* HURRICANE RITA - CATEGORY 5 - 898mb 3rd LOWEST PrESSURE ON RECORD **
SEP 21 - 7:50PM CDT
DROPSONDE DATA FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE UNIT RECONNAISSANCE
AIRCRAFT AT 623 PM CDT...2323Z...INDICATED THE CENTRAL PRESSURE HAS
FALLEN TO BELOW 899 MB...OR 26.55 INCHES.
THE DROPSONDE INSTRUMENT MEASURED 32 KT/35 MPH WINDS AT THE SURFACE...WHICH
MEANS IT LIKELY DID NOT RECORD THE LOWEST PRESSURE IN THE EYE OF RITA.
THE CENTRAL PRESSURE IS PROBABLY AT LEAST AS LOW AS 898 MB...AND PERHAPS EVEN
FOR OFFICIAL PURPOSES... A PRESSURE OF 898 MB IS ASSUMED...
WHICH NOW MAKES RITA THE THIRD MOST INTENSE HURRICANE IN TERMS OF
PRESSURE IN THE ATLANTIC BASIN. SOME ADDITIONAL DEEPENING AND
INTENSIFICATION IS POSSIBLE FOR THE NEXT 12 HOURS OR SO.
RITA CURRENTLY RANKS BEHIND HURRICANE GILBERT IN 1988 WITH 888 MB
AND THE 1935 LABOR DAY HURRICANE WITH 892 MB.
SEP 21, 2005 5:15PM CDT
RECON Report 904mb -- -10mb drop in 1 hour -- that is a record.
Eye 20NM across - (Katrina's lowest pressure was 902mb)
Thermal eyewall; 21°deg / location 24.4N/.86.5W -HEADING 280° 9KTS
SEP 21, 2005 / 3:28PM CDT - SPECIAL UPDATE #4
RITA EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CATEGORY 5 - 914MB PRESSURE
The latest RECON, and confirmed measurements from NHC - report RITA's central pressure is now down to 914mb. MAX sustained flight winds are 161Kts, with sustained surface winds of 165mph -=- and gusts to 185mph. The thermal eyewall temp difference is an astounding 21°C The pressure has been dropping at 6mb/hr which may be s some form of record of it's own. Furthermore, there are no signs yet that Rita has finished intensifying.
This places Rita in the top 10 of all-time Atlantic Basin Storms -- and in the top 4 for the Gulf of Mexico.
At it's peak -- Katrina reached 902mb.
Latest numerical guidance continues to show a landfall on Saturday between Port O'Connor and Freeport.
A full update will be sent late tonight -- but brief status reports will be issued as warranted.
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.
SEPT 21, 2005 / 11:45 AM
RITA EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CATEGORY 5 INTENSITY WITHIN HOURS
SEVERE THREAT TO COASTAL TEXAS FROM NEAR PORT O'CONNOR
NORTHWARD TO PORT ARTHUR -- LANDFALL IN 70 HOURS
A RECON just arrived - and found a central pressure of 934MB, with a MAX sustained Flight level wind
of 137kts in the east quadrant, implying a surface sustained wind of 135mph. Satellite estimates now indicate
RITA may in fact have reached CAT 5 Intensity -- although this cannot be confirmed until the Aircraft completes
a full sampling of the winds around the entire storm. The Thermal Eye wall temperature gradient is now up
to 10°C - indicate of a strong CAT 4 / borderline CAT 5 hurricane. The 25NM Wide eye is currently located near
24.1N/ 85.80W or 700NM SE of Galveston, TX - and is moving west at 10Kts - slightly slower than 12
Though the storm may or may not have actually attained CAT intensity --based on the current imagery derived
data - and that fact RITA will be spending the next 12-18 hours crossing the Loop Current -- there is no longer
much doubt the storm will become a CAT 5 Hurricane. From that point on -- Rita will likely fluctuate in
intensity as eye wall replacement cycles commence -- but also -- by Thursday, the storm will be moving over
slightly cooler waters -- and the SST analysis shows a serious of 'warm' and 'cool' water pools of water scattered
about the Gulf. Passage over a slightly cooler area of water would no doubt cause some weakening, while the
converse would be true if is moves across a warmer pool of water. However, with the storm moving at a solid
10-12Kts -- and no significant slowdown expected -- the change in intensity may not be as pronounced as
typical -- since the storm is 'on the move' and will continually be moving over still relatively warm surface waters.
The major area of shallow warm water is within 100NM of the Texas coast. This combined with some slight
increase in shear expected during the final 12 hours before landfall -- should drop the WIND INTENSITY down
by 1 full Category. HOWEVER, as we learned from Katrina -- Wind Intensity, used for Categorizing a Hurricane,
doesn't always tell the whole story. Assuming RITA does attain CAT 5 intensity, and stays at that strength,
or close to it -- it will develop a huge CATEGORY 5 storm surge that will strike the Texas coast - regardless of
any wind speed decrease during the final 12 hours before landfall. Officially, Katrina hit the MS Coast as
a strong CAT 3 - but produced a catastrophic Category 5 storm surge damage for a 120 mile stretch of coast
line to the east. Rita may strike with the same CAT 5 storm surge -- but I believe it will cover a somewhat smaller extent
of coastline -- about 50NM - compared to Katrina's 120 mile wide path of utter devastation. But keep in mind
even if the storm does come ashore near Freeport -- the storm surge in Galveston Bay will be severe.
The latest 12Z model runs are clustered very tightly on a landfall between Port O'Conner and Freeport Saturday
morning & the consensus for intensity estimates are for a strong CAT 4. Those living in the coastal area from near
Corpus Christi to Galveston should begin evacuation within the next 24 hours. Those living north of Galveston
to Lake Charles, LA, and from Corpus Christi to Brownsville -- should have a 'Plan' in place in the event the storm
veers off the expected track.
The next full update will be early this evening -- but short status updates will be sent to enhanced service
subscribers. Those subscribers living in the Texas/LA area will get more specific updates starting Thursday.
RSS wXunderground Feed
Steve Gregory’s TROPICAL WEATHER Blog #2
Steve Gregory’s Tropical Weather Blog (Main Page)
PIX 1 - HI-RES Visible image within past hour -- the western side of the eyewall is 'highlighted' due
to the low sun angle - and gives a true sense of 'depth perception' for the ring of intense thunderstorms
that make up the eyewall.
PIX 2 - Enhanced IR image - superb CDO signature of a storm on it's way to becoming a
CAT 5 Hurricane.
PIX 3 - The outflow from the storm is excellent in all quadrants -- but extremely strong to the north through
east quadrant, as the outflow channel has tapped into a 70KT jet streak feeding into an upper low out over
PIX 4 - The 12Z model runs are strongly converging on the Texas coast near Port O'Connor. However, despite
this remarkable consensus, a shift of 50 or 100 miles is almost as likely as the consensus for hitting the Texas coast is!
PIX 5 - Projected NHC track as graphically produced by Global Tracks software. Though NHC does not yet
forecast full CAT 5 intensity, the shading above still shows CAT 4 intensity. Landfall as a strong CAT 3/borderline
CAT 4 is likely. BUT REMEMBER Katrina -- even 3 hours away -- she moved 25 miles further to the east than was
anticipated. The state of the art simply does not allow for the precision we all are looking for. And model track
'errors at 3 days out are close to 200 miles. Considering the tremendous consistency and agreement between
all the models -- I would guestimate a more likely variation in the point of landfall will be +/- 100NM