Hurricane Rita Strengthens to Category 2
Hurricane Rita has achieved Category 2 and is predicted to hit Category 3 by the time it hits the Gulf Coast late in the week.
Rita strengthened rapidly on Tuesday to a Category 2 hurricane as it lashed the Florida Keys with flooding rain and strong wind and sparked fears the storm could eventually bring new misery to the Gulf Coast. Rita went from a tropical storm with top sustained wind of 70 mph early Tuesday to a hurricane with 100 mph wind by early afternoon as it passed just south of the Keys, the National Hurricane Center said.
Thousands of residents and tourists had fled the low-lying island chain, where forecasters said Rita could dump up to 8 inches of rain, down from earlier forecasts of up to 15 inches.
Rita threatened to continue gaining strength as it left Florida and crossed the warm Gulf of Mexico for a weekend landfall, most likely in Texas although Louisiana or northern Mexico could end up in the path of what could become a major hurricane. “Farther out, we do anticipate further strengthening up to Category 3, or major hurricane status,” Chris Sisko, a meteorologist at the hurricane center, said before Rita rose to Category 2. Category 3 storms have maximum sustained wind of 130 mph.
Lovely. The good news is that the low lying areas are already largely evacuated.