Tens of thousands of residents in Texas are heading inland to higher ground as Hurricane Rita strengthened into a Category 5 storm.
US authorities have urged people living along the coastline and in low-lying parts of Houston to leave their homes.
More than 1,100 survivors of Hurricane Katrina – still in shelters in Houston – are being sent to Arkansas.
Rita is expected to make landfall on Saturday as a major hurricane – possibly Category 3 – hitting Texas, although huge swathes of the south are on high alert.
The storm’s winds have increased to about 265 kilometres an hour.
After heavy criticism over the federal response to Katrina, George W. Bush maintains the authorities are better prepared this time.
“We hope and pray that Hurricane Rita will not be a devastating storm but we have got to be ready for the worst,” he said.
Rita lashed the Florida Keys islands on Tuesday but did relatively little damageas the eye did not make landfall.
However it is feared the hurricane could send a six-metre storm surge over the Texas coast if it hits land there.