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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Quoting jeffs713:

Yep, it definitely was. Twice within 5 years, which is very unusual. Based on normal climate patterns, the Houston area should get snow every 10 years or so, and ice every 5 years or so. We have had snow twice in 5 years, and no ice since 1996 (I think).


I remember that ice storm. It got cold quick once those branches started dragging down the power lines. We were all electric too. People with gas heating or even a gas stove became real popular real quick. Lol.
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
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Quoting btwntx08:
slow blog whats up with that

First work day after a long holiday weekend, the kiddos are in school.
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BOC looks like some surface circulation

Image centered at Latitude= 19.02 N Longitude= 94.33 W




Buoy M42055
lat: 22.00 lon: -94.00
Wind: East at 16mph



MMMT Minatitlan, Mexico
lat: 18.10 lon: -94.58
WSW at 12mph
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Quoting Grothar:


What were you doing in Tromsø? It is very far north. True what you said! They prefer to speak in English even when I speak Norwegian with them. Denmark is worse. All the young people speak more English. OK, enough history lesson, now we shall get back to the weather. Just found that interesting. Patrap. Any comment on my previous comment on your comment on the models. Are you thoroughly confused now? Truly, I would like your opinion on the westerly movement in the latter period forecast on Fred.


Im of the camp,..that the trof next weekend,come this Fri-Sat will Move Fred out to Sea ,..on a recurvature track,,but I always go with the NHC and their Cone,..as they are the Word.
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Mornin yall. Got a question. I thought that most models were not accurate when projecting a path this far out for Freddy. Can these models be considered reliable due to projected weather systems interacting or should we keep a close eye on him. Or I could say her as my mother's first name was Freddy. :) TIA
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Quoting Grothar:


What were you doing in Tromsø? It is very far north. True what you said! They prefer to speak in English even when I speak Norwegian with them. Denmark is worse. All the young people speak more English. OK, enough history lesson, now we shall get back to the weather. Just found that interesting. Patrap. Any comment on my previous comment on your comment on the models. Are you thoroughly confused now? Truly, I would like your opinion on the westerly movement in the latter period forecast on Fred.


Serving America in the USMC during TeamWork 84,a annual NATO exercise
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OK gang - here's the link to Mike Theiss's videos of Gulfport when Katrina's storm surge arrived. He and another photographer were in the Holiday Inn across from the beach - take a look:

Link
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


Lol. I think it always snows in Norway doesn't it? Now snow in Texas last year, THAT was interesting. Lol.

Yep, it definitely was. Twice within 5 years, which is very unusual. Based on normal climate patterns, the Houston area should get snow every 10 years or so, and ice every 5 years or so. We have had snow twice in 5 years, and no ice since 1996 (I think).
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Quoting Patrap:


Having been to Tromso,Norway,..most Norwegians speak their Native Language and English,..as do Most Northern European Countries..



What were you doing in Tromsø? It is very far north. True what you said! They prefer to speak in English even when I speak Norwegian with them. Denmark is worse. All the young people speak more English. OK, enough history lesson, now we shall get back to the weather. Just found that interesting. Patrap. Any comment on my previous comment on your comment on the models. Are you thoroughly confused now? Truly, I would like your opinion on the westerly movement in the latter period forecast on Fred.
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey there. Glad to be back! Funny thing about Europe. They have weather there, too!!! Ours is much more interesting. In Norway, when one asks if there shall be snow today, one is met with a blank stare. StormW would have very brief updates.


Lol. I think it always snows in Norway doesn't it? Now snow in Texas last year, THAT was interesting. Lol.
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
Quoting jeffs713:

All who think the BAMS has completely lost it, raise your hand. *raises hand*


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Quoting LariAnn:
Regarding the "season is over" camp vs. "we've a long way to go" camp - depends upon what you are looking at. If you are looking at the possibility of a landfall in your area and the meteorology seems to indicate it won't happen this year, then for you, maybe, "the season is over". On the other hand, if you are looking for and studying tropical systems, any systems, anywhere, whether they make landfall or not, then "we have a long way to go!"
Putting it in nice way.
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Quoting tornadodude:


maybe they dont speak english.... jk cya guys


Having been to Tromso,Norway,..most Norwegians speak their Native Language and English,..as do Most Northern European Countries..

