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Weather

Rita is like a 'buzz saw'
Interview with Chad Myers, CNN's severe weather expert
submitted by Bennett
September 22, 2005 | 11:39 AM



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As Hurricane Rita roars through the Gulf of Mexico, residents of Texas and southern Louisiana are scrambling to get out of the way. CNN.com's Jason White interviewed CNN's severe weather expert, Chad Myers, about Rita's development and how this hurricane compares to past storms.

WHITE: What is determining the path Rita is taking?

MYERS: The hurricane is being driven today because it is on the south side of a high pressure system that is in the Midwest. That high pressure is acting like a little blocker, and it won't allow the hurricane to move north. The track will have to move around the periphery of that high before it can actually hit land.

WHITE: What are the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and how to they affect the intensity of Rita?

MYERS: Some of the sea surface temperatures that we were looking at a couple of days ago were around 88 degrees Fahrenheit. I say a couple of days ago, because now the clouds have spread over that area, and the satellites see only the clouds and not the water. All we know is what the water temperature was before the clouds came in.

Eighty-eight degrees is roughly 8 degrees warmer than it takes for a storm to maintain itself. You are well in excess of the maintenance temperature. Now you are in the growth or enhancement temperature.

WHITE: What part of the Rita is most dangerous and why?

MYERS: As we found out along the Mississippi coast from Bay St. Louis all the way through Pass Christian and Gulfport, the storm surge is always the most dangerous part. It is all relative as to what hits your area.

If you are 300 miles from the eye and yet a small tornado knocks down your house, then to you that is the most dangerous part of the hurricane. The most dangerous part of a hurricane is that it is so large with so many facets.

The most life-threatening part is the bubble of water that rises a foot every 15 or 20 seconds. All of sudden what was dry can now be under 15 feet of water. That is not the flood they had in New Orleans. That came from a levee break. But the mass destruction of every structure along the Mississippi coast -- that was caused by storm surge.

WHITE: How does this season compare to seasons past? Do we often see this many Category 5's?

MYERS: To be very honest, that is a difficult question. Our history is so short. The amount of time that we've had so many people on oceanfront property or near oceans in general has been relatively short. What's even shorter is the amount of time we've had satellites to see these storms.

No one can even say what the hurricane season of 1555 was like. There may have been 50 storms that year. We will never know that. But in our short amount of climatology, this is an unprecedented year. Never have we had so many hurricanes that have been so strong so early.

We know about Galveston in 1900. We know about some storms that hit Florida in the 1800s. But weather records didn't really exist in the Gulf Coast until we started settling Texas. Maybe some of those times whole towns were wiped out that never even reported the storm. There may have been no one left to even report what happened

WHITE: How does Rita compare to other storms you've followed in this or prior years?

MYERS: I hate to use the word classic, but it truly is. It is what textbooks in 10 years from now will picture. They will have case studies of Rita. Rapid intensification, lack of any wind to knock the storms apart, and water temperatures 2 to 3 degrees above where they should be this time of year.

It is a textbook example of a symmetric, totally round, perfect inflow, perfect exit areas. If you look at it from above, it looks like a buzz saw. That is what a classic hurricane looks like -- a saw blade.



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