Rita levels off at Cat 4 intensity

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:29 PM GMT on September 22, 2005

Reconnaissance flights this afternoon indicate that the weakening phase Rita went through has ceased. Her central presure has held steady between 913 and 915 mb between noon and 4 pm, and the surface winds are steady at about 145 - 150 mph. Rita is a strong Category 4 hurricane. She appears to be going through a collapse of the inner eyewall, which the hurricane hunters have noted has a large gap in it. It may take 12 - 24 hours for Rita to rebuild her eyewall. During that time, some fluctuations in strength may occur, but weakening is most likely. This would occur as a result of 10 knots of shear on her south side from an upper-level high pressure system, and from passage over ocean waters with less heat content. By landfall time on Saturday afternoon, it is expected that Rita will be a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, but 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 60 - 80 miles stretch of coast 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. Large sections of I-10 between Houston and Beaumont could be inundated, and the flood waters may reach the cities of Beaumont, Orange, and Lake Charles.

Figure 1. Expected inland penetration of a Category 5 level hurricane storm surge. Only areas along and to the right of Rita's landfall point may get a Category 5 storm surge. If Rita makes landfall east of Galveston, Houston and Galveston will not see the storm surge flooding shown here.

Current buoy measurements
NOAA buoy 42001 in Rita's western eyewall measured sustained winds of 90 mph, gusting to 112 mph, and 34 foot waves at 2:50 pm CDT. A time series plot of the wind and pressure from buoy 42001 is worth checking out.

Where will Rita go?
The 12Z (8am EDT) computer models in general show a shift a bit more to the east, making a landfall near the Texas/Louisiana border more likely. Keep in mind that the average error in landfall location for a 48 hour forecast is 125 miles, which means the landfall point could be anywhere from the Central Texas coast near Matagorda to the central Louisiana coast near New Iberia.

The models runs are now pretty much agreed that steering currents will weaken and Rita will stall and drift westward or southwestward 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 currents get weak, the model forecasts of Rita's motion are highly unreliable. Rita may stall over the notheast Texas, or western or central Louisiana. Oklahoma and Arkansas are looking less likely. It's too early to tell with much reliability. It may not be until next Wednesday when the remnants of Rita finally are gone.

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 has diminished and is no longer a threat. Development off of the coast of Africa is possible beginning on Sunday.

A new blog called TheDiscussionBlog has been set up by tornadoty to serve as an alternate discussion forum for those who want to pose questions. I will read it and respond to questions there if I get the time, which hasn't been too plentiful of late, unfortunately.
Jeff Masters

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845. GetReal
8:27 AM GMT on September 23, 2005

there are already some scattered power outages, and some tranformers flashes can be seen in night sky.
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8974
844. GetReal
8:23 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Weather deteriating rapidly over the last hour in coastal area south of NOLA. Winds steady out of the ene 25 to 35 mph, gust over TS force. Trash and debrie from Katrina that was left by side of roadways is now beginning to blow into the roadways. Cloud deck has lowered, but hardly any rain yet.
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8974
843. HoustonPapa
4:16 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
We are hunkering down. There is no way out. I'll post in the morning if I can. Hope it misses us.
842. guygee
4:04 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
weatherwonderer - I used to live in Houston, first around Westheimer (sp?) then moved west into the sprawl. Worked a lot of contruction jobs back in the '70's boom, so I have a good idea of the building codes back then, which was "look the other way" for all of the cheap apartment buildings we were tossing together. If Rita comes in worst case the detruction from the wind of all those flimsy structures will be horrific, but if she stalls the flooding may well take more lives.

I don't have the stats in front of me, but isn't it true that a large proportion (majority?) of total hurricane fatalities come from inland flooding? I just hope she doesn't stall around the beautiful hill country near Austin, some of my best memories were camping and partying with friends on our periodic trips to Lake Travis area.
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3472
841. hmfynn
3:54 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
yeah, that NW swing on the satellite is more apparent now. Hate to wait three hours to see what that does....
840. weatherwonderer
3:51 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
guygee, thats right. This is a multi-dimenstional swirl of destruction. Wind, rain and storm surge. I don't know if she will be worse than Katrina, only time will tell but...regardless that is moot point. If it lands in a relativly unpopulated area, less lives will be lost. If in very populated area, both the loss of many lives and mass destruction will occur. Since it is so large though the probabilty is that she will be bad news no matter where land fall occurs. The flooding after may occur from the coast all the way up to the mid-Mississippi valley.
Member Since: July 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 167
839. weatherspirit
3:46 AM GMT on September 23, 2005

Just decided to post this...

