Friday, September 23

4:00PM CDT RITA UPDATE

Dr. Neil Frank of KHOU 11 News has just confirmed that the right or eastern "wobble" of Rita's eye has in fact occurred -- i.e., the Houston-Galveston area is now on the western edge of the "cone of uncertainty" and all indications are now that the brunt of Rita will impact the Texas coastline from Beaumont to the Point Arthur-Sabine Pass area, which is up the coast from the major population center of Houston. That should place Houston on what's termed the "clean" side of the hurricane, as hurricane rotation is counter-clockwise. That should translate into less rain and less furious winds. But that, of course, is a relative statement. This is still a dangerous storm for Houston.

The center of Rita is now 155 miles south-southeast of Houston-Galveston. Hurricane force winds of 75 mph or greater will begin being felt 7-8 hours from now -- on or before midnight tonight.

The eye of the storm will make landfall around daybreak tomorrow morning.

Hurricane Rita will be a Category 3 hurricane when it makes landfall.

Meanwhile Mayor Bill White and Judge Robert Eckels, along with congressional representatives, including House Majority Leader Tom Delay, have completed a press conference.

Some highlights:

A final sweep of Houston area freeways and toll roads will occur this afternoon and anyone stranded will be bused to a local shelter.

The Astrodome is a staging area for recovery efforts.

Neither the Astrodome nor the George R. Brown Convention Center are designated shelters; rather, they're being used to stage assets and supplies that will be used in the recovery effort.

FEMA representatives are on the scene and have been working closely with local and state officials.

People are now being asked to move indoors and to remain there until the storm passes.

Lastly, the mayor emphasized that local area hospitals are NOT shelters.

FOLLOW-UP: The "Houston Chronicle" confirms that Beaumont-Port Arthur are in the cross hairs.