Nearly 2 million flee Rita


Nearly 2 million flee Rita — Hurricane Rita roared toward the Texas and Louisiana coasts early Friday, a major Category 4 storm that spurred a traffic-snarled exodus toward higher ground and fears it could cripple the heart of the nation’s petrochemical industry. (AP)

Air, cruise lines monitor storm
— Cruise ships and airlines are preparing for the waves and wind of Hurricane Rita on Texas’ Gulf Coast. About 6,000 people are at sea on three ships owned by the Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines. Their return dates are likely to be pushed back, officials for the two companies said. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Oil dips as Rita shifts path — Oil fell below $66 a barrel and gasoline prices slid Friday as Hurricane Rita lost some intensity, while its direction may avert a direct hit on the heart of the Texas refining hub near Houston. (Reuters)

Troops positioned, warning issued as rain begins in La. — Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco put her evacuation warning in grim terms Thursday: Southwestern Louisiana residents who planned to ride out Hurricane Rita should write their Social Security numbers on their arms with indelible ink so their corpses could be identified. (USA Today)

Storms a big blow to airline profits
— Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are threatening the slim hopes several U.S. airlines had of earning third-quarter profits. (USA Today)

What airline passengers view on TV stirs debate — For years, airlines controlled what passengers saw on their cabin screens, editing out scenes of graphic violence or sex, and banning movies altogether if they showed airline crashes. But now, with three U.S. airlines offering live television feeds, passengers can see anything they want — even news coverage of an event in which they might be taking part. (The Los Angeles Times)

Man arrested at UK airport after alert — British police used a stun gun to arrest a man carrying a suspicious package near an aircraft at Manchester airport on Friday, prompting the temporary closure of the northern England airport. (Reuters)

Police: Driver hit Vegas crowd on purpose — The man accused of deliberately crashing into a crowd on the Las Vegas Strip, killing two people, had been wanted by police just days earlier for questioning in a near-fatal assault on his mother. (AP)

Where’s the party? Scottsdale! — Hotels and restaurants draw younger visitors to a destination that has long been associated with golf, grand dame resorts and retirees. (The New York Times)

Strippers help tease back New Orleans nightlife — In a sign that things may be returning to normal in New Orleans, strip shows are back in the city’s famous French Quarter. (Reuters)

Bus carrying elderly evacuees burns; 24 dead — The flight from the danger posed by Hurricane Rita turned deadly early Friday as a bus filled with elderly evacuees from the Houston area burst into flames on traffic-packed Interstate 45, leaving as many as 24 people dead, according to local officials. (NBC and MSNBC news services)

Police: Elderly man arrested for hypothetical bomb question — An elderly man was arrested at Bradley International Airport on Thursday after saying the word “bomb” in a hypothetical question to an airline gate agent, state police said. (AP)

JetBlue gear problem not isolated — Investigators probing the emergency landing in Los Angeles of a JetBlue Airways Airbus A320 with severely misaligned front landing gear disclosed Thursday previous nose wheel problems on other planes made by the European manufacturer. (Reuters)

Rita begins Texas assault — Winds began to pick up Friday afternoon in southeast Texas as the outer bands of Hurricane Rita, a massive Category 3 storm, reached coastal communities. (CNN)

Houston has liftoff, at last-minute prices — Residents seeking to flee Houston by air before Hurricane Rita roars into town are finding that only costly last-minute seats are still available. Continental Airlines on its Web site yesterday was offering coach seats one way from Houston to Dulles International Airport for as much as $1,937. (Washington Post)

Carrie Charney, John Frenaye, Charles Leocha, Marge Purnell, Valerie Schneider, Mary Staley, Stephanus Surjaputra, Richard Wong.