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You are here: GES DISC Home Hurricanes Additional Features Science Focus HURRICANE RITA SEPTEMBER 17 - 25 2005


Hurricane Rita track diagram

Figure 1. Hurricane Rita’s path through the Bahamas and Gulf of Mexico.  Rita became the season’s second Category 5 hurricane. 1


Storm Status

Wind Speed

Green=Tropical Depression

<39 mph

Yellow=Tropical Storm

39-73 mph

Light Red=Category 1-2 Hurricane

74-110 mph

Dark Red=Category 3-5 Hurricane



Rita was the second hurricane in less than a month to pose a significant threat to the battered coastline of Louisiana. 

Storm History

Tropical Depression 8 developed during the late night hours of September 17, just east of the Turks and Caicos as an area of fairly organized showers and thunderstorms.  By 5 PM EDT on September 18, surface wind speeds in the depression increased to near 40 mph, and Rita became the 17th named storm of the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

By Tuesday morning (September 20), Rita became the 9th hurricane of the season as she passed between the Florida Keys and extreme northwestern Cuba.  The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico fueled Rita into a monster over the next few days as she began an incredible intensification phase.  At 11PM EDT on September 21, Rita’s central pressure dropped to 897 mb—and she became the fourth most intense hurricane in terms of pressure in the Atlantic basin, behind Gilbert, and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, and Hurricane Wilma.  Surface winds are estimated to have increased to near 175 mph during this intensification phase.

Hurricane Rita gave everyone a scare as she approached the northwestern Gulf, passing within one hundred miles of the Katrina-battered Louisiana coastline.  Thankfully, Rita weakened prior to landfall, and came ashore as a Category 3 hurricane around Sabine Pass, near the Texas-Louisiana border.2


Rita RGB
MODIS Terra RGB using the MOD02HKM product. This image is of the swath data from Sept 21 at 1615 hrs. More images like this and parameters animation created from other datasets can be seen in our Archive Image Gallery for hurricane Rita .



1. Image courtesy of the NOAA coastal Services Center  Http://

2. Brown, Daniel P; Knabb, Richard D; Rhome, Jamie R. “Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Rita.” 17 March 2006. (9 July 2006).

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Last updated: May 27, 2010 04:35 PM ET