Fred is born; storm surge survival misconceptions

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:29 PM GMT on September 08, 2009

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Tropical Storm Fred sprang to life yesterday off the coast of Africa, but is not a threat to any land areas for at least the next week. Satellite imagery from the European satellite shows a well-organized circulation with plenty of low-level spiral bands and high cirrus clouds streaming away from the storm at high levels, indicating good upper level outflow. There is dry air of the Saharan Air Layer to the north of Fred, but it is far enough away so as not to be a major impediment to development. Wind shear is moderate, 10 - 15 knots, and ocean temperatures are 1 - 2°C above the threshold needed for tropical cyclone formation.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Fred, off the coast of Africa. Note the layer of low stratocumulus clouds to Fred's north, a sign of relatively dry, stable air there.

The forecast for Fred
Wind shear this afternoon is expected to drop to the low range, 5 - 10 knots, and continue to remain low until Thursday morning, when it will rise to the moderate range again. Given Fred's current improving appearance, the storm should be able to attain hurricane status by Thursday. At that time, a strong trough of low pressure traversing the North Atlantic will bring higher shear, weakening the storm. The trough will also pull Fred to the northwest and then north. Most of the models foresee that this trough will not be strong enough to fully recurve Fred to the northeast and out to sea. However, with the steering pattern for this year continuing to feature plenty of deep troughs of low pressure moving off the U.S. East Coast, the odds of Fred making it all the way across the Atlantic to threaten land areas appear low at this time.

Elsewhere in the tropics
An area of concentrated thunderstorms has developed off the North Carolina coast in association with the remains of an old cold front. This system is under about 20 - 30 knots of shear, and is not tropical. However, it will bring heavy rain to eastern North Carolina and Virginia today and Wednesday, as the storm slides north-northeastward along the coast.

A strong low pressure system is expected to move into the central U.S. by this weekend, dragging a cold front into the western Gulf of Mexico. In several of their runs over the past few days, the GFS and ECMWF models have been predicting a tropical system may develop along this front in the western Gulf of Mexico by Sunday or Monday. The latest GFS phase space analysis of the predicted storm confirms that this would be a tropical cyclone, and not extratropical. There is currently not an area of disturbed weather in the Gulf, but we will have to keep an eye out there beginning this weekend, when the front moves offshore.

I'll have an update Wednesday, when I'll also announce the release of wunderground's excellent new series of storm surge pages. The new storm surge section provides more than 500 detailed, zoomed-in storm surge maps from the official storm surge model used by the National Hurricane Center--the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model. The Weather Underground has created SLOSH model worst-case flood maps for Category 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes for the entire U.S. Atlantic coast, plus Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. Zoom-in maps of fifteen important cities such as Miami, New York City, Boston, Tampa, and Corpus Christi are included. To help coastal residents see how past storms have affected their region, the wunderground storm surge pages also include SLOSH model animations of the surge for more than 30 historic storms--from the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 to Hurricane Ike of 2008. Included here is one section from the new storm surge pages, "Storm Surge Survival Misconceptions".

Storm Surge Survival Misconceptions
The storm surge is usually the most dangerous threat of a hurricane. The ten deadliest U.S. hurricane disasters, including the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 (8000 killed), the Lake Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 (2500 killed), and Hurricane Katrina of 2005 (1833 killed), were all primarily storm surge disasters. The Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald ran a series of stories in 2005 on people who were lucky enough to survive Hurricane Katrina's record storm surge. There were some common misconceptions that were touched on in these stories, and are reproduced here from Margie's Kieper's blog on the Hurricane Katrina storm surge.


Figure 2. A man wearing a tiny life jacket and clutching a neon green noodle and a pet dog floats on the remains of a house in Waveland, MS, during Hurricane Katrina. The photo was taken from the second floor window of a home, and the water is close to the roof line of the first floor. The home was at an elevation of about 17 feet, and the surge is close to ten feet deep here. There are electric lines running down from a pole to a home from left to right. In the distance on the right is a home with water up to the roof line. The eye is probably overhead, as the water is relatively calm and there appears to be little wind or rain, even though the pine trees are bent from the recent force of the eyewall winds. The photo was taken by Judith Bradford. Her husband, Bill Bradford, swam out and rescued the man and his dog, and two other people who floated by. He reported that the water was nothing like white water, but was a gentle, continuous flow. He was lucky. In the nearby Porteaux Bay area, a woman watched her fiance get pulled from a tree by the force of the current. The man was washed out into the Gulf and drowned. The image above is described in more detail on Margie Kieper's Katrina storm surge web page.

