Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:51 PM GMT on September 24, 2005
Rita continues to push inland, and is now a tropical storm. Many of the reporting stations failed during the height of the storm, so, as usual for a landfalling hurricane, we have little wind data. At the height of the storm, Port Arthur reported winds of 91 mph, gusting to 116. Beaumont had winds of 64 mph, gusting to 104. Houston had winds of 40 mph, gusting to 56, and New Orleans reported wind gusts as high as 40 mph.
Radar estimates of rain indicate that over a foot of rain has fallen in some areas. Expect an additional 6 - 8 inches of rain per day to fall during the next three days along Rita's path, with up to 25 inches falling in isolated areas. Fortunately, the regions most likely to be affected are under moderate to extreme drought conditions. Major flooding is already occurring on some rivers, but it will take a long time for many other rivers to come up to flood stage. The Mississippi is over 30 feet below flood stage in some places. Flash flooding along creeks and street flooding from excessive rains will be a problem everywhere, however. In addition, storm surge flooding was severe in Southwest Louisiana, and the surge penetrated over 40 miles inland in some areas. Exact storm surge height information is still unavailable. The surge will be slow to retreat, due to the strong onshore winds still affecting the coast.
Figure 1.Drought conditions exist over most of the areas affected by Hurricane Rita.
Figure 2. Estimated rainfall from Rita.
Where will Rita go?
Most of the latest model runs show Rita making a anti-cyclonic loop over northeastern Texas and central Louisiana, then perhaps heading back south to punish the landfall area five days from now. She may even move back over the waters of the Gulf. She would no longer be a tropical cyclone at that point, and redevelopment is not expected.
Elsewhere in the tropics
A large non-tropical low pressure system near Bermuda has changed little the past day, but has the potential to develop into a tropical depression by Monday or Tuesday. This system is expected to move little. A well-organized tropical disturbance near 11N 33W, off the coast of Africa, has a surface circulation and some deep convection. This system has the potential for development the next few days as it moves westward over the mid-Atlantic. High wind shear of 20 knots will keep the system from developing today. Long range models indicate that this disturbance will likely recurve to the northeast when it reaches the mid-Atlantic Ocean.
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