Rita update and open thread
At 8 a.m. ET, Rita was downgraded to Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, the National Hurricane Center said. It was centered between Jasper and Beaumont, Texas. Rita’s sustained wind speed has reduced to 100 mph as it moves northwest at near 12 mph.
NHC Director Max Mayfield said the storm could produce 10 to 15 inches of rain over the next day or two and it may stall and remain stationary.
Lake Charles police said they had received reports of severe damage to a terminal at the Lake Charles airport, and also a report that an Interstate 10 overpass had collapsed. Conditions weren’t safe enough to check on the reports.
In Lumberton, Texas, police had to rescue a family trapped in their home when a large tree fell on it. No injuries were reported. Earlier, Port Arthur Mayor Oscar Ortiz said he was concerned about Rita moving across Sabine Pass and pushing a large surge of water toward the city. “If that’s true, it will be under water,” Ortiz said. “I hate to see what my city’s getting right now.”
…In downtown Galveston, Texas, two historic residences and a commercial building were engulfed in flames. Winds of up to 70 mph fanned the flames and caused a blizzard of blowing embers as firefighters fought the blaze.