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Hurricane Katrina lessons helped in Rita

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. relief officials say lessons learned last month in Hurricane Katrina were applied effectively in the weekend Gulf Coast strike of Hurricane Rita.

"The damage is not as severe as we had expected it to be," Federal Emergency Management Agency Acting Director David Paulison said in Washington. "Every mayor that we have talked to is crediting the evacuations with the fact we have no reported deaths at this time."

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President George Bush, who visited the Texas emergency command center in Austin, praised government agencies as "well-organized and well-prepared to deal with Rita," The Washington Post said Sunday.

However, Michael Lowder, deputy director of response operations at FEMA, said Katrina, which hit the New Orleans area Aug. 29 was a "more massive" storm than Rita, with different circumstances. Katrina cut a 90,000-square-mile swath across three states, before triggering a flood that swamped the city and broke down civil order.

Rita, however, struck a mostly unpopulated region near the Texas-Louisiana border and moved northward quickly, and by Sunday morning was a gusty tropical depression raining over Tennessee.

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