Ike's storm surge an extreme danger to Texas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:06 PM GMT on September 11, 2008

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Hurricane Ike remains a huge a dangerous Category 2 hurricane, and has changed little since this morning. Ike's central pressure continues to hold steady at 950 mb, as measured by the Hurricane Hunters at 3:14 pm EDT. Ike's tiny 9-mile wide eye appears to be collapsing, which will allow a new eyewall of much larger-diameter to form. This event should allow Ike to start intensifying tonight. The latest Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential image shows that the center of Ike has just finished crossing a cold eddy in the Gulf of Mexico waters, and is now beginning to pass along the north side of a warm eddy. This change in oceanic heat should also help allow Ike to intensify tonight. The eddy is not ideally positioned, though, for rapid intensification to occur. The eddy is on the left (weak) side of the hurricane, where wind speeds are slower since the forward motion of the storm subtracts from the wind speed of the circulation. These lower-speed winds will be able to evaporate less moisture from the warm ocean than if the eddy were positioned on Ike's right side. Oceanic heat content remains moderately high after Ike crosses the eddy, which should allow some modest strengthening to continue. Wind shear of 10-15 knots and dry air on Ike's west side is hampering Ike slightly, as evidenced by the lack of upper-level outflow on the storm's west side and lack of heavy thunderstorm activity. Shear is expected to decrease to 5 knots by the time of landfall Saturday morning, and I expect Ike will be maintaining its strength or slowly intensifying right up until landfall. Ike will probably be at the top end of Category 2 strength at landfall, with 110 mph winds.

Comparisons to Carla and Katrina
Ike is larger than Katrina was, both in its radius of tropical storm force winds--275 miles--and in it radius of hurricane force winds--115 miles. For comparison, Katrina's tropical storm and hurricane force winds extended out 230 and 105 miles, respectively. Ike's surge will probably rival the massive storm surge of Hurricane Carla of 1961. Carla was a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds at landfall, and drove a 10 foot or higher storm surge to a 180-mile stretch of Texas coast. A maximum storm surge of 22 feet was recorded at Port Lavaca, Texas. Despite the fact that the center of Carla hit over 120 miles southwest of Houston, the hurricane drove a 15-foot storm surge into the bays along the south side of the city. Ike's maximum surge is not likely to reach the extreme values above 20 feet seen in Hurricane Carla, though.


Figure 1. Experimental storm surge heights for Ike. There is a 10% chance the storm surge from Ike will exceed these values. Data courtesy of NOAA.

The total energy of Ike
The amount of water Ike has put in motion is about 10% greater than what Katrina did, and thus we can expect Ike's storm surge damage will be similar to or greater than Katrina's. The way we can estimate this damage potential is to compute the total energy of Ike's surface winds (kinetic energy). To do this, we must look at how strong the winds are, and factor in the areal coverage of these winds. Thus, we compute the Integrated Kinetic Energy (IKE) by squaring the velocity of the wind and summing over all regions of the hurricane with tropical storm force winds or higher. This "Integrated Kinetic Energy" was recently proposed by Dr. Mark Powell of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division as a better measure of the destructive power of a hurricane's storm surge than the usual Category 1-5 Saffir-Simpson scale. For example, Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi as a strong Category 3 hurricane, yet its storm surge was more characteristic of a Category 5 storm. Dr. Powell came up with a new scale to rate potential storm surge damage based on IKE (not to be confused with Hurricane Ike!) The new scale ranges from 1-6. Katrina and Wilma at their peaks both earned a 5.1 on this scale (Figure 2). At 12:30pm EDT today, Ike earned a 5.2 on this scale, the second highest kinetic energy of any Atlantic storm in the past 40 years. Hurricane Isabel of 2003 had the highest. Note that the figures I quoted in this morning's blog saying Ike had an IKE of 180, 50% higher than Katrina's, were found to be in error due to some bad data from one of the Hurricane Hunter observations (the IKE is an experimental product, after all). Thus, this morning's IKE was actually a little lower than Katrina's.


