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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If anyone missed it on the previos bloug

Hybrid System dumps heavy rains across the Eastern United States; Fred is born
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting laflastormtracker:
Morning everyone, I think I may join the "The Season is Over" crowd. Development keeps getting shifted back, IF any, and I said before I'd have to see something on satellite to believe it is out there. As is said, the proof is in the pudding and as of now I see no pudding only scattered showers and thunderstorms, don't even know if the 60 percent for Saturday and Sunday are warranted.

Local forecasts have NOTHING to do with the end of a hurricane season. There are dry spells in the middle of hurricane season, just as you can have several days of rain without a tropical cyclone in the tropics.
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Quoting jeffs713:

link? (microwave images would be best for seeing an eyewall)


How's this:

Link
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Quoting jeffs713:

I really hope not. I'm going to the Nickelback concert in Houston this weekend (wel, actually its in the Woodlands, but w/e), and its outdoors. Also, the drought-striken areas to the south need the rain more. Nothing excessive... just a good 2-3 days of solid rain would do wonders for them.


Depeche Mode was there last week or so
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Awesome info on Storm Surge Dr. Masters. Thanks

Morning all!
Member Since: September 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3481
Morning everyone, I think I may join the "The Season is Over" crowd. Development keeps getting shifted back, IF any, and I said before I'd have to see something on satellite to believe it is out there. As is said, the proof is in the pudding and as of now I see no pudding only scattered showers and thunderstorms, don't even know if the 60 percent for Saturday and Sunday are warranted.
Thanks for the information
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting stoormfury:
latest sat pics showing an eye wall forming with fred. could be a minimal hurricane

link? (microwave images would be best for seeing an eyewall)
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The blog will come alive with the possibility that something may form in the gomex this weekend
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Maybe an Allison storm this weekend anyone? sheared system, with copius amounts of rainfall...

I really hope not. I'm going to the Nickelback concert in Houston this weekend (wel, actually its in the Woodlands, but w/e), and its outdoors. Also, the drought-striken areas to the south need the rain more. Nothing excessive... just a good 2-3 days of solid rain would do wonders for them.
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latest sat pics showing an eye wall forming with fred. could be a minimal hurricane
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Maybe an Allison storm this weekend anyone? sheared system, with copius amounts of rainfall...
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another excellent update!!! Thank you Dr. Masters
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Good Morning Everyone!

Kinda funny looking at the shear chart below and noticing that Fred is in the only area in the tropical Atlantic with favorable shear...

Unless the pattern changes, it's going to be hard for anything to get going in the Gulf or Caribbean late season.


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Can we stop posting Bastardi's rantings,have seen it 4 times.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Galveston having Ike anniversary starting with today marking the 1900 storm today, and having events the rest of the week. Don't think folks quite know that something might be brewing just offshore when Sep. 13th comes around.


This is true. They are also having a big shendig here in Bridge City.
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Fred very close to hurricane status
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Quoting IKE:


Haven't even gotten to the peak day yet.

The most overstated words on this blog, this season....

The season is over.



Fish season.
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Galveston having Ike anniversary starting with today marking the 1900 storm today, and having events the rest of the week. Don't think folks quite know that something might be brewing just offshore when Sep. 13th comes around.
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Here's Joe Bastardi's take this morning.



TUESDAY 7 A.M.
MID-ATLANTIC TO HAVE THE WORST STORM OF OCEANIC ORIGIN SINCE ERNESTO

The situation is going from bad to worse. The forecast rain is occurring now, but the storm is fading northeast along the North Carolina coast. The move northeast is big trouble. This should carry the center to over 100 miles east of Virginia Beach late tonight and tomorrow over some very warm water. If that were the end and it continued northeast, it would be no big deal as the northeast winds and coastal rains would stop in time tomorrow night to allow this to have just been a summer nor'easter.

But it's not that way.

Instead the center will be blocked and forced west into the Delmarva or perhaps even farther north.

At the very least gale-force east winds will develop in a large area over the water for about a 400-mile fetch. At the worst... the system becomes tighter over the warm water is like a hurricane. I am very worried that this will have winds to 60 mph north of the center over the water as it comes to the coast and after heavy rains dumping water into the rivers that drain to the ocean, a real pileup of water can occur.

There is no question that the Euro "BELIEVES" this is tropical. How can we tell? It destroys the storm once it comes inland... it has it near Harrisburg, Pa., Thursday night..filling 12 mb from the night before off the Delmarva! Non tropical systems don't move inland and die.

This is going to be scored and I am sure when it's done, you will agree that it should be. The question is what does it get to. At the risk of too much hype, the threat of a large area of gale winds over the water piling 3- or 4-foot-high tides up from the Delmarva to Long Island is something that should be a of great concern. The excessive rainfall, and again the Delmarva will probably wind up with highest amounts (already over 8 inches at Moorehead City combined will make this only behind Isabell and Ernesto in these areas as far as September storm goes in this decade).

The extreme case is worse... I am very concerned that this will intensify tomorrow off the Virginia capes and come to the coast with even more than alluded to here. The big high to the north is enough of a problem.

Moral is... tropical storm conditions are coming north and when this is over coastal residents in the targeted areas will know this was no ordinary September storm.

It makes the idea that Fred has top billing laughable.

