SWLA survives Category 3 hurricane - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

SWLA survives Category 3 hurricane

Contraband Bayou and Bennigans, taken by Justin Abshire Contraband Bayou and Bennigans, taken by Justin Abshire
Nick Babineaux sent us this picture of the intersection of Miller Ave & McKinley St in Westlake. Nick Babineaux sent us this picture of the intersection of Miller Ave & McKinley St in Westlake.

3:00 pm Sunday - There is food, water and ice at the Hobby Lobby on Hwy 14 starting now.  Please be patient and don't forget about the curfews: Welsh-8pm to 6am; DeQuincy 6pm-6am; Sulphur- 6pm to 6am; Kinder 6pm to 8 am; Lake Charles 7pm to 6am.

2:30 pm Sunday - Christus St. Patrick hospital has set up two websites for people looking for patients who were evacuated from the hospital.  These sites are for patients who evacuated from Christus St. Patrick only.  The two sites are stpatrickhospital.org and christusstpatrick.org.   If anyone is looking for someone evacuated from Holly Hill Nursing Home in Sulphur, call these numbers: Lake Providence Rehab at 318-559-4050; Magnolia Living Center in Winsboro at 318-435-5194; Southern Oaks Nursing Home in Wisner at 318-724-7493; Rayville Guest House at 318-728-2089; Mary Annas in Wisner at 318-724-7244; Riverside Nursing Home in Monroe at 318-388-3200.  If you have questions about Holly Hill Nursing Home patients call 625-5843.  Here is some updated information on Sulphur: In West Lee there are a lot of trees down.  People are driving along one side of the road.  The WalMart is closed, but in good shape.  Along Hwy 90 many of the oak trees are still up.  There was a 18 wheel trailer on it's side along Highway 90.  Coulee is not overflowed, andHwy 27 looks clear.  There are gas stations open in Eunice, Lafayette and Elton.  The Fleur des Leis apartments are in good shape, with just a few shingles off.  Larry's Shrimp is not in good condition, it is very damaged and the walls are down.  Many windows are blown out of Sulphur Glass.

12:40 pm Sunday - Calcasieu Parish Schools are closed at the present time. An udate will be issued on Friday, September 30, 2005. Assessment of damages is currently under way. The www.cpsb.org website should be working by Monday afternoon. Announcements for employees will be posted there. The Payroll Department is using a generator for power to prepare payroll checks and electronic deposits.

12:30 pm - Vinton Mayor Riggins says the area is devastated. There is no water, ice or food distribution. He urges residents to not come back, that it is a primitive situation. He says, "This is not the same Vinton it was." There are trees in yards, houses and a couple of house fires have been reported. He says Orange, TX has been hit pretty hard, but communication is difficult. He urges residents to be patient. Delta Downs employees need to check in with their employer by calling 866-767-2740 or 702-792-7371 and also check out the webpage at boydgaming.com. They intend to be closed until there are further damage updates. In Moss Bluff around the Bellefield area, there are lots of damange. At this point Women's and Children's in Lake Charles is open and taking patients.

Effective Immediately: Christus St. Patrick Hospital will only accept critical emergency needs until further notice.

Recieved this e-mail this morning:
Hi, KPLC Crew! You are doing a great job.
  I came into the city yesterday to check my home and boat.
  Downed power lines and trees on Highway 90E required several detours before I could get in on E. Prien Lake Road. Hwy 14 south to McNeese totally clear. McNeese east to Ryan totally clear. Turning north on Ryan, the McDonald's across from MSU had the glass front blown out. I could not get down Orchard Drive to my home off Ryan due to totally blocked street because of downed trees. Continuing north on Ryan, I turned left on Sale. I turned left on Orchard and could only go about 30 yards before the road was totally blocked by trees and downed power lines. I walked in and turned back when I discovered a gas meter was leaking gas at 609 Orchard. I called 911 and the Gas Company. I do not know the current status. It's a bomb ready to go.....
  I then drove Ryan north to Prien Lake; west on Prien Lake; north on Lake. No problems. Bow-Tie Marina was not accessable due to downed trees on Giovanni Street. I walked in to Bow-Tie and found severe damage.  I estimate that the water level on Contraband Bayou was up 6 to 8 feet over normal depth.
  I exited the city by driving past Memorial Hospital. The hospital was in good physical shape. Water, surprisingly, was 4 - 5 inches over the curb on Oak Park Blvd with a great deal of tree debris.
  Thanks again. I tried to reach you by phone, but the line has been busy. Will try again later. Hang in there!
Joe

11:45 am Sunday - Jennings WalMart open at noon.  It is located at 303 Interstate Drive in Jennings.

