Episcopal News Service September 21, 2006
Remembering Rita: Episcopalians continue to help Gulf Coast recover
By Mary Frances Schjonberg
[ENS] A year ago this week, the Gulf Coast of the United States received the second of the 2005 hurricane season's two-fisted punch.
Coming less than a month after Hurricane Katrina, Rita grazed the Florida Keys and Cuba as a category 2 hurricane on September 21 and made landfall between Sabine Pass, Texas, and Johnson's Bayou, Louisiana, on September 24 as a category 3 hurricane with winds clocked at 115 mph.
More than 100 people were killed by Rita and the storm's aftermath.
The storm destroyed homes, businesses, and the economy of several coastal communities in Louisiana, including those in the areas of Vermilion, Creole, Cameron, and Port Lafourche. Thousands of houses were swept away and local industries, especially shrimping and oyster farming, were devastated. The hurricane destroyed the town of Cameron and destroyed or damaged many homes beyond repair in Abbeville and Sulphur. It is estimated that Rita's assault resulted in 8.7 million cubic yards of debris.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Rita's storm surge reached 15 feet at the Cameron Parish shoreline and up to 12 feet at the Vermilion Parish coastline and at St. Mary Parish near Louisa, along the southwestern Louisiana coastline. The surge also swamped areas of the southeastern coastline that had been devastated by Katrina.
More than 365,000 Louisiana households and businesses registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for help as a result of Hurricane Rita. More than 110,000 registered in Calcasieu Parish and nearly 18,000 in Vermilion Parish. The combination of Katrina and Rita prompted what some called the largest national housing crisis since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
The Episcopal Church has been deeply involved in the work of the past year as the Gulf Coast began to recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In states that were reeling from the devastation caused about a month earlier by Hurricane Katrina, evacuations were ordered and Episcopal Relief Development (ERD) prepared to assist the areas likely to be damaged by Rita's force before the storm hit.
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