wow - what you're describing here is a more intense (probably) than the Labor Day Storm of 1922, which as you probably know has the lowest barometric pressure ever measured in the Atlantic Basin, (895), and the highest winds ever measured at sea lvl, nearing 200mph.
Here's the deal, the ambient pressure in the Gulf (obviously outside Rita's envelope) was slightly positive anomaly, which means, an exceptionally low pressure has to carve through all that density. This is similar to why Katrina had winds of 175mph sustained while her core pressure got down to 904mb at one point. That pressure supports a faster wind velocity, believe it or not, and the reason we didn't see that in Katrina's case is because at that time the ambient pressure in the Gulf was slightly lower than normal. In order to drive a pressure down below 900mb in the current Gulf environment would be one hell of an atmospheric event.
I think I gotta go with fluctuations in intensity within and maintained in cat-status for the next day. Then, I'm a bit mystified at why TCP is claiming that the upper oceanic heat content of the western Gulf is cooler than the loop current region she currently translates across. I say so because: http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/FS_km14gm00.gif ...clearly shows that the waters are on average just as warm, save for only a small region of 28C water near 90W/25N... 28C is still warm enough to sustain her seeing as the mid tropospheric shear is lower than normal. Also, she has extraordinarily well behaved upper atmospheric mechanics on her side... You can see cirrus elements difluent N and S away from an E-W axis, well west of Rita's location as of 6:52pm; as though atm is unzipping at 200mb. When Rita moves up underneath that, it will likely compensate for any lowering of available energy (considering that the water temp is above 80f everywhere, not such a big deal in the first place)...
Long story short, TPC is blowing it (I believe) by attempting to predict a reduction in some 40kts at land fall over where she will be during the next 24 hours. I see an upper cat-4 that is likely be be a hyper bomb on several occasions in between, taking her to over 180mph once if not twice... I wouldn't be surprised if she is an actual category 5 at land fall, but common experience and history has proven that mainaining a cat-5 storm for extended period of time is exceptionally rare - funny, that's actually happened a few times in recent years, ay? we'll see. tt
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