Space Weather storms

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:40 PM GMT on March 31, 2009

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Twenty years ago this month, on March 13, 1989, I was aboard NOAA's P-3 weather research aircraft, bumping through a turbulent portion of a fierce winter storm in a remote ocean area between Greenland and Norway. We were searching for clues on how to make better weather forecasts for the regions of Norway and the northern British Isles battered by these great storms. Our 2-month project, based in Bødø, Norway, was called the Coordinated Eastern Arctic Research Experiment (CEAREX) . Today's flight took us through the heart of an extratropical storm developing at the edge of the sea ice that covered the ocean waters east of Greenland.

As I looked over at the white-capped, forbidding waters of the Greenland Sea, I reflected today's flight was not particularly dangerous by Hurricane Hunter standards, though the storm's tropical storm-force winds made the ride a bit rough at times. However, we were a long way from civilization. Should an emergency require us to ditch the aircraft in the ocean or the nearby remote island of Jan Mayen, we'd be tough to find unless we were able to radio back our position before going down. Far from any land areas, our communication life-line to the outside world was HF radio (ham radio), which relied on Earth's ionosphere to bounce signals off of. Three hours into the flight this life-line abruptly stopped working.


Figure 1. Sea ice swirls in ocean eddies off the coast of Labrador, Canada, in this photo I took during a 1989 CEAREX flight.

"Jeff, can you come up to the cockpit?" Aircraft Commander Dan Eilers' voice crackled over the intercom. I took a break from monitoring our weather instruments, took off my headset, and stepped forward into the cockpit of the P-3.

"What's up, Dan?" I asked.

"Well, HF radio reception crapped out about twenty minutes ago, and I want to climb to 25,000 feet and see if we can raise Reykjavik Air Traffic Control to report our position. We're flying at low altitude in hazardous conditions over 500 miles from the nearest airport, and it's not good that we're out of communication with the outside world. If we were to go down, search and rescue would have no idea where to look for us."

I agreed to work out an alteration to the flight plan with our scientists, so that we could continue to collect good data on the storm while we climbed higher. The scientists weren't too happy with the plan, since they were paying $20,000 for this flight, and wanted to stay low at 1,500 feet to better investigate the storm's structure. Regardless, we climbed as high as we could and orbited the storm, issuing repeated calls to the outside world over our HF radio. No one answered.

"I've never seen such a major interruption to HF radio!" Commander Eilers said, worriedly. "We can go back down to 1,500 feet and resume the mission, but I want to periodically climb to 25,000 feet and continue trying to establish communications. If we can't raise Air Traffic Control, we should consider aborting the mission".

I agreed to work with the scientists to accommodate this strategy. They argued hotly against a possible cancellation of this mission, which was collecting some unique data on a significant winter storm. So, for the next four hours, we periodically climbed to 25,000 feet, issuing futile calls over our HF radio. Finally, after an uncomfortable eight hours, it was time to go home to our base in Norway. As twilight sank into Arctic darkness, a spectacular auroral display--shimmering curtains of brilliant green light--lit up sky. It began to dawn on us that the loss of our HF radio reception was probably due to an unusual kind of severe weather--a "Space Weather" storm. An extremely intense geomagnetic storm was hitting the polar regions, triggering our brilliant auroral show and interrupting HF radio communications.

The geomagnetic "Superstorm" of March 13, 1989
As it turned out, the geomagnetic storm of March 13, 1989 was one of the most intense such "Space Weather" events in recorded history. The storm developed as a result of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from the sun four days previously. The CME event blasted a portion of the Sun's plasma atmosphere into space. When the protons and electrons from the Sun arrived at the Earth, the planet's magnetic field guided the highly energetic particles into the upper atmosphere near the magnetic poles. As a result, the lower levels of the polar ionosphere become very ionized, with severe absorption of HF radio, resulting in my uncomfortable flight over the Greenland Sea with no communications. The geomagnetic storm didn't stop there--the storm's charged particles triggered a strong magnetic impulse that caused a voltage depression in five transmission lines in the Hydro-Quebec power system in Canada. Within 90 seconds, automatic voltage compensation equipment failed, resulting in a generation loss of 9,450 MW. With a load of about 21,350 MW, the system was unable to withstand the generation loss and collapsed. The entire province of Quebec--six million people--was blacked out for approximately nine hours. The geomagnetic storm also triggered the failure of a large step-up transformer at the Salem Nuclear Power Plant in New Jersey, as well as 200 other failures on the North American power system. Auroras were observed as far south as Florida, Texas, and Cuba during this geomagnetic "superstorm".


