Key West: brace for a strengthening Rita

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:17 AM GMT on September 19, 2005

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Rita continues to slowly strengthen. The hurricane hunters have found a steady pressure fall of 2 mb between 3am and 6am EDT this morning, and an increase in winds at their flight level of 5000 feet from 57 to 64 knots. The latest penetration at 7:30am found a pressure of 997 mb and winds of 64 knots at flight level, the same levels as recorded at 6am, so Rita has not intensified in the past two hours.

However, the rate of intensification should quicken later today as the shear over Rita decreases, and Rita will likely be at least a strong Category 1 hurricane or Category 2 hurricane when it passes near Key West Tuesday morning. There is still a small chance Rita could intensify to a Category 3 hurricane when it passes the Keys. The Keys can handle a strong Category 2 hurricane without loss of life--barely. If I lived in the Keys I would stay put today, assuming I had a sturdy shelter to ride out the storm. A 6 - 8 foot storm surge--or a foot higher if Rita hits at high tide--is expected over Key West, and less further north. Even if Rita suddenly strengthens to a Category 3, the winds would not have time to build up a storm surge characteristic of a Cat 3 hurricane until after she passes the Keys. Wind damage would be severe over Key West, however. This all assumes Rita makes a direct hit on Key West. The latest track forecast takes her south of Key West 50 miles or so, sparing the city the winds of the eyewall, and Key West may escape with only light to moderate damage from Rita.



While the Keys are likely to escape with a hard but bearable hit from a strengthening Category 1 or 2 hurricane, the Gulf Coast will not be so lucky. There is nothing in the long-range forecast that I can see that will prevent Rita from intensifying into a Category 3 or stronger hurricane. The entire stretch of coast from 500 miles south of Brownsville, Texas to Mobile, Alabama is at risk--no one can say with any confidence where Rita will hit this far in advance. Texas and Louisiana are at the highest risk. The current model trend is to recurve Rita earlier and earlier, so residents from Corpus Christi to New Orleans need to be particulary concerned.

Philippe
As for Philippe--which is now a hurricane--we do not need to be concerned with him for at least five days, and probably never. The odds are over 95% that Phillipe will stay out to sea and not affect any land areas except Bermuda.

I'll have a more in-depth update by noon EDT today.

Jeff Masters

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281. Pensacola22
8:59 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Thank you , thank you thank you ! (this is for STORMTOP) Ive been looking for your prediction about Rita for days....now i can sleep tonight ,not having to worry about an unwanted guest at my house :)
280. CrazyC83
5:34 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
IIRC Alicia was 115 mph at landfall. I know it was a Category 3.
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
279. Wombats
5:30 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
does anyone know what the wind speed was in Hurricane Alicia that hit galveston???
278. palmbeacher
5:21 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
hey subtropic, when the wind shifts and at that right time they might come back to me! LOL Have fun fixing the Francis damage.
277. Wombats
5:18 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
This is crazy they are already having a news conference here in galveston in an hour to talk about evacs to take place as early as Tuesday... I agree with the earlier post since they have it coming here this far out that means it will hit in west la.. possibly lake charles
276. subtropic
5:16 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Ok gotta get finished with the "Francis" room before the rain comes. I have about a million things to bring into the house from storage now that the painting is done. Have a safe one all. I will be around from time to time. palmbeacher, I'll hang on to those cans for you!
Member Since: August 29, 2002 Posts: 209 Comments: 4434
275. FtLaud
5:13 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
orion

from earlier post way up there!

it was on the news, particulary for those staying in mobile homes. I am not in a mandatory evac zone.
274. palmbeacher
4:57 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
NO CANEMAN, we don't want another one! However, I would not be shocked if it did come this way.
273. caneman
4:54 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Any preditions of whether Rita makes a NW turn and makes landfall on the E Coast of FL, PSL or Ft Pierce>
Member Since: May 27, 2003 Posts: 14 Comments: 98
272. subtropic
4:54 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
palmbeacher You are pretty much right on! Makes me want to sell the house and hit the road!
Member Since: August 29, 2002 Posts: 209 Comments: 4434
271. palmbeacher
4:53 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
I am not far off with that one am I? You know how it is!
270. subtropic
4:52 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
palmbeacher LOL!
Member Since: August 29, 2002 Posts: 209 Comments: 4434
269. caneman
4:50 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
caneman - where are you on the treasure coast?

