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The Web tracks Hurricane Rita

From Webcams to podcasts, Netizens turn their attention to the storm as it heads toward the Texas and Louisiana coast.

With another devastating hurricane headed toward the Gulf Coast, the Internet is jumping into action.

Hundreds of Web sites are offering reports, warnings, maps, live pictures and podcasts about Hurricane Rita, expected to slam Southeast Texas early Saturday.

For official advisories, forecasts and sophisticated maps, the National Hurricane Center, run by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, is hard to beat. The agency offers satellite and infrared images of Rita on its storm watch page.

The Weather Channel also offers online updates and video reports from correspondents on the scene. A weather blog by a meteorologist with The Weather Underground is also informative.

As for the impact of the storm on people, local newspapers, TV stations and national news outlets focused Friday on the evacuation efforts and massive traffic jams around Houston, Galveston and other communities in the storm's path.

The Houston Chronicle has a special online report on the storm, featuring video, photos and a blog. The paper's online forum already contains 189 discussion threads.

Houston CBS TV affiliate KHOU 11 also offers a blog and podcasts along with a live Webcast.

Several Texas bloggers appear intent on riding out the storm online. H-town Blogs has set up a directory of them. Among the more active blogs on Friday were Petrified Truth and the Lone Star Times.

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast just weeks ago, ravaging New Orleans and other towns, the Internet provided a similar array of perspectives. The Web became an important tool in that catastrophe, helping people quickly organize relief efforts, find missing people, and spread word of the devastation.