Rita maintaining Cat 4 status

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:51 PM GMT on September 23, 2005

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Rita completed an eyewall replacement cycle this morning. The inner eyewall completely collapsed, and an outer eyewall 35 miles in diameter took its place. During the time, the pressure rose to 927 mb, and remained constant at that level between 4:30 am and 8 am EDT. The hurricane hunters noted no increase in surface winds, which remained at about 140 mph. They did note that the eyewall was beginning to contract again, which may signal the beginning of an intensification cycle. Rita is over warm waters (30C) which are warm to a great depth. Thus, the amount of heat available for intensification is high (see plot below). By this afternoon, Rita will be passing over waters that are still warm, but are shallow, so the amount of heat available to draw energy from is much lower. This should end any intensification. In addition, 10 - 15 knots of shear is impacting Rita's south side, and one can see from satellite images the lack of high cirrus clouds on her south side that results from this shear. This shear is expected to increase to 25 knots by Saturday morning, and the combined effect of the shear and the lower heat content of the ocean beneath her should prevent her from making landfall any stronger than she is now (Category 4), and may act to weaken her to a Category 3 hurricane.



Figure 1. Heat potential of the waters beneath Rita show that she will soon be passing to an area of lower available heat (dark blue area). This should put an end to any intensification cycle she may be starting on.

Although Rita should be a Category 3 or 4 hurricane at landfall, she will still carry to the coast a storm surge characteristic of a much stronger hurricane. A Category 4 or 5 level storm surge is likely along a 40 - 60 miles stretch of coast near and to the right of where the storm makes landfall on Saturday. Storm surge heights will peak at 15 - 20 feet in some bays, and bring the ocean inland up to 50 miles from the coast. This surge will be lower and cover less length of coastline than Katrina's surge, but will still cause widespread destruction in the cities of Port Arthur, Orange, and Cameron.



We can track Rita now from the Lake Charles radar. This radar will probably get knocked out by Rita sometime Saturday.

Where will Rita go?
The latest computer models are tightly clustered around a landfall point just west of the Texas/Louisiana border. Confidence is high in this forecast. Houston and Galveston should escape major wind and storm surge damage, and only experience maximum sustained winds of 60 mph with gusts to 85 mph. It is still too early to tell what will happen after landfall, as the models all take Rita different ways. A major rainwater flooding problem will ensue after Rita's landfall, with 10 - 30 inches of rain falling over a large area of Texas and Louisiana.

Elsewhere in the tropics
Tropical Storm Philippe is a minimal tropical storm that may bring 30 mph winds to Bermuda, but is expected to die by Saturday. A strong tropical disturbance near 11N 30W, off the coast of Africa, has acquired a circulation and some deep convection. This system has the potential for development the next few days as it moves west to west-northwest over the Atlantic. Another area of disturbed weather 500 miles south of Bermuda also needs to be watched. Long range computer models do not show a threat to land from either of these systems in the next five days.

Jeff Masters

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659. centralfla
9:43 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
hi hatehurricanes, what area are you in?
658. leftyy420
9:41 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
guys new dr.masters post is up
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
656. HateHurricanes
9:37 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Lefty- another central florida newbee here, who wants to add her thanks for all the info. I have received from you.
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3080
655. cgableshurrycanegal
9:34 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
StSimon, what sort of fuel conservation move is THAT? odd...
Way cool move about the overdue fines, kudos!
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
653. centralfla
9:33 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
they just said several of the people on the rig being towed have been rescued. KHOU is streaming live on the web in case anyone didn't already know that - so is KPRC :)
652. cgableshurrycanegal
9:32 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
gbreezegirl, LOL, just don't go IN the water!!!
We'd like to read your report, not hear a report you got washed away!!!
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
650. gbreezegirl
9:29 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Cgables - yes I am learning all those "catch phrases" am going to Navarre Beach after work to check out that "surge". Also may check out Pcola Bch in the am. I am sure there will be lots of surge there too!
Member Since: September 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 274
649. cgableshurrycanegal
9:29 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
StSimon, Gulf is shallow for a long way so the surge builds up and keeps rolling in. Also goes for FL Panhandle and Gulf Coast. On the ATL Coast of FL w/ATL Ocean deeper waters make for storm surge, but not as high or as far-traveling. Andrew at eyewall was, I believe, 16.5', in Cocnut Grove at Biscayne Bay, about 7'.
Burger King Headquarters had JUST been completed and plans and drawings were still fresh so they became, in essence, a lab for post-storm study as the place was TOTALLY trashed, being right on the bay and taking the surge head-on.
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
648. centralfla
9:26 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
lefty-thanks for that explanation, those of us that are newbies do appreciate the info you share!
647. chicagowatcher
9:25 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
So, the wind is down slightly and the pressure is up one mb in the new vortex?
Member Since: August 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 153
646. cgableshurrycanegal
9:24 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Phillipe down to TD, expected to be absorbed w/in 12-24 hours.
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
644. cgableshurrycanegal
9:21 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Breezer, right now it is *sexier* to say storm surge than flooding. It's the catch-phrase to keep folks attention and the ratings stay up, the advertisers are happy...
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
642. GulfBreezer
9:18 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
The repoter in NOLA for Fox News is saying the levee is failing due to last nights rain. I think the news networks might want to educate their reporters before sending them off for huricane coverage. Or at least teach them the meaning of the words "storm surge".
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 8
641. guygee
9:18 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
EYE OPEN E THRU W
I guess you get a better view from up above than you do on radar ;-)