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Quoting Grothar:


Hey there. Glad to be back! Funny thing about Europe. They have weather there, too!!! Ours is much more interesting. In Norway, when one asks if there shall be snow today, one is met with a blank stare. StormW would have very brief updates.

Forecasts:
Today: Snow. Cold. Maybe some wind.
Tomorrow: Snow. Cold. Maybe some wind.
The day after: Snow. Cold. Maybe some wind.
And the day after that: Snow. Cold. Maybe some wind.
And so on..
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey there. Glad to be back! Funny thing about Europe. They have weather there, too!!! Ours is much more interesting. In Norway, when one asks if there shall be snow today, one is met with a blank stare. StormW would have very brief updates.


maybe they dont speak english.... jk cya guys
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Quoting AudreyBoy:
jeffs713 said

Exactly true. The *only* people who should evac in NW Houston are those who live in houses that can't handle TS winds, like mobile homes.


There are many bayous, creeks, and rivers in NW Houston/Harris County that regularly flood in heavy rain (>8"). If your home elevation is below the top of bank elevation of the nearest waterway, you should consider leaving also.

If your home elevation is below the top of a bank elevation of a nearby waterway, you shouldn't be thinking of evacuating.. you should be thinking of moving.

Yes, the land may be cheap, but its cheap for a reason... it tends to flood.
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


Lol. Welcome back Grothar. :)


Hey there. Glad to be back! Funny thing about Europe. They have weather there, too!!! Ours is much more interesting. In Norway, when one asks if there shall be snow today, one is met with a blank stare. StormW would have very brief updates.
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Quoting Patrap:
12 Z TS Fred Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)


All who think the BAMS has completely lost it, raise your hand. *raises hand*
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Things are getting interesting, that's for sure.
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Quoting tornadodude:
well guys, its been real, and its been, eh, its been real fun, ill be back later, got some reading to do


See ya later. Have a good one. :)
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
191. JeffM
Quoting jeffs713:

Doh! Sorry...

(yet one more disadvantage to having a somewhat common first name, and using that first name in your handle...)


Try having my screen name. I've been on the site since 2005. I was banned for the 06'-07" seasons due to users complaining that I was trying to impersonate the good Dr. (I use the same handle on many forums) Now I pretty much just lurk as I do not want to be locked out again.
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well guys, its been real, and its been, eh, its been real fun, ill be back later, got some reading to do
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Patrap's Guerro family video couldn't have said more about storm surge. That was a pretty upscale neighborhood, houses well-built, and relatively little serious damage to roofs (note the interior roof structure of Guerro's house). Houses floating in a sea of debris just takes your breath away. The surge did it all.
The best film footage of Katrina's surge is Mike Thiess's storm chaser coverage in Gulfport when the surge arrived there. If you can find it, watch it. It's unforgettable.
And by the way, don't forget October's hurricanes - Opal just filled the GOM in 1995 and I just happened to be visiting relatives in Mobile. The next day we saw newscasts of what it - and its surge - had done to Destin and Ft. Walton Beach. We we lucky. It was a cat 4 offshore the morning before it made landfall as a cat 3/2.
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Quoting StormW:
TROPICAL WEATHER SYNOPSIS / TROPICAL STORM FRED SEP. 08, 2009 ISSUED 11:10 A.M.



Thank you sir..Always easier to understand when its from you.. LOl..
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Video taken by Vaccarella Family during/after Hurricane Katrina.

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Quoting Patrap:
12 Z TS Fred Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)



Back with the models, I see. I prefer the scenario with the "sophisticated models, though! Don't you agree they look better? It appears some models are beginning to take Fred a littl more to the west in the latter forecast period. What do you think?
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Quoting Grothar:


So did Ethel.


Lol. Welcome back Grothar. :)
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
Quoting Grothar:


So did Ethel.

LMAO - good one!
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Quoting Floodman:


**SNIFF!**

What did you say? I missed it man...


LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL xD
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Lol....My secretary just told me that she thought that "Fred" was such a lame name for a storm (no disrespect to any actual "Freds" out there on the Blog)....She want's something more exotic & threatening like "Frederico".


So did Ethel.
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Quoting jeffs713:

Oh, I agree 100%. What amused me is that my friend was using IE for work functions, and was using FF for non-work content on breaks and lunch, when they were off the clock.


I've always been blessed by being in IT; you get things like un-shielded internet access, the ability to use software not typically in the Image (hey, I'm testing Quake 3 for the new Image!) and you get the new, stronger faster machines before anyone else...now, on the other hand, when was the last time the director of sales got a call from a server at 3AM because the back-up job on the data warehouse failed? LOL
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Lol....My secretary just told me that she thought that "Fred" was such a lame name for a storm (no disrespect to any actual "Freds" out there on the Blog)....She want's something more exotic & threatening like "Frederico".


LOL gotta love it
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jeffs713 said

Exactly true. The *only* people who should evac in NW Houston are those who live in houses that can't handle TS winds, like mobile homes.


There are many bayous, creeks, and rivers in NW Houston/Harris County that regularly flood in heavy rain (>8"). If your home elevation is below the top of bank elevation of the nearest waterway, you should consider leaving also.
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Lol....My secretary just told me that she thought that "Fred" was such a lame name for a storm (no disrespect to any actual "Freds" out there on the Blog)....She want's something more exotic & threatening like "Frederico".
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12 Z TS Fred Dynamic Models (More sophisticated models)

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Quoting NRAamy:
I'm an old IT guy

yeah, but you're still ridin' that train, Jerry....

:)


**SNIFF!**

What did you say? I missed it man...
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
12 Z TS Fred Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)

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Quoting StormW:
TROPICAL WEATHER SYNOPSIS / TROPICAL STORM FRED SEP. 08, 2009 ISSUED 11:10 A.M.


Enjoyed your update. Any thoughts about Fred moving much more to the west after missing the troughs? If he gets too powerful, the upper levels usually (hopefully) catch them, if I read the information correctly.
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I knew StormW would have a more technically correct answer than I would. ;)
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Running Vista and FF3 on a Toughbook with AdBlocker and Zone Alarm with McAfee as well.

Zero Problems with this package,but the Script control for the Adblocker took some getting used to,and now I can cruise the net and here with speed and a user friendly browser that works fer me.
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Quoting twhcracker:


just anywhere in the gulf?? I am central gulf. I am just hoping Fred does not appear in the Gulf. Hey, there is a meterologist job opening with fla dept of agric if anyone is looking. why would the dept of ag hire a meterologist?


Yeah, man, that makes no sense...what has weather got to do with Agriculture?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
I'm an old IT guy

yeah, but you're still ridin' that train, Jerry....

:)
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Tropical Storm formation is not expected through Wednesday.

THE SEASON IS NOT OVER.

"Storm"

I agree ...It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings and she isn't even at the theater yet...
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Quoting Floodman:


I'm an old IT guy and in smaller companies (less than 50 users, say) a formal corporate image fro softeware isn;t as necessary as in a company with oh, say 500 users. You can say all you want about Microsoft, but they gave us a level playing field. Imagine waht the overhead for IT woudl be if we all needed to learn 15 opertaing systems and the intricacies of software conflicts inherent in that universe. Users take iot for granted that the software they use at home should be fine in the office, but you may not know what sort of security software may be running on your machine, or for that matter on the server that using FF or Opera may give fits to...a good rule of thumb is "If I own it, I can break it, if I don't, don't make any changes to it"

Oh, I agree 100%. What amused me is that my friend was using IE for work functions, and was using FF for non-work content on breaks and lunch, when they were off the clock.
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Quoting Grothar:
Hi Guys,

I'm baaaaaack! Been out of the country for awhile. Trying to do catch up! Anyone have any thoughts about the references that Fred may try to move back west after missing the troughs??

Hey tornadodude, saw you on here late last night. When do you study????


haha glad youre back home and safe, well I didnt have school yesterday, and my first class today isnt until 1:30, so pretty much this morning ha
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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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