Racing Toward Rita

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If you watched FOX News Channel on Wednesday night, you were on the edge of your seat watching a JetBlue (search) A320 in distress. The plane was headed from California to New York when it developed landing gear problems shortly after take off. Because the plane needed to burn off fuel for an emergency landing, we all watched... and watched... and watched... and worried about the landing. Would the plane be landed safely? Or would there be a crash and a fire? The landing was skillfully executed — lots of sparks when the front wheels hit the runway. But overall, it was flawless. In case you missed this emergency landing, check out the video we have streamed for you today.

Most of our day yesterday was planning: planning what to do about covering Hurricane Rita (search) that is sure to hit late Friday or early Saturday morning. I volunteered to anchor our Thursday and Friday night shows from Texas — the target — and FOX News agreed. The problem? Getting a hotel room for all of us.

We called many, many hotels in Houston and were told that there were no rooms available. Several hotel employees told us that the hotel staffs were relocating their existing guests to hotels more than 100 to 150 miles from Houston because Houston could be very dangerous.

I was certainly "game" to do the show in Houston for two hours (the plan) and then drive 150 miles at midnight ET when we get off the air. But Hurricane Rita, a Category 5, is expected to hit the Houston area at about midnight on Friday. I am not sure how well a car does with winds of 185 mph or worse, and I don't know about dodging (in the dark) downed power lines, branches and other debris, which are essentially missiles. Nonetheless, I was game and I figured if my colleagues could do it, so could I.

And then, we got "lucky!" We found a hotel in Houston. Hence, by the time you read this, we'll be "on the road" (in the air) to Houston. Of course we don't know what we will face in the next 36 to 48 hours after arriving in Texas, but we are game to bring our show and cameras there so that you can see for yourself.

We are feeling seasoned and up for the task because we have experience covering hurricanes. During Hurricane Katrina (search) and its aftermath, we took the show to the Astrodome (search) in Houston and then to New Orleans, so we have some idea what to expect. Of course no two hurricanes are alike and thus there is much uncertainty. We are also crossing our fingers that Rita will chill out and move out to the Gulf and ignore Houston and other Texas areas... but the odds are against that. In short, Texas, get ready and be safe!

What seems a bit peculiar is that Houston was a "hero city" during Katrina, taking in more than 25,000 evacuees. This time, however, Houston is a target and people are leaving it and evacuating to safety. I hope other communities are as friendly to Houston citizens in their time of need, as Houston citizens were during Katrina.

And, while my attention is on my destination Houston, there are many, many, many other communities Hurricane Rita is going to hit and hit hard. In fact, Houston is probably going to be much luckier than Galveston and others closer to the coast. Bottom line: We just don't know who is going to get hit the hardest. It all looks bleak.

This first e-mail is written by someone who reads the blog and spotted something familiar: a picture of her oldest niece. I only wish the reason the picture was posted on our blog was a good one — it is now... the picture is posted because someone is missing and we are hoping to get some tips to help.

E-mail No. 1

Thanks for doing the story on
Taylor Behl (search). She has been a life long friend of my sister’s family and it has been difficult for me to keep up with the search efforts. I live in Evanston, Illinois and with the Katrina coverage happening at the same time, none of my local stations have picked up the story. I watch FOX News regularly and was really excited to hear you had visited Richmond. The photo album is great. In fact, picture No. 7 in the first set was taken at my sister’s house and the other little girl (the blue cat) is my oldest niece. It is difficult to describe how devastating the past few weeks have been for everyone who loves Taylor. Your story and interview with Matt helped.
Peggy Miller
Evanston, IL

E-mail No. 2

I agree with fellow viewer, Mr. Kerns, regarding the wonderful, yet saddening, group of pictures regarding Taylor Behl. Seeing her hand tightly clenched to her (then) Mommy's hand (looks like they attended a wedding and maybe Taylor was a flower girl?) ... it actually reminds me of my little girl and me. Our prayers are with them all.
Greta, Do we know what ever happened to 'Alfred?' I work with individuals like Alfred on a daily basis and have worried about him ever since I saw his contention for staying inside his powerless, flooded home eating MREs. Please let your viewers know what's happened to him, if you know. It was very moving to see a first hand account (the only one I've seen) of someone actually refusing to come out of their drowning homes.
Thank you, Greta

ANSWER: Alfred is the gentleman I spoke to in New Orleans in the flooded area. I was on a boat that pulled up to his home. He did not want to evacuate his home and New Orleans even though his house was drowning in water. I don't know what happened to Alfred, but if I go back to New Orleans in the near future, his house will be my first stop. He seemed like a very nice man.

