Hurricane Rita is expected to strengthen to a powerful Category 4 storm as it heads towards the ravaged US Gulf coast.
Louisiana residents have been urged to flee for the second time this month amid fears the storm could shatter levees wrecked by Hurricane Katrina.
Thousands of residents and tourists fled the Florida Keys as Rita lashed the islands with heavy rain and strong winds.
The storm has already been upgraded to a Category 3, rapidly gaining force as it heads across the Gulf of Mexico.
If it veers east and strikes Louisiana the effects could be devastating.
State officials said they were taking "extraordinary precautions" as they warned that weakened levees would not cope with another battering.
Rita is the ninth hurricane to form in the Atlantic this season and has already brought heavy rains and flooding to Cuba.
The National Hurricane Centre said it was likely to hit Texas on Friday or early Saturday.
A mandatory evacuation order has been called in Galveston, Texas while the state's National Guard troops have been recalled from the Katrina relief effort in Louisiana, Sky News reports.
Photo: the AP
The Russian Defence Ministry acknowledged that the Americans treat Russian military men in Syria with respect. The Americans always warn Russia accordingly, but not Israel
After the incident with the shootdown of the Ilyushin Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea, Russia will supply an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria
Indeed, how dare they run US-independent policy? They should have followed the example of the European Union that turned independent states of the Old World into US-ditto entities