National Data Buoy Center recording buoys are transmittingwave heights in excess of 30 feet beneath Hurricane Rita.This suggests a possible storm surge in excess of 22-24 feetif the storm does not weaken dramatically in the next fewhours. As Rita moves closer to shore, it is also crossingsomewhat cooler waters and weakening. But on Friday it willstart to intake air from overland, and at present airtemperatures and humidity levels over south Texas andLouisiana are so high that this could strengthen it again.
The odds are that the storm will make landfall in the middleof the Category 4 range, with sustained winds of around 135MPH and gusts up to 170--180 MPH. Should overland air beingdrawn into the hurricane on Friday increase its energy, itcould suddenly return to Category 5 just before it makeslandfall.
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