Hurricane Rita is continuing her explosive growth and could easilly reach Category 5. Rita just moved out of range of the Key West radar and technical problem had grounded the hurricane hunters this morning, so NHC is flying blind. NHC hopes to have a plane in the area later today The 10:00am CDT advisory listed Rita at 944 mb with 140 mph winds, but satellite estimates continue to show a stronger storm. The latest Dvorak satellite estimate from the University of Wisconsin suggests a Category 5 hurricane of 920.1 mb with winds of 140.0 kts (161.1 mph)!
UPDATE 1:00pm EDT: The latest recon from Hurricane Rita shows that the central pressure is down to 934 mb. That is a huge drop and I suspect this hurricane is going to REALLY crank up.
UPDATE 1:36pm EDT: Recon is reporting a central pressure of 923 mb. Now THIS is bombing out! It looks like the Dvorak satellite pass was actually right and we just needed to get a hurricane hunter in to prove it.
UPDATE 2:15pm EDT: NHC is reporting a central pressure that indeed is matching with the Dvorak satellite estimates. Right now NHC is listing a central pressure of 920 mb with sustained winds of 150 mph. I suspect that within the next few hours we will see a Category 5 storm.
The below radar from Cuba is the last image we are likely to see from a ground radar until the Gulf Coast.
A look at the visible satellite image shows a beautiful, symetric hurricane with very healthy outflow.
The infrared satellite image shows and extremely healthy core capable of supporting an incredible wind field. There are cloud top temperatures below -80 degrees C, which is just about the strongest you can ever see from a hurricane.
From here, eyewall replacement cycles may be the deciding factor in intensity until landfall.