Figure 2. Comparison of the potential damage from storm surge and waves on a scale of 1 to 6 (left scale, and corresponding to little "x" marks on the plot), as a function of total Integrated Kinetic Energy in Tera-joules (IKE, on the right scale, corresponding to the little squares on the plot). Hurricane Ike at 12:30pm EDT had an IKE of 134, 10% higher than the value of 122 Katrina had at landfall in Mississippi. Ike's amount of wind energy can generate storm surge and wave damage rated at 5.2 on a scale of 1 to 6, worse than Katrina's 5.1 at landfall. Image credit:"Tropical Cyclone Destructive Potential by Integrated Kinetic Energy" by Mark Powell and Timothy Reinhold.

Ike's waves
All this energy is also going into the waves in the Gulf of Mexico, and the offshore oil rigs can expect to receive a terrific battering. At 1:50pm CDT, waves at the buoy 42001 180nm south of Louisiana peaked at 30 feet. NHC is predicting Ike's waves will peak at 50 feet (15 meters) in the northern Gulf on Friday. For comparison, Hurricane Ivan of 2004 generated 27 meter (89 foot) high waves in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading their oil rigs in the Gulf in the wake of the destruction wrought by Ivan and Katrina and Rita, and I'm not anticipating severe damage to the rigs from Ike's 50-foot waves.

Ike's storm surge
According to the NOAA tide gauges, the storm tides along the Mississippi coast have peaked at 4 feet above normal, and are currently running 5 feet above normal on the east side of New Orleans at Shell Beach in Lake Borgne. A storm surge of 5.9 feet was observed in New Orleans' Industrial Canal at 10:45 am CDT, and 5.75 feet in Waveland, Mississippi. Coastal Alabama is reporting a 4-6 foot storm surge, with 10-15 foot waves. Considering the center of Ike is over 250 miles south of these locations, it is not hard to imagine that Texas will get a 15-20 foot storm surge, even if Ike does not strengthen.

Ike will probably inundate a 250-mile stretch of Texas coast from Port O'Connor to the Louisiana border with a 10-15 foot storm surge. This will occur even if Ike is a Category 1 storm at landfall. If Ike is a Category 3+ hurricane at landfall, surges of 20+ feet are possible. The latest experimental storm surge forecast From NOAA's SLOSH model (Figure 1) shows a 10% chance that Ike's storm surge will exceed 18-21 feet at Galveston. The Galveston sea wall is 17 feet high, so it may get overtopped. At noon today, a mandatory evacuation of the entire island was ordered in case this worst-case scenario is realized. The official NHC forecast is calling for maximum storm surge heights of 20 feet.

What should Texas residents do?
We must assume Ike will intensify to a Category 3 hurricane by landfall, which would likely do $20-$30 billion in damage. Ike's storm surge is going to be affect a huge area and be tremendously destructive. The latest Hurricane Local Statement from the Galveston National Weather Service office puts things in pretty stark perspective:

All neighborhoods... and possibly entire coastal communities... will be inundated during high tide. Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story homes will face certain death. Many residences of average construction directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere. Vehicles left behind will likely be swept away. Numerous roads will be swamped... some may be washed away by the water. Entire flood prone coastal communities will be cutoff. Water levels may exceed 9 feet for more than a mile inland. Coastal residents in multi-story facilities risk being cutoff. Conditions will be worsened by battering waves. Such waves will exacerbate property damage... with massive destruction of homes... including those of block construction. Damage from beach erosion could take years to repair.

I recommend Texas residents consult NHC's wind probability product to determine their odds of getting hurricane force winds.

For storm surge evacuation zone information, consult the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

For storm surge heights, consult our Storm surge risk for the Texas coast page.

Links to follow
Galveston, TX weather

Tide gauges along the Gulf Coast

Mid Gulf Buoy 180 nm South of Southwest Pass, LA (42001)

Tropical disturbance 91L north of Puerto Rico
An area of disturbed weather (91L) has developed a few hundred miles north of Puerto Rico. Satellite loops show that 91L has a very small amount of heavy thunderstorm activity, but does have a circulation at middle levels of the atmosphere. A surface circulation is not apparent, but the mid-level spin could work its way down to the surface over the next day or two. The disturbance in under about 20 knots of wind shear, and is also having trouble with some dry air to the west. Shear is expected to remain 10-20 knots though Saturday, then increase to 25 knots. We may expect some slow development until Saturday, when wind shear should be too high to allow further development. None of the models are developing 91L. By Tuesday, as 91L will be approaching the east coast of Florida, shear is expected to decline to 15 knots, and some additional development may be possible, if the disturbance holds together that long.

I'll have an update tonight if there's a significant change in Ike.

Jeff Masters

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2496. IKE
6:17 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Most of the strongest convection is to the south and east of the center...

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2495. Shinywalrus
11:15 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting HurricaneKing:
Link

Wow. They should have been evacuating.


Who should have been? All of Houston? Not all of Houston is in mandatory evacuation zones, becuase not all of Houston is at risk for storm surge and/or bayout flooding.

Most, albeit not all, of the zones subject to mandatory evacuation are ghost towns, as they should be.

Houston is a big city, though. Some people SHOULD be hunkering down.
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2494. lakechuckfisherman
11:17 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Good idea Joanie. We left at 9 last night and had NO traffic probs.
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2493. clowe
11:05 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Not a regular poster, just a regular reader. Was hoping to read better news this morning! We are "hunkering down" in Ike's path, but well inland (approx. 80 miles). I'm still petrified (mostly of falling trees, because our neighborhood had its share of those even during Rita--but mainly just of an unknown outcome), but trying to hold it together. Mostly I wanted to send out best wishes to all my Texas neighbors, and thank all the well-wishers from other parts of the world who post here.

I'll post a report here of what our experience was, good, bad, or the storm passed us--if anyone's interested--when we have power.

Thanks again--y'all don't know it, but you've been a source of sanity for me during the last few days.
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2492. kachina
11:10 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Webcam from The Spot on Galveston looking out over the GOM:
Link
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2491. honkytonk
6:07 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
When I woke up this morning I had hoped to seen something different...but the eye is supposed to go right over me as a cat. 3. I know the winds are supposed to be intense...but what else can I expect from the eye as it passed over? How long will it take the eye to go over an area?
I think I have an ulcer now!
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2490. sayml
10:49 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
speaking from a novice point of view - I live in Picayune, MS. Clouds moving pretty fast here. I have nothing here to measure wind gusts-but it's kicking outside. Schools along the coast had problems yesterday getting kids home due to storm surge. Thing is- it's not coming here. Pray for those in Texas/LA that will see it. 50 ft waves-scary.
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2489. FormerFloridian
7:15 AM EDT on September 12, 2008
Quoting IKE:


I've had enough of you....you're added to my ignore list.

One more thing before I add you....I care about anyone that's affected by IKE...don't want to see anyone hurt and anyone's life upset on account of him. I said it was secondary and just a game. This is life.

Bye.


I put him on my ignore list about a week ago.

Glad to hear you got out, Ike.
2488. Joanie38
6:07 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
good morning everyone..i'm here in Calcasieu Parish, LA and i've decided to leave this morning before curfew starts at 10am this morning......
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2487. Confab
11:14 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting FormerFloridian:


the actual statement was "may face certain death". typically media misquoting what was actually said. the NWS did not guarantee anything.


I suppose to be fair you can't really say "may face certain death", as it wouldn't be certain then. You either face certain death or may face death. Semantics I know, but there you go
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2486. WeatherCurious
11:08 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
I am sure this question has been asked at some point before, but here goes . . .How come any Joe Blow can call themselves a met and give the weather even if they don't actually have a true met degree? Btw, not trying to downplay anyones knowledge just seems that by doing the aforementioned makes the met degree worth less.
2485. DMyersNormanOK
6:11 AM CDT on September 12, 2008



That is HIGH!
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2484. IKE
6:14 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Buoy at 27.55N and near 92.5W....

"Wind Direction (WDIR): NNE ( 30 deg true )
5-day plot - Wind Speed Wind Speed (WSPD): 95.2 kts
5-day plot - Atmospheric Pressure Atmospheric Pressure (PRES): 28.76 in
5-day plot - Air Temperature Air Temperature (ATMP): 80.6 °F
5-day plot - Dew Point Dew Point (DEWP): 75.2 °F
5-day plot - Heat Index Heat Index (HEAT): 86.2 °F"
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2483. HurricaneKing
11:13 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Link

Wow. They should have been evacuating.
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2482. IKE
6:11 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Quoting TropicalNonsense:


No, you need to stop being insensitive.

Oh,thats right ..you live in Florida far away from IKE no worries for you.


I've had enough of you....you're added to my ignore list.

