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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VORTFIX-Good morning,if you can ,give me your prediction for middle tenessee.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Had a really bad thunderstorm a few years ago, and you could feel the updraft from the storm at my house, as well as hear it. I turned on the TV and saw the warning go from S-Thunderstorm to RED tornado warning, and I was like oh ok we get those a lot... Then the follow ran across.. NWS Weather spotter has indicated a tornado on the ground in Pt Charlotte moving SW @ .... kinda freaked out to be honest, you get kinda complacent with the warnings but seeing that line I knew it was serious. So I took that experience in mind and I took the spotter training online, and took the test, been a spotter for 2 years now. Think I'm gonna take the advanced training this month. Just trying to do my part, and I'm fascinated by weather so why not?

Ended up being an F-2 passed a half mile south of the house
Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2687
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.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
I thought post 272, was a little over-the-top, so I had not posted it before.....maybe not.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting AstroHurricane001:
Redoubt's eruption sent ash clouds across North America to Europe! As for the next solar maximum, scientists have discovered two large leaks in our magnetic field!Link During a particularly intense solar storm, 130 million North Americans could potentially suffer a blackout.

The United Kingdom Urges
Warning of Solar Flares

from Mitch Battros - Earth Changes Media

The British Government was urged today to make contingency plans for a freak solar flare that could 'knock out' the National Grid and create severe water and food shortages.

Labour former minister Graham Stringer said Britain should be prepared for a repeat of the solar storm of 1859, which hit Earth and paralyzed much of the telegraph system. In a Commons motion, Mr Stringer said such an event could now 'knock out the National Grid, which would lead to a loss of water supply, transport and food and therefore create a national emergency'.

FULL ARTICLE: http://earthchangesmedia.com/secure/3247.326/article-9162524530.php


Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting TropicTraveler:

In the 70's lived in Kendall near Miami. On a beautiful clear day with little puffy white clouds, daughter, dog and I were in the back yard. From one of the little puffy floaters came a bolt of lightning. It split over our heads, hit the chain link fence beside us, hit the boat antenna next door in neighbor's yard (blew out chunk of his boat) and melted some of the wiring in our house. No warning, no clue of TStorms, nothing at all to make us think there was anything going on. Made a believer of me about lightning. Took us about half a second to get inside but the dog beat us.


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.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Redoubt's eruption sent ash clouds across North America to Europe! As for the next solar maximum, scientists have discovered two large leaks in our magnetic field!Link During a particularly intense solar storm, 130 million North Americans could potentially suffer a blackout.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Post 266 - Vort - EEEEEEK!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Post 251 - if you're around I did figure it out LOL -- ISS -- International Space Station -- actually Ossqss clued me in LOL
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Good Morning All....Already warm and a balmy 75 this early AM in the Florida Big Bend region; this does not bode well, once the sun cranks up, for the "second" stronger shortwave predicted to swing through the Northern Gulf later this afternoon/early evening in terms of instability and possible severe weather along the Northern Gulf coast.....Keep your NOAA weather radios handy today along this coast. From the Tallahassee NWS this am:

