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Rita is Cat 4 and heading for TX

This storm is so big that Louisiana is going to get drenched again. Bush, meanwhile, is trying to look effective as this one heads toward buddy Rick Perry’s state. (AP):

Rita intensified into a Category 4 hurricane Wednesday with wind of 135 mph, deepening concerns that the storm could devastate coastal Texas and already-battered Louisiana by week’s end.

Mandatory evacuations already have been ordered for New Orleans and Galveston, Texas, one day after Rita skirted the Florida Keys as a Category 2 storm, causing minimal damage.

The storm is expected to remain a Category 4 storm until it makes landfall, meteorologist Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. That’s now predicted for Saturday somewhere between northern Mexico and western Louisiana, most likely in Texas. “But our ability to forecast wind speed is limited,” Landsea said. He said the storm could strengthen to Category 5 with wind in excess of 155 mph or ease to Category 3, with wind less than 130 mph.

Acting Federal Emergency Management Agency Director R. David Paulison said the agency has aircraft and buses available to evacuate residents of areas the hurricane might hit. Rescue teams and truckloads of ice, water and prepared meals were being sent to Texas.

Stung by criticism of the government’s slow initial response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush signed an emergency declaration for Florida and spoke with Texas Gov. Rick Perry about planning for the storm’s landfall.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding