Thursday, September 22, 2005

"I still hear your sea winds blowin'"

As Josh noted in the comments, we've got the muggies to go along with the warm temperatures in the Washington metro area this afternoon. Although the temperatures in the upper 80s are well above the long-term average for the date of 77, the record of 98 set in 1895 is in no jeopardy. (That must have been quite a heat wave in 1895: All of the temperature records for the 5 days from the 19th to the 23rd of September were set that year. The records ranged from 94 through 98.) Unfortunately, there is no rain in sight to break our nearly month-long drought.

Tonight will be mostly clear with lows near 70 in the city, upper 60s in the suburbs. Clouds will increase tomorrow afternoon as a cold front approaches from the Midwest. There is a 40% chance of showers.

Tropical Beat

After reaching maximum sustained winds of 175 mph and an estimated minimum pressure of 897 mb, Rita has weakened to Category 4 at "only" 145 mph. The Weather Channel has noted that this is only the third time that there have been 2 category 5 storms in the same year. The other 2 years were 1960 and 1961. If Rita makes landfall as a Category 4, it will be only the second time that 2 storms have made landfall in the U.S. at Category 4 or higher in the same year. (The other year was 1915.)

At 5pm, Rita was located about 405 miles southeast of Galveston, headed west-northwest at 9 mph. The good news on the forecast track is that it has shifted to the east of the immediate Houston/Galveston area, so the highly-populated (and low-lying) area could be spared the worst impact. The bad news is that it puts the worst effects into an area with a high concentration of offshore oil platforms and an onshore area with about 25% of the entire country's refinery capacity. The 5pm update also raised tropical storm warnings as far east as (shudder) New Orleans.

Rita Resources

If you have connections to the Houston area, or just want to follow what is happening there, the Houston Chronicle has special coverage online. As of mid afternoon, cable news was showing 5 or 6 lanes of northbound I-45, plus several feeder lanes, completely gridlocked, while police were attempting to clear the southbound lanes for reversal. Wolf Blitzer was haranguing the police chief over "why it took so long."

The Chronicle science reporter has a SciGuy blog on the storm, although the link was broken when I tried it earlier. Here are some interesting storm discussion sites I gleaned from the SciGuy:The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is running an experimental super-high-resolution model (4 km) called the ARW, but like most research, it's a bit later than real-time. The output currently displayed is from last night's 00Z (8pm EDT) data.

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Seasonal Outlook

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