Hurricane Rita News
CREOLE, La. - Hurricane Rita's path of devastation along the Texas-Louisiana coast became shockingly clear Monday, as rescuers pulled stranded bayou residents out on skiffs and Army helicopters searched for thousands of cattle feared drowned.
Crews struggled to clean up the tangle of smashed homes and downed trees. The hurricane slammed low-lying fishing villages, shrimping ports and ranches with water up to 9 feet deep. Seawater pushed as far as 20 miles inland, drowning acres of rice, sugarcane fields and pasture.
In coastal Terrebonne Parish, the count of severely damaged or destroyed homes stood at nearly 9,900. An estimated 80 percent of the buildings in the town of Cameron, population 1,900, were leveled. Farther inland, half of Creole, population 1,500, was left in splinters.
“I would use the word destroyed,” Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore said of Cameron. “Cameron and Creole have been destroyed except for the courthouse, which was built on stilts on higher ground. Most of the houses and public buildings no longer exist or are even in the same location that they were.”
The death toll from the second devastating hurricane in a month rose to 10 with the discovery in a Beaumont, Texas, apartment of five people — a man, a woman and three children — who apparently were killed by carbon monoxide from a generator they were running indoors after Rita knocked out the electricity. In Texas, a couple was confirmed killed by an uprooted tree that fell on their home, and another man was electrocuted as he tried to connect a generator.
Houses in the marshland between the two towns were reduced to piles of bricks, or bare concrete slabs with steps leading to nowhere. Walls of an elementary school gymnasium had been washed or blown away, leaving basketball hoops hanging from the ceiling. A single-story white home was propped up against a line of trees, left there by floodwaters that ripped it from its foundation. A bank was open to the air, its vault still intact.
“We used to call this sportsman’s paradise,” said Honore, a Louisiana native. “But sometimes Mother Nature will come back and remind us that it has power over the land. That’s what this storm did.”
Hundreds without power
In the refinery town of Lake Charles, National Guardsmen patrolled the place and handed out bottled water, ice and food to hundreds of people left without power. Scores of cars wrapped around the parking lot of the city civic center.
Dorothy Anderson said she did not have time to get groceries before the storm because she was at a funeral out of town. “We got back and everything was closed,” she said.