials set up regions that would reopen to evacuees on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and Gov. Rick Perry urged Houston residents to respect the schedule laid out for an “orderly migration.” Commercial airline service to the city also resumed Sunday; many flights in were booked. Houston Mayor Bill White, wanting to avoid the gridlock that occurred as people fled from Rita, asked gas station attendants, convenience store clerks and grocery store workers to come back quickly. “There is some fuel available in tankers, but they can’t deliver it if you’re not there,” he said.
Houston Chronicle: Thousands getting jump on three-day plan for return
Hoping to beat gridlock as over 2.5 million evacuees try to make their way back to Houston and the Gulf Coast, thousands have begun their journeys home.