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Hurricane Rita hits land

PORT ARTHUR, Texas, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Hurricane Rita hit land late Friday at the Texas-Louisiana border.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the eye was 55 miles southeast of Sabine Pass, the National Hurricane Center reported. But with hurricane force winds extending out from the center for 85 miles, the Gulf Coast in eastern Texas and western Louisiana was already feeling Rita's fury.

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The storm's turn to the east was good news for Galveston and Houston and bad news for New Orleans, where wind-driven water surged across the sand bags and cement used to temporarily plug flood walls. The city's 9th Ward, recently pumped out, flooded again with up to 4 feet of water submerging a 30 to 40 block area.

The storm was moving northwest at almost 12 mph with top sustained winds of 120 mph. Rita remained a strong Category 3 hurricane after weakening from a Category 5 on Thursday.

The hurricane center said further weakening as Rita moves off the Gulf.

Hurricane warnings remained in effect from Sargent, Texas, on Matagorda Bay west of Houston to Morgan City, La. Tropical storm warnings were posted from Morgan City to the mouth of the Pearl River, including the New Orleans metropolitan area and Lake Pontchartrain.

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Rita was expected to produce rain accumulations of 8 to 12 inches, with as much as 20 inches possible in some areas. The Hurricane Center warns if the storm slows down over land, parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana could get 25 inches in the next few days.

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