I created a blog that people can argue all about global warming or politics all they want.

Let's just keep these boards free from animosity. There are people out there wanting to know exactly what they need to do. Let's give them the best info possible and keep this blog clean, 'k?
838. Valence
3:45 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
see - I told you lefty tracks the recon planes. He could probably give us the Lat/Long if we asked.

Also, there is a new blog, so im confused? Are we just saying here, or moving? Is there a computer model out there to plot our forecasted move to the new blog? Who has the link?

Im getting punchy again - too many late nights watching hurricane news coverage!
837. guygee
3:44 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
One of the big differences between Rita and Katrina is how large and "sprawling" Rita is compared to Katrina. On the EC FL coast, with Katrina we got into the subsidence rather quickly, with Rita, a long feeder band still stretches over the Florida peninsula, we have had squally weather all day, and we currently have thunder and rain coming in from the SE.

Kind of shows up the problem with the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Charlie was a Cat 4, and although it passed 60 miles north of here, all we got we some brief breezy tropical downpours.
Another example would be Tip and its height and Camille. Not really even in the same catagory, although both ranked as Cat 5 by Saffir-Simpson.

I would like to see some sort of scale that includes the size of the storm, like integrating total energy dissipation over the areal coverage of the storm. Maybe a scale that include moisture content of the airmass as well, since, if Rita stalls inland, the real catastrophe may well turn out to be the massive flooding rather than surge and wind damage (as bad as the latter may be).

The trick would be to find some weighting in the integration that would properly assess the "damage potential" of the eyewall winds, since some big sprawling non-tropical system (like a strong baroclinic low pressure system) might well dissipate more energy than a very small but strong hurricane that has much more "damage potential".

Anyone know of any research in this direction or have some links regarding this topic?
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3472
836. hmfynn
3:43 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
gatormom, it would be pretty hard for this thing to hit Southeast LA dead-on right now. Earlier today, that was much more of a possibility than it is now. (I'm here too and it frightened the hell out of me when I woke up) The storm moved NW all day but took enough temporary jogs to the West so that it is now under somewhere around Terrebonne and still too south to come straight for us. It would take almost a 90-degree north turn for it to do that. however, we can still get in on heavy rain and winds as the storm is so huge. As of now on the current track southeast LA from Morgan City eastward will only get TS-force winds with hurricane winds west of that point. Alot depends now on the exact landfall. My gut says that if new tracks came out at 1am instead of 4, we'd see a slight shift west in the track thanks to a 2-hour jog west that the models wouldn't have picked up yet, BUT, before everyone on here jumps down my throat, I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I just see what I see. And I think it's not too far off to assume that a 2-hour jog to the west would affect the next computer models that come in. Who knows what it'll do between now and 4 when the next track comes out.
I would say if you CAN evacuate, do so just to be safe. But if you can't, as many of us down here can't, I wouldn't exactly write my will, as it's passing WNW well south of Terrebonne and Lafourche right now. Just be prepared for possible wind damage and have all your batteries and food supplies ready.

but of course, if you CAN get somewhere safer without too much hassle, why not?
835. leftyy420
3:42 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
new vortex. eye wall cycle now done

A. 23/03:24:50Z
B. 26 deg 10 min N
090 deg 19 min W
C. 700 mb 2406 m
D. NA kt
E. NA deg nm
F. 311 deg 107 kt
G. 219 deg 018 nm
H. 919 mb
I. 11 C/ 3050 m
J. 17 C/ 3044 m
K. 15 C/ NA
M. C30
N. 12345/ 7
O. 0.02 / 1 nm
P. AF309 2018A RITA OB 17
MAX FL WIND 125 KT NW QUAD 01:50:40 Z

Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
834. windcast
3:40 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
spoon, thanks for the video feeds, they are coming in handy over here :)
833. Valence
3:39 AM GMT on September 23, 2005

LOL @ your last comment.

I'd actually like to see the news guys get the names and address of the people who stay. Go back after the storm and see if there still is an address to find. Or just a tombstone! (Im not making light of people's deaths, just the ones who have the knowledge and means to evacuate, and stubbornly choose not to)

832. weatherwonderer
3:38 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
One of science's goals is to eliminate ignorance. I don't think we are doing very good job. Global warming, darwinism and other science issues shouldn't be political issues. These are based on reliable scientific data. It boils down to beliefs not data if you go agains't these theories. They are theories for sure, but a hypothesis has to have very good evidence for it to be regarded as a theory.

