Florida Keys evacuated in preparation for Rita

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hurricane Rita prompted local Florida Keys officials to evacuate the area. Evacuation ended as remaining people sought shelter. The storm is threatening to cause a 16+ foot storm surge, and has become a Category 5 hurricane.[1]

The storm may hit Southern Florida, then the US Gulf Coast; preliminary maps suggest landfall in Texas. Fear has caused crude oil prices to rise by $4 per barrel on Monday, in anticipation that Rita would cause more damage to the oil refineries around the Gulf of Mexico. This was the largest single day price increase for crude oil in history. Prices dropped by $1 to $66 per barrel on Tuesday, eased partly by news that OPEC would supply 2 million barrels of oil per day in extra capacity to ease supply shortages.

Phil Flynn, an analyst, stated that "We really can't afford to lose more production," as Katrina left many oil facilities inoperable.

40,000 residents are affected by the evacuation plans, which include everyone in the southern portions of the Keys. Voluntary evacuations were issued to 134,000 coastal residents. Five Cuban provinces were set on alert, as well as certain areas in the Bahamas and the remainder of Florida.

Rita could affect New Orleans and other places recovering from Hurricane Katrina — it may cause a great deal of water to be dumped on the region — worrying officials. Daniel Brown, a hurricane meteorologist, said "This is something everyone should be paying attention to." President Bush adds: "There is deep concern about this storm causing more flooding in New Orleans."

From a Sunday, September 11 broadcast of MSNBC's Meet The Press, Mr. Russert received the following answer to a question about the vulnerability of New Orleans to flooding. Dr. Ivor van Heerden is the deputy director of Louisiana State University Hurricane Center:

MR. RUSSERT: ...Doctor, you're an expert on this. We're still in the hurricane season. What are the chances, the likelihood that a tropical storm or, God forbid, another hurricane could hit this same area?
DR. VAN HEERDEN: You know, there is a high probability it could happen. The unfortunate thing is, because the levee system is so weakened, just a tropical storm could reflood New Orleans. So it's a very, very vulnerable situation right now. We don't need another Katrina to flood New Orleans. A tropical storm that puts maybe five feet or six feet of water in Lake Pontchartrain, which is not rare, would reflood the city.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the local, state and federal governments are prepared for an event like that in the coming weeks?

DR. VAN HEERDEN: I don't think so, because right now they're really battling just to try and shore up the levees. You know, there were seven major levee breaks and it's going to take quite a lot of time to repair those, to have them engineeringly sound so they won't give way again.

The hurricane season is in full swing, ending on November 30.


  • Tim Russert interview with Dr. Ivor van Heerden, Director of the Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes and the Deputy Director of L.S.U.'s Hurricane Center. "Meet The Press Transcript for September 11" — MSNBC, September 11, 2005