Hurricane Rita continues to dump heavy rains on parts of the southern U.S. coastal states of Texas and Louisiana, after the storm plowed ashore early Saturday, with winds of almost 200 kilometers per hour.

Officials say Rita's winds have now weakened to about 160 kilometers per hour. But the storm has slowed down as it moves inland, and its driving rains are expected to dump up to 64 centimeters of rainfall in some areas.

Low-lying regions of the two Gulf states are flooded, hundreds of thousands of homes are without power, and several buildings are reported on fire. Officials have issued warnings for hurricane-spawned tornadoes in the storm's path.

The nation's fourth-largest city, Houston, apparently was spared the worst of the massive storm. Meanwhile, New Orleans, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, experienced a storm surge that sent water over damaged levees and flooded parts of the city again.

Federal officials say it will be hours before they can assess the full extent of the damage.

More than two million people evacuated ahead of Hurricane Rita.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.