THE THREAT FOR A SIGNIFICANT SEVERE WEATHER EVENT INCREASES DRASTICALLY DURING THE AFTERNOON AND EVENING HOURS. SPC HAS
OUTLOOKED OUR ENTIRE CWA IN A MODERATE RISK FOR SEVERE WEATHER. POTENT MID/UPPER LEVEL TROUGH WILL TAKE ON AN INCREASINGLY NEGATIVE
TILT AS IT EJECTS ACROSS THE SOUTHERN MS VALLEY THROUGH EARLY EVENING...AND THEN ACROSS THE TN VALLEY TONIGHT. LARGE SCALE ASCENT
WILL INCREASE OVERHEAD AS THIS FEATURE APPROACHES. WARM FRONT IS EXPECTED TO HANG UP JUST NORTH OF THE I-10 CORRIDOR WITH SURFACE
BASED STORMS ALONG AND TO ITS SOUTH...AND A MORE ELEVATED VARIETY FURTHER NORTH. KINEMATIC FIELDS WILL BE VERY FAVORABLE INTO TONIGHT
WITH 55-70KTS OF DEEP LAYER SHEAR. INSTABILITY WILL NOT BE LACKING EITHER...WITH FORECAST SOUNDINGS PRODUCING 1500 J/KG OF SURFACE
BASED CAPE SOUTH OF THE WARM FRONT AND 800-1200 J/KG OF ELEVATED CAPE NORTH OF THE FLORIDA BORDER. LATEST SREF PROBS SHOWING A WIDE SWATH WHERE THE CRAVEN PARAMETER IS REACHING AT LEAST 20000. THIS IS A SIGNIFICANT SIGNAL OF THE SEVERE WEATHER POTENTIAL. ALL SEVERE MODES ARE POSSIBLE INTO TONIGHT...WITH LARGE HAIL...DAMAGING WINDS...AND ISOLATED TORNADOES POSSIBLE. GIVEN THE LOW LEVEL WIND
FIELDS THIS AFTERNOON/EVENING...A FEW STRONG TORNADOES ARE POSSIBLE...ESPECIALLY IN THE VICINITY OF THE QUASI-STATIONARY WARM
FRONT.


Stay Safe...................
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9402
Quoting theshepherd:
oops.
Except for the fact that it is exceedingly rare for lightning to strike from cloud to ground. It's the other way around. And most often from cloud to cloud. LOL

In the 70's lived in Kendall near Miami. On a beautiful clear day with little puffy white clouds, daughter, dog and I were in the back yard. From one of the little puffy floaters came a bolt of lightning. It split over our heads, hit the chain link fence beside us, hit the boat antenna next door in neighbor's yard (blew out chunk of his boat) and melted some of the wiring in our house. No warning, no clue of TStorms, nothing at all to make us think there was anything going on. Made a believer of me about lightning. Took us about half a second to get inside but the dog beat us.
Member Since: July 24, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 927
Just finished my SKYWARN refresher. Figured it was a good time of year to do so...
Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2687
Look at the temp and dew point, if it's anything like that north of here there's a lot of room for instability.

Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2687
Of course, CG stroke rate, and that wouldn't be in the 100s for a cell, would it? If "The ratio of cloud-to-ground and intra-cloud lightning can vary significantly from storm to storm.", it could.
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WOW!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
253. Skyepony (Mod)
Ossqss~ Yeah, it's something to have Dr Masters follow with this blog. I did get sidetracked looking at making a solar food dehydrater. Couldn't really find a space weather, weather connection, at all. Though if you watch WV loops enough, occationally it seems like something flys across, the effect like dragging a finger quickly through the normal current, disrupting everything behind it. I could stand to read up on what drives the MJO & perhaps someone has studied what drives it to loop backward occationally. I'm gonna watch for the incident with geomatic events in the future.
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great blog from dr. m.!
i was in melbourne during the tornadic event just north of there today. drove back north through a very strong band of showers.
i too am looking forward to another eventful hurricane season. we are below rain levels here and with today's downpours the trees have immediately responded by bursting forth with leaves.
everyone's happier here when it's wetter...our wildlife thrive in the marshes and canals dotted throughout the landscape.
quite an amazing area here with both the technology of the space coast, complete with merritt island preserve and its multifarious wildlife coexisting alongside satellite tracking stations and high tech space stuff!
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Quoting surfmom:
Nice link to space flybys Ossqss - pardon my "ditz" --it seems we do NOT get to see the space station in SRQ - just the ISS or some wreckage?