Figure 2. Red and green colors predominate in this view of the Aurora Australis (Southern Hemisphere aurora) photographed from the Space Shuttle in May 1991 at the peak of the geomagnetic maximum that also brought us the March 13, 1989 geomagnetic "superstorm". The payload bay and tail of the Shuttle can be seen on the left hand side of the picture. Auroras are caused when high-energy electrons pour down from the Earth's magnetosphere and collide with atoms. Red aurora occurs from 200 km to as high as 500 km altitude and is caused by the emission of 6300 Angstrom wavelength light from oxygen atoms. Green aurora occurs from about 100 km to 250 km altitude and is caused by the emission of 5577 Angstrom wavelength light from oxygen atoms. The light is emitted when the atoms return to their original unexcited state. Image credit: NASA.

Solar Maximum is approaching
The sun waxes and wanes in brightness in a well-documented 11-year cycle, when sun spots and their associated Coronal Mass Ejections occur. We just passed through solar minimum--the sun is quiet, with no sun spots. We are headed towards a solar maximum, forecast to occur in 2012. Geomagnetic storms are at their peak during solar maximum, and we'll have to be on the lookout for severe "Space Weather" starting in 2010. I'll talk more about severe "Space Weather" storms in my next post, when I'll discuss the greatest Space Weather storm in recorded history--the famed "Carrington Event" of 1859--and what damages it might wreak were it to happen today. An extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2008 says that a repeat of the Carrington Event could result in the most costly natural disaster of all time.

Resources
MetaTech Corporation's animation of the March 13, 1989 geomagnetic "superstorm".
spaceweather.com
NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC)

Jeff Masters

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Thanks Ossgs!


Cops are everywhere and keeping traffic moving pretty slow, although you are right, booth space is real close to the road. Road will close starting tomorrow
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Quoting Portlight:
I'm about to get soaked setting up a tent I have never set up before; and you can watch...



Very cool linkage, but are you not a bit toooo close to the active roadway with trucks and buses going by fairly quickly???? Great technology at work... Good luck with the tent item.


Mr. Gustavike person( post 324), could you please shrink your pic size on your post. Thanks Ed ( current deputy blog stretching graphic police stand in for the TS person)
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Strong winds of the south are affecting the Cuban West. To the 11:50 a.m. the weather station of Casablanca reported a gust of wind of 90 Km/h.
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I'm about to get soaked setting up a tent I have never set up before; and you can watch...

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NEXRAD Radar
New Orleans, Base Reflectivity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128630
The way the thunderstorms flared up so quickly was pretty amazing. Im here in Baton Rouge, and it was pretty tense there for a while.

What's funny is that this was NOT predicted at all. I checked the forecast yesterday and it said nothing about strong, or severe thunderstorms. I think the focus was mostly to the east of here, and the front had a surprise up it's sleeve at the last minute.

Everything's good. I expect damage in and around Baton Rouge to mimic what it has with the past few storms systems that have moved through over the weeks.

Clean up around here actually looks like a mini Gustav has come back through. Lots of limbs sitting on the side of the road from storms these past few weeks, and more to come from todays storm...again!
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Quoting stillwaiting:
those storms have exploded in the last hr and w/the line moving towards an area were the sun is out=a large scale severe outbreak over central LA,with widespread damage.....


Sun still out here in Slidell (NE of NOLA across Lake) with Severe Tstorm warnings just 25 miles west of us.

Had 3000 MUCAPE at 7 this morning. This has some potential...
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Southwest GA is being inundated with more heavy rain--flood threat there is extremely high

Ive been keeping tabs on my hometowns local newspaper Link and schools have been closed all week and have already been cancelled for tomorrow.

Creeks and streams are way out of their banks and flash flooding has closed many roads in the county.

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those storms have exploded in the last hr and w/the line moving towards an area were the sun is out=a large scale severe outbreak over central LA,with widespread damage.....
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
There are multiple tornado warnings in LA right now.
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316. Skyepony (Mod)
Suprised to see this in the NOAA news. Here's highlights..

NOAA scientists, in a first-of-its-kind report issued today, state that Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), chemicals commonly used in commercial goods as flame retardants since the 1970s, are found in all United States coastal waters and the Great Lakes, with elevated levels near urban and industrial centers.

“This is a wake-up call for Americans concerned about the health of our coastal waters and their personal health,” said John H. Dunnigan, NOAA assistant administrator of the National Ocean Service. “Scientific evidence strongly documents that these contaminants impact the food web and action is needed to reduce the threats posed to aquatic resources and human health.”

