In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita triggered one of the largest evacuations in US history.
Hurricane Rita was a very intense Atlantic hurricane that caused significant damage to the U.S. Gulf Coast in September 2005. It formed from a complicated interaction between two different weather systems. A tropical wave moved off the West African coast on September 7, 2005. It failed to organize any noteworthy convection over the Atlantic Ocean until it merged with the active remnants of a cold front north of Puerto Rico ten days later. At that point it began to organize and the new system was declared a tropical depression on 18 September about 113 km (70 mi) east of Grand Turk. The storm intensified into a tropical storm later that day and remained at that strength for two days. On 20 September, Tropical Storm Rita strengthened into a hurricane over the Florida Straits and continued to intensify quite rapidly as it moved into the Gulf of Mexico. Tracking over the very warm waters of the Loop Current and within an environment of very weak vertical wind shear, Hurricane Rita grew from a tropical storm to a powerful Category 5 hurricane in less than 36 hours, with a peak intensity of 286 km/h (178 mph) winds. Due to an eyewall replacement cyccle Rita abruptly weakened to Category 4 strength with 230 km/h (144 mph) maximum winds late on 22 September. Due to increasing southwesterly wind shear and slightly cooler waters, steady weakening continued on 23 September. Hurricane Rita made landfall about 258 km (161 mi) southeast of Sabine Pass at the Texas/Louisiana border, on 24 September as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 185 km/h (115 mph). Hurricane force winds were sustained more than 240 km (150 mi) inland and tropical storm force winds were felt as far north as the LA-TX-AR border.
Although the hurricane weakened prior to and after making landfall, Rita produced a significant storm surge that devastated coastal communities in southwestern Louisiana, and its winds, rain, and tornadoes caused fatalities and a wide swath of damage from eastern Texas to Alabama. An estimated surge of 4.6 m (15 ft) pushed as far inland as 40 km (25 mi) in the low-lying, susceptible communities along the western Louisiana coast. A number of parishes several miles from the coast were completely inundated with up to 3.7 m (12 ft) of water. Some communities in these parishes, notably Cameron Parish, were completely destroyed. The surge also caused a casino boat and several barges to float loose in Lake Charles, travel some 48 km (30 mi) inland, and damage a bridge on Interstate 10. A number of levees along Lake Ponchartrain breached by Hurricane Katrina a month earlier were overtopped once more, producing flooding in already storm-ravaged areas.
Hurricane Rita was responsible for 120 deaths. Some were actually associated evacuation efforts, such as the 23 passengers who died in a bus accident south of Dallas, TX. Total damages resulting from Hurricane Rita amounted to over $10.5 billion (2005 USD), making it the ninth costliest hurricane affecting the United States.
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