Parents live in PSL.
Member Since: May 27, 2003 Posts: 14 Comments: 98
268. TPaul
4:50 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Is it me, or does it seem insane that they are even debating letting people back into the city with Rita headed there way. You know they always say lightning doesn't strike the same place twice, but after last years hurricane season anyone want to bet that Rita couldn't make landfall within 100 miles of NO. The head of the Army Corp of Engineers down there said over the weekend that a good set of thunderstorms could over whelm the levee system in its current state. If Rita gets anywhere close to Louisanna to the point of causing a minor surge there I think you will see additional failures of the levees. When all is said and done the cost of rescueing and rebuilding NO will come in close to half a trillion dollars. So any of you under 35 might as well kiss your Social Security benefits good bye, and for all of us expect to see your taxes go up by between 2 and 5% over the next 10 years. Ultimately the Port of New Orleans has to be re-opened but I find it unacceptable to re-build houses destroyed during this hurricane season.
Member Since: May 2, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 111
267. palmbeacher
4:49 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Thats what a piece of land goes for in Palm Beach county!LOL
266. weatherwannabe
4:47 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
That would be about $8000 per inch - that is some expensive dirt!
265. weatherwannabe
4:47 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
franck - even if they were biult out of gold, $500 million per mile seems a little steep.

264. wpb05
4:42 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
recon heading in right now
263. franck
4:41 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
weatherwannabe- a thousand million is a billion, and it would take a hundred and fifty or so of those to reconstruct and reinforce the inadequate system New Orleans has now. Remember, there are over 300 miles of the system, and any serious breach floods the entire area.
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
262. cajunkid
4:39 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
STORMTOP, what makes you so confident in that high? Is there no chance that its not as strong as the models are predicting, and a trough building in from the west? I hope your right.
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
261. wpb05
4:39 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
oil up 4 dollars a barrel now...sheesh...we just got down to 2.71 a gallon here today
260. weatherwannabe
4:39 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Masters has a new entry
259. STORMTOP
4:37 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
i have been saying that p would be a fish storm all along since saturday...
258. weatherdude65
4:37 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
stormy....I think Rita is to far west for the trough to have any effect on her. And yes, Phillipe is not getting any attention. He has had a large flare up right near the center this morning.
257. wpb05
4:36 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
a eye formation lends itself to her already being a Cat. 1.......don't see an eye in most cases even with a strong TS
256. southernskiesrnice
4:36 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Okay, to all you people thinking abandoning the idea of not building New Orleans is feasible, think again. Yes I agree that there needs to be some serious changes, and serious looks as to how our govt handles situations like these, but new orleans is not an aquarium and the people from there are not robots that you can place somewhere with no thought of their feelings. Baton Rouge cannot support a total influx of New Orleans residents. Metairie supports quite a bit of NOLA population, and I think it would be a good place to rebuild, and just dont rebuild in some of the areas which were greatly affected. There are canals throughout the city, and levees throughout, so if you dont rebuild one area wouldn't that be silly, because a canal could just break somewhere else? People who live there know the risk, and it is their life. We love New Orleans here, it is the heart of our economy and for many of us, its where we go when we needed to see a good doctor, etc. Baton Rouge can handle a lot, I lived there for 25 years but it is not built to support 1.6 million people. (It already had close to 400k living there before the storm) The infrastructure is just not ready for that. It would be like shoving a bowling ball in a cue ball pocket. Anyway, this is a weather board and I don't want to get all heated up, but I live in Louisiana, and dont like people talking about us as if we are not worthy to rebuild. Its not like we are animals or foreign countries, we are people just like you. Hurricanes will hit us... It is just something we have to understand. Maybe we should focus on the coastlines and building up the barriers for storms. I didn't see any talk of abandoning Pensacola beach when it was practically destroyed due to Ivan. Or Mississippi as it is now. Don't you think these places will be hit and affected just as often as New Orleans? Sorry for the long post but I get upset when people refer to our situation without much forethought or education on our value to the world.
255. tessa
4:35 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Hey StormTop, glad to see you on here again.
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
254. stormydee
4:34 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
no chance that trough moving off the east coast could cause Rita to shift more north? Or is she far enough south that the trough is not affectig her? And Phillipe does appear not to be moving much, probably meandering and laughing, watching us all worry about Rita...he knows he's not getting any attention.
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 39 Comments: 517
253. weatherwannabe
4:33 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
only part of Rita that doesn't just look totally impressive is the outlfow on her south side - must still be some sheer there. Outlow on the rest of Rita looks very heatlhy and the convestion is becoming more concetrated at her center of circ. Anyone think she will be a cat 1 at 2pm? Anyone think she already is a Cat1?
252. putintang3
4:32 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
These big storms coming into the gulf is very scary no matter where they hit. Most of the people here depend on the waters of the gulf for our lives. All of our men work on the rigs and platforms, Many are in the seafood industry. Much has already been distroyed from Katrina.
My husband had been working of the coast of Grand Isle. Now he is off the coast of Texas. Rita hits near the Texas coast, there will be nothing left to the gulf oil production. Not to mention all the garbage that will be moving into the gulf waters from New Orleans that will kill anything edible.
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 309
251. cajunkid
4:32 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
The facts are that, if they want to reclaim the coast of se Louisiana NO cannot be a port. The only way to restore the coastal marsh is to let the Mississippi rive flood and redeposit sediment in the delta. That would stop river traffic due to the fact that, they divert as much water as they can down the river in the they dry months to allow super tankers up the river. This shoots all the sediment all year long out into the gulf and off the continental shelf. They need to build a channel through Lake Pontchartrain and construct a cannal to Baton Rouge with a lock system, or dig a cannal through the Atchafalaya basin up to three rivers with a lock system there. Then they could levee off greater NO and let the river do what it wants south and naturally build up the marsh. This would help protect NO. in the future, but it would take another 30 years. We also need a 50 foot sea wall along the south shore of lake Pontchartrain.
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
250. ralphfurley
4:32 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Plantation here( western broward county)...just went through a second squall line...i'd hurry your preparations. Silly Broward Mayor claims that Govt offices will be open tomorrow?!? Buses dont run in TS force winds. They forget the fiasco during IRENE. Everyone should stay home.

