Hurricane Rita~ Overview



Before-and-after photo reveals the extent of storm-surge flooding from Rita over Southern Louisiana

     Hurricane Rita formed less than a month after Katrina's devastating Gulf-coast strike. After passing south of the Florida Keys on September 20, Rita rapidly strengthened into the second Category 5 hurricane of the season. On September 21, reconnaissance aircraft measured a central pressure of 897mb (26.49"). This was the 3rd lowest pressure ever measured in an Atlantic Basin hurricane, surpassing the 902mb reading recorded in Katrina. It was feared that Rita could equal or even surpass Katrina's destruction...this time aimed at the Galveston / Houston, Texas area. Massive evacuations of more than 2 million residents kept down Rita's death toll. Still, more than 100 people died, mostly in accidents that occurred in the chaotic evacuation.

     Fortunately, Rita weakened significantly before making landfall near the Texas / Louisiana border in the early morning hours of September 24 as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120mph. Like Katrina, Rita carried a massive storm surge ashore that had built up when the hurricane was a Cat. 5 prior to weakening. Storm surges of 15-20 feet were recorded over southwestern Louisiana, devastating many coastal communities such as Cameron and Holly Beach. The outer fringes and associated 5 foot surge struck Katrina-battered New Orleans, causing new breaches in hastily repaired levees. Portions of the city were once again flooded, notably the Lower 9th Ward. Early damage estimates total $9.4 Billion, making Rita the 6th costliest hurricane in history.

Loop Current
This illustration shows the track of Hurricane Rita and its relation to the Loop Current in the Gulf. Passing over this area of extremely warm water provided the high-octane fuel to allow Rita to strengthen into a Category 5 storm.

Peak Winds

Wind Damage

Hurricane Rita Overview Continues


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