E-mail No. 3

Jet Blue Problem: UAL's very first 747-400 had a similar problem, 1989/90 at LAX too! The problem was a mechanical, which did not allow the nose gear to come down, so they landed on the two rear gear. The pilot gently set the aircraft down, very pretty and safe situation. There is local L.A. news file footage!
Troy Pochop
Danville, IN

E-mail No. 4

What a great job by the crew! The nose gear was on the centerline of the runway when the plane stopped!
Way to go crew!
Wayne Finley
Greenville, SC

E-mail No. 5

JetBlue has DirecTv available for all of the passengers... The passengers might be watching the coverage of their troubled plane as the reporting is continuing. I venture to guess that this is probably the first instance of passengers watching footage of their own plane as they wait to land.
Jeffery Dukat

E-mail No. 6

I suggest a simple maybe idiotic idea to stop the hurricane from existing. Obviously we can't Nuke it, but what about those huge Daisy Bombs the U.S. used in Afghanistan? If the Air Force used a couple dozen planes with these bombs set to go off at a certain altitude along the Eye Wall of Rita. The concussion blast is at the speed of sound (faster than the wind speed) and counter to the flow of wind movement would disrupt the winds as does the effect of land, trees, mountains, etc. Hit it at the core and even if at best it slows the winds down to CAT 1 or 2 is better than CAT 5.
Just putting it out there for discussion. And yes it may look like an expensive proposition now, but what will the ultimate cost be if nothing is attempted? Spend a few million today and bomb the heck out of Rita and at least an attempt was made if it fails.
Boca Raton, FL

E-mail No. 7

A friend in a hotel overlooking the Houston 8 loop. Traffic is backed up for miles. Traffic is heavy but the real reason is that tolls are still being collected! This is an outrage that the city hasn't waived tolls in the interest of the "Mandatory" evacuations...
Nashville, TN

ANSWER: Still collecting tolls? I guess someone does not want a fast evacuation... but I received a second e-mail from Ted:

E-mail No. 8

As it turns out my friend called Houston Traffic command and the tolls are open. The problem is traffic merging from 8 to I-45 on the north side of town. They have stopped traffic on the loop until they can meter the traffic better.
Nashville, TN

ANSWER: This is the second e-mail from Ted. It came about 15 minutes after the first one.

E-mail No. 9

Everybody's asses better be in gear. Hurry. Hurry. Get everyone out. Get everyone out. Everything needs to be speeded up even more.

ANSWER: Teresa needs to talk to the person in charge of collecting tolls — see E-mail No. 7 above.

E-mail No. 10

Please ask your experts tonight why the Airbus was designed without the ability to dump fuel, why the relevant American authority didn't object and now allows it to fly into U. S. Airspace. The well over two hours that the passengers and crew have so far suffered because of this is atrocious, when they presumably would have been safely on the ground many hours ago if the Airbus was correctly designed.
Derek Oppen

E-mail No. 11

Just a quick note to mention that I noticed that the flames seemed to increase as the planes tires went over the white stripes in the center of the runway. I wonder if they contained flammable ingredients that might need to be looked at in the future. Glad it landed safely.
Gordon Daniels
San Antonio, TX

E-mail No. 12

My husband, Bruce, noticed while watching the landing and the replays, that it appeared that the front landing gear stub produced flames/sparks mostly when it came into contact the painted "white lines" on the runway. In between those white lines, the flames/sparks would subside.
Maybe the runway paint is flammable and should be reevaluated. If the runway paint is flammable, it could become a catalyst to sparks or flame.
I hope FOX News will look into this.
Sharon Travis
Glasgow, KY

E-mail No. 13

If you watch the JetBlue landing at LAX closely, I think you will see that the only place that flames occur under the plane are at points where the front landing gear is directly touching the center lines on the runway. These are not sparks, but the paint burning off of the runway.
Jon Olson
Pittsburgh, PA

E-mail No. 14

Watch the landing. The flames showed up when the plane went over the runway paint. Isn't that something that pilots should know about? Maybe they do, but that would mean that the pilots would move to one side or the other of the line to keep the fire down.
Just something I noticed.
Brian Bergen

E-mail No. 15

Are you aware there is a nuclear power plant near Freeport, Texas? This places it almost exactly where Rita is supposed to come on shore.
Shane Kelton

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