CNN has Randi Kaye in Baytown, TX. She's getting buffeted but good. This storm seems like a soaker. Not good.
Will media attention now focus almost exclusively in Port Arthur? Beaumont? Lake Charles? Will reporters lose sight of Katrina's still unfinished accounting? Depends on the visuals from Rita, which should come by morning. See you then.
Watching MSNBC, we realize that Tucker Carlson should stick to politics. Give us Collette Cassidy.
Fox's Shep Smith appears to be out for the count, having lost too many hats (we counted five) to Rita. Damn her uncanny ability to snatch away the things concealing Smith's increasingly white hair.
AP: The hurricane's strongest winds are now ashore at the Texas-Louisiana coast.
Flash flood warnings up around New Orleans. Great,
The collapse in Galveston is of a restaurant, CNN reports. The fire is "under control but still burning."
Peak winds at 81 mph in Beaumont.
Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center keeps earning his keep. Live on Fox with Sean Hannity, a wind storm without rain.
Rita Cosby, the storm's husky voiced namesake, is in Galveston, in orange cap and coat, looking like Kenny from "South Park." The mist on the lens creates an orange halo around Cosby, highlighting her hirsute power.
Winds are 120, gusts to 144. Pressure is 934 millibars. Storm surge up to 20 feet at Port Arthur.
When John Zarrella moves, you know the storm's a big'un. CNN's big guy has sustained some blows but remains standing. Anderson Cooper looks like he wants to go home, just go home, click those heels three times to make it so.
We're worried about Zarrella, in Lumberton, TX. The trees behind him don't look like they're staying. We're also a little concerned by the small smile on Aaron Brown's face when he's talking to Cooper. You don't think he's enjoying Cooper's self-induced misery, do you?
MSNBC's man in Beaumont -- Phil Archer -- has a live shot of a light pole down but still working. So is his moustache.
The eyewall is 16 miles from land. Luck to you.
Problems with the seawall at Galveston, says CNN. Rita's eye is 40 miles southeast of Sabine Pass, on the Texas-Louisiana line.
12:20 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24
Fox says it's blowing in Lake Charles, La. Relative to that, Houston is calm.
MSNBC also shows sheets of rain. Oscar Ortiz, soon to join Ray Nagin in the Mayor-Without-A-City Club, bemoans Port Arthur, TX.
CNN reports a building collapse in Galveston. Probably remains of the fire at an art gallery. In the camera's lights the rain swirls like fat snowflakes.
CNN reports no casualties in fires at Galveston.
Aaron Brown riffs about this being the "rawest, livest form" of television, Betcha. It's the best way for civilians to understand what reporters experience when news breaks. Big facts usually hold true, but a thousand other truths die as truer information comes forward. We recall covering several tornadoes where death tolls dropped as hours elapsed. Humans almost always fear the worst. It's the pessimist in us.
That same pessimist notes that we're in the midst of an incredible news cycle, and expects a California quake is bound to happen before the season closes.
Hurricane coverage is our anti-drug, though it's best experienced while on drugs.
Bill Hemmer is on Fox. We keep looking for Soledad, but alas, she must be getting beauty sleep in another universe, on another network.
Hemmer is in New Orleans, reporting on when the levees break, which makes us think about being in New Madrid in the late 1980s for the earthquake that wasn't, eating gumbo and drinking Bud at 6:30 a.m. in a bar while KSHE blared the Zep classic, a tart audio raspberry to the idea that an earthquake in southeast Missouri would bust levees along the Mississippi and flood the town. Nice, tight memory.
Shep Smith is hugging a fence pole. He's pulling a Dan Rather. He's grimacing, crouching, wiping his wet face. And that insufferable Greta mocks him, rolling out the fact that while she got the lucky draw for Houston. Destroy her with the remote.
As long as MSNBC is occupied by Scarborough, we will look the other way. Joe interviewing Asa Hutchison, a former Homeland Security honcho, is not our idea of breaking news.
We give The Weather Channel another chance. From Sulphur, La., Janine Albert notes the noise of Hurricane Rita. Others have talked about the lack of respites between feeder bands. This storm just comes and comes. Insert your own breathing-hard joke here.
Back to Rob Marciano in Beaumont. Lights are still on there. Showing off CNN's rented U-Haul, filled with supplies and equipment. It's also a good windbreak. Aaron Brown asks him about being a "meteorologist-reporter." You know, smarter than your average reporter, because he knows science.
Interesting point he's making: Reporters usually overestimate the wind they're experiencing. Thirty miles an hour feels like 60.
Sean Callebs reports for CNN from Galveston. Big-ass fire on 19th Street; a "very significant fire," Callebs reports -- just before being thwacked with a piece of styrofoam.
The Anderson Cooper lens remains covered with a gauzy film. Guess he likes it that way. But why in God's name is he interviewing Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who is live in a Baton Rouge studio? Cooper's getting blown around, trying to cup his IFB. What, is Aaron Brown taking a smoke break?