Loved the orbs!!



actually,we'll have a spectacular view of the ISS coming up between 9:01pm and 9:03pm this friday looking WNW at about 56 degrees,as long as weather permits,and with any luck we'll have a nice clear sky as the front should have passed about 6-8hrs prior,oh yea its magnitude will be a brillant -3.5 which is about as bright as venus has been,I believe....which will be amazing....i'll be at work but,it should be bright enough,I'll still try and take some pics!!!!
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Quoting surfmom:


that what I figured ... I was hoping if I keep asking the same question I'd get the answer I want to hear..... (like my kids)

REDOUBT ---- ????
look for good chance(80%)of rain friday morning/afternoon time period,w/isolated severe south of the tampa bay area,should be able to squeeze another .50-1 inches,as the atmosphere will be darn moist in all layers thru next tuesday,when we might get our final cold front to pass thru the peninsula,the chances for rain in our area will be above average until that happens,I'll keep an eye on the GOM for you!!!
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
248 Oss
yep, my bad

I saw this from #215 and thought he was talking about cloud to ground.
...............................................

settled on the term "excessive" as one of its descriptors of cloud-to-ground lightning flash rates from thunderstorm cells. As currently used, this falls at the upper end of a scale with the following rough criteria:

Occasional = ~ 1 strike/minute

Frequent = ~ 2-6 strikes/minute

Continuous = ~ 6-11 strikes/minute

Excessive = ~ 12 strikes/minute and higher (corresponds to 1 or more strike every 5 seconds)

You are certainly correct that a single strike is too many if it hits your house or strikes a person. However, if two precipitation cells of roughly the same size, speed and duration pass over an area, and one produces a cloud to ground flash rate of 2-3 per minute, etc...
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10165
Quoting theshepherd:
oops.
Except for the fact that it is exceedingly rare for lightning to strike from cloud to ground. It's the other way around. And most often from cloud to cloud. LOL


Check me, the original question related to the rating system for lightning strikes eminated from the ground or vise versa per minute. Hence, the difference from total flashes vs cloud to ground or vice versa per minute.

Origination of the item from prior post.

212. HIEXPRESS 2:44 PM EDT on April 01, 2009
How much lightning does it take before it becomes "excessive"?



Assumed answer from NWS:

Occasional = ~ 1 strike/minute

Frequent = ~ 2-6 strikes/minute

Continuous = ~ 6-11 strikes/minute

Excessive = ~ 12 strikes/minute and higher (corresponds to 1 or more strike every 5 seconds)

I did not write it.

Is it wrong ??? I am no expert, that's why I count on you all. :)

Nightall

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
Quoting Ossqss:
Albeit, your numbers are correct with respect to totals. The cloud to ground is what was being evaluated. The charts in your doc, had the highest at 22/min. per the sample involved. Good stuff though. e
oops.
Except for the fact that it is exceedingly rare for lightning to strike from cloud to ground. It's the other way around. And most often from cloud to cloud. LOL
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10165
Quoting IKE:


I'm ready for tropical season to get going, with no injuries or deaths. This off-season is wearing and tearing


59 days and counting!
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245. IKE
Quoting Patrap:
Sea Forecast Aug 28th Mid GOM 2005 Katrina


"Phenomenal"




I'm ready for tropical season to get going, with no injuries or deaths. This off-season is wearing and tearing
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Quoting Skyepony:
Hades~ I think NOAA is still calling it 93S. Looked good enough for a pic..


Skyepony, did you ever find any correlation on your quest a few days ago to the GM item?
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
243. Skyepony (Mod)
Hades~ I think NOAA is still calling it 93S. Looked good enough for a pic..
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242. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Disturbance Summary For area Equator to 25S, 160E to 120W
ISSUED FROM RSMC NADI Apr 01/2352 UTC 2009 UTC.

TROPICAL DEPRESSION 14F [1002HPA] LOCATED NEAR 16S 179E AT 012100
UTC SLOW MOVING. POSITION POOR BASED ON LATEST MTSAT IR/VIS IMAGERAY
WITH ANIMATION AND PERIPHERAL SURFACE REPORTS. SST AROUND 29C.

14F REMAINS EMBEDDED IN A MONSOONAL TROUGH WITH AN ACTIVE CONVERGENCE
ZONE TO THE NORTH. LLCC PARTIALLY EXPOSED WITH DEEP CONVECTION
DETACHED TO THE EAST. SYSTEM LIES UNDER A 10 KNOT ENVIRONMENTAL
SHEAR. A SERIES OF LOWS LIES ALONG THE MONSOONAL TROUGH WITH 14F
BEING ONE OF THESE LOW. THESE LOWS ARE EXPECTED TO MOVE FAIRLY
RAPIDLY TO THE SOUTHEAST IN RESPONSE TO A GOOD NORTHWEST STEERING
FLOW. A SOUTHEAST SURGE WITH DRY AIR ENTRAINMENT ASSOCIATED WITH AN
INTENSE RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE TO THE SOUTH OF 14F.