Misconception: Call 911 and you can be rescued, while the water is pouring into your home.
How? No one will be able to get to you. Water rises quickly--sometimes six to ten feet within minutes; cars can't drive in it, and it is usually unnavigable by boats when it is coming ashore.

Misconception: Just stuff towels under the door jambs. Then rush around to start picking up things that are close to floor level, so you can save them.
Bad idea. In a minute or so the surge will burst open the door, and instead of standing in a room with four inches of water, you'll be knocked off your feet and into whatever piece of furniture is closest, and will suddenly be in three or four feet of moving water that you can't make any headway into...just before the refrigerator, quickly rushing through the water towards you, knocks you cold.

Misconception: You'll be able to maneuver around in the rushing water.
Probably not. Some people who drowned were not even able to get out of the room they were in, when the water started pouring into the home. The speed of water in surge can be equivalent to a Class III or IV rapids (Class V is hardly navigable by expert kayakers and canoers, and Class VI is not navigable at all).

Misconception: You'll know in time.
The surge is usually not a wall of water as is often assumed, but rather a rapid rise of water of several feet over a period of minutes. It can sneak in unexpectedly, on little cat feet. Most people that were not completely taken by surprise simply happened to look out the window at the right time.

Misconception: You can outrun the storm surge in your car.
Here's an email I got last year from a resident in the Florida Keys who ignored the evacuation order for Hurricane Ike in 2008: I hate to bother you again, but we live on Marathon in the Florida Keys on the Atlantic side, and my husband says that if we see water coming up from storm surge and have an inch of water in our house, that we can outrun the storm surge in our car. Can you please tell me if there is any way this can possibly be true? P.S., I don't know of anyone who lives down here who is planning on evacuating for Ike. Everyone says they are staying. If you wait until the water is an inch high before trying to outrun the surge, the odds are that the surge will rise to over a foot high before you get your car out of the driveway. If the water is a foot high, the typical 10 - 15 mph speed of the storm surge's current has enough force to sweep a car away. In many places along the coast, there is only one road out of a low-lying region prone to storm surges, and the surge will cut off one's only escape route. The Keys have only one road, and the storm surge will likely be moving perpendicular to the road, cutting off the only escape route. One of these days, there are going to be a lot of people who fail to evacuate caught and killed in the Keys by the storm surge from a major hurricane.

How to Survive a Storm Surge
People who survived Katrina's storm surge did one of several things: they floated out an open window, and managed to hang onto debris, a tree, or some other structure above the water, until the surge receded, hours later. Or, they were able to pull themselves into an attic, or make it up to a second floor, where water did not reach, and luckily the home was not swept away. It is common in many flood-prone regions behind levees to keep an axe fastened to the wall of the attic. Then, if water comes in unexpectedly, you can get into the attic and chop a hole through the roof to escape. Don't forget to keep a length of rope there that you can use to tie yourself to a sturdy part of the house (don't tie yourself to the steel beams of the house, as these will sink).

The best way to survive a storm surge is to heed evacuation orders and leave before the surge arrives!

Storm Surge Safety Actions
- Minimize the distance you must travel to reach a safe location; the further you drive the higher the likelihood of encountering traffic congestion and other problems on the roadways.

- Select the nearest possible evacuation destination, preferably within your local area, and map out your route. Do not get on the road without a planned route, or a place to go.

- Choose the home of the closest friend or relative outside a designated evacuation zone and discuss your plan with them before hurricane season.

- You may also choose a hotel/motel outside of the vulnerable area.

- If neither of these options is available, consider the closest possible public shelter, preferably within your local area.

- Use the evacuation routes designated by authorities and, if possible, become familiar with your route by driving it before an evacuation order is issued.

- Contact your local emergency management office to register or get information regarding anyone in your household whom may require special assistance in order to evacuate.

- Prepare a separate pet plan; most public shelters do not accept pets.

- Prepare your home prior to leaving by boarding up doors and windows, securing or moving indoors all yard objects, and turning off all utilities.

- Before leaving, fill your car with gas and withdraw extra money from the ATM.

- Take all prescription medicines and special medical items, such as glasses and diapers.

- If your family evacuation plan includes an RV, boat or trailer, leave early. Do not wait until the evacuation order or exodus is well underway to start your trip.

- If you live in an evacuation zone and are ordered to evacuate by state or local officials, do so as quickly as possible. Do not wait or delay your departure, to do so will only increase your chances of being stuck in traffic, or even worse, not being able to get out at all.

- Expect traffic congestion and delays during evacuations. Expect and plan for significantly longer travel times than normal to reach your family's intended destination.

- Stay tuned to a local radio or television station and listen carefully for any advisories or specific instructions from local officials. Monitor your NOAA Weather Radio.

