Katrina now a 100 mph, Cat. 2 storm
After landing a blow on South Florida, Hurricane Katrina is stronger than ever, blowing in the Gulf of Mexico with top sustained winds of 100 mph. That makes it a Category 2 storm on the Safir-Simpson Scale. Further strengthening is expected. Here is the latest advisory.
The National Hurricane Center's discussion of the storm's future includes a frightening note that Katrina could approach Category 4 before landfall. Category 4 means top sustained winds of 131-155 mph.
Here's what it said:
"GIVEN THE RAPID IMPROVEMENT IN THE INNER CORE STRUCTURE AND THE
SHARP PRESSURE DROP...RAPID INTENSIFICATION SEEMS LIKELY FOR THE
NEXT 12 HOURS OR SO. AFTERWARDS...STEADY INTENSIFICATION TO NEAR
CATEGORY FOUR STRENGTH BY 72 HOURS APPEARS TO BE IN ORDER GIVEN THE
VERY WARM GULF WATERS BENEATH THE HURRICANE AND THE VERTICAL SHEAR
FORECAST TO DECREASE TO LESS THAN 10 KT BY 48 HOURS."
The National Hurricane Center in Miami, which lost its radar to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, was in the calm eye of Hurricane Katrina for a time last night. The storm came ashore near North Miami Beach at about 7 p.m. with 80 mph winds. Then it arced to the southwest at a jogging speed. More than a million Floridians were without electric service this morning, and at least four had been killed, most by falling trees.
Between 1 and 5 a.m. the storm lost its hurricane status, its highest sustained winds diminished to about 70 mph. But at 5 a.m., with its center still 50 miles north-northeast of Key West, it was spinning again at 75 mph and once again a hurricane.
Moving offshore again by daylight, Katrina was strengthening over warm Gulf waters. By 11 a.m., its top sustained winds were back to 80 mph, centered 75 miles south-southwest of Naples, on Florida's Gulf coast.
Forecasters had predicted this storm would become a Category 2 hurricane (top winds of 96-110 mph) by Saturday. It beat their predictions by a day, not a good sign. They're saying now it could be at Category 3 by sometime Saturday, with top sustained winds above 111 mph. It is expected to swing northward and make a second Florida landfall along the western panhandle by early next week.
Its remnants could eventually move up the Appalachians and bring us some needed rain later next week.
Here's how the storm looks this morning from space.