Currently, I am involved with antimicrobial therapy research and development. Ignorance of people wanting antibiotics for the common cold has resulted in a nearly disasterous bacteria antibiotic resistance. Vancomycin resistant Staph. aureus has recently emerged. If this organism becomes untreatable you wouldn't even want to walk into a hospital much less be stuck in one. Fortunately, there are only 4 cases of VRSA but like other drug resistant bacteria, it is only a matter of time before these organisms will be an common as less pathogenic drug resistant bacteria.

I know that was off topic, but ignorance of people and the fear that doctors will lose their patients if they don't prescribe an antibiotic has resulted in a large mess that drug companies are spending tremedous amounts of money to develop new drugs. Which, I'm afraid to say is not happening nearly as fast as 20 years ago.

Member Since: July 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 167
831. windcast
3:38 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Rita will be much more powerful than Katrina i think. Katrina just made landfall in a very destructive spot where New Orleans is concerned. But if Rita makes landfall anywhere near Galveston, with this much storm organization, expect to see things you haven't yet. At least, hopefully, people won't be there!
830. iyou
3:37 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Dr. Masters has posted a new blog.
Member Since: July 25, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5223
829. Remek
3:37 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
fresh wunder blog entry
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 118
828. ncCANEiac
3:37 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Check out last few frames on water vapor loop at rap.ucar.edu. Eye has become enlongated to the NW.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24
827. SaymoBEEL
3:36 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
OK my last one then off to bed.



The Very Best of Evis Costello and the Attraction
826. Valence
3:36 AM GMT on September 23, 2005

We're not exactly helpless. There's a recon flight sometime soon (ask lefty when - i swear to god he tracks the guys on his own radar).

But for those of you that tend to watch the loops (for every wobble 2in to the N), its probably bedtime.

825. Geismargirl
3:35 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Gator mom...I'm SE LA too...we've boarded up our windows as our local meteoroligist says we should expect more rain than Katrina and more wind for a longer period of time. He's not convinced that she won't stall and head further East meaning more of everything above. Just be prepared if ur going to stay and make sure ur not in a flood zone.
824. pseabury
3:34 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Those are both images of Rita. At least by looking at the timestamps eh?
Member Since: May 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
823. Katrina3
3:34 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Hey Lefty,
I wanted to thank you for all the info you gave when Katrina was coming on shore. I never got a chance to after she hit.
822. Valence
3:33 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Some of ya'll take the NHC to literally.

Their job is not to predict the exact landfall of a hurricane. Its to track the storms path, measure its intensity, and calculate the probability of its forecsated track. Hence, the "Cone of Terror". They are never exactly right, and they are never so wrong where the guys in the center are going "WTF just happened?"

I have seen that are a little conservative, some would say slow, to change the forecasted track or intensity. But i rmemeber hearing some type of quote on "erring on the side of caution" or something like that . . . so i'll excuse that.

Talk about a pressure packed job! How many of have a job where hunreds if not thousands of lives could be lost if you off by about 3%?

821. AySz88
3:32 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
(he posted a new entry.)
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24
820. johnsonwax
3:31 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
You know, when CNN interviews these people riding out the storm in Galveston, they really should put 'Joe Smith, Going to Die Soon' as the caption under him so that maybe relatives can talk some goddman sense into them.

Also suggested that water is already coming over Seawall Ave. west of where the actual wall is. That's not good...
819. weatherwannabe
3:31 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Katrina (first image) meet Rita (second image), Rite, Katrina. Which looks like the meaner bitch? My money is on Rita - what do you think?


Now for Rita

818. ncCANEiac
3:31 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Anywho, somewhere between Galv. area and Port Arthur with high Cat 3/low Cat 4 winds and a Cat 5 surge. Folks better look out!!
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24
817. Remek
3:30 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
The long range NOLA radar is just barely picking up the north outer area near the center.
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 118
816. richandcoup
3:30 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
thanks valence...

i take it besides recon and some buoy observations we are kinda helpless for the next few hours...no radar yet right?
815. gatormom4
3:30 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
I am new here. I have been reading and watching tv stations all day and I am still confused. I am in SE La. A neighbor said she heard the storm would do a North turn. Anybody guesstimates when? I am not sure if I should evacuate. Thanks for all the info.
814. leftyy420
3:28 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
manny i am not an ahole like you. i won;t throw things in ur face for the sake of it but i woul also neevr go against the nhc as they have been doing this longer than i have been alive. but good luck on ur prediction

back to lurk mode
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
813. Valence
3:27 AM GMT on September 23, 2005

Its nothing to do with this site or anything else. Quite simply, the sattellite can't take or send any pictures back when it has no power. They are all solar powered, and when the pass in the earth's shadow, they have no power!

