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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Hurricane Rita: Readers' updates
Galveston residents prepare to evacuate
More than two million people headed inland from the Gulf Coast
Residents of the US Gulf Coast region have emailed the BBC News website describing the situation in their area ahead of, and during, Hurricane Rita's arrival.

Some sent us reports before opting to evacuate, while others decided to stay put.

They hope to provide us with continued updates on the impact of Rita in Texas and Louisiana and the aftermath of the storm.

ANDREA, HOUSTON, TEXAS, MONDAY 2240 GMT

With the passing of Rita, life is getting back to normal in Houston. Sort of.

Houstonians have relatively little to clean-up compared to cities to the east of us who bore the brunt of the storm. I've spoken to my friends who evacuated and they were all back in their homes on Sunday - despite the government officials' attempts to stagger their return.

I really don't mind not having lights. The lack of air conditioning, however, completely frazzles my nerves

We had another power outage today in our neighborhood. I really don't mind not having lights. The lack of air conditioning, however, completely frazzles my nerves. The official high temperature today was 97F - that's plenty hot for the end of September even for Houston.

Friends of mine who have been without power for the past few days are very, very uncomfortable. Some employers are allowing pet owners to bring their animals into work to take advantage of the air conditioning.

Some stores are open and others not. We went out to eat at a restaurant but took some good advice and called ahead to make sure they were open. On the way home, I noticed that grocery stores' parking lots are packed with cars as people re-stock their kitchens. I suspect many people lost most of the food in their refrigerators.

Finally, Rita and Katrina were both lethal storms that destroyed people's homes and property. But beyond that, I'll remember Rita for the clogged highways during the mass evacuation, the alarming lack of gasoline and the heart-stopping realization that a Category 5 hurricane aimed herself at me. And the rest of the fourth largest metroplex in the US.

I remember very few details of most hurricane seasons but I'll never forget this one and it's not even over yet.

LESLEY, HOUSTON, TEXAS, MONDAY 0920 GMT

Everything is fine where I live. My employer's downtown corporate office is closed and we get the day off because the mayor requested local businesses other than service stations and grocery stores (general public service industries) be closed to allow the 2.7 million people that evacuated the Houston area to return at different times.

To avoid the horrible congestion for people returning to the city, they have asked different regions of the area to return at different times.

So, I work downtown for one of the largest companies in Houston, so if my company closed, I imagine all the major corporate offices closed to honour the mayor's request.

The few stations that have received fuel have huge lines

Gasoline is still the major problem. I have less than a half a tank and I hope I start to see more stations with gas today. The few stations that have received fuel have huge lines and they tend to run out before everyone in line gets to fill their tanks.

I fear it will get worse as people trickle back into town with their cars having empty tanks of gas. Houston is a driving city. No one walks and no one takes public transportation except the extreme poor.

ANDREA, HOUSTON, TEXAS, SATURDAY 2100 GMT

It's now Saturday afternoon and we still have no power. I'm using a friend's computer to access the internet. Some Houston neighborhoods have power and others don't. The outages are patchy.

The power in our neighborhood went out around 1am when the worst of the winds hit us. I was on our front porch watching the storm at this time and it was strangely exhilarating.

My heart goes out to our neighbours because it could have very easily been us

This morning, I woke up to the hum of our neighbour's generator. We don't have one. It wouldn't power our air-conditioning anyway but it would be comforting to have more than a battery-powered radio for information. I'm feeling internet-deprived.

The sun has actually peaked through the clouds off and on today though it's still gusty at times. It would be nice if the sun stayed away until the power comes back. During this time of the year, Houston is not somewhere you really want to be without air-conditioning.

All in all, Houston was very, very lucky. We received relatively little rain. I joked today that we'll have to water the lawn tomorrow since it's been so dry the past few weeks. The wind did some damage but mostly just tree branches were down.

Judging by the early reports from Lake Charles, Louisiana and other points south of us, we escaped a significant storm surge and terrible wind damage. My heart goes out to our neighbours because it could have very easily been us.

The traffic is already building on the Houston roads despite the government's warnings not to return to evacuated areas yet. While officials are concerned about downed power lines, etc, gas shortages (or petrol, as you say) are their biggest worry. The storm knocked into a huge stretch of oil refineries.

LESLEY LLOYD, HOUSTON, TEXAS, SATURDAY 2040 GMT

The part of Houston I live in did not have anything severe. We ended up having a mini hurricane party where my friends lives last night. The sky looked strange and there was light wind with light rain.

We honestly dodged a bullet. The only pictures I could take would be ones of empty stores and fuel stations.

There are going to be a lot of angry people
The issue is the 2.7 million people who did evacuate want to come back and they are trying to discourage them because there is no fuel and it would create another traffic gridlock and more cars running out fuel on the freeway.

They are trying urging employers and schools to be closed Monday to give people more time to get back to the city. I don't think they are going to allow people back into Galveston until Tuesday.

There are going to be a lot of angry people who evacuated with really minimal damage, given the fact that they travelled 20 hours and barely made it out of the city. They had to go to shelters and leave their pets and cars behind. People died on the freeway.