Source: NOAA

Jeff Masters

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Isnt the shear too high right now for any developemnt in the GOM?
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what local met laf?

Baker on KATC in Lafayette, LA. He says they are working hard to "fine tune their forecast."
I do not doubt this.

ADT already has a major for us.
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Quoting laflastormtracker:
Local Met discussing this morning possibility of Eastern GOM low developing and moving NW thru the Gulf as indicated by the Wave Maps and ElConando.
Whats your local?
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what local met laf?
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UW - CIMSS
ADVANCED DVORAK TECHNIQUE
ADT-Version 7.2.3
Tropical Cyclone Intensity Algorithm

----- Current Analysis -----
Date : 09 SEP 2009 Time : 114500 UTC
Lat : 13:22:38 N Lon : 32:02:01 W


CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
5.5 / 963.3mb/102.0kt


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
(3hr avg)
5.5 6.1 6.2
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That is the NWS and IKE posted that, I just said it made sense because the wave map shows higher than normal waves around SE Florida.
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Quoting StormW:
WOW!

Western Caribbean.

It's warm here alright.90 deg'F on my boats depth sounder last weekend.
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Local Met discussing this morning possibility of Eastern GOM low developing and moving NW thru the Gulf as indicated by the Wave Maps and ElConando.
I guess I was incorrect in my assumption that the E Atl could not support a Cat 3. Most years is not this year. Though I would think cat 4 would be out of the question, at least for this system.
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Quoting IKE:
OFFSHORE WATERS FORECAST FOR THE GULF OF MEXICO
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
430 AM CDT WED SEP 09 2009

SYNOPSIS...A WEAK SURFACE TROUGH OFF THE SE FLORIDA COAST WILL
ENTER THE SE GULF LATER TODAY...THEN MOVE NW. BROAD LOW PRES IS
EXPECTED TO DEVELOP OVER THE NW GULF FRI...THEN MOVE NE SAT AND
SUN.


That would explain the wave map.
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With a weak el-nino imo I would expect shear once or twice to relax this season for a short period of time. If something at that said time will be able to get in there in take advantage is another.
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Quoting wxgeek723:
Great update, 456. Darn it, I wanted Grace to do what Fred is doing, not Fred. Lol. Oh well, we have no control over it. Let's hope the possible GOM low is no Humberto. By the way, what is with that pocket of intense thunderstorms to Fred's southwest?


thats one of his outerband...its called a convective band and develops either from diffluence from Fred's outflow or a line of convergence as air rushes into Fred or a combinations of both. Its a sign of a healthy tropical system as it signifies conditions ahead are conducive for thunderstorm development.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
How far NW, in relation to the coast?
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Quoting IKE:


I think it's pretty good at showing where precip shows up.


From the Lake Charles,LA discussion....

"WITH PWATS STAYING IN THE 2-2.5 INCH RANGE FOR THE FORESEEABLE
FUTURE...UPPER LEVEL TROUGHING IN PLACE OVER THE SOUTHERN
PLAINS...AND AN ACTIVE SUBTROPICAL JET...RAIN CHANCES WILL REMAIN
QUITE HIGH FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK AND THROUGH THE WEEKEND WITH
HIGH CLOUD COVER AND BELOW NORMAL TEMPS. GLOBAL MODELS CONTINUE
TO SUGGEST THE COASTAL TROUGH DEVELOPING ALONG THE TEXAS COAST
WILL GRADUALLY FORM INTO A SURFACE LOW...WHICH WILL MOVE NORTHEAST
UP THE COAST AND INTO OR NEAR THE FORECAST AREA OVER THE WEEKEND.
DIFFERENCES IN STRENGTH AND PLACEMENT OF THE LOW HAVE SIGNIFICANT
EFFECTS ON OUR FORECAST AREA...BUT CONFIDENCE IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR
HIGH CHANCE AND LIKELY POPS FOR FRIDAY NIGHT INTO SATURDAY AS
FIRST WAVE OF DEEP TROPICAL MOISTURE TRAVERSES THE REGION. POPS
MAY NEED TO BE RAISED FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE WEEKEND AS WELL.
ALTHOUGH HPC AND MODEL GUIDANCE SUGGEST STRONGEST SIGNAL FOR HEAVY
RAINFALL WILL REMAIN OFFSHORE...LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL CERTAINLY
APPEARS POSSIBLE ESPECIALLY ACROSS SOUTHERN ZONES...AND WILL
HIGHLIGHT THIS IN THE HWO."
Quoting IKE:


I think it's pretty good at showing where precip shows up.


From the Lake Charles,LA discussion....

