Hurricane Rita has begun to weaken as she approaches land. Hurricanes will often weaken before landfall as they ingest 'dry' air off of the continent. Rita sucked in a big chunk of dry air that reduced her wind speeds to 120 mph, for now. Rita's central pressure is way up to 931 mb, and the eye is looking ragged.
We all know that Rita was previously a Category 5 storm. At one point Rita was the third strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic. Please remember that althought Rita is now a Category 3 storm, she can still pack storm surge of a Category 5!
Below is the latest radar image from Lake St. Charles, LA.
The infrared satellite image shows a slightly weaker core that is trying to again rebuild. The last few hours have shown signs of stabilization after ingesting the drier air. Rita seems to have established a new, smaller eyewall.
An even clearest sign of this is shown in the water vapor imagery. You can clearly see dry air from Louisiana being sucked right into the circulation. Also evident, is the new plume of convection that has formed where there used to be a dry pocket.
The latest model run continues to favor a landfall somewhere near Port Arthur, on the Texas / Louisana border.. Today's motion has been a little to the right of the forecast track, so I am considering a right hook to be a strong possibility. The models have continued to trend to the north so I think this is an increasingly likely scenario, and one that I mentioned earlier this week. At this point I think that Corpus Christi and Galveston will be relatively safe, so South Texas can breathe a sigh of relief. Evacuations should already be complete and at this point anyone left in the evacuation zone should just stay.
Watches and warnings are in effect all over the Gulf Coast:
Worth noting is that the water gets progressively less energetic from here, but still paves a path right towards the Texas / Louisiana border. The map below is of Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential.
I have been hoping that the forecast models would continue to bring Rita inland after landfall, but right now that seems unlikely. The forecast models are continuing to stall the hurricane out after landfall. This could create serious flooding problems across the Gulf Coast. Please remember that during the 90s, the leading killer from hurricanes was inland flooding from rain, while before that storm surge had been the leader. Below I attached two maps of forecast rainfall. The first map is as of 2:00pm CDT Sunday and the second is from then until 1:00pm CDT Tuesday.
Please note that these two maps are not cumulative! You must add the values shown to get the total rainfall! This could bring over a foot to many areas, including the New Orleans area. I don't think I need to remind everyone what a foot of rain will do to New Orleans when her pumps are not working at capacity and the levees have already been breached AGAIN.
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