Rita weakening, but still catastrophic

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:53 PM GMT on September 22, 2005

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We continue to live history as this incredible Hurricane Season of 2005 unfolds more stunning surprises. Rita has peaked in intensity as the third strongest hurricane of all time, with a pressure of 897 mb and 175 mph winds. She is on the decline now, as the 7:30 am hurricane hunter mission found a pressure of "only" 907 mb and winds 5 mph weaker. The hurricane hunters also found evidence of a concentric eyewall forming outside of the main inner eyewall, and the inner eyewall had begun to take on an elliptical shape. All these signs indicate that Rita will continue to weaken today as her inner eyewall collapses and an eyewall replacement cycle begins. Additionally, Rita is about to leave the vicinity of a warm eddy of Gulf water called the Loop Current that has been aiding her intensification. Also, 10 knots of shear has developed on her south side, thanks to the fact that the upper-level high pressure system that was providing such excellent outflow for Rita has now shifted to the southeast of the storm. All these signs point to a substantial weakening trend for Rita that will continue through Friday and probably reduce her to a Category 4 hurricane. The GFDL forecast model predicts that this weakening trend will continue until landfall Saturday, when Rita will be a Category 3 hurricane.

While this is cause for some relief, Rita, like her weaker sister Katrina did, will still bring a Category 5 level storm surge along a 60 - 80 miles stretch of coast to the right of where the storm makes landfall on Saturday. Storm surge heights will peak at 20 - 25 feet in some bays, and bring the ocean inland up to 50 miles from the coast. Large sections of I-10 between Houston and Beaumont will be inundated, and the flood waters will reach the cities of Beaumont, Orange, and Lake Charles. Wind damage will be severe, and Houston can expect a hazardous rain of glass from its high rise building like was experienced during Hurricane Alica in 1983. If the eye passes just west of Galveston Bay, the storm surge will push 1 - 3 of water into some of Houston's eastern suburbs, such as Deer Park.

Current buoy measurements
NOAA buoy 42001 measured sustained winds of 52 mph, gusting to 64 mph, and 31 foot waves at 8am CDT. At the time, the buoy was located 80 miles WNW of Rita. This evening at 5pm CDT, Rita should make a very close pass by this buoy. I expect waves of 50 - 70 feet will impact the buoy, and huge swells from Rita are already starting to pound the Gulf Coast. A time series plot of the wind and pressure from buoy 42001 is worth checking out.

Where will Rita go?
The computer models made a modest shift eastwards this morning, calling for a landfall between Galveston and the Texas/Louisiana border. The Hurricane Center shifted their landfall point as well, but not as far as the model consensus. The models have been flip-flopping frequently, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that they will shift the landfall point 50 or so miles further west again this afternoon. However, a landfall within 100 miles of Galveston seems to be the the best call. Landfall will still occur sometime Saturday, but this may be afternoon instead of morning, as the storm is moving slower than before.

Most of the models now indicate that steering currents will weaken and Rita will stall and sit in place for several days once it moves inland. This will result in severe flooding problems for wherever Rita stalls, as 10 - 30 inches of rain could fall in the affected region. As is usually the case when steering current get weak, the model forecasts of Rita's motion are highly unreliable. Rita may stall over the Dallas area, or central Louisiana, or Oklahoma or Arkansas. It's too early to tell. Finally, on Tuesday, Rita's remnants are forecast to lift out to the north.

Elsewhere in the tropics
Tropical Storm Philippe is a minimal tropical storm heading out to sea, and is not a threat to any land areas. An area of disturbed weather off of the coast of Honduras is being sheared by the strong upper-level winds flowing south from Hurricane Rita. If this disturbed area still exists on Sunday, it has some potential for development. Development off of the coast of Africa is also possible beginning on Sunday.

I'll post a storm surge forecast map at about 10:30 EDT, and more updates today as needed.

Jeff Masters

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485. Trouper415
3:35 AM GMT on September 24, 2005
1
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 637
484. GulfBreezer
3:26 AM GMT on September 24, 2005
The guy on Fox is saying they're detecting lightning in the eye wall. He said that means it could be stregthening or beginning an EWRC.

