A day-by-day look at Hurricane Rita:
Saturday, Sept. 17:
- Tropical depression 18 develops 95 miles east of the Bahamas with 30 mph wind. Storm watches or warnings posted in the Turks and Caicos Islands and Bahamas.
Sunday, Sept. 18:
- Tropical Storm Rita becomes 17th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season with sustained winds of about 40 mph.
- A hurricane watch is posted for the Florida Keys.
- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declares a state of emergency.
Monday, Sept. 19:
- Hurricane warnings are posted for the Keys and parts of the Florida peninsula. A mandatory evacuation is issued for the Keys and a voluntary evacuation order for Florida's Miami-Dade County.
Tuesday, Sept. 20:
- Rita turns into a Category 2 storm with 100 mph wind as it roars past the Keys. Though many areas lose power, damage to the island chain is minimal. It is the seventh hurricane to strike or pass by Florida since August 2004.
Wednesday, Sept. 21:
- Rita is upgraded to a Category 3 storm with 115 mph wind, then intensifies dramatically by day's end to a Category 5 storm - the highest category - with 175 mph wind.
-Forecasters say it threatens to devastate the Texas coast and already-battered Louisiana by week's end. The island city of Galveston, Texas, where the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history struck in September 1900, and Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, could be at risk.
- Hospital and nursing home patients are evacuated and as many as 1 million other people are ordered to clear out.
- An estimated 319,000 National Guard troops nationwide are ready to respond. Several amphibious assault ships are stationed offshore to assist relief efforts.
- Government engineers and private contractors work furiously in New Orleans to repair the system of levees and pumps that protect the city, dangerously weakened by Hurricane Katrina.
Thursday, Sept. 22:
- Rita's wind falls to 140 mph, making it a still-major Category 4 storm. Forecasters predict landfall for late Friday or early Saturday.
- Bush administration declares Rita a national emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency sends nearly 1,200 medical and rescue personnel into Texas and asks the Pentagon to send 2,500 hospital beds to potential disaster zones.
- Outer bands of rain begin falling in New Orleans.
- Highways leading inland out of Houston are gridlocked, with traffic bumper-to-bumper for up to 100 miles north of the city. Gas stations are reported to be running out of gas.
- Oil companies begin closing refineries, including two of the largest around Houston. Crude-oil prices briefly pass $68 a barrel.
- Johnson Space Center in Houston is emptied and the task of monitoring the international space station is turned over to Russian flight controllers outside Moscow.
Friday, Sept. 23:
- Rita slows to a Category 3 storm by early afternoon, still packing maximum sustained winds of 125 mph.
- Forecasters say Houston and Galveston may avoid a direct hit as Rita veers slightly to the east and threatens the Beaumont and Port Arthur area about 75 miles east of Houston.
- About 1.8 million residents are under orders to leave their homes in Texas and Louisiana. Highway congestion still a problem around Houston; National Guard trucks provide motorists with gasoline.
- A bus carrying elderly evacuees catches fire and is rocked by explosions on a gridlocked highway near Dallas. As many as 24 people are killed.
- Steady rain at storm's edge sends water pouring through breaches in a patched levee into one of the New Orleans' lowest-lying neighborhoods, the Ninth Ward. Other levees reported to be holding.