11:40 am Sunday - All communications at the CITGO Lake Charles Refinery are down.  Hurricane ride-out crews are urged to report back to the refinery in preparation for startup operations.  All other personnel are not to report back to work until further instructions are communicated.

10:30 am Sunday - Hal McMillin says that early estimates of re-entry into the Lake Charles area are possibly a week, maybe even 10 days.  City officials are meeting this afternoon.  Stay tuned to KPLC and kplctv.com for official word.  East side of Hwy 14.  Lots of trees down.  Opelousas Street has a lot of trees down.  A home in south Lake Charles has lost their entire second story.  Chennault has a lot of damage to their hangars.  There are a lot of trees and power lines down. 

10:00 am Sunday - According to a caller, Hayes has a lot of wind and tree damage.

9:00 am Sunday - Freddie Richard urges residents to not return to Cameron Parish.  It is a very unsafe place to be.  Water is up to the Gibbstown bridge up to 5 feet.  Cameron Prarie Wildlife Refuge is also covered with water. Officials will be meeting later today for a full update for residents of Cameron Parish after a helicopter tour.  No one should be in Hackberry, either.  There are no services in the parish at all.

8:30 am Sunday - Cameron Parish is closed.  Anyone trying to re-enter the area will be turned around and not allowed to enter.

8:10 am Sunday - Longville - Some evacuees were bused to South Beauregard High School.  At about 6 o'clock yesterday the evacuees were bused out and went north.  The school is ok.

8:00 am Sunday - There is a boil water advisory for Moss Bluff.  Sulphur Mayor Ron Leleux says that Sulphur residents should not return until at least noon tomorrow so that the city can be cleaned up.  The Mayor says that if residents do return to Sulphur, they are going to be "on their own" since emergency officials will be cleaning and repairing the area.  The Mayor also wants people to "be prepared, because this isn't the Sulphur you left."  There are downed trees everywhere and it "looks like a bomb went off."

7:30 am Sunday - Mike Trevino from AllState Insurance says that homeowners can begin to file claims as soon as possible by either using the website or by calling in their claim.  Trevino thinks that agents may be available as early as today to come to areas like Lake Charles to begin assessing the damage.

2:30 am Sunday - Marty Flagg from St. Louis sent this e-mail:

I see your Stream is still down.....
 
Here is what the World is saying: They are holding EVERYONE back in Texas.....No Gas and a lot of Power out.....I am seeing plenty of coverage, Now, around Lake Charles.
 
I hit the bed, now, but will get up and check your site every few hours....Some of my L.C. Friends have asked me about returning....I told them to Catch the National News and check your site HOURLY....
 
Hang in there, you guys....I can tell you this: I am on DEMORT and we have NOT been called in.....This is good...Meaning there is no MASSIVE loss of life, THANK GOD!!!
 
Please tell JIM JAS Hello....>We are all thinking of you.......Will check in......Marty Flagg....St. Louis

1:55 am Sunday -  A few top headlines from the Associated Press:

Government mounts broad mobilization as Rita pounds Gulf Coast
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bush administration mounted a broad mobilization of government assistance today to areas of Texas and Louisiana -- after Hurricane Rita slammed through.
Bush wants to avoid repeating the error-prone response to Hurricane Katrina.
Bush monitored the storm from an Air Force command post in Colorado and then flew to Austin, Texas, for more briefings.
Later today, Bush declared major disaster areas for the states of Texas and Louisiana.
New Orleans bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina nearly four weeks ago.
And large swaths of southwest Louisiana, including parts of U-S interstate Ten and other major highways, were flooded today.
*******************
Rita batters Gulf Coast with high winds and water
BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) _ Hurricane Rita pummeled east Texas and the Louisiana coast today, triggering floods and demolishing buildings.
But the dominant reaction was relief that the once-dreaded storm proved far less fierce and deadly than Katrina.
Rita swamped Louisiana shoreline towns with a 15-foot storm surge that required daring boat and helicopter rescues of hundreds of people.
But the new storm came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with its one-thousand-plus death toll, catastrophic flooding of New Orleans and staggering destruction in Mississippi.
By contrast, Rita spared Houston, New Orleans and other major cities a direct hit -- and by mid-afternoon today federal officials said they knew of no storm-related fatalities.
***************
Ag commissioner waiting to assess damage done
UNDATED, La. (AP) _ Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom says he is waiting to assess damage done to the state's cotton, timber and sugar cane crops by Hurricane Rita.
Odom fears much of the cotton crop that has NOT yet been harvested will be ruined by wind or rain.
He says sugar cane blown to the ground by the storm could be harvested but if it is twisted it will lose sugar content.
Timber in north Louisiana will have to be assessed once Rita has cleared the state. It was still affecting north Louisiana this afternoon.
Odom added that rising waters in Cameron Parish may require moving cattle to higher ground by barge.
************
FEMA crews on way to Louisiana from Texas
HOUSTON (AP) _ They spent most of the day in Houston waiting for their assignment.
Now, three federal search and rescue crews are headed into Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Officials in Louisiana have requested assistance in relief efforts there.
More than 700 federal search-and-rescue personnel from various states rode out Rita in Houston while they waited for damage assessment that would indicate where they would be deployed.
When the call came from Louisiana officials, the Federal Emergency Management Agency crews headed out in a convoy of about a dozen vehicles. They're loaded with water, ready-to-eat meals, medical supplies and fuel.
A Homeland Security Department spokesman says the crews were waiting longer than anticipated because damage from Rita wasn't "catastrophic."
The crews will get a night of sleep before going to work Sunday morning.
*************
MIAMI (AP) _ What used to be Hurricane, then Tropical Storm, Rita has weakened to a tropical depression.
But forecasters say the system remains a major rainmaker.
According to the 10 p-m Central time advisory from the National Hurricane Center, the center of the tropical depression was located about 40 miles north of Shreveport, Louisiana. It's packing top sustained winds of 35 miles-an-hour.
At least one person was killed and several others injured when tornadoes tore through portions of Mississippi on Saturday as remnants of Hurricane Rita pushed inland with heavy rains and violent winds.
But even though, as a hurricane, Rita pummeled east Texas and the Louisiana coast, there's relief that it wasn't as fierce or as deadly as Hurricane Katrina. Rita even spared Houston, New Orleans and other major cities a direct hit.

1:30 am Sunday - Red Cross Disaster Management Update:

Louisiana:
* 50 roads from Slidell to Lake Charles are closed
* At least 1 million customers are without power in SW LA and the gulf coast of Texas
* No immediate reports of fatalities or serious injuries
* Vinton -  worst early damage reports - several fires were burning, the roof was torn off the town's recreation center and homes were damaged by fallen trees
* Widespread flooding was reported in the coastal LA parishes along the Gulf of Mexico
* New Orleans -- Parts of the 9th Ward under 8 feet of water; 150-foot gap in the Industrial Canal levee.
* Lake Charles -- Significant damage to airport, including hangars, cell tower. Trees down. Major damage, flooding at Harrah's casino. A riverboat casino and a barge were knocked loose and floating free, the barge slammed into the Interstate 10 Bridge spanning the Calcasieu River, which was closed while authorities inspected the damage.
* At least one pumping station does not appear to be working.
* Acadia Parish -- Power lines and trees toppled. Trees on houses. Wind and water damage.
* Calcasieu Parish -- Airport damaged. Homes damaged by falling trees. Roads blocked. Cell phones down. A building is on fire in Vinton. A firefighter was injured when he was kicked in the head by a horse.
* Cameron Parish -- Phones down.
* Evangeline Parish -- Heavy winds, no damage assessment yet.
* Jefferson Davis Parish -- Flooding, extensive damage, looting in Jennings. Residents trapped. Many downtown businesses damaged. Police department without power.
* Lafayette Parish -- Roads blocked by fallen trees. Power outages in city of Lafayette and parish. The Vermilion River through Lafayette is running north, instead of south, due to heavy storm surge.
* Terrebonne Parish -- Crews unable to get to trapped residents. Seven to eight feet of water throughout the parish.
* Vermilion Parish -- Flooding south of Louisiana State Route 14. Downed trees and power outages. Search and rescue underway. Eight feet of water reported south of Erath.