I've never heard that theory on eye-wall lightning. True or just BS (about the EWRC)?
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 8
483. weatherwannabe
2:12 AM GMT on September 24, 2005


482. weatherwannabe
2:11 AM GMT on September 24, 2005


481. weatherwannabe
2:09 AM GMT on September 24, 2005
h

480. weatherwannabe
2:08 AM GMT on September 24, 2005
479. weatherwannabe
2:07 AM GMT on September 24, 2005
478. weatherwannabe
2:06 AM GMT on September 24, 2005
477. rhapsdy
5:19 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Am I the only one that isn't able to see the new post by Jeff? ALl I get is the old one and yes I have tried clearing my cache. I see that people are posting..but I'm assuming it's on the new post and I can't get to it. Blah. any help would be appreciated.
476. PascMississippi
4:16 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
What is the MSLP? Is that a low pressure front? I just click on the forecast point link and saw that 1012 that everyone has talked about. Do storms generally move away from those? Thank you
475. Califonia
4:13 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Jeff has a new post - time to switch over.
474. FLCrackerGirl
4:12 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Dr M has new Blog Up Now
Member Since: August 12, 2004 Posts: 47 Comments: 597
473. IKE
4:11 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
True...the forecast points have it going wnw for awhile, which it isn't doing. Appears to be moving almost due NW and it jogged slightly north of NW in the last couple of frames. Looks more like a LA hit to me, with the Beaumont/Houston area being on the western or weaker side with offshore winds.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
472. cajunkid
4:10 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Thats a solid NW track. Is just me, are does it seem some people hate to wrong about forcast tracks. Link
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1281
471. raindancer
4:08 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Link

Just click on the Trop Fcst Pts...
Member Since: September 14, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 79
470. raindancer
4:07 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised to see a little rebound in the intensity after the ewrc - or at least a leveling off - but I think Cat 5 is gone. And I still lean toward a definite weakening in the last 24 hours as she approaches the coast. Regardless - storm surge will be significant. But isn't the coast east and west of the Sabine Pass pretty much swampland (compared to places like Galveston)?
Member Since: September 14, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 79
469. PascMississippi
4:07 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Does anyone have a link to the current forecast points?
468. cajunkid
4:05 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
They just issued a manditory evac for Jeff Davis Parish south of I10
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1281
467. raindancer
4:05 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
They just updated those forecast points again in the last 10 - 15 minutes or so - and they still seem to think Rita is going to turn westward for ahwile. I just wouldn't count on this.
Member Since: September 14, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 79
466. 53rdWeatherRECON
4:04 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
This is a C.E.W.R.C. It has been weakening since last night at 11:00pm est. I believe it has almost completed the cycle and should resume strenghtining(pressure droping) once the new larger eyewall is formed by 2:00-5:00 pm today. It will max out at 928mb then start dropping again.
Member Since: August 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 80
465. IKE
4:02 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Im not sure how the 1012 mb dip would effect Rita. It does appear to have "jogged" slightly more to the north in the last 2 frames.

One thing I do know. It is NOT following the tropical forecast points. It's going east and north of their projections and those are the UPDATED track points...11 am EDT!!!!!!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
464. TPaul
4:01 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Question, is the weaking we are seeing just the result of an eye wall replacement cycle which was pretty much expected. If so do we not expect some strengthing to re-occur, probably not back to Cat 5 but would still expect Cat 4 at landfall with a Cat 5 Storm Surge.
Member Since: May 2, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 111
463. weatherwannabe
3:59 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
To quoste Sigourney Weaver from Aliens, "DIE BITCH"

462. weatherwannabe
3:55 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
I would be happy to eat a little crow and have make landfall at cat 2 instead of my predicted cat 3 - but the location of her landfall will be a bullseye for wannabe - TX/LA border.
461. Thermohalineeotw
3:55 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
also on that loop does it look like rita jogged to the north?
460. IKE
3:54 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Nee Orleans should be okay...TS force winds...but it could be a significant rain event there.

Die RITA DIE! Imagine how that would piss everyone off that's leaving or left!!!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
459. Thermohalineeotw
3:53 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Link

if you look at this loop and turn on all of the features I am a little concerned about the large dip in the 1012mb shape? would rita not just follow that around or would it go into the middle of the area (as forecast)

just wondered
458. fortlauderdalegirl
3:53 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Maybe these folks will catch a "little" break afterall. Although, look what Katrina did to the MS Coast -- just flattened. Guess there's worser (CAT5) and worse (CAT 3/4) -- devastating all the same. My heart just goes out to these people. Joe B. on Accuweather thinks the season doesn't end w/Rita -- let's hope not! I think we've all been through storm fatigue -- Last year, through Francis, Jeanne, and Ivan -- I thought my nerves were going to give in. Just too much......
457. notwithoutmyprosac
3:51 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
I am not predicting, I know nothing, I am asking, Does anyone think she's gonna hit far enough east that NO will have the worst winds in the NE quadrant? No roof to be rescued from if they didn't leave?
456. weatherwannabe
3:51 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
she was a beast for a while - maybe she'll make landfall as a cat 2 and just blow herself to death. RIP Rita.

