Ike's record storm surge pushing into Texas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:26 PM GMT on September 12, 2008

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Hurricane Ike is closing in on Texas, and stands poised to become one of the most damaging hurricanes of all time. Despite Ike's rated Category 2 strength, the hurricane is much larger and more powerful than Category 5 Katrina or Category 5 Rita. The storm surge from Ike could rival Katrina's, inundating a 200-mile stretch of coast from Galveston to Cameron, Louisiana with waters over 15 feet high. This massive storm surge is due to the exceptional size of Ike. According to the latest wind field estimate (Figure 1), the diameter of Ike's tropical storm and hurricane force winds are 550 and 240 miles, respectively. For comparison, Katrina numbers at landfall were 440 and 210 miles, respectively. As I discussed in yesterday's blog entry, a good measure of the storm surge potential is Integrated Kinetic Energy (IKE). Ike continues to grow larger and has intensified slightly since yesterday, and the hurricane's Integrated Kinetic Energy has increased from 134 to 149 Terajoules. This is 30% higher than Katrina's total energy at landfall. All this extra energy has gone into piling up a vast storm surge that will probably be higher than anything in recorded history along the Texas coast. Storm surge heights of 20-25 feet are possible from Galveston northwards to the Louisiana border. The Texas storm surge record is held by 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.


Figure 1. Experimental wind field analysis for Ike at 9:30 am EDT 09/12/08. The area of hurricane force winds is inside the heavy black line where the yellow color begins (64 knots). The area of tropical storm force winds is inside the heavy black line at 35 knots (turquoise colors). The total Integrated Kinetic Energy was 149 Terajoules, which makes Ike's storm surge potential a 5.4 on a scale of 1 to 6. Image credit: NOAA Hurricane Research Division.

The forecast
Ike's small inner eyewall has completely collapsed, leaving Ike with no eyewall. Creation of a new eyewall is being hampered by some dry air to the storm's west, and the presence of about 10 knots of wind shear. However, Ike is beginning to look better organized on satellite imagery, and may still intensify by 5-10 mph before landfall. Ike will not inflict extreme wind damage like Katrina's or Rita's. The big story with Ike will be the storm surge.

Ike's winds
An oil rig in Ike's path measured sustained winds of 125 mph, at 6:45 am CDT. Lower winds of 105 mph were occurring at the surface, since the rig is at an elevation of 400 feet. The Hurricane Hunters are still reporting maximum winds of 105 mph over a large region of the surface.

Ike's storm surge
According to the NOAA tide gauges, storm tides along the Mississippi coast peaked at about 6 feet above normal yesterday, with a 7 foot storm tide observed on the east side of New Orleans at Shell Beach in Lake Borgne. At 10 am CDT, storm tides of 5-6 feet were being seen in western Louisiana, and were 5 feet at Freeport, Texas, and 5.5 feet at Galveston. According to the latest NWS forecast from the Galveston office, we can expect the following storm surges in Texas:

Gulf-facing coastline west of Sargent... 4 to 6 feet

Shoreline of Matagorda Bay... 2 to 5 feet

Gulf-facing coastline from Sargent to San Luis Pass... 12 to 15 feet

Gulf-facing coastline San Luis Pass to High Island including Galveston Island... ... 15 to 20 feet

Shoreline of Galveston Bay...15 to 25 feet

NOAA's experimental storm surge forecast is calling for a 10% chance that the storm tide from Ike will reach 27-30 feet on the south and east sides of Houston. The exact track of Ike is key in determining if Galveston's 17-foot sea wall gets overtopped, flooding the city. A slight wobble 30 miles to the north of Galveston would put the city into offshore winds from Ike, possibly saving it from inundation. The situation is grim for Port Arthur, Texas, on the Louisiana border. The expected storm surge of 15-20 feet will overtop the city's seawall by six feet, resulting in flooding of the city and a number of major oil refineries. Expect a significant tightening of gas supplies in coming months, due to extensive damage to the oil refineries in the Houston and Port Arthur area.

Ike's winds in Houston and inland
Winds in the Houston metro area will increase to tropical storm force--39 mph--by about 4 pm CDT today, and remain that strong for about 24 hours. Category 1 hurricane force winds of about 75-85 mph will affect the city for about an 8-hour period from midnight to 8 am on Saturday. People in well-built homes will suffer only minor damage, but mobile homes and homes not build to code will suffer significant damage. The extremely long duration of the hurricane force winds will cause much greater damage than is typical for a hurricane of this strength.

