Echoes of Camille and 1900?
Bob King of the Palm Beach Post is an excellent source for all hurricane-related news and today he speculates on the potential size and path of Rita.
Rita is currently a Category 4 storm – but it may go higher:
The hurricane center says: “It would not be a surprise if Rita became a category five hurricane in the next 24 hr before weakening somewhat due to a concentric eyewall cycle or the lower ocean heat content west of the Loop Current.”
The Loop Current is the ribbon of flow that contains the Gulf of Mexico’s warmest water. (Interestingly, Kerry Emanuel’s new Divine Wind book discusses the possibility that 1969′s Hurricane Camille, one of only three Cat 5′s known to have struck the U.S. mainland, grew to a monster by riding the Loop Current all the way to landfall. Had it wobbled off track by a few miles, it may have weakened.) And a “concentric eyewall cycle” is sort of the hurricane equivalent of molting, which causes the storm to weaken a little while the eyewall reforms.
Rita’s current forecast has it going ashore between Houston and Corpus Christi, TX, reminding King of the storm of 1900 that hit Galveston, TX.
That hurricane killed anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 people, making it the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, while wiping out a city that considered itself the “Jewel of Texas.”
Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes, a new book by MIT researcher Kerry Emanuel, lays out the combination of hubris, prejudice and flat-out stupidity that compounded the disaster: Galveston leaders and the local U.S. Weather Bureau chief considered their city immune from hurricanes’ storm surge, and the bureau’s Washington office refused to believe reports from “inferior and alarmist” Cuban forecasters who said the hurricane was heading into the gulf. Instead, Emanuel writes, “the Bureau was warning fishermen in New Jersey to stay in port.”