Rita a Category 2 hurricane

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:54 PM GMT on September 20, 2005

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Rita was upgraded to a hurricane this morning at 9:15 am, and is already a Category 2 hurricane after just four hours. The 4:00 pm EDT hurricane hunter mission found winds at 10,000 feet of 89 knots (102 mph), which corresponds to surface winds of 92 mph. The SFMR instrument on the NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft found surface winds of 100 mph, making Rita a Category 2 hurricane. The central pressure was 973 mb, down 12 mb in the past 9 hours. At this rate of intensification, Rita will be a Category 3 hurricane tomorrow. The Key West radar loop is most impressive the past three hours, showing a rapidly intensifying hurricane with strong spiral banding, and a solid eyewall forming.


Here are the peak wind gusts as of 4:30 pm EDT from Rita:

53 mph at Marathon Airport
60 mph at Key West International Airport
58 mph at Molasses Reef light
48 mph at Long Key light
78 mph at Sombrero Key light
92 mph at Sand Key light (60 mph sustained)
50 mph at Dry Tortugas light
65 mph at Fowey Rocks

The northern eyewall passed just south of the lower Keys and Key West between 1 pm and 3 pm today, sparing the lower Keys the brunt of the storm's fury. The Lower Keys escaped with sustained winds of 40 - 50 mph and gusts to 60 mph. A storm surge of 4 - 6 feet did accompany the arrival of the eyewall. The Florida Highway patrol has reported water and
wave action over the Overseas Highway in a number of areas. The Overseas Highway at 73.5 mile marker is impassable and has been barricaded to all traffic. It looks like Key West's hurricane grotto protected the city again! If Rita had tracked just 50 miles further north and started its intensification cycle 24 hours earlier, much of Key West might have been serioussly damaged with some loss of life.

Rita in the Gulf
As Rita continues on into the Gulf of Mexico tonight, continued strengthening is expected. The shear over her has dropped below 5 knots, and may decrease further. The upper level outflow has improved considerably today, and Rita now has a more circular and symmetric appearance with excellent outflow on all sides. The water under Rita will remain in the 30 - 31C range until Wednesday morning, then cool off to 29 - 30C over the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, where the cooler waters stirred up to the surface by Hurricane Katrina still remain. These cooler waters should keep Rita in the strong Category 2 to strong Category 3 range as she moves across the central Gulf. Once Rita approaches the coast of Texas, the cold water wake of Katrina ends and water temperatures warm up to about 30C, which may allow some intensification. Rita will be a Category 2, 3, or 4 hurricane by landfall in Texas on Saturday. The 8am of the GFS model indicates Rita may be a Category 4 at landfall.


Figure 2.Sea Surface temperatures for Monday, September 19. Note the cooler wake in the center of the Gulf left by Katrina.

Threat to Louisiana fades
Last night, the NOAA jet flew its first mission into Rita, and collected high-density data used to initialize last night's computer model runs. The models are more tightly clustered than before, and now all the models point to a landfall in Texas Saturday, somewhere between Brownsville and Galveston. NHC thinks that their current projected landfall point near Matagorda, TX is more reliable than usual. If we take the average NHC 4-day forecast track error of 200 miles and knock it down by 50 miles or so since we're assuming NHC is correct about their more reliable than usual forecast, this gives a probable landfall point somewhere between Corpus Christi and the Texas/Louisiana border. So, western Louisiana is still at considerable risk, but New Orleans will miss this hurricane.

Hurricane Philippe
Stong westerly winds have started to tear Philippe apart, and he is now a tropical storm. Philippe is not expected to affect any land areas, including Bermuda, as he heads north and then northeast, out to sea.

Wave between Africa and the Antilles
The large low pressure system halfway between Africa and the Antilles islands has been absorbed by Philippe and is no longer a threat. Later in the week, the shear over the central Atlantic is expected to decrease, and we could see another tropical storm form in this region.

Jeff Masters

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1052. warpig
12:08 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Its the troll again. But half of this guys post is WRONG. Cooler waters in the gulf??? Cat 3 across the gulf???

This is the expert? I wont be back, and suggest you not listen to this guy very seriously.

1051. Seawall
4:24 AM GMT on September 22, 2005
The problem is, if she swings farther north, to us in the La/Tex border............ there is literally no where for us to go, other than jumping in the truck, loading up the animals, and heading towards kansas. There is nothing available to book, room wise.
Member Since: September 8, 2001 Posts: 1 Comments: 401
1050. Goldmund
7:30 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Steve is saying she's a 5 now:

SEP 21 2005 - 1:20PM CDT

The latest RECON reports confirm RITA is now a CATASTROPHIC CATEGORY 5 Hurricane.