Winds and damage in Houston should will be slightly greater than was experienced during Hurricane Alicia of 1983. Alica had higher winds at landfall, but was a smaller storm that weakened relatively quickly inland. Ike's damage will cover a much wider area and spread farther inland, due to the large size of the storm. During Alicia, Houston Hobby Airport on the south side of the city recorded top winds of 89 mph, gusting to 99 mph. The strongest winds recorded at Houston International Airport, on the north side of the city, were 51 mph, gusting to 78 mph. Winds from Ike will probably be sustained at 85-90 mph at Houston Hobby, and 75-80 mph at Houston International Airport.

A good guess on what kind of winds inland areas will experience can be had by using the Inland Wind Model developed by NOAA scientists Mark DeMaria and John Kaplan. This simple model shows the expected winds inland from the coast for the five Category hurricanes moving at different speeds. Plotted below (Figure 2) is the inland wind model plot that best fits the type of winds I expect will penetrate inland from Ike. I think Ike will be a strong Category 2 hurricane moving at about 15 mph at landfall, but the hurricane's strongest winds will penetrate farther inland than is typical due to the huge size of the storm. Thus, I picked a slightly stronger storm with a higher forward speed to base my inland wind estimate on. I expect hurricane force winds of 74 mph will penetrate about 110 miles inland, near the cities of Huntsville and Livingston to the north of Galveston, and not quite reaching Lufkin. We can expect Ike to cause the largest and longest-lived power outage in Texas history, with power knocked out along a 200-mile wide swath in eastern Texas and extreme western Louisiana extending 300 miles inland to I-20. Dallas will be at the fringe of the region of widespread power outages, and should not suffer major power failures.


Figure 2. Inland penetration of tropical storm and hurricane force winds from a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds moving perpendicular to the Gulf Coast at a forward speed of 17 mph. Image credit: NOAA.

Tornadoes from Ike
Texas hurricanes have a history of producing strong tornadoes. Hurricane Alica spawned 23 tornadoes when it hit, including one strong F2 tornado. Hurricane Carla of 1961 unleashed 26 tornadoes, including the only violent F4 tornado ever spawned by a hurricane. The tornado hit Galveston, killing between 6 and 12 people.

Rain
Heavy rain from Ike will be the least of Texas' concerns, since the hurricane is not expected to stall, and will move quickly northwards out of the state by Sunday. The latest NOAA/HPC rain forecast (Figure 3) predicts the swath of heaviest rains of six inches or more will cover an area about 100 miles square.


Figure 3. Predicted 5-day rainfall totals along the path of Ike, beginning at 8am EDT Friday September 12, 2008. Image credit: NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center.

For more information
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
Port Arthur, TX weather
Houston, TX weather
Tide gauges along the Gulf Coast
Long-range radar out of Galveston, TX
wundermap of weather stations near Ike
Buoy observations near Ike from the National Data Buoy Center.

Tropical disturbance 91L north of Puerto Rico
An area of disturbed weather (91L) is located a few hundred miles north of the Dominican Republic. Satellite loops show that 91L's heavy thunderstorm has shown a modest increase this morning, but these thunderstorm are not well organized and cover a limited area. This morning's QuikSCAT pass missed 91L, but last night's pass showed no evidence of a surface circulation, and none is apparent on visible satellite imagery.

The disturbance is under about 10 knots of wind shear, and is also having trouble with some dry air to the west. There is an upper-level low pressure just to the west of 91L that is creating shear and pumping dry air into the system, similar to the situation Hanna had to deal with in its formative stages. Shear is expected to remain 10-20 knots though Monday, which may allow some gradual development. None of the models are developing 91L, but the Bahamas can expect heavy rain and strong gusty wind over the next three days as 91L tracks west-northwest towards the east coast of Florida. NHC is giving this disturbance a low (<20% chance) of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday.

Jeff Masters

Very angry surf (mywrk)
Pensacola Beach when Ike was hundreds of miles south. And still no rain this week.
Very angry surf

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1277. lopaka001
1:57 AM GMT on September 13, 2008
http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/

Site is down err..
Member Since: February 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 239
1276. Seawall
1:49 AM GMT on September 13, 2008
Post eaten? LOL
I'm safe and sound and have power in the NW corner of Calcasieu Parish. Winds are heavy, but no loss of power yet.
Member Since: September 8, 2001 Posts: 1 Comments: 401
1275. steve4christ
11:41 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Live streaming feeds from Galveston-Houston


Link
1274. o22sail
11:07 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
I like Wayne on ABC13.
He's a realist, and has a better handle on what is about to happen than any of the other talking heads on the local TV.

I vote Wayne for on "the scene guy" of the storm!
LOL.

BTW, I'm still praying for those that didn't make their way out by now. :-(
Member Since: August 27, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 122
1273. BaytownTxWX
10:53 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Here are some links for keeping up with the tide, winds and local coverage.

Live tide reports

Live wind reports

KHOU

KPRC

FOX26

KPRC
1272. o22sail
10:49 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
I like Wayne on ABC13.
He's a realist, and has a better handle on what is about to happen than any of the other talking heads on the local TV.

I vote Wayne for anchor of the storm!
LOL.

BTW, I'm still praying for those that didn't make their way out by now. :-(
Member Since: August 27, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 122
1271. Toofew
10:45 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting tim73:
"It just water, man".

That is going to be the UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR! Anyway, hope that stupid man survives but seems unlikely.

Homeland Security chief was quoted by Fox News moments ago, "100 000 homes could be destroyed".


Sheesh, obviously those yahoos never read Isaac's Storm.

First time poster but you folks and of course Dr. Masters do a wonderful job.

Toof
1270. AndyN
10:18 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
go to www.hurricanetrack.com. They have deployed live web cams in Galveston
Member Since: December 29, 2005 Posts: 1 Comments: 551
1269. Hurricane4Lex
10:15 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
well this is bad Ike has an eye like feature now plus galveston still hasnt experience ike's tropical storm to hurricane force winds yet this was a bad call not to evac

friends here from freeport to galveston are living it up here where I am at the hotel near 288 according to my friend working there they made a good call

lex from pearland

Ps power temporarily when out its on now but i dont know how long ill get to post but expect me to be back in 2 weeks from now if it goes for good
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 658
1268. flauntie
9:57 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
try this

http://www.khou.com/video/?nvid=178826&live=yes&noad=yes&shu=1
1267. Zaphod
9:57 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Ike is finally looking the way I expected last night. Dry air has been Galveston's greatest friend with this storm. Hopefully there is no longer time for Ike to spin up to match his pressure.
Member Since: October 5, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 3239
1266. sunshineways
9:56 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting flauntie:
wow, is anyone listening to KHOU? I dont even know what to say...


I am listening. Speechless.
1265. Remek
9:54 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting Rick54:

fuel tanks on fire, exploding on Galveston Island.
Are we talking large fuel storage tanks like a tank farm?

Do you have a link?
Quoting Rick54:


Are we talking large fuel storage tanks like a tank farm?

Do you have a link?


Per KHOU - at the yacht club... transformer exploded near the main building (offshore) igniting fuel storage tanks nearby. Fire is still contained to the yacht club building itself and a few boats nearby. No indications it could spread inland to buildings onshore.
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 118
1264. flauntie
9:51 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting Rick54:


Are we talking large fuel storage tanks like a tank farm?

Do you have a link?


this was a tranformer.. the fire is comming from fuel at a yacht basin..(gal yacht club) no major fuel tanks involved per khou
1263. Rick54
9:47 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting EarthwalkUSA:
fuel tanks on fire, exploding on Galveston Island.


Are we talking large fuel storage tanks like a tank farm?

Do you have a link?
1262. c150flyer
9:47 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Just wanted to post a quick update to my blog. I don't mean to shamelessly promote it, but I am in Alvin, TX (outside storm surge area) and am taking detailed wind measurements, etc.

So... if you are interested, please feel free to check it out here.

As of my last trip outside (about 4:15pm CDT) things haven't really gotten going here just yet. Peak wind gust has only been 33 mph with sustained winds in the 15-25mph range.

I'm really hoping my internet will hold out long enough to see what this (seeming) eyewall contraction ends up doing. It may be a little too close to result in a huge wind increase, but the storm definitely seems to be getting better organized.
Member Since: September 12, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 74
1261. Rick54
9:46 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting EarthwalkUSA:
fuel tanks on fire, exploding on Galveston Island.


Are we talking large fuel storage tanks like a tank farm?

Do you have a link?
1260. TXWW08
9:46 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting Brillig:


Sort of. I'd call it a nonworking ship. It's my understanding it has no power. It's a ship adrift.


I think the crew member said they have electricity, but no engines.
1259. flauntie
9:46 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
wow, is anyone listening to KHOU? I dont even know what to say...
1258. Brillig
9:38 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting setfree7:
there is a working ship out in the storm that cannot be reached by emergency responders. 22 people on board. 500ft ship. hopefully they can ride out the storm.


Sort of. I'd call it a nonworking ship. It's my understanding it has no power. It's a ship adrift.
Member Since: June 23, 2006 Posts: 20 Comments: 406
1257. LowerAlabama
9:38 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting BlxMS:


You can be a righteously indignant as you like, but I will guarantee you that (whether they will later admit it or not) there will be people on the upper Texas Coast who don't believe in God today that will be asking for God's help before tomorrow. I know...Been there...done that. And if you don't believe me I can almost be assured that you've never been in combat or in the worst of a hurricane with a Cat 4 or 5 surge.


Robert Plant and Jimmy Page made the call on rushing water many years ago.

"Cryin wont help you, prayin wont do you no good."
1256. duckingfast
9:35 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting bigdoge3:
40 percent of galveston stayed there is on shelter on galveston island for those people it is at BALL HIGH HIGH SCHOOL!!


So does that mean the bodies will all be in one place? Sorry to be so glum but the island is supposed to be underwater for 12 hours...in up to 20 feet of water? Get out if you still can!
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
1255. setfree7
9:35 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
there is a working ship out in the storm that cannot be reached by emergency responders. 22 people on board. 500ft ship. hopefully they can ride out the storm.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 281
1254. EarthwalkUSA
9:33 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
fuel tanks on fire, exploding on Galveston Island.
Member Since: August 27, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
1253. HopquickSteve
9:27 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Hurricane hunters say it is an eye (though why they say it is open I don't know if you look at radar):

L. Eye Character: Open in the west (center has 50% or more, but less than 100%, of eyewall coverage)
M. Eye Shape & Diameter: Circular with a diameter of 60 nautical miles (69 statute miles)


PS: I didn't know anybody still watched TWC these days...

It's like I've been saying. It's a toilet bowl vortex, not an eye...it's unique.
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 635
1252. TxBlaze
9:25 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
anitas on the dike at 11 am

Anita's on Texas City Dike at 11 am.
1251. thesweetlycool
9:22 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Looks like they're forcasting for the remenets of Lowell and Ike to converge on Michigan and we may get up to 5 inches of rain and 40-50 kt winds here in the Detroit area and acrossed lower Michigan. We'll have to see how long Ike keeps his tropical charactaristics!
Member Since: February 9, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 32
1250. weathersp
9:22 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Heraldo on Fox just got knocked over by a wave...Firefighters came over and once saw that he was alright told him to "Get off the Seawall"
Member Since: January 14, 2007 Posts: 17 Comments: 4140
1249. ShenValleyFlyFish
9:16 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting BRoe941:

weather is immune to religion and politics, an agnostic democrat does not cause Ike to strengthen and an evangelical republican can't make the storm disappear..it is in the hands of NATURE

that said its jmho


What about evangelical Democrats and agnostic Republicans? LOL

Come on folks lighten up with the side issues a Tragedy is about to unfold. Witness and Wonder
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
1248. StormJunkie
9:16 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Dr M has a new blog up
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15472
1247. cajunmoma
9:16 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Ok I will try again. First let me say that I am starting to feel a little sick watching the news channels with all of these people staying.

I would like to ask when it is expected to turn North?
1246. KarenRei
9:15 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Drawing a straight trendline from Ike's last five forecast points takes the center of Ike's eye to San Luis Pass (west end of the island). However, as we know, steering is gradually to make him recurve more and more. Consequently, I'm thinking landfall's going to be somewhere around Hershey Beach (rough center of the island).
Member Since: September 7, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 937
1245. rwdobson
9:15 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
"PS: I didn't know anybody still watched TWC these days..."

During times like this it has value as a secondary (well, tertiary) source...at least for the live shots.
Member Since: June 12, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1574
1244. Asta
9:15 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
36 Hour precip totals-Link
He's not a wet storm- but he can sure push the water inland...
Member Since: July 4, 2008 Posts: 30 Comments: 1024
1243. Sfloridacat5
9:14 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Hurricane hunters say it is an eye (though why they say it is open I don't know if you look at radar):

L. Eye Character: Open in the west (center has 50% or more, but less than 100%, of eyewall coverage)
M. Eye Shape & Diameter: Circular with a diameter of 60 nautical miles (69 statute miles)


PS: I didn't know anybody still watched TWC these days...



Cantore's in Galveston. It could get interesting seeing him report from inside the eye.
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4776
1242. intunewindchime
9:14 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
BLOG BOG....
eating posts...
Member Since: September 11, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 403
1241. HurricaneFCast
9:14 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Impressive-
Member Since: April 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1240. marinetech47
9:14 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Hurricane hunters say it is an eye (though why they say it is open I don't know if you look at radar):

L. Eye Character: Open in the west (center has 50% or more, but less than 100%, of eyewall coverage)
M. Eye Shape & Diameter: Circular with a diameter of 60 nautical miles (69 statute miles)


PS: I didn't know anybody still watched TWC these days...
only to see Stephanie
1239. Brillig
9:14 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting LLHi:
I don't know this for sure, but I think posting the animated images may drag the blog down a bit. Anyone know?


Only if the viewer's connection is slow or the host computer for the image is overtaxed. Once it's in cache, then it depends only on the user's computer. If the image is hosted on the same box as the blog, then it could affect blog speed for others.
Member Since: June 23, 2006 Posts: 20 Comments: 406
1238. Patrap
9:14 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Ike ZOOMED with Storm Tracks...Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125583
1237. GolpherPhil
9:14 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Stations here (Houston/Pearland) are saying that it is gonna get here quicker. I heard David Tillman (chan 13?) say a possible midnight landfall. Also, I kinda see it (the eye) coming in straight up Galveston bay not that it matters with this thing) if it continues on the path it is right now Funktop Color Infrared Loop GOM Link
1235. cajunmoma
9:11 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
I think the blog eat my post :(
1234. LAgal78
9:11 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
So when is Ike going to take that northerly turn?
1233. Asta
9:10 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Earth Scan Lab @ LSU -IKE Water vapor imagery
Link
Member Since: July 4, 2008 Posts: 30 Comments: 1024
1232. tlemom
9:10 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting BiloxiGirl:
BlxMS - too bad you don't have a link to that audio. It is so sad and really shakes you too the core. I felt bad for those dispatchers too.


#740 I was crying reading this post. It really brings the reality back to the situation at hand. I am no where near this storm, however was affected by Katrina and Ivan. I pray for everyone in the path of Ike.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 4
1231. ProfGoose
9:10 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Chuck Watson just updated his oil/infra/refinery damage forecasts over at The Oil Drum saying that:

"The refineries remain a significant concern. I'm less concerned about wind, unless we get unlucky and something breaks that shouldn't. The big question now is down to flooding, and the main facility I am worried about is the Texas City complex. If the storm tracks to the NE of the bay, and winds blow offshore, it may avoid flooding. But a leftward wobble could inundate this complex, and take out over 1 MMBBL/day capacity for several months. The big Exxon-Mobil Baytown complex is a bit better protected - the storm will have to take a significant leftward jog to flood it. It looks like Port Arthur area is in for big flooding if the current trends continue, but the refineries are further inland, and if the storm starts moving faster there may not be enough time for the surge to build inland."

30 Day Outage Probabilities (Refinery Capacity):

1 MMBBL: 70%
3 MMBBL: 30%
5 MMBBL: 10%

A lot more including maps and Ike related energy geekery here if you are interested:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4521
1229. chicagowatcher
9:10 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting Patrap:



NEXRAD Radar
Houston-Galveston, Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI Link


Wow. He's gonna go right thru Galveston and Houston.
Member Since: August 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 153
1228. TropicalNonsense
9:09 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Quoting CJ5:


Nope...I said intensity, if he cannot close his NW side he will not gain intensity and everthing else will be affected. I am simply stating the facts.


yes, and you are correct in your analysis CJ5.
glad someone can see the truth and is not on the blog
to just play hype games.

The failure of IKE to develop an eyewall and wrap up is why he has not and will not strengthen.
Member Since: July 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 524
1227. LAgal78
9:09 PM GMT on September 12, 2008
Hey Patient, thanks for the info!

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.