As of a few minutes ago, Rita is a category 5 hurricane, with sustained winds of 165 mph. The National Hurricane Center 2:55 update is below.
WTNT63 KNHC 211955
HURRICANE RITA TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
255 PM CDT WED SEP 21 2005
DATA FROM RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT INDICATE THAT RITA HAS REACHED CATEGORY FIVE INTENSITY WITH ESTIMATED MAXIMUM SUSTAINED SURFACE WINDS OF 165 MPH. THIS WILL BE REFLECTED IN THE 4 PM CDT ADVISORY.
Austin is pretty far inland, but if the hurricane stays on the projected track we'll be getting winds of 50-75 mph and a considerable potential for local flooding. Since I live too close to Onion Creek, this concerns me. Also, the TAOS hazard model gives us a good chance power outages of unknown duration. So, this afternoon I will be getting some new batteries for flashlights and radios. But mainly, the hazard those of who live on Onion Creek face is enough rain to put the creek really high out out of its banks. This has happened during hurricanes in the past, in fact the most severe recorded floods on the creek have been due to rains from stalled hurricanes. Having almost been caught in my house during the last flood, I will probably evacuate with my daughter and the dog and the cats on Friday, if things still look bad locally.
My hope, of course, both for myself and the people who live on the coast, is that the the hurricane diminishes in intensity in the next couple of days. Supposedly the water in the western Gulf is a little cooler than the water where it is now, which will decrease wind speed and storm surge.
A direct hit on Galveston by a cat 5 hurricane would very likely be a real disaster.
Let us hope for cool water in the Gulf of Mexico.