Hurricane Rita made landfall at 3:30 a.m. EDT Saturday on the Texas-Louisiana line. By 2 p.m., it was a lesser, tropical storm.
A tornado spawned from the hurricane killed at least one person in northern Mississippi.
Some 1.5 million homes and businesses were without power.
A 6- to 7-foot tidal surge swamped areas of low-lying Jefferson Parish south of New Orleans, a city already repairing broken levees.
Houston and Galveston, Texas, escaped a direct hit. However, fires damaged the historic Strand District in Galveston.
About 3 million people evacuated a 500-mile stretch of the Texas-Louisiana coast ahead of the storm. Texas' governor urged evacuees to "be patient, stay put," but evacuees began heading back.