D/FW Airport Plans to Activate Emergency Operations Center to Monitor Rita

Hurricane Rita's storm system is coming to the Metroplex this weekend, weather forecasters warn, possibly bringing winds up to 45 mph, 4 to 6 inches of rain, flash floods and power outages.

After the Category 5 hurricane hits land -- it was bearing down on the Texas Coast late Wednesday -- the storm's 175-mph winds and rain should gradually diminish as it heads north.

But North Texas could still be in for a wild ride, meteorologists say. Winds could break branches off trees, knock power lines down and cause significant structural damage to homes and businesses.

"It will still get very windy," said Dan Dixon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

By the time Rita gets here, it will likely be a tropical storm or depression. A tropical storm has winds of 39 to 73 mph; a depression has winds up to 39 mph.

The storm is expected to arrive in the Metroplex between Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon, Dixon said.

Experts warn motorists to be careful because people evacuating from South Texas could cause congestion, leading to delays and accidents.

Texas roads remained open Wednesday, but some on-ramps along Interstate 45 between Dallas and Galveston were closed to keep evacuation traffic moving smoothly, said Angela Loston, a spokeswoman at the Texas Department of Transportation's Dallas office.

"Once the hurricane hits, the roads affected the most, like I-45, will probably be closed," she said.

Airline delays also are possible, the National Weather Service said.

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport officials plan to activate their around-the-clock emergency-operations center to monitor the storm and coordinate with other agencies, airport spokesman Ken Capps said.

Concessionaires are stocking up on extra food and supplies, and could stay open all night, if needed.

"We are prepared for at least 75 mph winds, and hopefully we won't get close to that," Capps said.

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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