One more thing before I add you....I care about anyone that's affected by IKE...don't want to see anyone hurt and anyone's life upset on account of him. I said it was secondary and just a game. This is life.

Bye.
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2481. washingaway
6:10 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Quoting cajunmoma:
Good Morning All. Feeling the affects here in Gonzales, winds around 25 to 35 with some strong gust. Tornado warnings everywhere seems like. Still think it may hit LA/TX border??


The trough to Ike's west does seem to moving a little faster to the east.. The turn could come sooner.
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2480. FormerFloridian
7:11 AM EDT on September 12, 2008
Quoting stormmaven:
According to CNN - NHS has stated "certain death" will occur if evacuation orders are not followed. I didn't know that NHS guaranteed results.
Homeland Security head Chertoff suggests staying in Texas if you are "fatigued with life". Is he suggesting suicide by Ike ?
Strange statements from Public agencies.


the actual statement was "may face certain death". typically media misquoting what was actually said. the NWS did not guarantee anything.
2478. DMyersNormanOK
6:10 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Quoting Hhunter:
port arthur will be drowned in this surge...


Noooo! That is where my great-aunt lives! Of course, she isn't there now...
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2477. TropicalNonsense
11:09 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting IKE:


Here's what I said about it......it's just a game and that's secondary.........

You need to calm down.


No, you need to stop being insensitive.

Oh,thats right ..you live in Florida far away from IKE no worries for you.
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2476. TxKeef
6:10 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Link

And it's spreading fast. Almost covering the whole street...
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2475. Xion
11:08 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting stormmaven:
According to CNN - NHS has stated "certain death" will occur if evacuation orders are not followed. I didn't know that NHS guaranteed results.
Homeland Security head Chertoff suggests staying in Texas if you are "fatigued with life". Is he suggesting suicide by Ike ?
Strange statements from Public agencies.


If it saves a life, let it be said. Same reason earlier on why NHC likely did not lower wind speeds. Sends a false sense of security.
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2474. WxLogic
7:07 AM EDT on September 12, 2008
Good morning,

You can now start seeing IKE's circulation from Lake Charles, LA long range radar:

Link
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2473. stormmaven
10:59 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
According to CNN - NHS has stated "certain death" will occur if evacuation orders are not followed. I didn't know that NHS guaranteed results.
Homeland Security head Chertoff suggests staying in Texas if you are "fatigued with life". Is he suggesting suicide by Ike ?
Strange statements from Public agencies.
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2472. Kjsasey
6:02 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
We still have very steady flow of traffic coming up from calcasieu parish going right in front of my house on Hwy 10. Been that way since early yesterday!
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2471. indianrivguy
7:06 AM EDT on September 12, 2008
wellll, I'm off to the salt mines.. y'all have a good day.

Ike.. keepum straight bro..
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2470. lakechuckfisherman
11:03 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
The reality sets in...sitting in a hotel in Mississippi after driving all night from Lake Charles. I am amazed at the apathy that arose after the mandatory evacuation after Gustav. Even the local officials seemed reluctant to declare a mandatory evacuation. Every report I get on the local effects gets worse and worse. Might catch grief from friends/family that stayed, but as my wife said tonight...I'd rather have made the wrong decision to evacuate than the wrong decision to stay. Thanks for all the input on here...you guys are one of the reasons I was able to get ALL my immediate family to evacuate. Thanks again.

Mike
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2469. TxKeef
6:05 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Check out this webcam shot in Galveston on the strand! Water already covering part of it!

Link
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2468. IKE
6:04 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Quoting TropicalNonsense:



How can you talk about Baseball at a time like this?

Most everyone associated with the Astros are millionares.

Regular everyday hard working people are about to have their entire lives washed away into the sea because of Hurricane Ike and people may die. Who cares at all about baseball when lives are about to be destroyed in what will amount to as perhaps one of the greatest disasters the US has ever seen. you should remove that post IKE that is incredibly insensitive and unlike you. Baseball means nothing in a time like this.


Here's what I said about it......it's just a game and that's secondary.........