I was on the road for nine hours trying to evacuate in 100F heat with my poodle on five lanes of what is normally a freeway.

There were no toilets. I was also filling nauseous from all the smell of fuel burning in combination with the heat. I imagine many were being sick or fainting as it was such a horrible situation.

These things took place when for many of us it was milder than a thunderstorm. No electricity was lost and both land lines and cell phones work.

I am just so glad I came home. My dog played a big part in it as I would not go anywhere without him and I was concerned for him under those conditions.

SEAN FRANCIS, WICHITA FALLS, TEXAS, SATURDAY 1540GMT

I'm about 300 miles away from home right now, at my wife's parents. It took 18 and a half hours to drive from Houston to Wichita Falls - a journey that normally takes about five and a half hours.

I've been sitting around watching the Weather Channel, waiting for Rita to go away. It's veered off towards Louisiana and it looks like our part of the world has been spared the worst.

We're looking forward to the traffic jams on the way back

I'd have been a lot more worried if the storm had carried on its track towards Galveston because it would have headed straight inland to demolish Houston as well.

Being a Brit, you're just not used to weather on this scale. The thought of driving home and turning into my street, and the street not being there any more - I couldn't compute what that would be like.

We're looking forward to the traffic jams on the way back - everyone and his dog will be trying to return at the same time because of getting back for work.

Also, there's lots and lots of gas stations near Houston that are now out of gas. Our concern is how close can we get to where we live, in Kingwood, before we run into problems and can't refuel.

ANDREA, HOUSTON, TEXAS, SATURDAY 0130GMT

After a beautiful day of sunny blue skies, few clouds and a lovely breeze, the wind has now increased and the first rain band moved through our area of Houston.

The storm has gone a bit to the east and it would appear we are on the "cleaner" side of the hurricane. Unfortunately, Beaumont, TX and New Orleans, LA are now on the "dirty" side of the hurricane.

Rainbow over Houston
As the hurricane approached, a rainbow spanned the clouds
I feel relief and I also feel guilt since our neighbours some 60 miles to the east are going to have the worst of it.

I shouldn't downplay the storm ahead of us because we still face a significant hurricane. However, it's quite different now compared to yesterday when the meteorologists forecasted Rita to hit Galveston/Houston head-on as a strong Category 4 hurricane.

I recently received a call from a friend who drove a grand total of 20.5 miles in 20 hours. She nearly lost her two dogs to the heat while on the road but was lucky enough to find a vet's office near the completely congested highway. She gave up her initial plan to drive to Austin and is staying with friends who live in a northern Houston subdivision.

I took a picture of a rainbow I photographed about an hour ago as the first rain clouds approached.

LESLEY LLOYD, HOUSTON, TEXAS, FRIDAY, 2110 GMT

I will soon be putting my computer up in my bathroom hopefully out of harm's way.

The storm is supposed to hit Houston around 0300, the direct hit is supposed to arrive around 0600.

Evacuation is going to be the big story - or the lack of ability
We have been told to expect hurricane winds from 12-16 hours.

The city of Houston is completely closed. People who tried to evacuate like I did and didn't turn around will be taken to temporary shelters.

One bright spot is that with Corpus Christi Texas out the danger zone, they will be able to continue running petrochemical and refineries. The rest of the plants we won't know. But, are taking every precaution.

It has weakened to a Category 3, which is good news. Being in the chemical industry, most plants are supposed to be able to sustain a Category 3.

I hope I didn't just put a "jinx" on that by making that statement.

I ran into a neighbour who travelled 20 hours yesterday to try and evacuate and realised it was time to turn around as they only made it to the suburbs of Houston.

Evacuation is going to be the big story - or the lack of ability.

Also, the lack of fuel to accommodate us. Every gas station in a large part of Texas is now out of fuel.

Houston has none, but they are closed anyway. There is no food or anything you could buy in this city until at least Sunday.

LESLEY LLOYD, HOUSTON, TEXAS, FRIDAY, 0800 GMT

After my nine-hour attempt to evacuate Houston on the highway at a speed of less than one mile per hour, I never managed to get out.

Upon my return home the gasoline situation had gone from bad to non-existent.

I tried to go to the stores to gather more supplies but most were closing until Sunday or until further notice.

These are large grocery stores that are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

My pharmacy said it would open on Friday from 0900 until 1300. It also is usually open 24 hours a day.

I will go there as it is large and carries a lot of essential stuff I may need.

I am a little scared to do too much running around, however, as I am concerned about the fuel level in my car with the storm coming.

I am currently filling up whatever I can find with tap water for my dog and also putting it in the freezer to create more ice as well to help keep it cold, as Houston is supposed to lose electricity soon.

ANDREA, HOUSTON, TEXAS, THURSDAY, 1635 GMT

As of now, we are still staying.

So far, it's very quiet in the city. Strangely quiet. Schools closed yesterday and most people aren't going to work.

I'm not given to hysterics or panic but I can now freely admit that I'm scared.

My stomach is in a knot and I'm distracted as I go through the house making preparations.

On Wednesday, we hurried through preparations in record high heat of 38C (101F). Today will also be a record of 36C (96F).

There is a ridge of high pressure contributing to the heat and it was turning the hurricane more south of Houston. If it breaks down, Houston is in big trouble.

Latest reports say the hurricane has taken a turn for the worst towards Houston so maybe the high pressure has already broken down.

If it hits just west of Galveston Island, it will be a major catastrophe for Houston and, ultimately, the US.

Houston will then be on the "dirty" side (as we say on the Gulf Coast) of the hurricane.

My husband is a scientific researcher at Rice University and if he loses his fish (he studies the early development of zebra fish), his career would suffer a major setback.

He's going to do everything he can to make sure his fish weather the storm.

BEN YOUNG, GALVESTON COUNTY, TEXAS, WEDNESDAY

I live in Texas City, Galveston County, 300 yards from the sea.

I'm evacuating, leaving Texas City via State Highway 146, which will take me in a northerly direction, away from the Gulf.

There are several evacuation routes leading out of Texas, and I'm taking the one which (hopefully) will be the least congested.

Interstate 45 is the evacuation route of choice for most residents of the Galveston Bay area.

It's unlikely anything will remain, and I'm preparing myself for the worst case scenario
My eventual destination will be Springfield, Missouri, as this is the closest place where I have any relatives - my sister-in-law.

Although many of my neighbours are boarding up windows, and stocking up on food with the hope that they can remain in their houses, and survive the storm, I have no illusions about the danger that this storm poses.

If Texas City sustains a direct hit, it's unlikely anything will remain, and I'm preparing myself for the worst case scenario.

After living in Texas for 12 years, I've witnessed several large storms, but this one will probably go down in history as one of the worst.

Some predict destruction on a similar scale as that seen in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

I'll be travelling in my Chevrolet truck, which is very durable, but unfortunately this means that I will have to leave my beloved Mazda here in Texas and hope that she survives this nightmare.

SEAN FRANCIS, KINGWOOD, TEXAS, WEDNESDAY

I live in Kingwood, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Houston, right in the predicted path of Rita.

Things are getting really serious now. Hurricane Rita is already a Category Five.

Galveston Island is now at mandatory evacuation status and residents in low lying counties in Houston have been advised to leave.

It's very frightening and the panic in the air is now tangible, fuelled by what happened with Katrina
According to the Weather Channel, the worst case scenario if the eye hits would see the following happen: Galveston hit by 20 foot waves, 600,000 homes destroyed, the whole of Galveston under water, the Houston ship channel floods and the city of Houston under water.

It's very frightening and the panic in the air is now tangible, fuelled by what happened with Katrina.

My wife and I went to a local store late on Tuesday night to buy a few items and the place was heaving with people, when normally there would be but a dozen or so shoppers at that time of day.

Some local petrol stations have already run out of petrol and people are buying out bottled water supplies everywhere.

My office is closed after issuing its disaster recovery plan to all employees. My wife's office is also closed.

We're seriously thinking about heading north to her parents' house in Wichita Falls. I wish I was back at my parents' house in South East England!

Brits are not used to this kind of extreme weather and it's a horrible feeling packing up the things I want to see again knowing that what I leave behind I might not see again.

I must take lots of digital pictures of all the rooms in the house in preparation for the arguments with the insurance company!

Fingers crossed everyone's going to be OK.

ANDREA, HOUSTON, TEXAS, WEDNESDAY

Here on the Texas Gulf Coast, people are far more worked up over this hurricane than any others I can remember.

She's definitely going to hit us.

People have definitely changed their attitudes to hurricanes after Katrina.

We're going to honour the old Gulf Coast hurricane tradition and drink until the lights go out
However, I was in Galveston yesterday and there was a sense of calm. Even more so than in Houston.

I have fielded several calls from friends who must evacuate, because they have pets. People with pets have the worst of it when evacuations become necessary.

Since we're staying, we're going to honour the old Gulf Coast hurricane tradition and drink until the lights go out.

LESLEY LLOYD, HOUSTON, TEXAS, WEDNESDAY

I have decided to evacuate to my parents' home in Arkansas.

I tried to pick up a prescription, but the lines were too long.

I work for a large petrochemical company which has most of its manufacturing sites on the Gulf Coast.

They have emergency personnel at the moment and only required personnel will operate business on Thursday and Friday out of our downtown office, then there is a business continuity plan to keep operations going from a facility further north.

The Galleria Shopping Mall, close to where I live, will be closing its doors before the weekend. You have to understand, the Galleria never closes.

Houston is a city of four million people. We came to the rescue of New Orleans, days before the US government did, so I can't understand why this is happening to us now.

It was taking people four hours to travel from Galveston to downtown Houston, which is normally around 45 minutes and four hours to get from downtown Houston to the Woodlands which is usually about 35-40 minutes.

My travel time to Arkansas is normally eight hours, but it may take me that long just to get out of the greater Houston area.




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