Texas:
* Oil refineries suffered only minor damage
* No evacuees allowed to return yet to evacuated TX counties as of 1pm EDT
* Baytown -- The water treatment plant is out of service. Power lines and poles are down and the city is littered with storm debris.
* Beaumont -- A 17-year-old was hit by a falling tree and injured. 11 other injuries reported. A restaurant is damaged, there is debris on the streets, but no major flooding. Police are checking a collapsed apartment building outside the city.
* Galveston -- Two historic residences and a commercial building burned. One building destroyed. A restaurant wall collapsed. Wind blew off the roof of a multi-story hotel downtown. The Galveston Daily News, which lost part of its roof, reports that a woman was severely burned and a firefighter received a minor eye injury.
* Houston -- Two fires, power outages, no major flooding.
* Lumberton -- Some flooding, unverified reports of damage. Trees down. Downed power lines are preventing police from rescuing a couple trapped in their home.
* Pasadena -- Fire at a Family Dollar store spread to an AutoZone store.
* Port Arthur-- Some flooding, with water depths of three to seven feet. Phones out. Widespread wind damage. Levees holding.
* Texas City -- Still assessing damage.

POWER OUTAGES
* Slemco (Southwest Louisiana Electric Membership Cooperative) -- More than two-thirds of its 86,000 customers without power.
* Cleco Corporation -- 80,000 customers without power.
* Jefferson Davis Electric Cooperative -- No service to all 10,300 customers.
* Entergy Corporation -- 780,903 customers without power, including many that have not had power since Hurricane Katrina.
* Center Point Energy -- More than 450,000 customers without power.

12:55 am Sunday - Grand Casino in Kinder appeared to weather Hurricane Rita well. There was some damage, but nothing major, according to KPLC technical director Todd Taylor. Lots of wind and horizontal rain. The Casino was not an official shelter, but they did open their doors to last-minute evacuees.

12:45 am Sunday - E-mailed reports that Lake Charles Memorial Hospital has recieved major damage. But the Emergency Room is open.

12:30 am Sunday - Welsh will allow residents to return to their homes at dawn today, to at your own risk. Residents are not allowed to stay in their homes. Officer Ashley Beyeaux at the Welsh Police Dept says a town curfew has been established: 8 PM - 6 AM. Fire Chief John Hall warns residents there are downed power lines, so please use caution. Residents will not be allowed to stay in their homes. You must be out of town by the beginning of curfew. Roads are clear - residents can come in and look at their property between 6 PM - 8 PM. You must show proof you are a Welsh resident. Some street lights are working - treat intersections as 4-way stops. 95% of roadways are open, and most powerlines have been cleared from the road. There are no medical facilities available in Welsh.

12:00 am Sunday - E-mailed reports from Topsy say there are trees and powerlines are everywhere.

10:30 pm -
* Maplewood in Sulphur between Prater Road and City Service Highway trees have caused major damage to homes.
*South Lake Charles, Nelson Rd. past Country Club, major damage especially to trailer parks.
*Gauthier Rd the Meadowview subdivision, houses look ok, minor shingle damage to some.
*Tank Farm Road, lots of roof damage
*Carbino Rd. , lots of roof damage
*Rice Canals, water is backing up, covering bridges making travel in that area very dangerous.

3:30 pm -   KPLC's Pam Dixon reports that Grand Casino in Kinder needs diesel fuel to continue running generators for their Rita evacuees. If you can help, please call 337-738-7121.

3:20 pm - Caller describes destruction in south Lake Charles as 'worse than Hurricane Audrey'. Gene Fletcher lives off Big Lake Road and says, while his house has sustained no damage, others  have been flattened.

