Rita Becomes Category 2 Hurricane

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Here she comes.

GALVESTON, Texas (CNN) — With Hurricane Rita intensifying as it treks westward through the Gulf of Mexico, the mayor of Galveston declared a state of emergency Tuesday night.

Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas ordered mandatory evacuations of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

She also said mandatory evacuations of other parts of the city would begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

So how strong is it?

Rita continued to strengthen as its eye passed through the narrow Straits of Florida between Key West and Cuba and into the warm, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The hurricane center warned that the Category 2 storm could reach Category 4 status by Wednesday afternoon.

A Category 4 storm has winds from 131 mph to 155 mph (210 kph to 248 kph) and storm surges from 13 feet to 18 feet (4.3 meters to 6 meters), based on the Saffir-Simpson scale that measures hurricane intensity.

So how are the Florida Keys doing?

Gov. Bush said more than 1,600 residents of Monroe County, which includes all the Keys, were in shelters elsewhere in Florida. All three hospitals in the county were evacuated, as well as its nursing homes.

A hurricane warning stretched from just south of Florida City in southeast Florida down to East Cape Sable, around the tip of the peninsula and then north to Chokoloskee. All of the Florida Keys are included in the warning.

Hurricane warnings were still in effect for three Cuban provinces, including Havana. CNN’s Lucia Newman said more than 58,000 Cubans were evacuated from coastal areas.

My prayers and thoughts are with them..

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