Rita: another Katrina?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:23 PM GMT on September 21, 2005

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It's been a long time since Texas had a severe hurricane. Hurricane Bret hit the state in 1999 as a Category 4 hurricane, but was small and hit the relatively unpopulated Padre Island National Seashore. Bret gave Texas the unique distinction of being the only state to get hit by a Category 4 hurricane that didn't get its name retired. In 1988, Hurricane Gilbert, the strongest hurricane of all time, just missed Texas, hitting south of the border. The last hurricane to do serious damage to Texas was Hurricane Alica of 1983, which hit Galveston as a weak Category 3 storm, pushing a 10 - 12 foot storm surge into Galveston Bay. Alica killed 21 people, and its $2 billion price tag was the highest in Texas hurricane history.

Texas's luck is about to change. Rita, looking more and more like a nightmare copy of Katrina somehow displaced in time, will make sure of that. The forecast models we so heavily rely on did not anticipate another Katrina-like storm when Rita first formed and plowed through the Florida Straits. But now, the forecasts mirror the reality unfolding today in the Gulf of Mexico. Rita will be another huge destructive hurricane for the Gulf Coast. This time, it is Texas's turn. Every other state on the Gulf Coast has borne the burden of the immense destruction created by our unprecedented onslaught of intense hurricanes the past two hurricane seasons. No state will be left out.

Rita's impact on the Florida Keys
The residents of the Keys returning to their homes today are the lucky ones, for the Keys escaped serious damage. A 4 - 6 foot storm surge did hit the Lower Keys and flood the Coastal Highway, but this quickly subsided and the highway is now open to traffic again. Some minor to moderate wind damage occurred, but winds in Marathon only reached 38 mph, gusting to 53 mph, while the winds at Key West Airport reached 56 mph, gusting to 73 mph. There was an unofficial report of sustained winds of 75 mph gusting to 102 mph in Key West. Rainfall amounts of up to 12 inches occurred in the Keys, causing minor flooding problems.


Figure 1. Estimated rainfall from Hurricane Rita.


Figure 2. Wind and pressure plot from a coastal weather station in the Lower Keys. Note how the pressure after Rita's passage remains lower than that before her passage--Rita has depressed pressure values over an area hundreds of miles wide.

Rita now
Rita's presentation on satellite imagery is classic; she has a well-formed eye, large Central Dense Overcast (CDO) of cirrus clouds surrounding the eye, and well developed outflow on all sides, particularly to the north. This is the look of a solid, intensifying Category 4 hurricane. Intensification will continue until the eye shrinks to 10 miles or so in diameter and grows unstable, when the eyewall will collapse and an eyewall replacement cycle will begin. This may take another 24 hours or so, at which point Rita could be a Category 5 hurricane. Rita is currently smaller than Katrina, though. Katrina at her peak had hurricane force winds that extended outward 120 miles from the center; Rita's hurricane force winds only extend out 45 miles from the center. This will change as Rita continues to intensify and expand in size over the next day or two. There is little shear over Rita at present, nor is there expected to be the next three days. Water temperatures are 1 - 2C cooler over the central Gulf than they were for Katrina, which may keep Rita from attaining quite the intensity Katrina did. However, once Rita crosses the Gulf and arrives in the western Gulf on Friday, water temperatures warm back up to 30 - 31C, about the same temperatures as the waters Katrina had to work with. I doubt Rita will match Katrina's size or ferocity, but she might come to within 90% of the storm that Katrina was.

Rita at landfall
Rita's future intensity will largely be controlled by impossible-to-predict eyewall replacement cycles. Rita is growing large enough that she is creating her own upper level environment that will be relatively impervious to any external shearing winds that try to weaken her. I expect Rita to be a Category 4 hurricane at landfall.

The landfall location forecast has increased in confidence since yesterday, as the computer models have started to converge on a landfall location on the middle Texas coast. Western Louisiana still needs to be concerned, as does Corpus Christi, but New Orleans should escape Rita with nothing more than some fairly ordinary thunderstorms in some of the outermost spiral bands. A significant storm surge capable of flooding New Orleans is very unlikely.

A very significant storm surge is expected along and to the right of where Rita makes landfall on the Texas coast. Surge heights may reach 18 feet or higher, breaking the record 18.5 foot storm surge seen in 1961 during the Category 4 Hurricane Carla.