2:30 pm - Trooper Sal Messina joined us to address several issues around SWLA. Click here to see some pictures from TFC Messina:
* LA 384 overpass at I-10 in Iowa is in working order - I-10 & 384 are passable at this time.
* I-210 bridge is passable.
* West Prien Lake Road at Contraband Bayou (near Target shopping center) is impassable - at least 4 feet of water.
* Lake Street between Sale & I-210 is impassable (water at College Street, trees down at Sale Road)
* Intersection of Tank Farm & Elliot Roads is underwater.
* National Weather Service & LC Regional Airport antennae & radar have been damaged.
* LA 385 at Black Bayou is underwater - passage south of LC is impossible.
* LA 27 at Gibbstown Bridge is under several feet of water. Non-emergency traffic is not allowed in Cameron Parish at this time.

1:30 pm - DeQuincy officials say power will be out in the city for 10 days to two weeks.  There is no water in the city and the roads are blocked.  Stay inside your home if you rode out the storm, or if you evacuated do not enter for 48 hours.

1:15 pm - Mayor of Kinder, Estes LeDoux, reports that the entire city has hanging power lines and roads are not safe.  Kinder has a curfew set for 6 pm to 8 am.  Please stay away unless absolutley necessary to return.  There is no electricity and no phones.  There is no news on Coushatta yet.

1:00 pm - Sulphur has a curfew from 6pm to 6am.  Westlake officials say that trees are down and flood waters are rising.  There are volunteers in boats going door to door and rescuing people from their homes.  One road in particular, Conrad Road, had homes with 1 foot of water inside.

12:30 am - Mayor Randy Roach says there is extensive wind damage and that it is practically impossible to get through the city.  Storm surge is still a problem.  Bord du Lac Drive is flooded over onto Lakeshore Drive.  The Mayor urges people to not drive at all in the city at this time.  Buses to temporary shelters will be picking people up at the Civic Center between 2 pm and 3 pm.  There is a curfew for Lake Charles from 7pm to 6 am.  Lake Charles residents should boil all water until further notice.

11:40 am - Mayor's Office representative Jason Barnes urges residents of Lake Charles not to attempt to return to the city until further notice.  All SWLA mayors are in the process of assessing damages to all area cities.  More information will be released as soon as we receive updates.

10:50 am - Sheila Mott from Entergy reports that it is too early to give a restoration timeline and that they will need to examine the situation more.  She reports many downed poles, lines and trees.  If you know of a downed pole or line, call 1-800-9-OUTAGE.  If your electricity is just down, then you do not need to call.  She urges the public to stay off the streets so the teams can work must faster to restore power.

8:20 am - Lake Charles mayor Randy Roach says there is ""extensive damage.""  He reports wind damage, broken telephone poles, and no injuries reported yet.  The Mayor also reports that the lake is ""higher than anyone alive today has ever seen it,"" and that it reaches over the boardwalk.  There are also reports that the Civic Center is intact and the Hibernia building has extensive first floor damage and some windows blown out.

8:00 am - There are still tropical storm winds and downed power lines which will prevent many SWLA from returning to their homes.  There are reports of lots of tree damage in Moss Bluff and Eunice.

7:15 am -  Friendships Relief Organization personnel is ready to come back to Lake Charles to begin helping residents - reporting one of their ships on the Calcasieu River is loose.

6:45 am -  Caller reports cars underwater in New Iberia, LA.

6:30 am - Tornado Warning for Vernon & Rapides Parishes. Tornado watch in effect for all of SWLA & SETX until 5 PM.

6:15 am -  Sulphur Fire Department reports no damage. Still waiting until winds drop below Tropical Storm strength to begin patrols.

6:00 am - Can you stream audio live on the web? If so, call us at 337-491-7753 or e-mail ritakplc@gmail.com .

5:55 am - Tornado Watch will be in effect for all of SWLA until 5 p.m.
Kinder mayor asks that nobody be on the streets at this time.
Many reports of trees down & in houses from Lake Charles, DeQuincy, DeRidder, Sulphur & Carlyss.

5:15 am - A tornado watch continues to be in effect for Beauregard & Vernon Parishes, as well as several counties in SE Texas.

4:30am - KPLC has an unconfirmed report that Louisiana DOTD has closed I-10 Exit 43 near Iowa due to some sort of failure. We also have an unconfirmed report that a barge has broken loose of it's moorings and may have hit the I 2-10 bridge.  Southern section of Lake Street has downed power lines and some poles across the road.

