21 September 2005

Rita reaches Category 5 intensity...

Hurricane Rita has been very well observed by aircraft today, having four planes in it simultaneously at times.  And based on the data collected by the planes, Rita was upgraded to a CAT5 hurricane at the 21Z advisory today.   The maximum sustained winds are 145kts (maybe higher now?) and the central pressure has plumetted to 904mb and still falling.  This is a big storm, with hurricane-force winds extending 50 miles from the center... this will only grow with time.

Landfall is of course the big concern with this storm (otherwise, it would just be a beautiful vortex over the open ocean!).  Computer model guidance has gradually clustered more around the Port Lavaca area, or roughly halfway between Corpus Christi and Galveston/Houston.  The timing should place Rita near the coast late Friday night into early Saturday morning.  A Hurricane Watch has just been issued for basically the entire TX coast, and evacuations are well underway in Houston, Galveston, Corpus Christi, Port Lavaca, and other smaller towns in between.  A worst-case scenario that people are preparing for is that the storm comes in just south of Galveston, driving Galveston Bay into parts of Houston.

Please visit my tropical Atlantic headquarters.

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