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Rita: 3rd strongest hurricane ever

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 12:08 AM GMT on September 22, 2005

The 7:09 pm eye report from the hurricane hunters found a 904 mb pressure and flight level winds of 161 knots (186 mph). This pressure makes Rita the 3rd strongest Atlantic hurricane of all time. Tonight, Rita will be passing over the Loop Current, a warm eddy of water in the Gulf that aided Katrina's growth to a Category 5 hurricane. Fueled by this pool of deep warm water and an almost ideal upper level wind environment, Rita should continue to intensify until Thursday morning, when she will pass beyond the Loop Current. The eye has shrunk to 20 nm diameter from 25 nm earlier this afternoon. By the time the eye shrinks down to 10 nm, the eyewall will collapse and an eyewall replacement cycle begin, putting an end to this intensification cycle. With potentially another 12 hours to go before this happens, Rita could challenge Gilbert's 888 mb pressure record.

The list of strongest hurricanes of all time now reads:

Hurricane Gilbert (888 mb, 1988)

The Great Labor Day Hurricane (892 mb, 1935)

Hurricane Rita (898 mb, 2005)

Hurricane Allen (899 mb, 1980)

Hurricane Katrina (902 mb, 2005)

Hurricane Camille (905 mb, 1969)

I expect to rewrite this list when the next reconnaissance aircraft reaches Rita about 9pm tonight. How low can Rita go?

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Rita -- 898mb

3rd most intense ever.
Um, is it just me or does the 8pm tracking map show 898mb, not 904? Haven't seen it anywhere else but it sure wouldn't surprise me...

pressure 898 wow! i imagine winds will hit 180 soon.
anybody else notice the slight northward wobble in the last two satellite frames?
Did I mss something here. The 5 PM coordinates were 24.4 86.8 and the 8 PM were 24.5 86.8. That means the storm moved only 6 miles north in three hours!!
how strong can a storm grow? they seem worse with each one.......Being in Ivan, I cant imagine getting hit by this storm at it's present strenth.........898, wow
Yes...yes, I did notice the northward wobble :\ It doesn't make me happy.

By the way, I'm living in Fort Walton Beach, Florida...I'm an ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) operator, SKYWARN wannabe, and a weather nut =)

the storm doesn't really seem to be moving much at all anymore...it just keeps growing
Heading north of predicted track it seems. I see that too.

(Hard to access this blog).

Explain this motion the past three hours!
N-S or S-N wobbles don't mean anything unless the direction stays consistent for several hours. Small temporary wobbles are normal. Once Rita gets into an eyewall replacement she'll likely wobble a bit more until the new eyewall settles down.
post a link at what your looking at? new to blogs, if you couldnt tell :)

Where are the computer model sites?
the new 18z gfdl (along with the 18z gfs) also has the track heading into galveston bay. there will likely be a track change of up 45-50 miles to the north for the newest advisory.
Hi people, I cant believe shes ranked 3rd already. She may test second tonight.
The official track still stubbornly is holding onto a Madagorda Bay landfall, but I expect it to change very soon.

Make no mistake - Galveston is in the crosshairs on this one. And even if Rita does weaken, more than likely it'll still be a CAT-4 when it makes landfall, and pushing a 25+ foot wall of water in front of her when she does.

Galveston Island is a death trap if people elect to stay.
I just went through KAtrina here in south MS, I would hate to see this one turn N at the last minute and come here. We could not make it through a 2nd monster.
the weather channel satellite shows a great view of Rita moving north of predicted path
I'm not talking about a wobble. I'm talking about the apparent lack of motion as indicated by the NHC 5 pm versus 8 PM advisory. It dosen't match the satelite presentation that shows movement during the last three hours of at lead .4 Deg. What gives!!!
N-S wobbles do not mean much is true, but this thing has been wobbling north quite a bit today
how strong can a storm grow?

iirc, that super typhoon (the 870mb one) in the pacific had hurricane winds out almost 300 miles from the center, ts winds were out over 600miles
whenever the new gfs link comes out can someone post it? Thanks!
sorry I mean at L-e-a-s-t .4 deg
Pay no attention to that wobble behind the curtain.

Thats not really movement to the north. You can't trust your eyes.
24. amd
i think the winds and pressure with this storm will approach all time records in the next few hours, before the eventually eye wall replacement cycle.

The one thing that really worries me is that the eye wall replacement cycle should be over well before landfall, which would give the storm plenty of time to rev back up, right?
n-s wobbles don't mean much is true but this thing has been wobbling north all day.
I agree, Rita's current IR sat position againist the forecast position is clearly north. The motion appears to be more than just a single wobble.
Typhoon Tip is the most intense and largest tropical cyclone on record. This 1979 storm caused widespread flood damage across most of Japan.

