Ops in Rita’s Path Get in Gear

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Cable companies are bracing for Hurricane Rita, evacuating employees but keeping workers on standby to re-enter and repair potentially damaged service areas as quickly as possible.

Time Warner Cable, with about 770,000 customers in Houston and Galveston, Texas, in the powerful storm’s targeted landfall area, closed offices Thursday and kept only “essential” people on call Friday, corporate spokesman Mark Harrad said.

With mass evacuation in those areas, Harrad noted that there weren’t many customers to worry about. But there were some major transportation issues to navigate. “It is very difficult for people to get around,” he added.

Time Warner’s Southwest division, meanwhile, had evacuated workers in the Golden Triangle area of Texas, as well as 215 employees dedicated to the Beaumont and Port Arthur markets, where the MSO counts around 91,000 customers, spokeswoman Susan Patton said.

“We’ve prepared ourselves the best we can. Supplies have been preordered, contractors are nearby, we have fuel and 100 extra generators,” she added.

In the Corpus Christi area, Time Warner had evacuated local employees Thursday. But staffers were heading back Friday after weather maps indicated that Rita would not strike there.

Cox Communications Inc. -- inundated by and still recovering from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and surrounding environs -- had evacuated all of its workers in Texas and Louisiana Friday, spokesman David Grabert said.

Rita was tracking toward areas in Texas, where Cox serves 95,000 customers, and in Louisiana, where it has 160,000.

After weeks of trying to account for all employees in New Orleans, Cox was able to report that all had survived Katrina and her devastating wake. But some staffers’ family members had perished.

Cable One Inc. has two systems in the area, but they are not in the expected direct path of Rita, a spokeswoman said.