More than 2.5 million people fled the Texas and Louisiana coasts to safety from Hurricane Rita, one of the most intense hurricanes recorded over the Gulf of Mexico before coming ashore on the Texas-Louisiana border with 120 mph winds Saturday, Sept. 24. Houston was spared the worst, but more than a half-million homes in southeast Texas remained without power.
Heavy winds in east Texas collapsed some walls, tore roofs and left power lines dangling everywhere. In Louisiana, Rita brought similar wind damage, plus a 15-foot water wall that surged some 35 miles inland. Search and rescue continued in devastated rural areas.
Parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast have started to revive after Rita, although many areas remain buried under rubble or flooded after the onslaught of a second major storm in less than a month. Evacuees streamed back into Houston, although shops were low on perishable food staples like milk and bread, power outages continued, and gasoline supplies remained spotty. Some evacuees were trying to return to New Orleans, which was decimated after Hurricane Katrina and partly flooded again by Rita. New Orleans authorities said residents were being allowed back into the Algiers neighborhood, and business owners were allowed back to other areas that had not flooded.
California-based Risk Management Solutions estimated Rita's insured losses would be $4 billion to $7 billion, including up to $2 billion in insured damage to offshore energy facilities. That figure did not include any new damage in New Orleans, where Rita caused a levee breach. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the break was patched and pumping had begun. It has been predicted that it could take until June to rebuild the levees. Katrina's price tag has been set around $60 billion.