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September 22, 2006

Rita races towards Texas

Sobered by the shattering impact of Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast is steeling itself for the impact of Hurricane Rita.

With the eye of the storm predicted to impact the Texas coast, businesses and industries throughout the region have already closed and relief agencies have been making preparations.

The operations of all public facilities of the Port of Houston Authority (PHA) were scheduled to cease by 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21 in advance of Hurricane Rita. All non-essential PHA personnel were released from duties until PHA facilities reopen on Monday, September 26 at 6 a.m.

The Coast Guard issued a statement last night saying it was preparing assets throughout the Gulf states for the arrival of Hurricane Rita.

The Coast Guard is making strategic shifts in personnel resources while other personnel are conducting overdue maintenance to aircraft used to support Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Coast Guard crews are pre-positioning search and rescue, pollution response, and aids to navigation assets inland for post storm response. Disaster Area Response Teams (DART) departed from Metairie, La. and will be standing by in Houston to provide relief in the event of a disaster. Coast Guard units in Texas were conducting pre-storm video surveys of areas that potentially lay in the path of Rita. The surveys will assist in rescue and recovery efforts to those areas affected by the storm.

The Coast Guard also cautioned mariners of the upcoming storm and is urging them to heed the weather warnings and small craft advisories.

An advisory has also been issued to evacuate all oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf of Mexico that may potentially be in the path of Rita.

The Minerals Management Service reported yesterday evacuation statistics that it said represented 57.26% of 819 manned platforms and 51.49% of 134 rigs currently operating in the Gulf of Mexico. It said yesterday’s shut-in oil production was 1,097,357 BOPD- equivalent to 73.16% of the daily oil production in the GOM. Yesterday's shut-in gas production was 4.713 BCFPD--equivalent to 47.13% of the daily gas production in the GOM.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies have been pre-positioning supplies and commodities in the surrounding affected areas and potential landfall areas of the storm.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Infrastructure Protection division is working closely with private sector owners and operators to ensure protective measures are underway at local critical infrastructure sites.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Northern Command has ordered four heavy-lift and four medium-lift helicopters to be staged at Patrick Air Force Base and available for potential damage assessments that would be performed by FEMA representatives.