Hurricane Rita is weakening as it heads toward Texas and Louisiana with 125 mph winds, according to the Associated Press, but relief workers and officials are standing by as the effects of the storm are still uncertain.
Rita weakened to a Category 3 hurricane, down from a Category 5 on Wed. It is expected to come ashore early Saturday, moving towards Beaumont and Port Arthur instead of Galveston and Houston.
President Bush declared a state emergency for Louisiana and Texas for Hurricane Rita, urging officials at every level of government to coordinates efforts and prepare to assist those in the path of the storm.
The President said that he will travel to San Antonio, Texas to see how the state and local governments are doing.
"Our job is to assist – prepare for and assist the state and local people to save lives and to help these people get back on their feet," Bush said in a press statement released by the White House.
2 million people along the coast of Louisiana and Texas were urged to get out of the way of Rita, causing a standstill on the evacuation routes.
Cars overheated and ran out of gas as their cars remained idle for 10-12 hours in traffic.
Meanwhile, Rita's rains breached a patched levee in New Orleans, spilling water out into a neighborhood that was just pumped dry.
Forecasters warned a possibility of a storm surge of 15 to 20 feet with rain of up to 20-25 inches over the next several days as the storm moves towards Texas and Louisiana.
Texas' emergency management coordinator, Jack Colley told the Associated Press, that Rita could potentially destroy nearly 5,700 homes in the state and cause $8.2 billion in damages.
Evacuations were made by the military who sent cargo planes to evacuate thousands of patients and residents from Beaumont.
And in Louisiana, 500,000 residents along the southwestern coast were urged to evacuate the city.
Rita brought steady rains to New Orleans, as forecasters predicted that the city will be flooded by 3 to 5 inches of water within the coming days.
Rita comes after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast area, sending the death toll in Louisiana to 841 on Friday, which brought the number of deaths to 1,079.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army, a Christian disaster relief organization, is deploying mobile rescue units and staff throughout Texas and the nearby states to assist and utilize their manpower for the next four weeks.
An emergency response crew is standing by and preparing to serve 560,000 meals per day, while mobile canteens that would provide 5,000 meals per day are being sent by Salvation Army units around the U.S.
Major George Hood, national community relations development secretary said "The Salvation Army is preparing to respond to two of the largest natural disasters in our nation's history, simultaneously."
"Our sole focus is to ensure that our resources are safe and in place to meet the immediate needs of people affected by Rita, and to ensure that our care for Katrina survivors continues unimpeded," he added.