Center Pressure is down to 920mb, and MAX Sustained winds of 153KTs at Flight level -- implying 155mph surface winds. with gusts to 175mph.
1049. warpig
11:25 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
First time here, and I dont mean to troll..but...This topic yesterday made NO mention of a Cat 4. Period. Today, Jeff..is it?...obviously updated it to include this possibility. Is this common practice, or covering your ass? Sorry! Just really curious. I went around all day yesterday telling people..NO..Cat 3 is the strongest they are saying. But now...
1048. garnival
5:40 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
No, I am a glass half full guy. I just can't believe two huge hurricanes in one summer knocking out so much of America's infrastructure.
1047. windcast
5:20 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Looking at the current movement of Rita as of 09/21/05 12am, this cane looks like its going to continue to go west and strike Corpus Christi or around that area.
1046. JohnWLeBlanc
4:50 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
buoyking, that's news we can certianly do without. I'll be happy if we miss every hurricane this and next season.
1045. tomfdpix
3:01 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Well the storm surge from Katrina has reached futher north then most people think. Once it gets cold up here there will be lots of people that cant buy fuel to keep them warm this winter. Natural Gas prices are already up 70 percent from last year. And food prices are going up also. Do you eat or freeze? And of course gas prices went up 15 cents a gallon over night.
I think the long run is going to be interesting.
Tom
Member Since: September 12, 2003 Posts: 1 Comments: 4
1044. tilidarose
3:01 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
swmpman, they live in East Bernard, 45 minutes SW of Houston. Near the Bernard River, in Wharton County.
1043. tilidarose
3:00 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
swmpman, they live in East Bernard, 45 minutes SW of Houston. Near the Bernard River, in Wharton County.
1042. SaymoBEEL
2:55 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
It would not hurt to make reservations and plans. If later you see you don't need the room...cancel. Another thing to consider is trees near the house. They can come through a window or roof. If you have physical limitations, sometimes the lack of electricity can exacerbate problems. I try to give myself 36 hours head start before the first effects of the storm.
1040. Damon85013
2:54 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
ah...SOMEONE is here LOL
Member Since: July 19, 2005 Posts: 256 Comments: 6214
1039. Damon85013
2:53 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
tilidarose....please repost your question in the new blog Dr. Masters's started a few minutes ago...everyone is in there :)
Member Since: July 19, 2005 Posts: 256 Comments: 6214
1038. swmpman
2:52 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
tilidarose Where in Houston? By what Bayou?
1037. tilidarose
2:48 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
I posted this earlier, but I feel the need to ask again: my entire family lives 70 miles inland, SW of Houston. Should they evacuate? They do live a solid brick house.
1036. buoyking
2:44 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
the news is in lafayette is we need a huricane wooo hoo !!
1035. aquak9
2:42 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
new thread ya'll---lefty I'm sticking up for you
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25766
1034. aquak9
2:41 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
new thread ya'll---lefty I'm sticking up you
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25766
1032. Canenut
2:39 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Come on lefty, call it before it post, CAt3 and a shift slightly north?
1031. Otowngirl
2:39 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Thanks again Lefty, that's a HUGE relief. I really am enjoying getting to know everyone here, and man oh man am I learning a lot! Now I can continue to learn and not have to worry about boarding up OR evacuating. :)
1030. herewegoagain
2:36 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
No...lefty....your impersonator is on the newest posting
1029. swmpman
2:36 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
pseabury - An H&H study was done on potential surge in the se quadrant. Let's just say, that is why I live n of I-10. I B a littel higher here, although, the storm sewers I design have to deal with surge and will B a major problem if Rita gose just sw of galv.
1028. leftyy420
2:35 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
otown, that is very very unlikley and down right impossible. theres a high to her north and unless there is some huge mistake and every one in the world is wrong it won't happen
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
1027. Manny
2:34 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Theres an 11 degree eyewall differential. Thats down a couple of degrees. That eye is spinning up quite well now.
Member Since: July 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
1026. leftyy420
2:33 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
motion still about wnw or just north of due west

4:30pm 973mb 23.85n 81.95w
5:56pm 970mb 23.92n 82.18w
6:24pm 969mb 23.93n 82.35w
8:09pm 967mb 24.00n 82.68w
10:04pm 965mb 24.03n 83.07w