Monroe EOC just told AP that Rita may reach CAT 3.
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 117
249. wpb05
4:32 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
yes here in west palm...shower/storms....NE winds 18 mph with gusts to 25....i live just south of PBIA
248. kiawa
4:31 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
ftlaud..punk, you're not the only weather nut i assure you. ;) i've been glued to the news and emailing reports to my coworkers at FedEx Kinkos in Plantation. i'm off today... i live in Oakland Park. i'm crossing my fingers they aren't considering keeping our center open tomorrow. every update seems to bring this thing closer and closer to Broward Co. regardless, we're in for some pretty nasty wind/rain.
247. notwithoutmyprosac
4:31 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
I was about to ask Stormtop the same question waetherdude
246. napleswx
4:30 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Is that the real Stormtop, looks to be! Haven't seen you here since before Katrina hit. Good to see your back and that your ok.
245. weatherdude65
4:29 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
stormtop, what is your take on P....will he hit the trough or miss is it?
244. palmbeacher
4:28 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Thanks subtropic I appreciate it! LOL.
243. kabloie
4:28 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Hmm, the historical map for September shows no previous storm in this location making landfall any farther west than Mississippi. Big enough statistical gap to steer a hurricane through, but still...
Member Since: November 16, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 76
242. stormydee
4:28 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
yes, that eye confirms a westward movement.
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 39 Comments: 517
241. ProgressivePulse
4:27 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Last WV Loop, you can see a pinhole of an eye forming. Lookout Miami and the Keys
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 4863
240. Hydrocvl
4:27 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
lol @ subtropic
239. palmbeacher
4:26 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
Flcracker, that sounds about right. The sun is shining but the wind is kicking.
238. weatherwannabe
4:26 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
hooked, not all of NOLA is below sea level. Maybe we could borrow some expertise from the Dutch on how to properly build a levee system? NOLA will be a much smaller city and I think that will happen naturally. The economic, histrical and cultural aspects of NOLA will survive. Many of the poorer areas will probably not be rebuilt in the near future. In time NOLA will beceom a major city again and people will forget Katrina's lessons.

I've heard rumors that the Saints might pack up and leave NOLA permanatly.

237. subtropic
4:26 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
palmbeacher, If I see them, I'll grab them for you because I didn't get outside quick enough.
Member Since: August 29, 2002 Posts: 209 Comments: 4434
236. weatherdude65
4:26 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
I was thinking the same thing notwithout....
235. STORMTOP
4:26 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
i disagree with jeff masters...the reason why the shift is happening is because the upper level low that was over cuba has moved south instead of west...this is a temporary shift the huge high that is located just to the north of rita will build in and protect the new orleans area from getting a direct hit from rita...the people who really have to worry about this storm is the texas area from corpus christi to galveston....this storm will be a cat 3 maybe a weak cat 4 and texas should listen for future advisories and please be ready to evacuate...i repeat new orleans will be protected by the huge ridge and it will be in place for the next 5 days...the only thing new orleans has to worry about is the tides increasing as rita passes to the south..it may bring the water levels up once again in st bernard and new or;leans east....thats the way i see it now and believe me im very confident this high will protect la and miss from rita.....
234. hookedontropics
4:26 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
jc... not a chance..
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 127
233. palmbeacher
4:25 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
It feels great out though. I am wondering if my trash cans went to Belle Glade with yours!
232. notwithoutmyprosac
4:25 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
IS is just me or is Phillipe just sitting there, convection expanding, but not really moving anywhere. It'll never get pick up if it doesn't move.

WAKE UP LEFTY!!! STORMTOP!!!!!!!
231. subtropic
4:23 PM GMT on September 19, 2005
weatherwanabe. does someone else use your computer at night? Just wondering why you are perfectly reasonable by day, but a troll by night.
Member Since: August 29, 2002 Posts: 209 Comments: 4434

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.