As more than 1 million people scurried to get out of the way of Hurricane Rita, the Category 5 hurricane grew more turbulent, becoming the third most intense storm in history, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday night.
Officials said the barometric pressure near the eye of the storm was 897 millibars, a lower reading than Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into the Gulf Coast August 29.
Only Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 (888 mb), which struck Jamaica and the Yucatan Peninsula, and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 (892 mb), which hit the Florida Keys, had lower pressures.
Max Mayfield, director of the hurricane center, said Rita could be even more damaging than Katrina.
All politics aside, we are already reeling from the effects of Katrina. If Rita does similar damage, the nation may well be forced to make some very, very unpleasant choices that will affect all our lives. We are standing on the brink of a major crisis in the Gulf Coast region. It may well be time for all those things we've been short sighted on over the years to regain prominence...energy independence, domestic security, a renewed focus on domestic issues vice foreign issues.
I hope Rita spares the Gulf Coast. But it's not looking good...
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