Fox has Adam Housley in Winnie, TX. Crappy vidphone; tinny audio, pixelated video. Is this the best they can do?
CNN's John Zarrella in Lumberton, TX. An apt assignment for the big guy. He's reporting that a lot of rain -- 15 to 20 inches -- could fall. People reportedly trapped on highways as the storm attacks. Someone "breaked a lock" to help people, Zarrella notes. God bless him.
Rita is a drencher.
Hey, CNN, wipe off Anderson Cooper's lens. Or is that some sort of gauzy effect for the rising star, who likes to begin questions this way: "And and and ... "
Early impression: CNN's still the cable network with the best depth. Even with Cooper in the line-up. In a perfect Medialand, CNN would hire Shep Smith and add some color and punch to the roster.
The Weather Channel may know its weather, but it doesn't know squat about pacing. Sluggish coverage.
Fox: Greta chats with Shep. She's in Houston. We're seeing a lot of the top of Shep's head in Beaumont. He's being attacked. Put wings on the boy and he's going to take flight. You know, he's quite adept at riffing in the middle of the hurricane.
Greta is holding onto her ball cap. She is holding onto her ball cap. What an absolute priss.
CNN: Raining in Galveston. Fires on the east end of the island.
You know, this Aaron Brown/Anderson Cooper hybrid is a bastard child, a miscarriage that lived. It's like Ted Koppel and Jon Stewart co-hosting a show. We wonder if Brown digs Cooper being plopped into his 'hood.
Rob Marciano, the meteorologist, is worried about being in the center of the eye, if the storm crosses the Sabine River. When a meteorologist frets about his safety in a storm, you know something wicked is near.
MSNBC remains occupied by Scarborough Country. This cannot stand.
Greta, on Fox, has actually been forced to pay attention to reality. No more Natalee nabobs. Time to understand that the real stories are in the Gulfs, the ones named for Mexico and Persia.
Suggestion to all the cables: Put a map in the lower right showing the location of your reporter. All this gee-whiz of bouncing live from city to city lacks coherence when you can't follow it with any sort of sense.
Aaron Brown, the CNN anchor, is his usual thoughtful self. Chad Myers, the meteorologist, reports the center is moving NW at 11 mph. In a little less than five hours, the eye will be to the east of Beaumont, TX. The bad side of the eye will go through the Sabine River. Bad because of the rains being generated by Rita.
Back to MSNBC: The Texas lieutenant governor is being calm, explaining how well his state evacuated his people. Guess that's what the lieutenant governor does during a storm. Or is it because he's in Scarborough Country, where people can smoke because hey, it's a bad choice, but it's made by free people.
The death toll from Katrina, by the way, now stands at 1,078. Just FYI. Any body found in the floodwaters of Rita will be a victim from Katrina.
Over to Fox: Shep Smith is interviewing a forecaster for a local station. Shep's a little guy, like Anderson Cooper. Oops. The Shep vid connection is black, now back. Windy as hell in Beaumont, TX.
Hey, The Weather Channel: A taped piece from New Orleans, done before Rita. The love shot is from Stephanie Sy with ABC. She's in New Orleans, where tornadoes are a'feared. Meanwhile, Mike Seidel in Galveston gives us this important tidbit -- the wind is from the north, blowing water away from the seawall, about 50 yards away. So far, so good in Galveston.
9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, 2005
As we did during the wretched Katrina, we'll try to post, from time to time, some impressions during Rita's siege. This seems especially important, given the alternate reality being spun by the Bush Administration about how the last storm played out.
(For the record, New Orleans wasn't just fine until the levees were breached on Tuesday, the morning after Katrina hit. Live coverage showed a Monday morning levee break that happened as Katrina came ashore, leaving much of the city under water by 10 a.m.)
Anyway, it's about 9:25 p.m. Central on Friday, Sept. 23, 2005. For all intents -- or in cars, hotels and other shelters -- Hurricane Rita is attacking the United States.
CNN's Rob Marciano is in Beaumont, TX. He's not very happy, and said so just now. Points for brutal honesty. By contrast, Anderson Cooper chirps about feeling pretty safe, some 30 feet above a potential flood point. Points for good hair, but not much else.
John Zarrella, a man built to withstand a hurricane, is in Lumberton, TX. Lots of strong, gusty winds there. Trees are moving, but he does not. The wispy Cooper suffers by comparison.
Jason Carroll is in Lake Charles, LA, just on the east side of where Rita should come ashore. Bad draw, man.
Over at MSNBC, it's a damned Ditech commercial.
Shep Smith is on Fox, in Beaumont, TX. Squinting. Just knocked to the ground! 9:28 p.m. He calls it "slipping and falling." Excuse us, but MY ASS. That was wind that just knocked a man to the ground, with vigor.