23 September 2005

Rita less than 24 hours from the coast...

At 15Z, Rita was located at 27.4N 91.9W, about 200 miles from Sabine TX.  Aircraft-measured intensity is 115kts and 929mb.  It is in the midst of an eyewall replacement cycle, so the intensity may fluctuate +/- 10-15 kts.   Hurricane Warnings are in effect from Port O'Connor TX eastward to Morgan City LA.

Landfall is still expected to occur between Galveston TX and Cameron LA, perhaps near the small coastal town of Sabine TX.  Intensity is a great forecast problem, but should be CAT 3/4 barring any unforeseen changes.  The majority of hurricane conditions leading up to landfall will occur during the early morning hours on Saturday, then landfall itself should be around sunrise-ish.  Hurricane-force winds will be felt about 85 miles to the east and west of the landfall point, including Houston and Lake Charles.  The following map shows the potential storm surge from Rita:  http://www.fema.gov/hltdata/attachments/u1_sabine_slosh.jpg

My friend and photojournalist Allan Detrich is in Beaumont TX with reporter Dennis Roddy from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  They are at the Civic Center there, and report that the city is a ghost town, barely anyone to be seen, gas is very hard to come by, and winds are ~15mph and picking up slowly.  Sites along the coast are already seeing water levels rise several feet: this site shows the tidal gauge data from Sabine, TX, which is right on the coast at the TX/LA state border.

You can also follow the storm via the Lake Charles radar at http://radar.weather.gov/radar/latest/DS.p20-r/si.klch.shtml or via the Houston radar at http://radar.weather.gov/radar/latest/DS.p20-r/si.khgx.shtml

Part 2 of issues with Rita is that the steering flow is forecast to be basically non-existant once it's inland a bit, leaving it to rain for days over TX/LA/AR/OK... possibly dumping over 2 FEET of rain.  And of course, the usual threat of tornadoes exists associated with the hurricane.

Philippe is STILL hanging on as a tropical storm, barely recognizable as a tropical entity.  As of 15Z today, it was located at 31.1N 63.2W (just southeast of Bermuda) and the estimated intensity was 35kts and 1005mb.  It is heading north, and has prompted Bermuda to issue a Tropical Storm Warning.

Elsewhere, something that spun off of Philippe is presently halfway between Bermuda and Puerto Rico and could be worth watching over the next few days.  Also, a large tropical wave that exited Africa yesterday morning is located at about 12N 28W and bears watching... although the vertical shear is VERY high over it now, the low-level energy should persist and could develop when conditions improve.

Please visit my tropical Atlantic headquarters.

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