Elsewhere in the tropics
Tropical Storm Philippe continues northward away from land, and is not not expected to be a threat. Strong shearing winds will likely tear Philippe apart by Saturday. The remainder of the tropics are quiet and expected to remain so through Friday. By Saturday, the chances of tropical storm development off the coast of Africa begin to increase.

Jeff Masters

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402. zakelwe
7:14 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
oops sorry coorections

for the general consensus is that it will move north

read

for the general consensus is that it will move east

and

Historically the HRC has been spot on with its intensity forecasts in the short term , but have understated the intensity in the long term.


read

Historically FOR RITA the HRC has been spot on with its intensity forecasts in the short term , but have understated the intensity in the long term

that will teach me to try and put a 3 year old to bed whilst doing an additi0on and looking at sat photos !
401. zakelwe
7:07 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
The main question at the moment, for anyone near the path, is not the thermally driven intensity but the directional forces governed by that big ridge to the north which either will move or will not move soon and so govern the path.The general consensus is that it will move north but when ?

On the other hand, for interested parties not in line with the storm, the question is intensity forcasts.Historically the HRC has been spot on with its intensity forecasts in the short term , but have understated the intensity in the long term.

Given this I would say the locatation of landfall is pretty accurate but the intensity is really still up in the air.

Pardon the pun.

400. hoochbear
6:46 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
to Thermo....
please, if you have some scientific basis
for your conclusions about Houston,
air them.
otherwise, please refrain from the worst
sort of conjecture.
ie
I was in an office yesterday afternoon, a couple
had just heard mentioned on tv that ONE of the models
projected a track into NO. Never mind that they just
caught the end of the conversation. Point is,
information that is pulled out of the sky is about as bad as
information that is half baked.
UNLESS YOU CAN SUBSTANTIATE YOUR STATEMENT-
PLEASE DONT PLAY THE SENSATION NEWS CARD.
TOO MANY DO THAT ALREADY.
and THE STAKES ARE WAY TOO HIGH.
BY THE WAY, I AM not EITHER A PROFESSIONAL OR AMATEUR
WEATHERCASTER, JUST ONE WHO PUTS A LOT OF STOCK IN
BOTH WU AND NHC AND WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY,.
THANK YOU FOR NOT CRAPPING UP THEIR SITE.

hoochbear
Member Since: March 25, 2003 Posts: 7 Comments: 1
399. whitewabit (Mod)
6:36 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
..................HELLO ALL...........
I'm trying to get a location where all of our blogers live want to then make a directory that I will post on my blog
just looking for city (and maybe location in that city if it is large) and state..no other info needed or wanted..Thanks to all who will participate in this endevor..
tks...please make post on the first thread of my blog.
would like to include all that live outside of the states
also..will be interesting to see how wide spread our blogers are in the world..

please, if you can give the gift of life (blood),please contact your local Red Cross and make an appointment..the pint of blood you give my save 3 lives..and blood is really needed in the gulf coast..they lost their supply
of blood because of Katrina..and donors due to displacement..
With Rita now in the gulf heading west, blood will be needed even more...PLEASE DONATE ! !
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 368 Comments: 32513
398. Thermohalineeotw
6:29 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
I live in Austin, Tx and I have regularly followed all of the storms of this season, to see one headed straight for me though is exciting and scary, I feel that the very rapid rate of intensification shown over the past 24 hrs (going from TS to Cat 4 in less than 24 hrs is very impressive) I do not feel now that 1 degree or so of heat in the Gulf of Mexico is going to hinder this storm that much, I fully expect it sustain Cat 5 status (albeit a low cat 5) but as was mentioned before that doesnt matter much, watching the Weather Channel last night Jim Cantore said his worst case scenario is a Cat 4 storm with storm surge 26ft high wiping out 600,000 homes in Houston

2.15 Update on NHC Minimum Pressure 920 -> 150mph winds

397. armacjm
6:00 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Geez. Look at all the activity in 1887

http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/at1887.asp


and then compare to 1890...

http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/at1890.asp

What a difference 3 years makes...
396. raindancer
5:55 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
New updates from Masters and I think Gregory, too...
Member Since: September 14, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 79
395. WillJax
5:52 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Yes, here is the story about the plane crash, an S3 Viking.

Those guys are professionals too, love seeing them fly over my house every day. They went down in Westside regional park, which is literally across the street from the runway. Definitely weather related if you ask me.
They may have been caught in a downburst while on approach. When you're that low there's not much you can do.

