Rita Prepares to Ravish Gulf Coast

Breaking News Hurricane Rita expanded into a Category 5 storm with 165-mph winds just a few minutes ago as it roared across the Gulf. Mandatory evacuations of Galveston, the expected "Ground Zero" of the hurricane, will begin at 7 PM. Texas governor Rick Perry has already advised families to move out now, saying that "Homes and businesses can be rebuilt, lives cannot . . . Now is the time to leave." Officials say that Galveston has never seen a hurricane of this magnitude. Obviously, there will be no massive flooding akin to Katrina and New Orleans, but with winds possibly reaching 200 miles per hour roofs will be coming off of houses and mobile homes will roll. This is not the place anyone should be. As Rita nears the northeast coast of Texas, the likelihood that it will strike The Big Easy once again is quickly decreasing. We cannot, however, forget the way that Katrina swung north to smash through the below-sea-level city seemingly at the last moment. Some speculate that it would be better if New Orleans was hit once again instead of some other place, since now the city is practically leveled and empty anyway. However, this would likely result in even less salvageable buildings and supplies in that area. The U.S. Minerals Management Service reported yesterday that 15 oil drilling rigs and 136 pumping platforms have been evacuated, representing approximately 11 percent of the oil output from the Gulf (Miami Herald). Damage from Katrina and now the Rita evacuations have cut normal Gulf oil production of 1.5 million barrels a day roughly in half, according to the government agency. Since Katrina evacuations began Aug. 26, the storms have cut more than 26 million barrels of oil production. This means that 4.7 percent of the Gulf's annual production has been sliced! We're talking about a major gas shortage here. Interestingly enough, a barrel of crude oil can yield anywhere from 8 to 32 gallons of gasoline, depending upon how much asphalt, butane, paint thinner, etc. is made from the same barrel. If the Feds wanted to (I'm not saying that they should because it would call Constitutional issues into question), they could limit the amount of extra-fuel oil products that are manufactured to make up for the lost oil refineries. As is shown by the image on the right, Rita is projected to smash directly into the Galveston area, then continue up through Houston and Dallas (the major population centers of Texas) into Oklahoma. Currently, images from the Weather Channel show that the hurricane is about 2/3 the size of Texas. Even though it is a Category 5 already, it has yet to hit the main body of the Gulf Stream source just southeast of the Texas coast. Landfall is expected to take place early Saturday morning. But if residents don't leave right now, they likely will not be able to make it out at all. Click here to see a map of your area color-coded to show the level of alarm. So, if you are anywhere close to the Gulf Coast, get off of your seat, turn off your computer, and GET OUT NOW! On another note: if you are separated from your friends and family, but in safe conditions, please visit Gulf Coast Connection to post your profile and stay in touch with your friends. In Him, D3

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