The cyclone formed in the northwestern Pacific Ocean on October 5, 1979 as Tropical Depression 23. It strengthened to Tropical Storm status on October 6, and became a Typhoon on October 9. After moving into a very favorable environment for development, Typhoon Tip quickly strengthened into Super Typhoon Tip on October 11 and its pressure dropped from 996 to 898 mbar (hPa). It was during this time that Tip's diameter reached a record 1,350 miles (2,170 km) wide, with tropical storm force winds extending 675 miles (1,085 km) from the center. To put it another way, if a similar-sized hurricane hit south Florida directly, tropical storm force winds would be felt as far north as Charlotte, North Carolina and as far south as Merida, Mexico and Kingston, Jamaica. On October 12, Super Typhoon Tip continued to intensify, with winds at 190 mph (305 km/h) and central pressure at 870 mbar (hPa), the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in a tropical cyclone.

After reaching its peak on the 12th, Tip slowly weakened as it headed toward Japan. It made landfall on Honshu on October 19 as a minimal typhoon but nonetheless caused significant damage. Tip cost the agricultural and fishing industries of Japan millions of dollars in damage. There were 68 deaths from Tip, including many due to floods that breached a fuel retaining wall in Camp Fuji
wonder what the pressure is at 11 pm
Yeah, Remk, but climatologically the Gulf of Mexico can't support a storm like Tip in the Western Pacific. For one thing, the western Pacific has the highest SSTs in the world. Secondly, the Gulf is too shallow and doesn't provide the energy potential to support such a storm.

I think Rita will peak at about 890mb and 190mph winds sometime between now and 5am tomorrow morning (when the diurnal convective cycle ends and Rita leaves the Gulf eddy current). This would still make her the most intense hurricane ever to be in the Gulf...
What's the chances of Rita crossing 90W while still under 25W? Could that be a good thing? Maybe keep it south of Galveston.
Ivan "wobbled" at the last minute and ask Gulf shores and P'cola how important they are.
I agree, Rita's current IR sat position againist the forecast position is clearly north. The motion appears to be more than just a single wobble.

I dunno. I'm gonna go check into our nightly radio net at 2000 CDT, eat dinner, and come back and look at it. I'm repressing being concerned about it in the interests of good science...?

Probably not smart, since I'm planning on being in Mississippi on Fri/Sat.
nados heading into downtown minneapolis st paul
The 5 PM coordinates were 24.4 86.8

That must have been a typo should have been 86.5.
Accuweather has it at 24.5 87.1. This makes more sense. I think the NHC screwed up the advisory!!

More than likely, Rita will cross 25W before she gets to 90W. Meaning that every point in TX south of Corpus will be out of the cone.
I understand the movement may be a wobble, but a few more wobbles north and the impact to the Louisiana coast seems much more severe. Which is what worries me.....
The NHC corrected their recon for the corrected positions
whenever the new gfs link comes out can someone post it? Thanks!

87.1 is not correct, look at the last VORTEX.
Could a 25-30' storm surge up Galveston Bay push water all the way into downtown Houston?
I am holding with my forecast from last night Galveston, with 145 MPH winds on Saturday morning.
How many wobbles does it take to change the trajectory of the storm this far out. Seems a north or south wobble could have significant longe range effects.
Let me clear this up. I wasn't concerned about a movement .1 deg North. What didn't make sense was an advisory that did not move storm mre then 6 miles in three hours. Yet it stated the motion was West at 13 MPH. Doesn't follow the data.

That scenario is very possible. Buffalo Bayou which goes through downtown Houston empties into the Houston Ship Channel, which feeds into Galveston Bay. A 25-30' surge would push that water right up the Bayou and would cause at least some flooding downtown.
Yeah, Remk, but climatologically the Gulf of Mexico can't support a storm like Tip in the Western Pacific. For one thing, the western Pacific has the highest SSTs in the world. Secondly, the Gulf is too shallow and doesn't provide the energy potential to support such a storm.

agreed. don't think we'll get anything that large or with that low pressure. wind speeds are a different matter
Right gns as I said I think they screwed up the 5pm position.
gnshpdude it was probably a typo, they will correct it in the next advisory/

What does this mean the corrected there recon?? Does it mean the recon shows 24.5 86.8 or that thet goofed on the 8 PM advisory?
Well, as of 6:50CDT, NHC is saying Rita is now #3 on the all time list. Min central pressure of ~898 MB. And it's just now entering the Loop Current eddy.

