Saturday, September 24

Authorities await chance to view damage

Here is an early-morning summary of what the Associated Press is carrying about Hurricane Rita's impact in Southwest Louisiana, much of it reported by the AP's Brett Martel out of Lake Charles:

Rita made landfall at 2:30 a.m. CDT as a Category 3 storm just east of Sabine Pass, on the Texas-Louisiana line, bringing a 20-foot storm surge and up to 25 inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center said. Within four hours it had weakened to a Category 2 storm, with top winds of 100 mph, as it moved further inland between Beaumont and Jasper, Texas.

Residents in hard-hit western Louisiana called police early Saturday to report roofs being ripped off and downed trees. Rescuers were forced to wait until the winds outside died down to safe levels.

"We can't even get out to check yet," said Sgt. Wendell Carroll of Louisiana's Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office. "All we can hear is the wind a-howling."

The storm spun off tornadoes as it churned northwest at 12 mph with winds that topped 120 mph, causing transformers to explode in the pre- dawn darkness.

Rita's heaviest rains - up to 3 to 4 inches an hour -- fell in Lake Charles, National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Omundson said. The town had 8 inches of rain more than two hours before the storm's landfall. Near the coastal town of Cameron, the weather service recorded a wind gust of 112 mph as the storm's center approached.

In Vinton, west of Lake Charles, police could see several building fires from their station and took calls from residents reporting others at homes and businesses throughout town, Lt. Arthur Phillips said.

"It's tore up pretty good," he said. "We've taken quite a beating."

The roof of the town's recreation center was completely torn off, and residents reported businesses destroyed by winds and homes damaged by fallen trees, Phillips said.

In the days before the storm's arrival, hundreds of thousands of residents of Texas and Louisiana fled their homes in a mass exodus of 2.8 million people that produced gridlock and heartbreak.

Late Friday, southwestern Louisiana was soaked by driving rain and coastal flooding. Sugarcane fields, ranches and marshlands were already under water at dusk in coastal Cameron Parish.

The sparsely populated region was almost completely evacuated, but authorities rushed to the aid of a man who had decided to ride out the storm in a house near the Gulf of Mexico after one of man's friends called for help. They were turned back by flooded roads.

Empty coastal highways and small towns were blasted with wind-swept rain. A metal hurricane evacuation route sign along one road wagged violently in the wind, and clumps of cattle huddled in fields.

Steve Rinard, a meteorologist in Lake Charles, said he could not keep count of the tornado warnings across southern Louisiana. "They were just popping up like firecrackers," he said.

In Lake Charles, home to the nation's 12th-largest seaport and refineries run by ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Citgo and Shell, nearly all 70,000 residents had evacuated. Several riverboat casinos that mostly serve tourists from Texas also closed ahead of the storm.

"We see these storms a little differently after Katrina," said city administrator Paul Rainwater. "We all realize that no matter how safe you feel ... you have to take it seriously, you have to plan."


Anonymous said...

Two of my brothers attempted to ride out the storm. One lives next to Drew Park and the other one block North of McNeese State. Cell calls and landline calls to their homes are not connecting. Does anyone have any idea of the extent of damage in those two neighborhoods???
Phoenix, AZ

Anonymous said...

Report from South Lake Charles (near Nelson Elementary) says there was no storm surge there. So, no water in homes because of flooding. Did not have much more of a report other than trees down.

Also, have heard that one Maplewood neighborhood (Beauregard Drive, I believe) has not a tree left standing. All houses have trees/limbs on them. That is a first hand account from a homeowner there. They still had phone lines as of an hour ago.

Don Harder said...

What about Big Lake? Any news on Pelican Point, Hebert's?

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE UPDATE OF AROUND MAPLEWOOD ELEMENTRY. I got a message this morning that said "I-10 and I-210 bridges are "out" along with the overpass in Iowa.

More updates around South Lake Charles (Summerwood area and SJ Welsh area) are very appreciated. Also, what about the Hibernia tower? Any windows gone?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any word on South Lake Charles in the Corbina/Gauthier Area (Estate Lane) or Broussard Lane off Gulf Hwy or the Iowa area of LeBlue Settlement? Any news would be appreciated

Julie said...

Does anyone have any news about the ares south of the airport in Lake Charles? My parents live in a mobile home on Gulf Highway about a mile south of the airport.

LC resident said...

Any news on the area around Lake Street / Contraband Bayou?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any reports on the Moss Bluff area - particularly the area near Sam Houston High School?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any information about the St. Louis and LCB High Schools area? My mother lives there...

Anonymous said...

Anybody have any info on the Vinton, Big Woods area?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have word on conditions on Gauthier Rd between Tom Hebert and Corbina or the area around Hackett's Cajun Kitchen? Call me 337-515-3167