Although Hurricane Rita was still about 24 hours from making landfall Friday morning, high winds and heavy rains were already causing major transportation problems throughout Louisiana and Texas.
Parts of New Orleans had already succumbed to the approaching storm's power. Steady rain and 20 to 30 mph winds broke through a 30-foot section of the Industrial Canal levee that had been repaired after Katrina.
According to The Associated Press, the city's 9th Ward - one of the hardest-hit areas in Katrina's wake - was already waist-deep with water by midday Friday, and the water was rising up at a rate of three inches per minute.
"Our worst fears came true," Maj. Barry Guidry of the Georgia National Guard told The AP. "We have three significant breaches in the levy, and the water is rising rapidly. At daybreak I found substantial breaks, and they've grown larger."
Guidry said that he doubted any residents still in the area where the flooding occurred.
The flooding and expected storm damage arrived before Louisiana could finish its recovery effort from Katrina. Because of this, very specific evacuation routes have been developed for the state. Maps of these routes, along with up-to-date information on road-closings, can be found at the following Web sites:
Road updates can also be obtained by calling:
- Texas: 1-800-452-9292
- Louisiana: 1-800-469-4828
- Mississippi: (601) 987-1212
In light of the growing threat from Hurricane Rita, most road improvements in Louisiana in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina have been put on hold. All re-entry points into Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemine Parish have been suspended.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had earlier made the decision to allow the public to begin entering the city this past weekend, which was met with controversy from federal, state and local officials who questioned the safety of such a move.
The following is the complete list of roadways that remain closed or are set up with checkpoints throughout Louisiana as of Wednesday morning, Sept. 21:
- Interstate 10 Twinspan Bridge;
- Interstate 10 west at Oak Harbor exit;
- U.S. 61 south at Orleans/Jefferson Parish line;
- U.S. 90 at the Orleans Parish line;
- River Road at the Orleans Parish line;
- Louisiana Highway 57 at the Boudreaux Channel;
- Louisiana Highway 1 at the Leon Theriot Floodgates;
- Louisiana Highway 1 at Port Fourchon to Grand Island;
- Louisiana Highway 82 from Louisiana Highway27 to Louisiana Highway3147;
- Louisiana Highway27 from Interstate 10 to Louisiana Highway14;
- Louisiana Highway 82 from Deep Bayou Road to Teal Street;
- Louisiana Highway 433 approximately three miles south of U.S. 190 at the Bayou Liberty Bridge; and
- Louisiana Highway 11 south of Slidell.
In southern Mississippi, road conditions have improved dramatically. With the exception of U.S. 90, which runs through the state from Alabama to Louisiana, all roadways are open in the state. However, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety is still urging caution as hurricane cleanup carries on throughout the area.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, the only roads that remain closed are Alabama Highway 44 east of U.S. 78, which was shut down due to a landslide caused by Katrina, and Alabama Highway 193, which was flooded by Rita's tidal surge. However, a number of roads in Mobile, Sumter, Choctaw, Marengo, Tuscaloosa, Washington, Clarke, Baldwin and Marion counties remain under advisories as debris cleanup and roadway repair continues.