Case Study Summary Begg (Hurricane Rita)

Hurricane Rita is known as the forgotten hurricane, as it struck southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana one month after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Hurricane Rita rapidly intensified into a Category 5 Hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico with max wind speeds of 180 mph. When Hurricane Rita made landfall across western Cameron Parish in southwestern Louisiana, it had been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane with max wind speeds of 115 mph. Figure 1 shows Hurricane Rita’s track. Significant damage was caused to coastal communities, with the entire town of Holly Beach, Louisiana being completely leveled. Figure 2 shows a before and after. Massive storm surges across the coast caused mass flooding and sustained wind speeds over 100 mph were recorded, causing billions in damage.

Because Hurricane Katrina happened only one month before Hurricane Rita, more people evacuated than normal. Local and state evacuation plans estimated that only 1 million to 1.5 million people would evacuate, however, between 2.5 and 3 million people chose to evacuate. This overloaded evacuation routes and highways, causing delays of over 10 hours and traffic jams extending over 100 miles in length. Food, fuel, and water shortages followed.

There were an estimated 115 deaths from Hurricane Rita, but only 7 are directly related to the storm. All the other fatalities were from the evacuation. A majority of the fatalities came from people getting stranded in their cars and suffering from heat stroke, with 23 more coming from a bus that caught fire. An estimates 23,600 homes were deemed “severely damaged or destroyed” by FEMA, with another 39,000 had roof damage. Oil and natural gas production in the area had shut down by up to 98% because of Hurricane Rita, which caused gas shortages for the rest of the United States for a short time. Damage costs range between $10 billion and $18 billion.

Due to the issues from the evacuation, state and local officials have drawn up and updated new evacuation plans to account for much larger evacuations. Infrastructure has also been upgraded along the coast to withstand stronger storms. Even today, storm shelters are still being upgraded in Louisiana to withstand up to Category 5 hurricanes. Certain areas have recovered, while others still haven’t. Figure 3 shows what Holly Beach, Louisiana looks like today. Note how some people chose to rebuild their homes, but there remain several empty lots.

I chose to study this hurricane because not many people know or remember it. Hurricane Katrina took the spotlight from its much larger death tool and damage. However, Hurricane Rita showed just how bad the evacuation plans and infrastructure was in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas.

Figure 1: Hurricane Rita’s track, wind speed, pressure, and dates.

Figure 2: Before and after Hurricane Rita at Holly Beach, Louisiana.

Figure 3: Holly Beach as of 2022.

3 thoughts on “Case Study Summary Begg (Hurricane Rita)

  1. This was honestly such a sad read as I had never heard of Hurricane Rita. This is probably due to the amount of news coverage on the previous hurricane, Hurricane Katrina. I would have never thought about the evacuation routes becoming jammed from citizens trying to save themselves. It’s impressive that the states way to mitigate from this disaster was to upgrade the evacuation plan for larger traffic. I assume this means the lanes have been extended as one way to help with the flow of traffic or new roads have been built. While this area is known for hard hitting hurricanes, Rita is the main reason for the new construction to the evacuation plan. It makes sense that the storm shelters continue to be updated to withstand high category hurricanes as they are commonly faced with these natural disasters. Overall I like to see how serious the state has taken these disasters by spending a lot of time and money to keep the citizens safe.

  2. You picked a very interesting topic because many people had forgotten about Rita and more people died trying to escape the storm, which was very interesting. This case proves that preparation plans can be deadly if it is not done properly. This case also proves that developed countries suffer the most loss when it comes to money. Billions of dollars were lost due to the hurricane.

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