Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rita's wrath intensifies

As Hurricane Rita reaches category 5 status, people in Texas -- including many evacuees from Hurricane Katrina -- are scrambling to find safer ground:

(CBS/AP) Traffic came to a standstill and gas shortages were reported Thursday as hundreds of thousands of people in the Houston metropolitan area rushed to get out of the path of Hurricane Rita, a monster storm with 170 mph winds.

They joined the more than 1.3 million residents in Texas and Louisiana fleeing in hopes of avoiding a deadly repeat of Katrina.

"If there was a Category 6, Rita would be there," said CBS News Meteorologist George Cullen. "This is an incredible storm right now, the third most intense hurricane ever recorded."

The line of cars heading away from the Texas coastline said it all, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan. Highways leading inland out of Houston were gridlocked, with traffic bumper-to-bumper for up to 100 miles north of the city. Gas stations were reported to be running out of gas. Shoppers emptied grocery store shelves of spaghetti, tuna and other nonperishable items.

The Houston Astrodome, which had been housing Katrina evacuees, is now empty, reports CBS News Correspondent Trish Regan.

"The lights are off, the gates are closed, all of the evacuees have been moved out, either to other parts of Texas, other parts of the country even, including places like Arkansas and Tennessee," Regan said.