455. elrod
3:51 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
I should clarify. I was being ironic when I said the Cat 3 storm that devastated South Mississippi was "weakened". Anyway, it seems if Rita hits land as a Cat 3 the devastation will be just as awful.

Are they evacuating Lake Charles and Lafayette, LA? I just saw Gov. Blanco on TV ordering people to get out because the storm was tracking toward LA. Are the locals in SW LA getting people north? I've only seen reports on Galveston, etc. but not the area from Port Arthur to the east. The Mayor of Port Arthur was on TV yesterday and said they would start evacuations - probably mandatory - this morning. I assume with the easterly track the Mayor (Ortiz?) will do a mandatory evac. Any word on the far SW LA area?
454. IKE
3:49 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Glad it's weakening...That's a significant pressure rise in a short period of time. Looks like the perfect conditions aren't there anymore. Appears to be some shear forcing clouds to the northeast...plus the eye is open to the southeast.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
453. raindancer
3:46 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Winds now down to just under 140 mph - not going to be a Cat 4 much longer at this rate.
Member Since: September 14, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 79
452. frivolousz21
3:45 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
The Outflow to the west and southwest..looks to be getting better...
prolly letting the eye wrap deep convection on the west side agian.
451. fortlauderdalegirl
3:45 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Dunno --- Mom was pretty adamant it was FOX b/c she said the "person" quickly changed their comment next go around. Maybe was CNN/MSNBC -- No matter, was irresponsible nonetheless -- These folks need to keep their speculation to themselves in sharing w/the masses if they're not going to read the NHC script.
450. raindancer
3:44 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
She's steadily weakening now... Pressure coming up sharply.

URNT12 KNHC 221500Z
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE
A. 22/1449Z
B. 25 DEG 18 MIN N
88 DEG 38 MIN W
C. 700 MB 2326 M
D. NA
E. NA
F. 121 DEG 135 KT
G. 35 DEG 13 NM
H. 913 MB
I. 18 C/ 3058 M
J. 22 C/ 3050 M
K. 14 C/ NA
L. OPEN SE
M. C017-55
N. 12345/7
O. 1/1 NM
P. NOAA3 1818A RITA OB 05
MAX FL WIND 135 KT NE QUAD 1446Z
Member Since: September 14, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 79
449. IKE
3:44 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Storm continues to weaken...per latest Vortex.....

URNT12 KNHC 221500Z
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE
A. 22/1449Z
B. 25 DEG 18 MIN N
88 DEG 38 MIN W
C. 700 MB 2326 M
D. NA
E. NA
F. 121 DEG 135 KT
G. 35 DEG 13 NM
H. 913 MB
I. 18 C/ 3058 M
J. 22 C/ 3050 M
K. 14 C/ NA
L. OPEN SE
M. C017-55
N. 12345/7
O. 1/1 NM
P. NOAA3 1818A RITA OB 05
MAX FL WIND 135 KT NE QUAD 1446Z


Up 6 more mb's!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
448. PascMississippi
3:41 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Does anyone have a link to a storm surge forecast map?
447. SEFL
3:41 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
"Just outrageous -- My mom just heard on FOX that their"

I have been watching Fox all morning and they have been and continue to refer to a Cat 5 hurricane. They did say that NHC reported weakening to 165mph winds. Now talking about severity if hurricane hits Houston, 391 square miles under water!!! Doesn't sound like soft-pedaling to me.
446. fortlauderdalegirl
3:37 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
WOW -- check out the sat. images!! The complete circle of red is back around the eye. Was looking pretty ragged -- not anymore. Definitely regained some strength!

