updated 9/23/2005 2:54:30 PM ET 2005-09-23T18:54:30

Hundreds of Mexicans living on the Texas Gulf Coast were rushing home Thursday to avoid Hurricane Rita, while authorities in northern Mexico readied shelters and prepared for heavy rains.

Nuevo Leon state tourism director Jorge Cantu said Monterrey hotels are lowering rates 20 to 30 percent for people fleeing the Texas Gulf Coast.

In Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas, Mexican families coming from Houston, Galveston, South Padre Island, Corpus Christi and Pasadena, Texas, waited in long lines to get temporary import permits for their cars.

Thousands of Mexicans live and work in Texas but still have family — or even second homes — in Mexico. With Rita bearing down on the Gulf coast, many felt it was time to go home, at least for a week or so.

Learning from New Orleans
Moises Ramirez was one of hundreds crossing into Mexico on Thursday. A carpenter and home owner from Pasadena, Texas, he left behind his job and house to stay with his parents in Monclova, 440 miles southwest of Pasadena.

Traveling with six relatives, Ramirez said he worried about what he would have to come back to, but he wasn’t ready to risk staying in the storm’s path.

“What happened in New Orleans could also happen there,” he said, referring to Texas.

Nuevo Laredo authorities said families crossing from Texas started coming to the border city late Wednesday, and by Thursday morning more than 1,000 people had crossed into Mexico.

‘Enough for me’
“Hearing Rita was one of the most powerful hurricanes in the history of the gulf was enough for me to leave,” said Roberto Garcia, who left his home in Corpus Christi and was heading to a suburb of Monterrey, where his family lives.

The influx of Mexicans fleeing the Texas Gulf Coast was expected to increase, and authorities were adding customs agents and personnel at the border.

Many families in northern Mexico have relatives in Texas, and South Padre Island is a popular vacation spot for people from Monterrey.

In Nuevo Leon state, which includes Monterrey, Gov. Natividad Gonzalez sent a letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry offering to send in medical and rescue crews. Gonzalez also said Nuevo Leon was prepared to set up shelters near the border in case they are needed.

“Just like you have helped the victims of Katrina, we in Nuevo Leon are ready to offer help to our friends in Texas,” Gonzalez wrote.

Salvador Trevino, public safety director for Tamaulipas state, which borders the Texas Rio Grande Valley, said no evacuations have been ordered because Rita is expected to make landfall in Galveston, Texas.

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