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.


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