"WITH PWATS STAYING IN THE 2-2.5 INCH RANGE FOR THE FORESEEABLE
FUTURE...UPPER LEVEL TROUGHING IN PLACE OVER THE SOUTHERN
PLAINS...AND AN ACTIVE SUBTROPICAL JET...RAIN CHANCES WILL REMAIN
QUITE HIGH FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK AND THROUGH THE WEEKEND WITH
HIGH CLOUD COVER AND BELOW NORMAL TEMPS. GLOBAL MODELS CONTINUE
TO SUGGEST THE COASTAL TROUGH DEVELOPING ALONG THE TEXAS COAST
WILL GRADUALLY FORM INTO A SURFACE LOW...WHICH WILL MOVE NORTHEAST
UP THE COAST AND INTO OR NEAR THE FORECAST AREA OVER THE WEEKEND.
DIFFERENCES IN STRENGTH AND PLACEMENT OF THE LOW HAVE SIGNIFICANT
EFFECTS ON OUR FORECAST AREA...BUT CONFIDENCE IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR
HIGH CHANCE AND LIKELY POPS FOR FRIDAY NIGHT INTO SATURDAY AS
FIRST WAVE OF DEEP TROPICAL MOISTURE TRAVERSES THE REGION. POPS
MAY NEED TO BE RAISED FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE WEEKEND AS WELL.
ALTHOUGH HPC AND MODEL GUIDANCE SUGGEST STRONGEST SIGNAL FOR HEAVY
RAINFALL WILL REMAIN OFFSHORE...LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL CERTAINLY
APPEARS POSSIBLE ESPECIALLY ACROSS SOUTHERN ZONES...AND WILL
HIGHLIGHT THIS IN THE HWO."
Thanks
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1500. IKE
OFFSHORE WATERS FORECAST FOR THE GULF OF MEXICO
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
430 AM CDT WED SEP 09 2009

SYNOPSIS...A WEAK SURFACE TROUGH OFF THE SE FLORIDA COAST WILL
ENTER THE SE GULF LATER TODAY...THEN MOVE NW. BROAD LOW PRES IS
EXPECTED TO DEVELOP OVER THE NW GULF FRI...THEN MOVE NE SAT AND
SUN.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
HEY!!!! WHERE ARE ALL THE BASTARDI QUOTES THIS MORNING????????? LOL

(caps intended)
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1498. IKE
Quoting stormsurge39:
Thanks, Is it true that NAM is good for short range forecasts?


I think it's pretty good at showing where precip shows up.


From the Lake Charles,LA discussion....

"WITH PWATS STAYING IN THE 2-2.5 INCH RANGE FOR THE FORESEEABLE
FUTURE...UPPER LEVEL TROUGHING IN PLACE OVER THE SOUTHERN
PLAINS...AND AN ACTIVE SUBTROPICAL JET...RAIN CHANCES WILL REMAIN
QUITE HIGH FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK AND THROUGH THE WEEKEND WITH
HIGH CLOUD COVER AND BELOW NORMAL TEMPS. GLOBAL MODELS CONTINUE
TO SUGGEST THE COASTAL TROUGH DEVELOPING ALONG THE TEXAS COAST
WILL GRADUALLY FORM INTO A SURFACE LOW...WHICH WILL MOVE NORTHEAST
UP THE COAST AND INTO OR NEAR THE FORECAST AREA OVER THE WEEKEND.
DIFFERENCES IN STRENGTH AND PLACEMENT OF THE LOW HAVE SIGNIFICANT
EFFECTS ON OUR FORECAST AREA...BUT CONFIDENCE IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR
HIGH CHANCE AND LIKELY POPS FOR FRIDAY NIGHT INTO SATURDAY AS
FIRST WAVE OF DEEP TROPICAL MOISTURE TRAVERSES THE REGION. POPS
MAY NEED TO BE RAISED FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE WEEKEND AS WELL.
ALTHOUGH HPC AND MODEL GUIDANCE SUGGEST STRONGEST SIGNAL FOR HEAVY
RAINFALL WILL REMAIN OFFSHORE...LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL CERTAINLY
APPEARS POSSIBLE ESPECIALLY ACROSS SOUTHERN ZONES...AND WILL
HIGHLIGHT THIS IN THE HWO."
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1497. amd
wow, Fred rapidly intensified so much last night that it went from a low end Cat 1 to a high end Cat 2.

Also, that "tumor" to the SW of Fred is directly associated with Fred, and should eventually be drawn into the system, allowing a new source of energy and strengthening.

