Monday, September 19, 2005

Rita Forecast: Stronger, Bigger, More Northerly - Updated

As of 11 am EDT Monday, the National Hurricane Center still estimates the chances of Rita passing within 65 nautical miles of Pensacola in the next four days at only 7%. But the forecasting models are showing a more northward shift.

Current NHC findings include --
  • Rita is strengthening and developing a "substantial inner core convection for the first time";
  • The storm is moving north-northwest at 10 mph;
  • "Most of the models have shifted farther north late in the forecast period over the western Gulf of Mexico;
  • "the size of the storm is increasing";
  • Conditions are conducive for further strengthening -- and "an expanding system";
  • "All indications are that Rita will become a major hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico."
As of 11 am Monday, the NHC is warning that "storm surge flooding of 6 to 9 feet above normal tide levels... along with battering waves" is possible in the Florida Keys. "Coastal storm surge flooding of 3 to 5 feet" is possible "along the extreme Southeastern Florida coast... and in the Northwestern Bahamas."

The consensus modeling forecasts for eventual landfall still target South Texas or the Mexican coastal state of Tamaulipas late this week.

The Keys News is reporting that a mandatory evacuation has been ordered for the lower Florida Keys, and there is some concern Rita may become a Category 2 hurricane before striking somewhere in the island chain. Many of the amateur storm watchers at Hurricane City's message board are predicting a first landfall in the northern Keys.

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