(add to the QTHABA list)

812. Manny
3:27 AM GMT on September 23, 2005

Fair enough, but you remember than if the NHC adjusts their forcast. Just remember it. If I'm wrong, feel free to let me know, and I'll gladly admit it.

Member Since: July 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
811. jillybean
3:25 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
That's what I said earlier---ALLISON!
This is going to seriously suck for us
810. richandcoup
3:25 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
the sat pictures they use on this site, do they go out as well in a few minutes?
809. pseabury
3:25 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Sorry if I missed something directed at me...I was updating my GoogleEarth link to include Rita Radar that some kind gentleman contributed. The link is here if you're interested. The link is KMZ, open it up in Google Earth.
Member Since: May 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
808. leftyy420
3:24 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
manny if urgoing to argue with me thats one thing but ur sayign the experts are rong is just ignorance.

back to lurk mode
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
807. ncCANEiac
3:23 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
One ref. is Floyd. 22 inches of rain in 20 hours here in NC.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24
806. 8888888889gg
3:23 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
is the eye wall back yet it is makeing me lol
805. hmfynn
3:22 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
the northwest movement is very subtle, and shows up better on the black and white Dvorak


Doesn't look to be a wild hard turn though.
The worst part is the feed's about to go down and we'll have to wait 3 hours to see how that pans out.
804. snowboy
3:20 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
folks as a newcomer I humbly apologize for adding fuel to the global warming fire, and hereby pledge to NEVER post another such comment - now if others can take the pledge (no need to post!) then this site can get back to its real purpose.

Re Rita, the NHC discussion and the track/cone (look at the track!) indicate that Rita will make landfall and then STOP. She will just sit there and rain and rain. The ultimate volume of water is unimagineable. Has there been a precedent for this?
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2556
803. windcast
3:20 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
ty johnson, btw enjoyed your earlier post on the global warming thing, impressed me.

the track and strength of Rita is told fairly well with this Link
802. Sundogs
3:20 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
I have been watching a feed from KSLA Shreveport. I wonder how high the Red river will get? Do you think Rita will stall in this area?
801. Manny
3:19 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
I'm going to just come out and flat say it. I don't think many people will believe me, but I'm going with it.

The NHC is wrong, and they're just being slow to admit it.

I'm tending to favor the NAM/ETA right about now. It has verified quite well for several runs, and it continues to do so. I don't know what the GFS is about to spit out in an hour and a half, but I think it will be a lot closer to this line of thinking.

Rita is going to slow imensley as she comes ashore. She probably won't make landfall for over 48 hours. Hopefully this will lead to weakening as she is in the shallow waters over the coast. By contrast, it will dump a lot more rain over Houston. I think landfall just east of Freeport is where she'll come ashore.

Then, when she does make landfall, she's not going very far north of Houston. She'll sit there for days, dumping rain. Tropical Storm Allison anyone?

Once the trof digs in from the west, she'll be pushed to the southwest along the high pressure that will develop over Arizona and untill the trof comes and lifts her out.

Take it for what its worth. I'm not trained, but this scenairo makes the most sense by looking at the 500mb winds and how the NAM has played out. I think the GFS will definetly catch onto it on the next few runs. We'll see, but I'm sticking to this.

Member Since: July 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
800. garnival
3:19 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Spoon, thanks, this is sweet!
799. Remek
3:18 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
Very nice, Spoon! Thx.
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 118
798. SaymoBEEL
3:17 AM GMT on September 23, 2005

Greatest Hits
number 5
click on play
797. leftyy420
3:17 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
wind she will stregthen over night or not at all. by tomm she will be entering cooler waters.
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
796. Geismargirl
3:17 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
WAFB.com Baton Rouge, LA...Jay Grimes is our state Climatologist and works in the LSU Hurricane Center.
795. Valence
3:16 AM GMT on September 23, 2005
I think one of us should just create a link to a web page with the title:

"Questions that have already been answered"


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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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