Man... I wish they hadn't been flying in this stuff.
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 33
394. leftyy420
5:52 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
ok guys i need a shower. just woke up couple hours ago and feeling icky lol. be back in 15 mins or so
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
393. leftyy420
5:51 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
bouy no.
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
392. 53rdWeatherRECON
5:51 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Yeah but now everyone on here has it.
Member Since: August 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 80
391. Pensacola21
5:51 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Lefty, you are the star of the show, lol... Must be hard to keep up!

You have such great thoughts though =)
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 3912
390. rgeer68
5:50 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Thanks lefty. Ya, I should have rounded up.
389. Peff
5:50 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Man...she's purty...in a frightening way....

High Res Image of Rita

Not sure how old this is....

Yes, StSimon....neighbor!
388. leftyy420
5:50 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
fl, i belive the winds should be that fast as how low the pressure is but as of yet recon has yet to find those winds. but they will, and soon. she just droped 9-10 mbs in 2 hrs. thats nuts and the winds only went up 7mph so you do the math. she will jump another 20 mph on her current pressure drop alone
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
387. buoyking
5:48 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
can a strong low pressure move a high pressure ?
386. leftyy420
5:48 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
wp not so. her steering situation is to go to any weakness and thats what she will do. remebr that ridge is massive and the minute it errodes and builds east she will snap northw into it, just like katrina did. now if the ridge was weaker than yes she would plow right thru it but this is the strongest ridge we have seen this year so that will not happen


yes the winds are 147 at the surface by my calculations
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
384. FLCrackerGirl
5:46 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
LEFTY, I'd Love To Hear You Thoughts on This Post!! I Don't Usually Shout out To You but We'd Need you to Address HIM! This guy was around in July (during emily) The Ultimate Gloom & Doomer, & NOT With The NHC!

{{{Posted By: NHC2005 at 1:35 PM EDT on September 21, 2005
Of another important note is that Rita is now larger than Katrina, I would say significantly larger in terms of hurricane force winds. The upper air conditions are favorable in such that Rita should continue to strengthen and expand.

Woh Boy! I cannot confirm yet since the aircraft have not been in today, but my thinking is this is already stronger than Katrina (+175 mph), although NHC will probably upgrade to 165 at 5pm.}}}
Member Since: August 12, 2004 Posts: 47 Comments: 597
383. leftyy420
5:45 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
recon i have most if ur links anyway :-)


my last post was messed up

what i was saying is she could bottom out around 890-900mb but regradless in the next 6-12 hrs as her winds ctahc up they will be 160-180 in no time.
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
382. wpb05
5:45 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
lefty...a question.........with how deep this storm is becoming, isn't it possibly getting to the point where it will control its own steering from now on.....instead of the steering currentsnecessarily controlling it?? I could be worng
380. rgeer68
5:45 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
MAX FL WIND 142 KT = 163.3 MPH when multiplied by 0.90 should be 146.9 MPH ground level winds.

Please confirm if I did this right.
379. chicagowatcher
5:45 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
And is it me, 53rd, or does she appear to be gettin bigger...
Member Since: August 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 153
378. leftyy420
5:44 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
remif this ratof intensification cntinues, ad i mean 2 mbs an hour, like we saw all yestrday nd today yes he will bottm out near 890-900 range. but i amnot sure if herpressure will get down there but i kno er ns whn they ctahc up will be in the 160-180 ran
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
377. aquak9
5:43 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
peff I posted on alec's blog a link to the downed jet-only a mile? maybe from me, i heard it go down during a bad squall here, thought it was a transformer blowing...dang....
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 178 Comments: 26675
376. 53rdWeatherRECON
5:42 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Ok, you might just be right Lfty. vapor I hate to give up my good links though.
Member Since: August 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 80
375. leftyy420
5:42 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
her windsare only asbout 147,ph at the surfacebut in the nxt hour or by tim the recon passes again we willhave a cat 5. the nds ned to catch up to the pressure
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
374. aquak9
5:41 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
103rd/blanding area, will...heading out to paxon area now to get kid from school..yes VERY low ugly heavy gray scuddy-looking clouds....
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 178 Comments: 26675
373. Solo
5:40 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Was just looking at the track predictor sites, and of the 11 (I believe) total, 5 of them are calling for landfall between Corpus and Galveston. Those were CONU, GFDI, OFCI, LBAR, and BAMD. In addition, the NGPI was slightly south of Corpus and the CLP5 was just north of Galveston.

