Monster Storm: Hurricane Rita Churning Toward Texas

With Katrina still fresh on everyone's minds, officials are urging people to heed warnings and evacuate in anticipation of Hurricane Rita, now an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm heading for Texas. Areas all along the Texas coast were under mandatory evacuation orders, including Galveston Isla


With Katrina still fresh on everyone's minds, officials are urging people to heed warnings and evacuate in anticipation of Hurricane Rita, now an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm heading for Texas.

Areas all along the Texas coast were under mandatory evacuation orders, including Galveston Island, Corpus Christi, Padre Island and Mustang Island.

In just over 12 hours (between 2 a.m. and 4 p.m.), the storm jumped from a Category 2 hurricane with 115 mph winds to Category 5 status with winds reaching 165 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Rita is the third most intense hurricane on record (898 mb) indicated by measuring the pressure of the storm in millibars -- behind Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 (888 mb) and the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane (892 mb).

As of the latest advisory (8 p.m. Wednesday), Rita was located of the coast of Texas about 600 miles from Galveston or 700 miles from Corpus Christi. The hurricane is projected to hit between Port Arthur and Corpus Christi sometime between the afternoon on Sept. 23 and early morning Sept. 24. Some weakening could occur but forecasters at the NHC said the storm is expected to remain at least a Category 3 hurricane when it makes landfall.

A hurricane watch has been issued from Port Mansfield, Texas, to Cameron, Louisiana; meanwhile, a tropical storm watch has been issued east of Cameron to Grand Isle, Louisiana, and south of Port Mansfield to Brownsville, Texas. In addition, the Government of Mexico issued a tropical storm watch for the northeastern coast of Mexico, from Rio San Fernando northward. As the storm gets closer, the watches and warnings will be updated.

Rita, the 17th named storm of the season, is the ninth hurricane and fifth to be classified as a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher). Also reaching "major" status this year was Dennis (Category 4), Emily (Category 4), Katrina (Category 5) and Maria (Category 3).

For more information, go to theNational Hurricane Center's Web site.

www.nhc.noaa.gov

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