BTW - the FOX moron just corrected himself. Just stated "a CAT3, but more than likely, CAT4". BUT, how many thousands of viewers heard this idiot say CAT3 - CAT2 moments ago -- and made a decision not to leave! Thank God for technology -- we are not at the mercy of this stupid commentators!
445. TheEdge
3:34 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
I'm thinking Cameron, La as landfall....
444. pre176
3:34 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
29, not 26
443. IKE
3:32 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Rita appears to be moving almost NW at this time to me. The IR looks more impressive in the last couple of frames. Looks like a western LA hit.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
442. 8888888889gg
3:30 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
26.31 so that would make it a 888 mb right?
441. collinsfarm
3:30 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
wanttofly, are you prepared to stay? supplies, boarded up, etc.
Member Since: September 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1354
440. hookedontropics
3:30 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Look at the last position before inland... 93W... that is east of the TX/LA Border..

HURRICANE RITA DISCUSSION NUMBER 20
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
11 AM EDT THU SEP 22 2005

RITA APPEARS TO HAVE REACHED ITS PEAK INTENSITY DURING THE PAST
12 HOURS. HURRICANES TYPICALLY DO NOT MAINTAIN SUCH HIGH INTENSITY
FOR A LONG TIME. INITIAL INTENSITY ESTIMATE IS 145 KNOTS. ALTHOUGH
SOME FLUCTUATIONS IN INTENSITY ARE LIKELY DURING THE NEXT DAY OR
TWO...DUE TO EYEWALL REPLACEMENT CYCLES...AN OVERALL GRADUAL
WEAKENING TREND SHOULD TAKE PLACE. THIS WEAKENING TREND IS BASED ON
LOWER OCEANIC HEAT CONTENT ALONG THE FORECAST TRACK AND INCREASING
SHEAR. NEVERTHERELESS...RITA IS EXPECTED TO MAKE LANDFALL AS A
DANGEROUS HURRICANE OF AT LEAST A CATEGORY THREE INTENSITY.

RITA HAS BEEN MOVING TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST OR 295 DEGREES AT 8
KNOTS. A STRONG HIGH PRESSURE SYSTEM CURRENTLY CENTERED OVER
NORTHERN TEXAS/OKLAHOMA IS EXPECTED TO SHIFT EASTWARD ALLOWING RITA
TO TAKE A MORE NORTHWESTERLY AND NORTHERLY TRACK. THE EASTWARD
SHIFT OF THE HIGH IS FORECAST BY ALL GLOBAL MODELS...RESULTING IN
TRACK GUIDANCE CONSISTENTLY TURNING THE HURRICANE TOWARD THE
NORTHWEST AND NORTH TOWARD THE UPPER-TEXAS OR THE WESTERN LOUISIANA
COASTS. AFTER LANDFALL...STEERING CURRENTS ARE EXPECTED TO WEAKEN
AND THE CYCLONE COULD MEANDER FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS IN THE VICINITY
OF NORTHEASTERN TEXAS...PRODUCING HEAVY RAINS.

BASED ON THE FORECAST TRACK AND WIND RADII...HURRICANE WARNINGS HAVE
BEEN ISSUED AT THIS TIME FROM PORT O'CONNOR TEXAS TO MORGAN CITY
LOUISIANA. TROPICAL STORM WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT ON EITHER SIDE OF
THE HURRICANE WARNING.

FORECASTER AVILA

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL 22/1500Z 25.4N 88.7W 145 KT
12HR VT 23/0000Z 25.8N 89.9W 140 KT
24HR VT 23/1200Z 26.9N 91.6W 130 KT
36HR VT 24/0000Z 28.2N 93.0W 125 KT
48HR VT 24/1200Z 30.0N 94.5W 100 KT...INLAND
72HR VT 25/1200Z 33.0N 95.0W 45 KT...INLAND
96HR VT 26/1200Z 34.0N 95.0W 30 KT...INLAND
120HR VT 27/1200Z 34.5N 94.5W 25 KT...INLAND

Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 127
439. pre176
3:28 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
As of 9:50 CDT, buoy 42001 reports 68 kt gusts from the NNE with 34ft waves, pressure down to 29.31 in
438. collinsfarm
3:27 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
ftlauderdale,
i agree. misinformation is worse than no information
Member Since: September 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1354
437. wanttofly
3:27 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
Hey All,

So I posted last night about trying to fly, as it looks now the storm is heading east of Galveston...Is that the opinion from everyone here?

If so I live on the west part of houston, What is your opinion...Shelter in place or take a chance on being hung on an Interstate...They are averaging 1 mile an hour. :(

Thanks
436. hookedontropics
3:26 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
inland tropical storm + winds forecast for at least 36 hours
Link
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 127
435. IKE
3:26 PM GMT on September 22, 2005
HEY NOW!!!!!!

It worked!!!!!!

YEE HAW!!!!!!!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860

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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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