Security lines at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport today (courtesy: Houston Chronicle)

As Hurricane Rita edged toward Houston this morning, most of the federal airport screeners at the city’s two major airports failed to show up for work, contributing to extensive delays as residents flee the massive storm.

At a news conference today, an exasperated Houston Mayor Bill White informed the public of the loss of workers at Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports, urging people to rule out air travel unless they have a reservation and to expect delays of up to five hours.

Andrea McCauley, a spokeswoman for the regional Transportation Security Administration office in Dallas, told WorldNetDaily officials became aware of the shortfall late yesterday and have deployed 155 workers from four Texas airports.

The absences were not excused, and TSA officials have not decided whether the workers – obviously fleeing the hurricane themselves – will be disciplined.

McCauley said she believed some of the absent workers informed their superiors and others did not.

“I don’t want to make assumptions on why people didn’t come to work,” she said. “Our focus is 100 percent on getting those passengers out as quickly as possible.”

Many passengers are showing up without reservations and, because they are fleeing, have an exceptionally high volume of luggage, McCauley noted.

“The lines are very long,” she said, “People are obviously nervous and anxious to get out of the area.”

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