POTENTIAL FOR 14F TO DEVELOP INTO A TROPICAL CYCLONE OVER THE NEXT 24
TO 48 HOURS IS LOW.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46913
Quoting Ossqss:
SIGHTINGS: If you live in North America, this is a good week to see a large spaceship pass by in the night sky. That would be the International Space Station:

Zip code link for timing and position if you are lucky enough to be in the zone.

Link


Should be able to see the International Space Station starting tomorrow in Florida at around 8:30pm. L8R -- Hockey night in Bradenton
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
Quoting HIEXPRESS:
213, 214, 215...
"excessive" Lightning
12? Please

Here, we need a few more adjectives...

Extreme 75

Continuous 250

"Certain Death" 400

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mlb/PDFs/tli_svr.pdf
Albeit, your numbers are correct with respect to totals. The cloud to ground is what was being evaluated. The charts in your doc, had the highest at 22/min. per the sample involved. Good stuff though. e
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
Sea Forecast Aug 28th Mid GOM 2005 Katrina


"Phenomenal"


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238. N3EG
Quoting HIEXPRESS:
213, 214, 215...
"excessive" Lightning
12? Please

Here, we need a few more adjectives...

Extreme 75

Continuous 250

"Certain Death" 400

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mlb/PDFs/tli_svr.pdf


Armageddon-like 1000
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
213, 214, 215...
"excessive" Lightning
12? Please

Here, we need a few more adjectives...

Extreme 75

Continuous 250

"Certain Death" 400

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mlb/PDFs/tli_svr.pdf
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
236. N3EG
Nice topic, Dr. M. As a ham radio operator, I know the upsides and downsides of CMEs, auroras, etc., although never heard of the Carrington event until now. I did some reading on that, and am looking forward to the next blog.

Too bad there weren't ham radio operators back then...
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Nice link to space flybys Ossqss - pardon my "ditz" --it seems we do NOT get to see the space station in SRQ - just the ISS or some wreckage?

Loved the orbs!!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Hey tropical folks. I did something interesting by collecting Hurricane Hunter onboard radar images into a loop.

This is a little bit different perspective than what we are used to with stationary land-based radars as the center point of each frame is the plane itself (which you can see in the radar plots). The beam attenuation is astounding. Most of the time, the mets on the plane cannot actually see much beyond what is immediately in front.

We sometimes see this beam attenuation when looking at a single land-based radar and there is more than one line of severe storms.

I'll bet Dr M has lots of these plots, given his past work.

Warning, 11 MB image, but see it in my blog.
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Quoting HurrMichaelOrl:
So is the action all done for the day in the Orlando area? Tstorm cells were back-building and then just fell apart.

yep, pretty much
losing the sun
means loss of heat
whick equals lost of
convective energy
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Helicopter with 16 people down in North Sea
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So is the action all done for the day in the Orlando area? Tstorm cells were back-building and then just fell apart.
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Quoting Vortex95:
THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE DURING A TORNADO IS IN A STRONG BUILDING ON
THE LOWEST FLOOR...IN AN INTERIOR ROOM SUCH AS A BATHROOM OR CLOSET.
KEEP AWAY FROM WINDOWS. GET UNDER A WORKBENCH OR OTHER PIECE OF
STURDY FURNITURE. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS TO COVER YOUR BODY.

^^^ always remember this.


Unless you want to get a good picture or recording of it! Remember, when a tornado watch is issued, make sure your camera and/or camcorder is fully charged.
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A tornado has been confirmed with this storm near Geneva.
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Tronadic Cell NE of Orlando Florida. Strong rotation with this one...

Several popping up on this one. Short lived. Link
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188

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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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