Road closures and transportation problems began to ease Tuesday as the Gulf Coast region commenced its second hurricane relief effort in less than a month.
Although more populated urban areas were spared from the storm's brunt, rural parts of southwestern Louisiana - close to where Rita landed - were hit hard, with homes leveled and thousands of cattle carcasses littering the land in and around Cameron Parish.
Fortunately, Rita's fatality numbers paled in comparison to Katrina. As of Tuesday morning, 10 directly storm-related deaths were reported.
According to CNN, the small Louisiana towns of Lake Charles, Creole, Holly Beach and Cameron were virtually wiped out by high winds and flooding.
In Texas, as many as 2 million residents of Houston and Galveston fled their homes in the few days before the storm, causing traffic jams that created standstills across the state.
Janelle Gbur, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation in the Houston area, said re-entry into Houston and Galveston is moving at an acceptable pace.
"We have the Houston area broken down into three regions, and each day, a different region was zoned as being the return region for that day," Gbur said. "It's something that has worked with, I'd say, moderate success - you obviously don't get 100 percent compliance to a voluntary request, but it seems to be helping."
Marc Shepherd, a spokesperson for the TxDOT who works in the southeastern corner of the state, said major roadways - Interstate 10, U.S. 69, U.S. 96 and State Highway 87 - were mostly cleared, and would be reopened at full capacity by Friday.
"It's critical that we get this infrastructure back in place," Shepherd said. "Without a good infrastructure, your economy and your recovery effort just don't take place."
In southern Mississippi, road conditions have improved dramatically since Katrina's assault on Aug. 29. 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 road that remained closed was Alabama Highway 44 east of U.S. 78, which was shut down due to a landslide caused by Katrina. 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.
Specific re-entry routes and up-to-date 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