The U.S. National Weather Service says Hurricane Rita is weakening, but is still poised to be a dangerous storm when it makes landfall.
Packing winds of 230 kilometers per hour, forecasters warn the Category Four storm could even regain some intensity as it passes over the Gulf of Mexico. Bound for the Texas coast, Rita is expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday. Highways in Texas have been jammed with hundreds of thousands of motorists fleeing Galveston, Houston and other cities in the storm's expected path.
The hurricane is moving west-northwest, raising the possibility it could also deliver a strong blow to Louisiana, where many cities are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Rain has already begun to fall upon New Orleans, and officials warn the city may flood again if Rita brings heavy rain and a storm surge. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco urged people in coastal areas to evacuate.