PBDEs are man-made toxic chemicals used as flame retardants in a wide array of consumer products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, plastics, polyurethane foams and textiles since the 1970s. A growing body of research points to evidence that exposure to PBDEs may produce detrimental health effects in animals, including humans. Toxicological studies indicate that liver, thyroid and neurobehavioral development may be impaired by exposure to PBDEs. They are known to pass from mother to infant in breast milk.


It goes on~ They are banned in Europe & Asia. Most production here has stopped. They are finding it in preety odd places..providing evidence of atmospheric transport. From burning, leaching & human waste.. They are on the EPA about it. The amount of species #s they are finding it in per some of the areas is sick.

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Forecast from SPC for FL tomorrow:

FL...DIURNAL...
BAND OF CONVECTION MAY BE ONGOING ALONG OR JUST AHEAD OF COLD FRONT
AT BEGINNING OF PERIOD...OVER PORTIONS NRN/CENTRAL FL. FAVORABLE
DEEP-LAYER SHEAR -- MAINLY SPEED SHEAR GIVEN WLY PREFRONTAL WIND
COMPONENT -- IS EXPECTED BETWEEN 3/12Z AND 3/18Z. STRONGEST WIND
FIELDS WILL COINCIDE WITH MORNING MIN OF BOUNDARY LAYER
INSTABILITY...BUT MAY REMAIN FAVORABLE FOR SVR INTO AFTERNOON
DESPITE GEN DECREASING TREND WITH TIME. FOREGOING AIR MASS IS FCST
TO UNDERGO STG DIABATIC SFC HEATING ...BUT COINCIDENT WITH WEAKENING
OF BOTH FRONTAL CONVERGENCE AND LOW LEVEL SHEAR. PORTIONS CENTRAL
FL MAY REQUIRE UPGRADE ONCE RELATIVE BALANCE OF THESE OFFSETTING
TRENDS BECOMES MORE CERTAIN.
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Hurricane kit and summer essential. Hand held bug zapper.

Homedepot and harbor freight have these cheap. They work great on most anything that bothers you. Including spouses if you can out run them. :)

Some use D cells for more power. Never tell a friend that it is a small electric guitar and they should try it.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186


Quoting atmoaggie:
Pat, do you know what was going on last night?

My WX radio went off at about 3:40 AM with a marine warning and said something about a 51 knot gust at KNEW and moving north across the lake. I could find nothing on radar responsible for it. I never saw it (I did go outside for a while at 3 freaking whatever in the morning).

Now I see nothing in the KNEW reports corroborating. Did you guys have some strong winds with no rain last night or not? All I see at KNEW is 15 mph winds at that time.

-------------------
Joe: Hey Bob, there are 15 mph winds at Lakefront airport.
Bob: OK, let me write that dwon.
Joe: See ya later.
--- 5 minutes later ---
Bob: Hey Lucy, Joe syas there are 51 knot winds at Lakefront airport.
Lucy: Wow, we need to issue a warning.
Bob: Yes, I tihnk so.
--- 5 minutes later ---
(RINNG! RINNG!)
Bob: Hello?
Bob: Hey Joe.
Bob: OHHHH. 15 mph, not 51 konts?


I got that tone too atmo..
was sleeping fine till then. LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128630
look at all that heavy rain in south GA headed towards SC!!!!,I would expect flash flooding into south GA and SC as well looks like 2-3 inches widespread....
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Quoting surfmom:


Similar incident just this past Sunday SWFL/SRQ East of I75 - early morning well b/4 the rain.....Lightening Hit the well pump of my bosses house (No Lightening Protection) and completely fried everything. Over 2 Thousand to repair -- been telling the boss he needs to get some protection - would have been cheaper.

Think it was two years ago our house got hit... the boom and energy was so great it blew me off the chair. The cats went completely static (it was one funny sight poor dears) Their fur was straight out .... thankfully we have rods & surge protection so we didn't get fried -- one TV was never quite right after wards.

I think that's where the saying OUT OF THE BLUE originates -- cause it's a "strike" from out of the blue.


Many homes get damaged with transient voltage from close proximity strikes due to improper grounding. Wells are particularly vulnerable since their casings are like big ground rods. I would recommend everyone do some basic checks on their exterior grounding resistance. If that is bad, none of the protection you plug into a wall is worth anything, including UPS units. Basic link here with additional bolt on links imbedded. I just added an additional ground rod, per code and spec to help my cause. They have to be so deep or they are worthless. If your house is over 5 years old, get the Ohm meter out and check it. Use a heavy gauge wire to extend the terminal as needed. Many contractors cheated when putting them in the ground. Hence, why the new rods are encapsulated in such a way that they cannot be cut down prior to inspection. Good luck.

PS -- Surfmom, have your boss read #6 in the 3rd link


Link

Link

Link
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
TPA's best chance of heavy rain should be between 4am-12pm friday......about 60%,with .10-.25 inches expected....with higher amounts to the south as the sun could destablize the atmosphere more,with the front arriving later further south....
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Pat, do you know what was going on last night?

My WX radio went off at about 3:40 AM with a marine warning and said something about a 51 knot gust at KNEW and moving north across the lake. I could find nothing on radar responsible for it. I never saw it (I did go outside for a while at 3 freaking whatever in the morning).

Now I see nothing in the KNEW reports corroborating. Did you guys have some strong winds with no rain last night or not? All I see at KNEW is 15 mph winds at that time.

-------------------
Joe: Hey Bob, there are 15 mph winds at Lakefront airport.
Bob: OK, let me write that dwon.
Joe: See ya later.
--- 5 minutes later ---
Bob: Hey Lucy, Joe syas there are 51 knot winds at Lakefront airport.
Lucy: Wow, we need to issue a warning.
Bob: Yes, I tihnk so.
--- 5 minutes later ---
(RINNG! RINNG!)
Bob: Hello?
Bob: Hey Joe.
Bob: OHHHH. 15 mph, not 51 konts?
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Quoting tampabos:
Today we may see several large tornadoes. If anyone has a good relationship with the weather gods, please ask them to send rain to Tampa Bay.



I believe the most active and dangerous time period will be from 6pm-4am with possible long lived tornadic supercells near some populated areas in the SE.....
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Quoting tampabos:
Today we may see several large tornadoes. If anyone has a good relationship with the weather gods, please ask them to send rain to Tampa Bay.


Good luck with that. They said only a 10% chance for tampa.
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its going to be one sticky,hot,humid day here in swfl...feels almost like summer,can't wait for that last cold front to make it thru here next week,it'll be a treat for sure after this humidity,with lows in the 40's for 2 nights and day time highs in the low 70's!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service Tampa Bay Ruskin Florida
1003 am EDT Thursday Apr 2 2009


..slight risk of severe weather over Nature Coast today...


Discussion...some patchy fog is still lingering across much of
the area with low clouds between 500-1000 feet starting to break up.
Expect rain to develop and move into the Nature Coast later this
morning and continue through the afternoon with the boundary
remaining across northern Florida. Warm...moist and unstable air in
place across the Nature Coast will allow any storms that do
develop to potentially contain large hail and damaging winds. Will
update the zones to remove morning fog but the forecast is
otherwise on track.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128630
Today we may see several large tornadoes. If anyone has a good relationship with the weather gods, please ask them to send rain to Tampa Bay.
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Morning Tampa... 8K. ;)
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College of DuPage Meteorology
Severe Weather and Flash Flood Warnings



Note: This page will reload every 2 minutes. Warnings are listed with the most recent first.

GOM IR LOOP
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128630
Tampa Radar is down for Maintenance, switch to Melbourne....
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I'll probably be driving home around midnight or shortly therafter, we'll see what happens. All I know is dew points are high. 1. Warm stable air at the surface, and cold air aloft.
2. Moisture
3. Lift (the only one missing for the moment)

Quoting stillwaiting:



you should be fine no real wx to speak of in our area,other than that darn humid 20-30mph zepher(surfmom)!!!!the wx should move into the TPA area after midnight,possible isolated severe wx on the other coast and in north fl as well.in the area south of TPA we could experience some isolated severe tomorrow morning-early afternoon,with gusty winds and a moderate chance of heavy rain for a couple hrs and if we are lucky .50-1 inches of aqua!!!
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Solid Red= Tornado Warnings
Solid Yellow= S-Thunderstorm Warnings

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Good Morning everyone!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
Quoting charlottefl:
Lucky me I get to drive to Tampa this afternoon, can you say mobile radar and WU for Iphone lol..



you should be fine no real wx to speak of in our area,other than that darn humid 20-30mph zepher(surfmom)!!!!the wx should move into the TPA area after midnight,possible isolated severe wx on the other coast and in north fl as well.in the area south of TPA we could experience some isolated severe tomorrow morning-early afternoon,with gusty winds and a moderate chance of heavy rain for a couple hrs and if we are lucky .50-1 inches of aqua!!!
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Good Morning from Panama City Beach. Training severe thunderstorms, confirmed tornado sighting and widespread flooding here. It looks like it may get worse before it gets better.
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Quoting MissNadia:
288
Miss Nadia is in Wilmington N.C.