So another "open" question: on the radar loops, I clearly see a closed band of storms around the eye, yet recon must see otherwise. So I am guessing are those just some low-topped storms circling the eye around the "open section". How high do the cloudtops need to reach for them to distinguish between "open" and "closed" parts of the eyewall?

If anyone knows the details I would love to learn the answer.
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3167
639. cgableshurrycanegal
9:17 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
here's AL98
http://skeetobiteweather.com/picservice.asp?t=m&m=98
doesn't look like it's expected to bother ATL Coast
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
637. pseabury
9:13 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
coral gables gal - Not sure...sometimes they evac people from platforms to near-shore or inshore flotillas apparently. I'm waiting for details on that story.

Member Since: May 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
636. leftyy420
9:12 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
motion is nw or 315-320 degress. in the past hour its ben more 320 than 315.

cenetr fixes from recon

9-23-05
1:07am-921mb 26.38n 90.55w
2:02am-924mb 26.47n 90.70w
4:31am-927mb 26.72n 91.00w
10:10am-929mb 26.23n 91.80w
1:00pm-931mb 27.63n 92.13w
1:47pm-930mb 27.75n 92.25w
3:11pm-930mb 27.97n 92.47w
4:37pm-931mb 28.15n 92.62w
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
635. tornadoty
9:11 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
He has a new post.
634. aquak9
9:11 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
uh, jed...I know I didn't see "238" on your post....geez louise
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25923
633. weatherwonderer
9:10 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Lefty you are as steady as Rita, you have fought off lots of shear and you are going strong. Keep up the good work!
Member Since: July 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 167
632. tpadan
9:10 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
You would think the turn to the north means that landfall will occur earlier - and the chance for an ewc before landfall would decline as a result.
631. cgableshurrycanegal
9:09 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Paul, how would they have left ppl on a platform??? That's insane!!! YIKES!!!
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
630. leftyy420
9:08 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
new vortex

VORTEX DATA MESSAGE
A. 23/2031Z
B. 28 DEG 09 MIN N
92 DEG 37 MIN W
C. 700 MB 2493 MA
D. NA
E. NA
F. 289 DEG 91 KT
G. 197 DEG 15 NM
H. 931 MB
I. 14 C/ 3055 M
J. 20 C/ 3056 M
K. 15 C/ NA
L. OPEN SOUTH
M. C25
N. 12345/7
O. 1/1 NM
P. NOAA3 2318A RITA OB 20
MAX FL WIND 124 KT NE QUAD 2037Z
EYE OPEN E THRU W
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
629. pseabury
9:07 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Hearing reports on KHOU of possibly an oil platform (or oil services related barge?) 50miles south of Grand Isle that's broken loose with 50 people on it.

Member Since: May 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
628. cgableshurrycanegal
9:07 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
lefty, our local guys are also in agreement with your assessment. Very concerned about what the final intensity will be.
Figuring will still be a cat1 thru Beaumont, TX... that strong...
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
627. leftyy420
9:07 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
its highly unlikley an eye wall cycle will happen befor landfall. she might dewvelop a second eey wall but by time the cycle would get going she would be on land and some storm,s intensify as the secodn wall forms and only lose strength when the inner wall collapses. right now its safe to say that if the pressure drops any and the flight leve winds increase we will see thembump her up as the t-numbers have risen back into the 6 range
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
626. tpadan
9:04 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Thanks lefty - I enjoy reading your posts, and mostly keep quiet here - since I know far less than most of the people here.

