Thursday, September 22

RITA TRACKING AWAY FROM HOUSTON-GALVESTON

Here's a late afternoon update from the folks at the "Houston Chronicle" (registration required for online edition), who I continue to applaud for their excellent coverage of the gathering storm.

Excerpts follow from their report filed at 5:13pm CDT:

Hurricane Rita weakened this morning from a top-of-the-scale Category 5 hurricane to a Category 4 as it swirled across the Gulf of Mexico, and forecasters said it could lose more steam by the time it comes ashore late Friday or early Saturday.

And in the afternoon, Rita made a sharper-than-expected turn to the right, and it appeared that Houston and nearby Galveston might escape a direct hit. Instead, it looked as if Rita might come ashore near Port Arthur or Lake Charles, La., at least 60 miles up the coast.

At 4 p.m. CDT, Rita was centered about 405 miles southeast of Galveston and was moving at near 9 mph. Its winds were near 140 mph, down from 175 mph earlier in the day. Forecasters predicted it would come ashore somewhere along a 350-mile stretch of the Texas and Louisiana coast that includes Port Arthur near the midpoint.

For those of you unfamiliar with Texas and the Gulf Coast area, this earlier post of mine provides a couple of links to maps that will be helpful.