You need to calm down.
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2467. cajunmoma
11:01 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Good Morning All. Feeling the affects here in Gonzales, winds around 25 to 35 with some strong gust. Tornado warnings everywhere seems like. Still think it may hit LA/TX border??
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2466. surfsidesindy
6:55 AM EDT on September 12, 2008
To all those in Ike's path, please know you will be in our thoughts and prayers, not just today and tomorrow, but also in the weeks to come. Many of the bloggers on this site have been through what you are about to experience, and trust me, we will be praying the hardest. Stay strong!
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2465. seminolesfan
10:59 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
I'm off to grab some zzzzzzzzs.
(I work 2nd shift so I live the vampire life.)

Everyone on the western gulf coast be safe; and anyone in or near the galveston area be gone....SOON!
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2464. HopquickSteve
11:01 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
For anyone sheltering in place in a mandatory evacuation zone:

Remember SSN#, Name, and how to contact next of kin on the skin of BOTH ARMS and TORSO in Sharpie or another permanent pen.
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 635
2463. wjdow4
11:01 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting HopquickSteve:

Because you're still on the quiet side and they're on the noisy NE quad. (I think)


hmmm, thanks. i was wondering.
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2462. wjdow4
10:59 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting HopquickSteve:

Frankly, with Ika it hasn't been hype. That's the point.


yeah, but coastal residents go through it so often, that it is necessary to sort through the hype each time.
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2461. HopquickSteve
10:59 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting wjdow4:
i'm on my last prep before leaving galveston. it's amazing to hear that n.o. is getting 60mph gusts while we've only got a little breeze, and the storm is coming here.

Because you're still on the quiet side and they're on the noisy NE quad. (I think)
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2460. Hhunter
5:55 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
port a good idea I see 30 ft surge estimates in some parts of your area..may be max surge area..leave
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2459. Kjsasey
5:58 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Quoting seminolesfan:


Yeah, I'm really not a rude person and I certainly wouldn't just slam someone as seemingly nice as yourself! :)

I have a strict no *poof* policy, but (s)he will get no more keyboard attention from me.


I started out that way but you get to a point.....it was just easier! LOL!
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2458. HopquickSteve
10:57 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting gulfcoastDrifter:
Well, it looks like we are out of here within the hour (5:50 cst). We are in Port Arthur and were hoping to hunker down.

Have been following Ike for a while now. Haven't been listening to the hype. But now situation looks immenent for severe flooding.


Frankly, with Ika it hasn't been hype. That's the point.
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 635
2456. indianrivguy
6:56 AM EDT on September 12, 2008
Quoting gulfcoastDrifter:
Well, it looks like we are out of here within the hour (5:50 cst). We are in Port Arthur and were hoping to hunker down.

Have been following Ike for a while now. Haven't been listening to the hype. But now situation looks immenent for severe flooding.



be safe bro..
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2455. wjdow4
10:52 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
i'm on my last prep before leaving galveston. it's amazing to hear that n.o. is getting 60mph gusts while we've only got a little breeze, and the storm is coming here.
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2454. gulfcoastDrifter
10:48 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Well, it looks like we are out of here within the hour (5:50 cst). We are in Port Arthur and were hoping to hunker down.

Have been following Ike for a while now. Haven't been listening to the hype. But now situation looks immenent for severe flooding.

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2453. seminolesfan
10:49 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting Kjsasey:


I had to go back and look! I knew my post was close to that! Though to myself what did I say wrong, but i know who you are talking to! He is **poofed** here.


Yeah, I'm really not a rude person and I certainly wouldn't just slam someone as seemingly nice as yourself! :)

I have a strict no *poof* policy, but (s)he will get no more keyboard attention from me.
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2451. CaptnDan142
10:50 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
2432

Good point I suppose. I wouldn't do for the statement to be released after the threat had passed. A warning against something in the past is pretty useless - IMO.
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2450. jimlewis
10:53 AM GMT on September 12, 2008
saw the same thing hhunter... figured the low in the southwest us was moving slower than expected...
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2449. yannik29
10:45 AM GMT am 12. September 2008
thne next to recons on the way to ike
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2448. Hhunter
5:48 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
gfs could be on to something as global model being left
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2447. washingaway
5:47 AM CDT on September 12, 2008
Quoting hookedontropics:
The last few strong hurricanes since Katrina have not been able to form eyewalls in the GOM. I am not much of a conspiracy fan... BUT... I am sure we are using these storms as Science experiments.


The only thing I think they might be able to do is to dry the air ahead of the storm.....
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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