More Hurricane Talk as Rita Intensifies

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Tropical Storm Rita is now Hurricane Rita as predicted. The National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm this morning and we are beginning to see a pretty well-organized storm.

I’m continuing to pay attention and make preparations as are a lot of people. The grocery store was packed last night. Lots of interesting stuff with this storm.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Rita should hit the Florida Keys today as a category 1 storm, the smallest of the storms.

They expect varying intensification over the next few days and ultimately have it making landfall somewhere along the central Texas coast as a category 3 storm with winds in the 120mph range.

The latest model guidance has again shifted to the south, but as Eric Berger (the Chronicle’s SciGuy) points out in his latest blog, hurricanes are unpredictable and have a LARGE margin for error.

Concerns about the line were precipitated last August by Hurricane Charley, which forecasters had aimed squarely at Tampa Bay. But in the hours before landfall, Charley made a sharp right turn, landing nearly 100 miles south of Tampa Bay in Punta Gorda, although still well within forecasters’ “hurricane warning” zone.

After the storm, however, some residents in Punta Gorda and surrounding Charlotte County complained they didn’t feel they were adequately warned because it appeared the storm would miss them.

There’s a good lesson in there for all of us in Texas hanging on updated forecasts from the National Hurricane Center every six hours.

As Charlotte County emergency management director Wayne Sallade told me at the national conference this year, residents need to better understand the fickle nature of storms.

“Take it to the bank and put it in the vault,” he said. “If there’s a hurricane warning you’re going to have hurricane conditions.”

We’re not under a hurricane warning along the upper Texas coast — yet.

The “skinny black line” is the dash line you see on the official NHC tracking maps. The larger white area is the cone of error and is more important to watch since we will most certainly be in the cone.

In other words, pay attention. Predictions are just that – predictions.

For good info on the tropics, here are a few links:

National Hurricane Center
Weather Underground
Golden Triangle Hurricane Page
Houston Chronicle SciGuy Blog
Dr. Jeff Masters Blog
Steve Gregory’s Blog

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