625. leftyy420
9:04 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
5pm disscusion stades the weakening has leveled off and the t-numbers have increased as well as the flight level winds. they want to wait to see if thet persists befor they increase the strength again. so she might be a cat 4 once again. they feel only slight weaking is possibkle befor landfall.
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
624. guygee
9:02 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
That is one long fetch of wind from the SE into the Miss-LA border area, I'm not surpised N.O. is getting the surge considering how the coastline opens up towards the SE.

Like lefty said much earlier, the radar shows the first eyewall closed off again. I notice SE side of the 2nd concentric ring is "catching up" and closing in to the actual eye. I guess this could be from increasing frictional drag on the storm as the NW side is moving more slowly than the SE side towards land. Open question is, could this effect cause some further intensification on landfall?
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3167
623. leftyy420
9:02 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
tp. nmo ewrc has happened. now she is betetr orginise dyes.


an ewrc is when a second band of convection encirles the inner eye. the inner eye than gets choked off and dissolves as the outer eye shrinks down and becomes the ne eye wall. this is not happened. it did yesterday and they take 24-36 hrs to copmplete. usually. we have not had concentric eye walls so no eye wall cycle ahs happned. now the eye became ragged due to shear and dry air intrusion but over the past 3-4 hrs she has reorginised her core and built back deep convection
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
622. johnsonwax
9:02 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
CNN is showing via flightexplorer some yahoo in a private plane cruising along the LA coast approaching Port Arthur. Probably Travolta. Show off.
621. geauxtigers
8:59 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
thanks lefty. i knew that the more northerly track would mean worse conditions for NO (and BR as well)...It just seemed like all of our local media outlets were somewhat surprised at the major flooding occuring again in NO. Maybe no one around here wanted to believe it...

FYI everyone--WAFB local channel 9 said that 2 of the 3 breeches had been repaired and the third was an overflow, not really a breech...i'm not sure if that news had been broadcast nationally yet or not.
620. cgableshurrycanegal
8:59 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
weatherdude, don't be a meanie chaperone!!!
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
619. CFLweather
8:58 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Any speculation on Rita going through an eyewall replacement, looks like the eye would be over water long enough to re-establish.
618. cgableshurrycanegal
8:57 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
boogerman! Your poor Dad! Down here when we sell logoed golf umbrellas, we're supposed to say that wooden and fiberglass shafts are safer than metal. I keep trying to explain to the manufacturers that with a close or direct hit a puny little umbrella shaft, regardless of material isn't going to make any diff except in product price! ::G::
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 212
617. Jedkins
8:57 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
They measurd a gust to 238 and as far as what I heard it peaked higher than 175 but the NHC Decided that it had already peaked in intensity so they decided not to upgrade the winds,but I believe it peaked at about 195 mph.
616. johnsonwax
8:56 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
See, it's all a matter of getting the right kind of fluff reporting. Personally, I'd be happy to wait until after the storm to pre-empt any real reporting to see that.
615. mendomama
8:56 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
those of you with hi speed conect check out the video on natl geo site katrina storm surge in ms also some educational vedio on how hurricanes are borneLink
614. weatherwannabe
8:56 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
fortlauderdalegirl, yah, he didn't seem to be enjoying himself.
613. fortlauderdalegirl
8:54 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
wannabe -- I caught it in time. Wow, did you see his face start to move -- at only 75mph!
612. weatherwannabe
8:54 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
KShurricane, an hour ago CNN reported that Lake Charles had already risen 2 feet - hmmmmmm
611. weatherdude65
8:53 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
catch up with everyone later....off from work and heading to chaperone a dance at my sons school tonight
610. tpadan
8:53 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
Based on the radar, it looks like it is getting stronger. I don't know if other people see this - but it looks like the eye wall replacement happened to the north and east of the old eye.

I do not see what the NHC sees about the track. It is clearly moving due North.
609. leftyy420
8:53 PM GMT on September 23, 2005
no,first storem surge is an estimation and a 4-5 surge is expected and the more nortehrn track would put stronger east winds over the lakes and rivers casueing the bigger surge
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987

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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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