Rita became the 17th named storm of the current season over the weekend, as maximum sustained winds neared 50 mph (85 km/hr) with higher gusts. Miami’s National Hurricane Center warned that the storm could become a full-blown hurricane within the next 24 hours. “Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 70 miles, 110 km, mainly north and east of the center,” said the latest NHC bulletin.
Rita is currently about 275 miles (445 kms) east-southeast of Nassau. The storm is moving toward the west-northwest at around 10 mph (17 km/hr). The NHC forecasts a general west-northwest to westward motion that’s “expected to occur for the next 24 hours. On this track Rita will be moving through the southeastern and central Bahamas today.” The 3-day forecast track indicates that Rita could hit Southern Florida and the Florida Keys as early as Tuesday morning.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for a portion of the Northwestern Bahamas, and the NHC said a “hurricane warning remains in effect for all of the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas, including Florida Bay. A hurricane warning is also in effect for the Northwest Bahamas, excluding Grand Bahama and the Abacos. A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch remain in effect from Deerfield Beach southward to Florida City and continuing westward to east Cape Sable. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands, for the southeast and central Bahamas and for Grand Bahama and the Abacos.” A hurricane watch is also in place for northern portions of Cuba. The NHC also warned of possible heavy rainfall, storm surges and high waves accompanying the storm.
The Center is also tracking Hurricane Philippe, which is currently about 390 miles (630 kms) east of the Leeward Islands. The storm is reported to be moving toward the north-northwest near 8 mph (13 km/hr), which is expected to continue for the next 24 hours. Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 mph (120 km/hr) with higher gusts. The NHC said, “additional strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours.” While Philippe does not appear to threaten either the U.S. or the Caribbean, if it remains on its current track, it could hit Bermuda later in the week.
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