3:30am - Hurricane Rita's eye continues to move on shore. Wind gusts of 100+ mph can be felt at our emergency broadcast headquarters at Christus St. Patrick Hospital. Streaming video is not working, although KPLC will continue to broadcast over the air on Channel 7 and AM 1370. We'll continue to monitor ritakplc@gmail.com for as long as possible.

2:15am - The National Weather Service at the Lake Charles Regional Airport is reporting that part of the arrival terminal at the airport has collapsed.  The KPLC News team at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital are reporting very strong winds, heavy rains that are being blown horizontally, and downed tree limbs. 

1:45pm - The Eyewall Warning for Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes, and Jefferson and Orange Counties will be extended until 4am.

1:00am - KPLC News team at Grand Casino Coushatta - Pam Dixon, Mari Wilson, Jack Woodson, Michael Barrett, Todd Taylor and Carl Snyder.  We are riding out the storm at the Coushatta Casino Resort and Hotel in Kinder with hundreds of police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicans and other rescue workers.

We arrived here this morning shortly after dawn to find emergency personel already using the hotel as a gathering point for first reponders. It started to sprinkle here at 10:30am with light winds.  We had electricity here until around 5pm this evening, when we lost power and switched to emergency power which is providing light in the hallways and lobby area.  As the intensity of the storm has continued to increase, many people have left their rooms and moved to the security of the lobby areas on the first floor.

The security personel here are graciously sharing the meeting room they have set up as their base of operations with us.  With their help we are able to watch KPLC's coverage of the storm, and access the internet to make updates on kplctv.com.

We can now hear rain pelting the windows ... and the wind pushing on the exterior door in this room.  Several small leaks in the roof are creating wet spots in the buffet area and front lobby, but so far the facility is holding up well to Hurricane Rita.

11:45pm - The eye of the hurricane is coming ashore in Cameron Parish  - and eyewall warning has been issued for Cameron and Calcasieu Parish in Louisiana and Jefferson and Orange County in Texas.  At the last update from NOAA, wind speeds in the eye of the storm are at 120 mph.  The eyewall warning for Calcasieu Parish is in effect until 2am.  Expect winds 100-120 mph, & 20 to 30 foot waves.

In Calcasieu Parish - sustained winds are at 100 mph.

Mike Griffin is reporting horizontal sheets of rain and flying debris in the area around CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital - these are conditions that can be expected in the Eyewall Warning area.

Some flooding has been reported in Lake Charles, 2 feet of water is on Foster Street just outside of the emergency room of CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital.  There are also reports of water in downtown Cameron - they eye of the storm is currently over eastern Cameron.

Power is out in Lake Charles, Kinder and surrounding areas.  Some areas between Churchpoint and Eunice are reporting they still have power.

Local rescue workers are stationed at Grand Casino Coushatta and Oberlin to move into affected areas when the hurricane has passed. 4000 National Guard troops are stationed in Lafayette to move in when the storm has moved through.

The Associated Press is reporting that police rescued 4 people huddled under an overhang outside the locked downtown Civic Center earlier in the day.  The call to evacuate Lake Charles was well heeded, 95% of residents left town before the storm hit.

It has been reported by the Associated Press that all nursing home patients in Calcasieu Parish were evacuated before the storm hit the area.  An estimated 500 critical or special needs patients from local hospitals were also evacuated via air transport.

9:00 pm - Lake Charles residents should boil their water before drinking it.  Electricity is out in numerous areas in Southwest Louisiana.  There are many reports of down trees and branches, heay rain and strong hurricane force winds.  Rita will make landfall in Cameron within the next hour.

2:00 pm - According to a statement from the National Weather Service, downtown Lake Charles can 10 feet of storm surge, the Saltwater Barrier, Old Town Bay and Sam Houston Jones Park can expect 16.5 feet, and Beaumont and Orange can expect 20 feet of storm surge.

1:30 pm - From National Hurricane Center: ...Rita on a slow weakening trend...

At 1 pm cdt...1800z...the center of Hurricane Rita was located near latitude 27.8 north...longitude 92.2 west or about 190 miles southeast of Galveston Texas and about 175 miles southeast of Port Arthur Texas.