Are you sure? LOL.

Oh yeah, that was SouthernLady that had nadoes blow through town.
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Dew Point is upto 74 degrees here.. stay safe up there guys...

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Dang, 3000 MUCAPE at 7 am CDT at Slidell. God forbid the sun comes out for an hour or so...would get more unstable (and likely will).


(Click for full size in new tab)
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288
Miss Nadia is in Wilmington N.C.
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Another one, Vort.

I hope this does not impact that same area of one of ours that got it last week. (Who was that in southern MS Miss Nadia?)

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090
fxus64 klix 021313
afdlix


Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
813 am CDT Thursday Apr 2 2009


Sounding discussion...


The atmosphere has already begun to show US what its capable
of...an hour before launch...at weather forecast office Slidell...there were
sustained winds of 35 miles per hour with wind gusts of up to 47 miles per hour. The
sounding shows that the atmosphere is extremely unstable with a
lifted index value of -10.4. The southerly winds near the surface
continue to bring in warm moist air...precipitable water value is
1.24 inches.The Ricks index is 161 which indicates that there is a
51 percent probability of severe weather and the atmosphere is
capable of producing wind gusts of up 74 miles per hour...hail up to 1.37
inches in diameter and tornadoes of up to F2 intensity.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128630
Lucky me I get to drive to Tampa this afternoon, can you say mobile radar and WU for Iphone lol..
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Morning all,

Webcam is running...
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looking like it might get down into the low 30's again for north florida(frost watch,freeze watch??),mid-next week time period....amazing there could be crop damage in the SE next week from the cold and crop damage in the SE this week,from the severe weather....gotta love spring!!!,oh yea surfmom and ogss,I wouldn't be suprised if we get down into the low-mid 40's for lows mid next week!!!!!
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Quoting hydrus:
VORTFIX-Thank you,one of the weather men up here said if the quasi-stationary warm front manages its way into tenessee along with the southern jet it could spell trouble for us here



IT is all about if the STJS is over your area,if it is with the front moving in,your area could be under the gun for long lived strong tornadic cells,anytime from 3pm-10pm cdt.....
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
VORTFIX-Thank you,one of the weather men up here said if the quasi-stationary warm front manages its way into tenessee along with the southern jet it could spell trouble for us here
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21409
Your best defense against lightning strikes, well 2:


-Looking at local radar

-And knowing what a thunderstorm looks like
from a distance. There are more lightning deaths in FL than any other natural weather occurence
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Waiting for the storms to hit here today...radio is already going off with flood warnings...the rain hasn't hit yet though. Just no tornados!
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Quoting surfmom:
SWFL/SRQ Gulfster Report
Surfs up! Building swell in the waist high range and looking pretty weak early this morning. Things will change though as the front inches closer and the winds keep blowing, we'll see an increase in the size as the day comes to a close.One major high tide today around 4:20pm. Severe storms North of the Tampa Bay area could produce a twister so keep an eye on the sky. Surf to continue to build into tomorrow and last into Saturday with more swell on the way next week! Gulf Temp 74

See Ya! I'm getting wet.



well,well,well.....high tide's at 4:20,thats my favorite time of day,oh yea!!!,I'm finally off today after 9 days straight of working and I feel like I deserve some good fishing,the one strong tide seems like a winner and maybe I'll catch dinner!!!!,hey that rhymes.......the gom looks knee to waist,with nice conditions for you to surf and with the temp hovering around 75 degrees,you should be getting rid of your suit by mid-may...and I can't personally wait til the gom hits 80,may,june and october are my fav. months for swimming,with air temps in the mid-high 80's and the humidity,that water is perfect.....
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Quoting vortfix:
TropicTraveler....That happens quite regularly in south Florida.
There are several reported deaths annually due to lightning hits during periods of clear weather.

Makes it next to impossible to take precautions when there is a clear blue sky and no bad weather around.



Here is some lightning food for thought from NWS. This is to the ground for clarity.
How far can lightning strike?
Almost all lightning will occur within 10 miles of its parent thunderstorm, but it CAN strike much farther than that. Lightning detection equipment has confirmed bolts striking almost 50 miles away, but these are very rare.

Link

Calculator for ya if ya need it>

Link
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
VORTFIX-Good morning,if you can ,give me your prediction for middle tenessee.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21409

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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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