Tuesday, September 20, 2005

ENV: Rita official update

SEPT 20, 2005 / 11:15 PM CDT

HURRICANE RITA NEARS MAJOR CATEGORY 3 INTENSITY
EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CATEGORY 4 STORM
SURGE FREEPORT TO TEXAS/LA STATE LINE POSSIBLE SATURDAY

RECON and Satellite imagery continues to show Hurricane Rita intensifying rapidly -- and is likely to reach Major Hurricane Status within a few hours.

Latest reported pressure was 965mb, with MAX sustained surface winds of 100mph. The storm is currently located near 24.1N/83.2W -- about 90NM WSW of Key West -- and very near Dry Tortugas.

The storm is moving west at 12Kts. Rita is a fairly large and still growing hurricane, with sustained gale force winds extending over 110NM in the northern semi-circle and about 70 miles to the south.

All models continue to forecast RITA to intensify to a CATEGORY 4, very Dangerous Hurricane, within the next 24-36 hours as upper level outflow winds continue to increase in all quadrants, and SST's remain near 84°F or higher across the entire Gulf -- and as long as the storm continues moving at a steady 10Kts or faster, water temps are warm enough to sustain a CAT 4 Hurricane.

The models continue to forecast an erosion of the sub-tropical high now over the Gulf coast states, and Rita is expected to begin turning northwestward in about 48 hours, with a further curvature to a NNW heading by Friday night, some 18-24 hours before landfall. The last 3 model runs have shown a strong consensus for landfall along the upper Texas coast -- from near Port O'Connor to just east of Galveston.

Although the average track forecast errors for 96 hours out is well over 200 miles -- there is a high confidence level in this track because the overwhelming majority of models are forecasting this track evolution -- and have done so for many model run cycles in a row.

While CATEGORY 4 status is excepted to be reached, there will be periods of intensity fluctuation as is typical of very strong hurricanes - primarily a result of eye wall replacement cycles -- and which is impossible to predict.

Although this storm is not expected to be as Catastrophic as Katrina in terms of absolute storm surge heights and aerial extent -- it very well may bring a severe, CATEGORY 4 Storm surge to a 50-80NM stretch of coast.

With oil and product imports along with a very large proportion of oil and especially Natural Gas production located near Galveston north and east to off the coast of Louisiana -- the potential total impact on the U.S. energy production is almost of unimaginable levels.

Those living in the coastal areas from Port O'Connor to Lake Charles, LA should begin preparations to evacuate.

Those living from near Freeport to Galveston are advised to evacuate sooner rather than later - if at at all practical.

The next full update will be late Wed AM after the 12Z model cycle completes. Brief status updates will be sent as warranted.


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