Realizing that landfall is still days away and that predictions can change, STILL this looks like a pretty big hit on another refinery area we can ill afford. What we ought to be predicting is how badly we'll be gouged at the pump in the coming weeks...
372. WillJax
5:40 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
As far as Philippe's loop goes, I was just speculating off of what I saw on Wunderground's model page. Looks like erratic movement is posible in near future. It IS the GFS predicting that, not the LBAR or something.

Man it is crazily dark right now. I may lose power soon if a good gust comes through. I live in an area with a lot of trees and above ground power lines running through them.
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 33
370. Remek
5:40 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
I was going to ask you Lefty if you think she'll drop below 900 before she gets past the loop.
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 118
369. SaCaCh
5:39 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Info on Tip, look at the size comparison...lol


Link
368. leftyy420
5:39 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
chicago yes its really freaking scary yet awsome at the same time. but more scary
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
367. Peff
5:39 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Rita may have already claimed her first life. A navy jet went down in Jacksonville today during one of the many storms we've been having. Don't know yet if it's weather related, but it wouldn't surprise me.
366. leftyy420
5:39 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
here guys. click the link, clikc the storm and look at that eye


Link
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
365. leftyy420
5:38 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
no recon. i have no clue where u heard that. her eye is tight and healthy hence the stadium and no signs of a eye wall cycle any time soon, at least not for 12 hrs and she will continue to explode for 12-18 hrs. she could get down close to 900 mbs in the next 12 hrs
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
364. chicagowatcher
5:37 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Isn't that scary Lefty? That's kinda what I was asking earlier. This thing was a disorganized TD with no eye to speak of just over 24 hours ago. Now, we have this??
Member Since: August 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 153
363. wpb05
5:36 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
wow..stadiumed out....this thing is just amazing
362. WillJax
5:36 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Yah aqua it's defintely a stormy day, and looking at the satellite it looks like there's plenty more to go. It's so dark at my house right now that it seems like nightfall. Just passed through an intense downpour, went very calm for a minute, and now it's gettin very windy and picking up in intensity once more.

Where in Jax are you again?
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 33
361. notwithoutmyprosac
5:36 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
aquak9, willjax we'ew getting the rain here in Lake Butler right now too. Overall, I say I can't complain
360. 53rdWeatherRECON
5:36 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Yeah but lefty the eye is not big enough to support these winds is it. Won't they cut through soon. Then a new BIG clear eye will form.
Member Since: August 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 80
359. leftyy420
5:35 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
here eye has stadiumed out and is visbile on satelite imagery and is really impressive. we have just seen a 9 mb drop in 2 hrs. thats crazy heres the latest plots


9-20-05
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

9-21-05
11:17am-934mb 24.18n 85.70w
1:02pm-923mb 24.20n 85.93w


40mb drop in 12 hrs almost 50 mb in 16 hrs. this is crazy
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
358. stargeek
5:32 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
WillJax

Phillipe is not doing a loop. It looks like GFS is seeing a decent wave coming off the African coast and being something to keep an eye on early next week.
357. BigM
5:32 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
hey, anyone want to buy a lovely 2 year-old, two-story house in richmond, tx?
355. raindancer
5:30 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
URNT12 KNHC 211728
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE
A. 21/17:02:40Z
B. 24 deg 12 min N
085 deg 56 min W
C. NA mb NA m
D. NA kt
E. deg nm
F. 142 deg 142 kt
G. 036 deg 013 nm
H. 923 mb
I. 12 C/ 2447 m
J. 26 C/ 2436 m
K. 10 C/ NA
L. CLOSED
M. STADIUM
N. 12345/NA
O. 0.02 / nm
P. AF306 WXWXA 05092114306 OB 02
MAX FL WIND 142 KT NE QUAD 16:58:40 Z
Member Since: September 14, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 79
354. aquak9
5:29 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
willjax-we got an ugly afternoon coming up from the south
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 178 Comments: 26675
353. Hawkeyewx
5:27 PM GMT on September 21, 2005
Latest dropsonde shows a pressure of at 922 mb.

XXAA 7117/ 99242 70859 08145 99922 26614 21022 00/// ///// 92///
///// 85721 25044 88999 77999
31313 09608 81702
61616 AF306 WXWXA 05092114306 OB 03
62626 EYE SPL 2420N08592W 1705 MBL WND 21520 AEV 20507 DLM WND 21
518 922787 WL150 21022 080 =
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 1924

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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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