Hurricane Rita, That's Katrina Backwards...

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The Same, But Different

With Hurricane Katrina's mass destruction fresh in everyone's mind, the approach of Rita with Category 5 winds triggered a massive response -- only this time, instead of waiting till after the storm, the chaos began even before the storm hit. Along the Texas coast, air ambulances and other aircraft from across the South converged to evacuate patients from hospitals, but dozens of flights were delayed, grounded, diverted, and some simply turned back. Fuel supplies dwindled, heavy traffic gridlocked Houston Hobby Airport, and coordination efforts failed. "Hurry up and wait doesn't get the job done," a frustrated Renae Taggart, a Fort Worth nurse, told a KRT reporter as she waited for a flight to get her to Houston to pick up young patients. Airplanes were backed up 15 deep on the taxiways at Hobby Airport, and two- to three-hour delays to take off or land were common, KRT reported. A crew from Miami Children's Hospital flew to Fort Worth to help in the evacuation, but after getting airborne for Houston, was told 15 minutes later to go back to Fort Worth. The frustrated crew eventually flew home to Florida without having accomplished anything. "We're here to help, but we're doing nothing," said Michael Cogen, a Miami firefighter and paramedic. "We learned from Katrina, but they obviously didn't iron out all of the bugs in three weeks," said nurse Sheila Perez.