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
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
Center's Web site.