Looks like the "tumor" has developed because that part of Fred is directly under the anticyclone with absolutely no shear.
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Sailing club in Seabrook Tx posting weather warning to members about "possible" tropical development this weekend.....We just broke ground on a new club building to replace one destroyed by Ike....how ironic!!!!!
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Quoting IKE:


May be over land. Not sure if one will develop offshore..in the GOM.

NAM develops one in the GOM, but it's not a great model on the tropics.

Looks like a big rain maker regardless.
Thanks, Is it true that NAM is good for short range forecasts?
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1494. IKE
Quoting stormsurge39:
With the wind shear forecasted to decrease in 48 hours, what will prevent the forecasted low from developing quickly in the GOM?


May be over land. Not sure if one will develop offshore..in the GOM.

NAM develops one in the GOM, but it's not a great model on the tropics.

Looks like a big rain maker regardless.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1493. RJT185
Pretty darn impressive.
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With the wind shear forecasted to decrease in 48 hours, what will prevent the forecasted low from developing quickly in the GOM?
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Ha! Fred's obviously a "double star" system.
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Anyone else think Fred is starting to look like spiral galaxy M51? :D




So - what's the "satellite" we can see southwest of Fred's eye - seems a bit odd to me!
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What's your take on the "tumor" on the south-western corner of Fred's bands. Will that conflict with Fred's stability?
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Thanks Ike for the answer ... much appreciated
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
Quoting cyclonekid:
Good Morning!

Fred looking like it wants to develop an eye...the eyewall is already there.

eye


eyewall...ragged and not as organized as it once was, but it is there



the eye was actually visible earlier but it clouded in.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting StormW:


You got that right!

Just a little plug for ya...

I am glad we have another person in the field as sharp as you are.

I know from watching in the beginning, and between conversations and ideas we've shared, you have come a very long way in such a short time. I am impressed on how you've honed your forecasting skills, and understanding of the workings of the atmosphere.

Keep up the GREAT work!

"Storm"


well that means alot coming from you...thanks
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Good early Wednesday morning! Never expected Fred to become this strong and become this impressive. Maybe someone can show me otherwise, but I don't believe I have ever seen a strong hurricane form east of 35W which makes this a unique storm for the record books. Just glad that it appears it won't affect any land and will weaken during the upcoming weekend due to high southwesterly wind shear and lower sea surface temps.
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1483. IKE
NHC drops a mention of the system off of the east coast of the USA. I wonder what Bastardi says now....

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 AM EDT WED SEP 9 2009

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON
HURRICANE FRED...LOCATED ABOUT 500 MILES WEST-SOUTHWEST OF THE
SOUTHERNMOST CAPE VERDE ISLANDS.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BLAKE
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1482. IKE
Shear....still forecast to become favorable in the GOM according to the 6Z GFS.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Tropical Update #24

He is a very good meteorologist..I will be posting his videos often.
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Good Morning!

Fred looking like it wants to develop an eye...the eyewall is already there.

eye


eyewall...ragged and not as organized as it once was, but it is there
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1479. IKE
Nothing will develop tropically in the GOM with 30-40+ knots of shear...safe for now...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
BBL



Fred becomes the season's 2nd hurricane; Gulf disturbance to bring rains

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Fred is a nice storm to watch. Very "pretty" on satellite pictures, and not harming anyone, although the fish may be taking a little tumble.

IMO, the Cape Verde season is ended as far as any of those storms reaching the U.S. Those September troughs are digging down further and further, and they will get stronger in general as the month goes by. There may still be another Cape Verde storm or two, but they have virtually no chance of reaching the U.S.

The home grown areas - the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and SW Atlantic near the Bahamas - will now have to be watched for any systems which might develop and affect the U.S., especially with some ridging expected to be over the eastern U.S. in several days.
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1475. Relix
Quoting Hurricane009:
Fred is a Cat. 2 Hurricane!!


I know that =P. There was a wave forecast to develop behind Fred but with all that outflow it could be causing shear for it.
Member Since: August 3, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2704
Quoting Hurricane009:
I told you all fred was going through RI :)


yea you did state it last night. I thought it was getting ready to intensify but not at that rate.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Happy Birthday to my mother, "Hazel", who is 85 years old today...!!!!! 09/09/09
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1471. IKE
And it's hard to imagine going the entire 2009 season without a system in the western to NW Caribbean.

I can't see it happening.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1467. Relix
Quoting StormW:
WOW!

Western Caribbean.



If something takes a trip there, and conditions get favorable, there'll be trouble. How's the wave behind Fred doing?
Member Since: August 3, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2704
Quoting IKE:
And happy 30th birthday to my son, who was born on 9-9-79 at 10:39pm.


happy bday to him. I didnt realize that you were that old (in a good way)
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076

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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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