ARLINGTON, Va. — In a tense contest of human smarts against the fury of Mother Nature, military leaders spent Friday trying to out-game Hurricane Rita, lurching toward the Texas-Louisiana coast.

“There are going to be a lot of audibles called in the next 72 hours,” Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita told reporters Friday. “What we’re trying to do is flood the area with capability. Everybody’s just trying to pitch in.”

After the then-Category 4 storm jogged north overnight Thursday, Galveston, Texas, no longer looked as vulnerable as the Louisiana-Texas border.

At Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, designated as the Defense Department’s primary operational staging area for Rita response operations, Fifth Army’s commander, Lt. Gen. Robert Clark, was busy coordinating incoming requests for military assistance with Coast Guard Rear Adm. Larry Hereth, Di Rita said.

Clark is the leader of Task Force Rita, while Hereth is the “primary federal official” for all relief efforts connected to the storm.

Relief supplies have been rolling into Fort Sam Houston since Wednesday, ready to be moved at the behest of FEMA, a Fort Sam Houston spokesman said.

As of Thursday evening, 112 tractor-trailers were in place at Fort Sam Houston, said Phillip Reidinger. Reidinger said that of those trucks:

45 are each loaded with 17,992 liters of water.45 are each loaded with 41,000 pounds of ice.16 are each loaded with 14,742 Meals, Ready to Eat.Six are loaded with tarps.Nine more trucks with MREs and another truck with 50 generators were inbound to Fort Sam Houston on Thursday, Reidinger said.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco formally asked the Pentagon to dispatch an additional 15,000 National Guard and 15,000 active troops, as well as provide medical assistance, fuel capability, and search and rescue.

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, commander of Task Force Katrina, would match troops with the necessary tasks.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry had not yet issued a formal request for forces to the Pentagon, but was “still developing” his needs, Di Rita said.

In New Orleans, water began washing over at least one weakened levee and flooding the already devastated Lower Ninth Ward.

Richard Waganer, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, told CNN that his troops were attempting repairs, but strong winds and “deteriorating weather conditions” made helicopter launches impossible.

Honore ordered military units in the area, in particular the 82nd Airborne Division, to use rubber rescue boats and go door-to-door in the neighborhood to evacuate any die-hard citizens who may have refused to leave in the wake of damage caused by Katrina.

In other areas, military aircraft flew 39 missions overnight to rescue 4,000 frail and elderly Texans and Louisianans from the storm’s path.

Medical evacuation crews using C-130 and C-17 aircraft evacuated 3,500 patients out of Beaumont, Texas; more than 250 from Houston; and 160 from Lake Charles, La., Di Rita said.

The patients were flown to medical facilities in Arkansas and north Texas, he said.

U.S. Northern Command, the parent command responsible for homeland defense issues, had received a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 23,000 gallons of emergency fuel to help evacuating motorists who are trapped in massive traffic jams on northbound Texas highways.

NORTHCOM also was providing 340 medical staff and 15 ambulances to augment civilian medical sites in Texas and Louisiana.

The command was also processing a request from FEMA for air traffic control capabilities and “for the capacity to feed 5,000 people three meals a day at [each of] 15 different locations,” Di Rita said.

Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this report from Fort Sam Houston.

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