8mb drop in 5.5 hrs
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
1025. lisadelrio
2:33 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Texas City does have a bunch of refineries. Freeport has one of the biggest chemical complexes in North America. There is also a Phillips refinery over here near Sweeney.
1023. pseabury
2:32 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
swmpman - No problems at all. We all know that the Houston area is screwed with more than a couple of inches of rain......but surge will be much more of a problem than anyone thinks on the South side (if she indeed goes that way) than it ever was before. For instance, if you took a storm from 20 years ago and documented exactly where surge hit, now fast forward 20 years and replay that exact same storm under the exact same circumstances, surge is a much bigger problem simply from subsidence and erosion.
Member Since: May 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
1022. Otowngirl
2:31 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Lefty, You won't remember me, but I posed a question the other night and you were kind enough to respond with good information. Thanks.

Tonight, I've been reading the posts and have an actual question - is there ANY chance this thing could turn more North and hug the west coast of FL as someone else suggested? Does anyone think that's even a possibility?

1021. cajunkid
2:31 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Link check this out
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1279
1019. lisadelrio
2:31 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
It's Freeport, Texas - my home town.
1018. garnival
2:29 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
I worked a month once in Angleton, TX, what is the city South of their right on the coast, Texas City or something...This is a serious problem, the whole town is a series of oil refineries. Does anyone have statistics on these industrial centers? I'd think if we lose these sites combined with the damage to the LA-MS ports, our economy could really spin downward...

Please don't blame the President for this...But, I can foresee shortgages in lumber now, along with oil and a problem getting our goods to port...Man I hate to predict a doomsday but we're only one CA earthquake away from totally crippling our country. Its like we're playing a Sims City simulator game and we have disasters turned on.
1016. leftyy420
2:28 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
new vortex pressure down 2 more mb

URNT12 KNHC 210225
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE
A. 21/02:04:50Z
B. 24 deg 02 min N
083 deg 04 min W
C. 700 mb 2789 m
D. NA kt
E. deg nm
F. 056 deg 097 kt
G. 325 deg 026 nm
H. 965 mb
I. 11 C/ 3050 m
J. 15 C/ 3047 m
K. 10 C/ NA
L. CLOSED WALL
M. C28
N. 12345/ 7
O. 0.02 / 2 nm
P. AF302 1218A RITA OB 24
MAX FL WIND 103 KT NE QUAD 00:19:40 Z
MAX FL TEMP 16 C, 335 / 11NM

Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
1014. Canenut
2:27 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
URNT12 KNHC 210225
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE
A. 21/02:04:50Z
B. 24 deg 02 min N
083 deg 04 min W
C. 700 mb 2789 m
D. NA kt
E. deg nm
F. 056 deg 097 kt
G. 325 deg 026 nm
H. 965 mb
I. 11 C/ 3050 m
J. 15 C/ 3047 m
K. 10 C/ NA
L. CLOSED WALL
M. C28
N. 12345/ 7
O. 0.02 / 2 nm
P. AF302 1218A RITA OB 24
MAX FL WIND 103 KT NE QUAD 00:19:40 Z
MAX FL TEMP 16 C, 335 / 11NM

1013. SaymoBEEL
2:27 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
I figured out what went wrong on tonights blog.

What do you expect with 4 full moons?
1012. swmpman
2:27 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Isn't this the "first" eye of the storm? ergo, formulating stages?
1011. BenBurch
2:26 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Does this Troll realize that he is not only not funny, but he isn't even offending anybody???
1010. Canenut
2:26 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Latest vortex has been taken, but not released. The last couple of frames on the IR look crappy.
1009. swmpman
2:26 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
These pictures got me all wrong.
1008. jhans624
2:25 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
I have noticed the movement too! What's up??
Member Since: August 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 19
1007. swmpman
2:24 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Pardon pseabury. Did not realize surge is what U B discussing.
1005. GetReal
2:23 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
hooked let's just see if this motion continues another few hours...
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8806
1004. ejstrick
2:23 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Alexandra Steele needs to drop the late 70's look.
That cartoon was more appealing! LOL
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 895
1003. pseabury
2:21 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
swmpman - You mean the NW side of Houston? Like 1960 area? Up there they have like MSL+100ft. It may have subsided (I know it floods a lot), but at least surge can't affect that area.
Member Since: May 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
1002. Canenut
2:21 AM GMT on September 21, 2005
Hooked, I see it as well, the IR floater had it 30-45miles N of the forecast overlay. We'll see in 30 minutes...

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

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