Rita Downgraded to Tropical Storm

September 24, 2005 at 10:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

About 2:30 am early Saturday morning, Hurricane Rita made it’s expected landfall on the coast just east of Sabine Pass, Texas, with winds of 120 mph. It will be another day before first responders can get down to that section of the Texas and Louisiana coast, to survey the damage, and know just how bad it is.

By Saturday afternoon, Rita had weakened as it moved through the Piney Woods of far east Texas, and dropped below hurricane strength, to about 50 mph. But even as Tropical Storm Rita, the storm is still likely to cause problems. The biggest concern now is heavy rain.

Up to a foot of rain has fallen in far east Texas, from Jasper to San Augustine to Center and to just south of Shreveport, Louisiana. Widespread flooding is being reported in those areas. And many tall pine trees have been toppled by high winds, blocking roads and knocking out power to well over a million residents.

In the days ahead, Rita is expected to slowly creep northward toward Little Rock, Arkansas, and then turn eastward toward Memphis, Tennessee. Although the winds will diminish and become insignificant, Rita will still be a heavy rain producer. And all of the rain that falls will drain through creeks and streams that ultimately wind up in the Mississippi River. And of course, the Mississippi flows southward through New Orleans. That could become a big story late next week as the flood crest moves southward.

But here in the metroplex, we haven’t seen even a drop of rain from Rita. It hasn’t been far off. From eastern portions of Dallas, you could hop in your car this afternoon and drive east 15 minutes and find yourself in the rain. But that doesn’t help us out any in Dallas and Fort Worth. It looks like we will remain warm and dry for at least the next five days.


Rita onshore and weakening

September 24, 2005 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rita continues to weaken as it moves north from Beaumont toward Lufkin. Rita made landfall at the mouth of the Sabine River at 2:30 this morning, as a catagory three storm with 120mph winds. Rita will weaken to tropical storm force by late afternoon, as the winds dip below 75mph.

The main threat from Rita will be flooding rain. Parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana may receive more than 20 inches of rain over the next two days.

In the metroplex, we will receive an increase in North winds, from 20 to 30 mph. Some shower activity will occur, but we don’t expect many problems.

Rita Approaching the Texas Coast

September 23, 2005 at 6:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dangerous Hurricane Rita is growing ever nearer the Texas coast. Landfall of the eye is expected around 3am, early Saturday morning, near Port Arthur. But of course, the effects will be felt much earlier. Already heavy rains and gusty winds are lashing southern Louisiana, and they will begin spreading into southeast Texas this afternoon and evening.

The good news is that Rita has been weakening for the past 36 hours. After reaching an incredible 175 mph, and Category 5, Wednesday evening, it has dropped to 125 mph this Friday afternoon. But it is still a strong Category 3 Hurricane, and will likely reach the coast tonight, still a Category 3. The worst damage will be in the southeastern corner of the state, from Sabine Pass, up through Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange. But hurricane force winds will be felt as far west as Houston and Galveston. There will likely be a huge storm surge up into Sabine Lake that will cause immense damage in that area.

As the storm moves inland, it will weaken, of course. But winds over 70 mph will be felt as far north as Lufkin, and maybe Nacogdoches. Many of the tall pines in east Texas will be uprooted, and fall across power lines and across roads. There will be widespread power outages for days, and highway travel will be impossible in many areas until the roads are cleared of the downed trees.

An Inland Tropical Storm Watch has already been posted for the eastern sections of North Texas, including the following counties: Anderson, Freestone, Henderson, Leon, Limestone, Navarro and Robertson. This includes the ares from Corsicana to Cedar Creek Lake to Athens and Palestine. In this region winds will increase on Saturday, and by Saturday night may reach sustained wind speeds of 35 to 45 mph, with some gusts of 50 to 60 mph possible. Two to four inches of rain is likely in those counties.

Then the next big problem is that the weakening Rita is expected to stall out in northeast Texas for several days. There could be a tremendous threat of flooding in northeast Texas and northwest Louisiana from Sunday through Tuesday. Some locations, including Longview, Marshall and Texarkana, may receive over 20 inches of rainfall during that time period. This is very ironic, because all of northeast Texas has been suffering from a year-long drought until this point.

But what about the Metroplex? What will be see here? Probably not very much. Just east of Dallas two or three inches of rain is likely. Dallas may see one to two inches of rain, with Fort Worth maybe receiving less than an inch. West of Fort Worth, rain will be very limited. In fact most of the weekend will be partly cloudy out west. As for wind speeds, we could see 20 to 30 mph winds Saturday night into Sunday. But that shouldn’t be enough to cause any big problems locally. A few tree limbs may come down, which could cause a few brief power outages in a couple of neighborhoods. But that is likely to be the extent of the damage around here.

But on the coast, even with a weakening hurricane, devastating damage is still expected in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, beginning tonight.

