More than a million people have been trying to flee Texas as it and other US Gulf states prepare to be lashed by Hurricane Rita.
But the evacuation has been slow-going with some motorways at a virtual stand-still for several hours.
Cars ran out of petrol while stuck in traffic jams, one of which was said to be around 130 kilometres long.
Less than a month after Hurricane Katrina struck President George Bush says nothing is being left to chance”:
“Officials at every level of government are preparing for the worst. Armed forces have pre-positioned troops. We have resources there to help the federal, state, and local officials to respond swiftly, and effectively,” he
Rita is expected to hit land late on Friday or early on Saturday. It has been downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 hurricane. The storm has also changed direction slightly and may avoid major population centres. But experts are warning that it remains unpredictable and potentially extremely dangerous.
Rita’s progress is being tracked by a special storm-chasing plane. It is reported to be moving at around 15 kilometres per hour with winds of more than 280 kilometres per hour.