Hurricane Rita 2005
One of the worst storms in US History

Rita, the third Category 5 hurricane of the season, was a destructive and deadly hurricane that devastated portions of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana and significantly impacted the Florida Keys.

A tropical wave and the remnants of an old front combined to produce and area of disturbed weather on 16 September. This system became a depression just east of the Turks and Caicos Islands late on 17 September, which moved westward and became a tropical storm the following afternoon. Maximum winds increased to 70 mph as Rita moved through the central Bahamas on September 19. While the storm did not strengthen during the following night, rapid intensification began on September 20 as it moved through the Straits of Florida. Rita became a hurricane that day and reached Category 2 intensity as the center passed about 50 miles south of Key West, Florida.


Rita's path of destruction

Rita's Radar Image

After entering the Gulf of Mexico, Rita intensified from Category 2 to Category 5 in about 24 hours. The maximum sustained winds reached 165 mph late on September 21, and the hurricane reached a peak intensity of 180 mph early on September 22. Weakening began later that day and continued until landfall around 0740 UTC 24 September just east of the Texas/Louisiana border between Sabine Pass and Johnson's Bayou. At that time, maximum sustained winds were 115 mph (Category 3). Weakening continued after landfall, but Rita remained a tropical storm until reaching northwestern Louisiana late on 24 September. The cyclone then turned northeastward and merged with a frontal system two days later. Rita brought hurricane conditions to southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas. A FCMP instrumented tower at Port Arthur reported 1-min average winds of 94 mph at 0826 UTC September 24 along with a gust of 116 mph. The C-MAN station at Sea Rim State Park, Texas reported 2-minute average winds of 82 mph at 0700 UTC September 24, along with a peak gust of 99 mph.

The hurricane caused storm-surge flooding of 10 to 15 ft above normal tide levels along the southwestern coast of Louisiana, caused a notable surge on the inland Lake Livingston, Texas, and inundated portions of the New Orleans area previously flooded by Katrina. Tropical storm conditions occurred in the Florida Keys, where the C-MAN station at Sand Key reported 10-minute average winds of 72 mph at 2110 UTC September 20 with a gust to 92 mph. The station failed shortly thereafter. Storm surge flooding of up to 5 feet above normal tide levels occurred in the Keys.

Rita produced rainfalls of 5 to 9 inches over large portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and eastern Texas, with isolated amounts of 10 to 15 inches. The cyclone spawned an estimated 90 tornadoes over the southern United States.

Devastating storm surge flooding and wind damage in occurred southwestern Louisiana and extreme southeastern Texas, with some surge damage occurring in the Florida Keys. Rita was responsible for seven deaths, and it caused damage estimated at $10 billion in the United States.

Rita's satellite image



Rita's Track satellite