Hundreds of thousands flee Rita’s path

The story of the day is gridlock, as hundreds of thousands flee the Texas coast for higher ground to get out of the path of Hurricane Rita, a Category 5 storm set to make landfall early Saturday somewhere between Galveston and Corpus Christi.

Even with IH-45 opened to contraflow traffic on Wednesday, getting from Galveston to Houston remained an all-day (or all-night) affair, with traffic inching along at times. The Jawa Report this morning published some great traffic camera images from IH-45 in Houston, showing bumper-to-bumper traffic moving very slowly in the pre-dawn hours.

NASA has evacuated Johnson Space Center in Houston (yes, “Houston, we have a problem” Houston) and turned over Mission Control to Moscow, according to The Discovery Channel.

Most of the Texas coast is currently under mandatory evacuation or voluntary evacuation orders. Mandatory evacuations are in effect for Angleton, Brazoria County, Chambers County, Corpus Christi, Friendswood, Galveston, Kemah, La Porte, Matagorda County, Sabine Pass, Wharton County, and New Orleans, La. Voluntary evacuations are in effect for Deer Park, Houston, Harris County, Jefferson County, Montgomery County, Pasadena, Pearland, and Webster.

More than 70% of oil production capacity in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut down due to the hurricane.

And The Jawa Report (again) has an excellent list of links to local hurricane information. Skip their hurricane evacuation map, though, and view the original (PDF). It’s much easier to see. Also check out Houston area traffic cameras.