Some thoughts on Rita:
My mother has disappeared into the mass of people evacuating themselves from Houston. The cell phone system is overloaded so nobody has heard from her since 3pm.
Still, if it’s a contest between Mom and a hurricane, I’m betting on Mom.
In looking at the news I don’t think that a lot of people outside the state realize that conditions are most likely going to much different and possibly much worse than in Katrina.
Hurricanes that come ashore up the Mississippi valley and eastward tend to be pushed east and north by prevailing winds. They move rapidly across any given area. It is not unusual to see sunshine and clear skies just 4-6 hours after the storm passes.
Hurricanes that come ashore west and south of the Mississippi, however, tend to pile into prevailing winds and “stall.” They just disintegrate in place and rain themselves out over a period of several days. The rains create flooding over a huge area. Rita is expected to dump 15 to 30 inches (38 to 72 cm) within 48 hours. The eastern 3rd of Texas, basically from Dallas south and from Austin east, will see flooding conditions everywhere. That is what happened with Alicia in ’83.
So the storm will trash the coast, move inland, stall and then flood everything. The part of the State most likely to flood drains down to Port Arthur and Houston/Galveston. There won’t be any masses of helicopter rescues as with Katrina. It is quit possible that all light aircraft will be grounded for days. Ground based rescue and relief will have to fight through flood waters to get help into areas where storm surges and wind have wrecked everything.
I am confident that the intense phase of emergency will last longer than we saw with Katrina. People could be on their own much longer than 72 hours and the affected area could be much, much larger.
[update: Mom turned back. Traffic was to heavy. She’s going to try again early tomorrow.]