Thursday, September 22

Rita: moving closer to Louisiana

With the exception of a couple of business owners boarding up their stores in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Rita, downtown DeRidder appeared abandoned Thursday evening.

Rita’s vanguard could be seen overhead and felt, as clouds increased and a stiff southeasterly breeze had kicked up.

Beauregard Parish emergency preparedness officials met with elected officials, shelter operators, public agency representatives and emergency responders for a second briefing late Thursday about storm conditions, readiness and shelters.

Glen Mears Sr., director of the Beauregard Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said Rita’s wind’s had dropped to 145 mph late Thursday, but had moved cloer to Louisiana throughout the day.

“We are going to see some fluctuations through early Saturday, when the storm makes landfall most likely in the upper Texas coast,” he said. “It has shifted more toward our direction and could strengthen.”

Both inland hurricane and flood warnings for Allen, Beauregard and Vernon parishes were issued Thursday by the National Weather Service, Mears said.

Shelters are open, including First Baptist Church in Longville, which is housing 14 evacuees, parishwide and are accepting evacuees. Those living in low lying areas of the parish and in mobile homes are asked to voluntarily evacuate to shelters.

Evacuees are asked to check-in at the DeRidder Police Department for shelter assignment.

Traffic on U.S. 171 and La. 26 and 27 was jammed bumper-to-bumper Thursday evening, slowing evacuees’ efforts to move north.

“Traffic is a mess and it will possibly get worse Friday,” Mears said. “We are doing what we can to keep it moving.”

As for weather conditions, Mears said starting Friday afternoon, winds are expected to increase significantly, along with the rain and threats of tornadoes.

“We can expect 8-15 inches of rain depending on where Rita goes and how long she lingers,” he said. “We will have hurricane-force winds through possibly late Saturday.”

Mears said he hopes damage is limited to only downed power lines and trees.

“If we are lucky, we will only get some power outages and minor structural damage,” he said. “But, depending on where the storm goes, we could get extreme damage.”

Shawn Martin
Beauregard News Bureau Chief

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