Hurricane Rita

September 22, 2005 at 4:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It seems incredible. But for the second time in three weeks, a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico has reached Category 5. Of course, Katrina dropped to Category 4 before landfall. And the same thing may happen with Rita. But winds are now at 175 mph. And it will probably still be around 150 mph when it reaches the Texas coast early Saturday morning, before sunrise. Rita’s central pressure has dropped to 897 millibars, or 26.49 inches. That makes Rita the third most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. Only the Labor Day hurricane that hit the Florida Keys in 1935, and Hurricane Gilbert, that hit the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico in 1988 have registered lower pressures. (Although some typhoons in the western Pacific have shown lower central pressures).

It now looks like Rita may make landfall between Freeport and Galveston. If so, it is the worst possible scenario. That would drive a huge storm surge right across Galveston Island and through Galveston Bay and up the Houston Ship Channel. This could cause devastation on Galveston Island similar to what they experienced in 1900. Thankfully, though, we know this one is coming, so virtually the entire population of the island has been evacuated, so we won’t see a loss of life like we did in 1900.

But as the storm surge and catastrophic winds spread inland, they will impact the Texas City-League City-Pasadena-Baytown area, which hosts the greatest concentration of petroleum refineries in the world. If those are shut down for any significant length of time, as seems likely, it could have a huge impact on gasoline prices. And farther inland, the millions who live in the greater Houston area are going to be severely affected by this storm, with major wind damage and massive flooding.

Eventually, Rita will makes it’s way northward into the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And what will we expect to see here? I am expecting maybe 5 inches or more of rain across north Texas, during Saturday night and Sunday. Most of our lakes are well below normal pool levels, and can take a lot of runoff. So Rita could be a real boon for us, in helping to alleviate the drought. But there will likely be wind gusts still in the 50 mph range this far inland (although sustained winds will be less than 40 mph). And that will be enough to break some tree limbs, which might, in turn, cause sporadic power outages in some neighborhoods. And there is always the possibility of a few tornadoes, but those are going to be very few in number, and spread across a wide area, so it’s not really likely that we will see many tornadoes here.

The real concern is whether Rita will slow down and stall over north Texas. By Monday, the winds will be insignificant, less than 30 mph. But if Rita lingers over north Texas, we could get another 5 inches of rain. And that could mean some serious flooding problems by Sunday night or Monday. Let’s hope that Rita keeps moving.

Hurricane Questions

September 8, 2005 at 11:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Since the catastrophic arrival of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, we have received a number of questions about hurricanes from various viewers in our area. These are questions that come up frequently, so I thought I would pass on thos questions, and my answers here on our weather blog so that others can read them.

1. My question is this. Since there are storm planes that fly through, over and around hurricanes, is it possible for them to drop a timed small explosive into it, out over the ocean. (before it is anywhere near land). Drop it from way above it, with a enough time lapse, and distance, that the plane can be out of the path, when it explodes into the hurricane. Wouldn’t that disperse it?

Answer: We get this question from time to time. But the answer is that most people have no idea of the amount of energy in a typical hurricane. A monster like Katrina is hundreds of miles across, and releases more energy than the entire human race can produce. Dropping a bomb in the middle of a hurricane would be like trying to stop a speeding semi tractor-trailer by sending a gnat flying into the windshield.

Here is a link to the National Hurricane Center, where they answer the same question in more detail:

2. My name is meghan. I am six years old. Why do hurricanes have names and tornados don’t?

Answer: Research has shown that it is much easier for the public to remember a hurricane if it has a name attached to it, instead of just latitude-longitude data. Also, if there are several storms at the same time, it is easier to remember which is which if they have names. For instance, right now, we have Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Nate, and Hurricane Ophelia, all at the same time. And since hurricanes can last a week or more, names make it easier to keep track of them. Here is a link with more information about hurricane names:

Tornadoes, on the other hand, rarely last more than a half hour. In fact, most only last a few minutes. So there is no time to name them before they dissipate. Also, while we generally have 10 to 15 tropical storms or hurricanes each year, there will usually be hundreds of tornadoes across the country. We would run out of names if we tried to name them all!

3. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and how active this hurricane season has been. I’m already surprised that we hit Ophelia for the named system and now (as far as I’ve watched the weather) only 11 names remain. What are the chances that all of the names in the 2005 Hurricane Season will be used up? If that happens, what will happen then? It hasn’t been done in the past but, it seems that theres definitely an off-chance that this will happen. I hope these two questions can be answered.

Answer: We are only now reaching the midpoint of the hurricane season, so you are correct that we could indeed use up the names on the list. In fact, it is very likely to happen, because there are no names used for the letters Q, X, Y or Z. If that happens, my understanding is that the weather service will start naming storms using the Greek alphabet: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, etc… Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

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