Rita is moving toward the northwest near 10 mph and this motion is expected to continue during the next 24 hours. On this track...the core of Rita will make landfall near the southwest Louisiana and upper Texas coasts early Saturday.

Maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 125 mph with higher gusts. Rita is now a category three hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. A further slow weakening is possible before landfall...but rita is still expected to come ashore as a dangerous hurricane.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 85 miles from the center...and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 205 miles. An elevated platform on isle denieres near the south-central Louisiana coast just reported sustained winds of 58 mph.

Latest minimum central pressure reported by an Air Force reconnaissance plane was 931 mb...27.49 inches.
Posted by C. McNeill WAVE 3 Louisville, KY 

10:30 am - From National Hurricane Center: Rita has weakened since yesterday. The eye is not as distinct and the convection is not as intense as 24 hours ago. This is consistent with the central pressure which has risen to around 927 mb and winds have decreased. The initial intensity has been adjusted down to 115 knots. Unless another eyewall cycle occurs that could bring the winds temporarily up a little bit...the overall tendency is for Rita to weaken gradually. So far the passage of Rita over the warm eddy in the Gulf of Mexico has not resulted in intensification. However...research suggests there is a lag in the atmospheric response. Nevertherless...rita is expected to make landfall as category 3 or...a little less likely...category 4 intensity.

Upper-air data shows that the high pressure system controlling the motion of the hurricane is already north and east of rita and is centered over Arkansas and Tennessee. Consequently...Rita has turned more to the northwest and is now moving 310 degrees at 9 knots. No significant change in track is anticipated before landfall near the upper Texas or southwestern Louisiana coast early Saturday. Once inland...the steering currents are forecast to collapse and Rita is expected to move little over northeastern Texas and southwestern Arkansas. Rita by then will likely produce torrential rains. The official forecast follows very closely the model consensus.

Rita is a large hurricane and tropical storm force winds extend outward a great distance. A sond dropped from a reconnaissance plane measured 56 knots surface winds about 120 n mi west of the eye.
Forecaster Avila
Posted by C. McNeill WAVE 3 Louisville, KY 

8:00 am - As we begin our move here at KPLC, our live streaming coverage will be down for an indefinite amount of time.  We urge visitors to check back regularly and to continue to refresh their homepage so you can reconnect as soon as we have live streaming back up.  Please continue to check kplctv.com and KPLC for the latest news and also check us out on the radio at these stations: GATOR 99.5, LA 92.9 107 JAMZ, STAR 92.1, KLCL AM and KJEF AM.

7:00 am - The latest coordinates for Hurricane Rita are 27.1 N 91.5 W, winds at 140 mph, pressure at 930 mb and moving northwest at 10 mph.

5:50 am - According to Trooper Sal Messina the traffic on 165 and 171 as well as the interstate has eased up and cleared.

5:50 am - The National Weather Service is reporting forecasts for the following cities: Lake Charles and Jennings will have wind gusts up to 95 mph.  Cameron will have wind gusts up to 105 mph.  Tyler, Jasper and Newton will have wind gusts at 90 mph.  Leesville, DeRidder and Oakdale will have 80 mph wind gusts.  Alexandria, Marksville, Ville Platte and Opelousas will have wind gusts up to 60 mph.  Lumberton will have gusts around 100 mph. 

5:45 am - A caller halfway between Lake Charles and DeRidder on Hwy 171 says that the roads are clear.

4:30 am - A caller has reported strong winds and heavy rain in Houma, as well as loud crashing noises outside.

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    Tonight, skies will be clear and we will have little to no chance for rain. It will not be as cold tonight. Temperatures will still get down to the 40s for Southwest Louisiana, so we should not see any freezing temperatures. If you head out tonight, you will still need to grab a light jacket. As we go through this week, the weather will be nothing less than perfect! We will have lots of sunshine and little to no chance for rain. We are on a gradual warming trend.

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    Tonight, skies will be clear and we will have little to no chance for rain. It will not be as cold tonight. Temperatures will still get down to the 40s for Southwest Louisiana, so we should not see any freezing temperatures. If you head out tonight, you will still need to grab a light jacket. As we go through this week, the weather will be nothing less than perfect! We will have lots of sunshine and little to no chance for rain. We are on a gradual warming trend.

    More >>
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