So what are the correct coordinates as of 8 PM?
I am glad to see that the residents from Galveston and areas surrounding, that were here last night in this blog, are not here, and are hopefully staying at relatives houses about 200 miles inland.
53. amd
i think pressures in the western pacific are generally a little bit lower than in the atlantic. That's why storms like tip and allen could have the same peak winds (190 mph), but have vastly different pressures (870 mb and 899 mb) respectively.

gns the 8pm coords are correct! The 5PM coords are incorrect!
I live near Fort Walton Beach, FL near 30.4 86.6 and would just like to know when the storm is west of us:-)
gnshpdude, there is an error in the recon message, which caused an additional error in the advisory. They will be correct by 11 PM
Thanks FLex .... That is the next point I'm going to watch for....90W under 25N.

Not according to Accuweather
I hate being told you are not seeing what you are seeing. It is there. Explain it. If it is not important say so and explain why.
Every storm this happens.
it is west of you
Its water under the bridge for the 8PM coordinates, other than for verifying model data. The Satellite images tells us where she is until the NHC corrects the mistake at 11PM. They will most likely post another update before then.
It appears the models are moving up the coast from Matagorda. Hmm.
And these are our experts at the NHC lol!
Does anyone have a decent link to the current model runs? When I look at the WU ones the screen is all messed up...Thx
Gns then accuweather is wrong.
One of the biggest problems I see with NHC, there should be more communication, maybe more discussions.
I wish we could get a new vortex every hour. :(
hi saymo, 79, amd and everyone else...no offense to everyone here but where's the regulars? is this blog overwhelmed at the moment?
yes this is all truly frightening, not just for the western gulf but for the fact that we are watching this happen...again...
Remek at 12:34 AM GMT on September 22, 2005.

what does the GFS say - I'm in west houston outside of the 500yr floodplane and feel ok if it hits port o'connor but if it hits galveston we gotta go!!!

also all hotel rooms to Tulsa and Sante Fe are booked from Katrina and Rita evacs.

hoping the best from 77043
Some of the regulars are still posting on the old blog entry.
hey aquak9, not sure where the regulars are... may be lurking, or in another blog...
someone says there is a chatroom set up. maybe they're there.
Dr. Lyons on the WC just mentioned that there appears to be a more northward movement.
are the winds in the hurrican at 190mph yet if not how soon?
New post with unreal horrible news read it!!
Dr. Masters has a new post
finnadat, the GFS takes her to Galveston in 66 hours
Wow...the latest satelite imagery is beautiful. I'd love to have a huge wall sized poster of that. As long as she weakens and comes ashore as a 'sedate' Cat 3, it would be awesome to see just how strong she could get.

I agree with the comments about how important wobble can be. Not only Ivan, but this year with Dennis. It looked like Dennis was going to hit FWB as a strong Cat 4. As always seems to be the case when storms hit the Emerald Coast, this one hit a ridge and lost intensification. Then it wobbled...and when it wobbled it also laid on it's side. The result was that instead of Destin getting swamped and the barrier islands being destroyed, P'cola ended up getting a sort of 'dry surge'. The winds stayed aloft and did not drag the storm surge into Destin that it should have. They continued to stay aloft till almost due north of the eye, which kept the storm from losing strength as the winds wrapped around the eye and dragged across dry land. So, P'cola got hit with strong winds like you would expect to see on the surge side of the storm, but because the winds were coming in from dry land, there were no waves. Hence, what I call a 'dry surge'. FWB-Destin got lucky....so did P'cola/Gulf Breeze. I was going nuts trying to figure out why the storm crew in Destin were basically dry as bones (comparitavely speaking), it wasn't till after the storm was over and I had a chance to examine the data that I realized that the storm had not just wobbled, it had laid on its side in a diagonal, like a child's top that is losing energy. It also kind of reminded me of back in the old LP record days when I would have a stack of 33s on the turntable and I'd put my finger on one side and the record would lean to one side...which gave me an image of God reaching down and putting a finger on the edge of the storm causing it to lean...maybe 'intelligent design' trying to keep an area already devastated by storm after storm from getting destroyed. OK, so I'm right brained and imaginative...give me points for imagery and expression!
J Masters ha a new blog thread with very interesting info
latest gfs looks like landfall's moved n to just s of houston. can't see clearly exactly where, though, through all the isobars
can't rely on only gfs, nhc folks know how to better interpret all the different models better than we do
Company---I'ze jus a'wake.
I'ze in a bi' of a turmoil 'rite now.
Sorree...Is I gettin' yer lingo dude?
Ya' is puttin' me brain-box in seveer distress.
Me corpus callosum is in real spin (see sat'lite piktures).
Whenz you'ze going stop stressin' me apostropheeze?

Will you release me from the tyranny that you have placed me under?
There is no productive way forward for either you or for me, while you insist on your present course of action.
Inevitably, I have to follow your directions.
To what mutual end are you directing us both?
Given your present procedures, it can only be towards mutually assured destruction.

By the way, got any 3',5',dihydroxy-heptanol?
I'll pay.

Please...It's not personal...I'm only trying to survive.

Yours truly,
Your GlobalWeatherSystem