Another in close development may plague the western Gulf this weekend.

Note: I will try to avoid comments on the TPC attitude on this. You all know I have a proposed solution to problems like this, but I will stand on the facts as I see them and will do my best to back them up with physical reasoning, which if you have been watching this storm is what I have been doing.

Thanks for reading. Ciao for now. *****


Good morning all! Getting ready to head out for classes this morning. I see that we have Tropical Storm Fred this morning. Given the current pattern, I expect this to take a stair step path in the coming week due to a persistent trough to ridge and back to trough pattern.

Now, the phrase I highlighted above must be the biggest contradiction I have ever seen written in a report. Joe Bastardi is all about hype and for him to say "at the risk of too much hype" is utterly redundant. With his approach, I'm very surprised that he's an actual meteorologist. He doesn't have an ounce of objectivity and rationality in him based upon all the reports that I've read written by him.
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Quoting IKE:


Haven't even gotten to the peak day yet.

The most overstated words on this blog, this season....

The season is over.


Right on bro. That kind of foolishness gets on my nerves. lol
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Thanks Dr. Masters.
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nice graphic BtownTx

I guess you see it as well.
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38. IKE
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
For those of you who are saying hurricane season is over, please go check your calendar. If I am not mistaken we are in September, the beginning of Septempber too.


Haven't even gotten to the peak day yet.

The most overstated words on this blog, this season....

The season is over.
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For those of you who are saying hurricane season is over, please go check your calendar. If I am not mistaken we are in September, the beginning of Septempber too.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



true but you may nevere no


Dear TAZ,
And I say this with all due respect, could please just say RIP to Fred so I can go back to my life until the next one...Thanks in advance!
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34. IKE
Quoting Orcasystems:


I just have problems when people say its over... without looking at a calender... there is still a lot of season left and the GOM is ripe for something to happen. Its going to take a long time for all of that stored energy to dissipate.

Granted.. a CV storm might not make it here... but anything local could build up very quick.



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Very informative and important blog Dr. Masters. Thank you. And to everyone who ever finds themselves in harms way...
LEAVE! DO NOT STAY!
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Quoting StormW:


But, I do.






Good morning!
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30. IKE
From Dr. Masters blog above...The latest GFS phase space analysis of the predicted storm confirms that this would be a tropical cyclone, and not extratropical.

So it would be tropical.
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Quoting divdog:
read Dr Masters blog that he just posted !!
I did !
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Quoting Tazmanian:



true but you may nevere no


I give up
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
does anyone see the disturbance in the BOC?
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Here's Joe Bastardi's take this morning.



TUESDAY 7 A.M.
MID-ATLANTIC TO HAVE THE WORST STORM OF OCEANIC ORIGIN SINCE ERNESTO

The situation is going from bad to worse. The forecast rain is occurring now, but the storm is fading northeast along the North Carolina coast. The move northeast is big trouble. This should carry the center to over 100 miles east of Virginia Beach late tonight and tomorrow over some very warm water. If that were the end and it continued northeast, it would be no big deal as the northeast winds and coastal rains would stop in time tomorrow night to allow this to have just been a summer nor'easter.

But it's not that way.

Instead the center will be blocked and forced west into the Delmarva or perhaps even farther north.

At the very least gale-force east winds will develop in a large area over the water for about a 400-mile fetch. At the worst... the system becomes tighter over the warm water is like a hurricane. I am very worried that this will have winds to 60 mph north of the center over the water as it comes to the coast and after heavy rains dumping water into the rivers that drain to the ocean, a real pileup of water can occur.

There is no question that the Euro "BELIEVES" this is tropical. How can we tell? It destroys the storm once it comes inland... it has it near Harrisburg, Pa., Thursday night..filling 12 mb from the night before off the Delmarva! Non tropical systems don't move inland and die.

This is going to be scored and I am sure when it's done, you will agree that it should be. The question is what does it get to. At the risk of too much hype, the threat of a large area of gale winds over the water piling 3- or 4-foot-high tides up from the Delmarva to Long Island is something that should be a of great concern. The excessive rainfall, and again the Delmarva will probably wind up with highest amounts (already over 8 inches at Moorehead City combined will make this only behind Isabell and Ernesto in these areas as far as September storm goes in this decade).

The extreme case is worse... I am very concerned that this will intensify tomorrow off the Virginia capes and come to the coast with even more than alluded to here. The big high to the north is enough of a problem.

Moral is... tropical storm conditions are coming north and when this is over coastal residents in the targeted areas will know this was no ordinary September storm.

It makes the idea that Fred has top billing laughable.

Another in close development may plague the western Gulf this weekend.

Note: I will try to avoid comments on the TPC attitude on this. You all know I have a proposed solution to problems like this, but I will stand on the facts as I see them and will do my best to back them up with physical reasoning, which if you have been watching this storm is what I have been doing.

Thanks for reading. Ciao for now. *****


Should I start to panic now, and run for the hills, or should I wait, and then panic while running for the hills?
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Quoting StormW:
Just to clarify...This season IS NOT over.



true but you may nevere no
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114956
Having evacuated for 4 hurricanes, I appreciated specific information for those evacuating rather than those who are staying. I would like to see even more detailed information for those evacuating to a hotel on what to bring with you. There are several things that we always bring because even though we are evacuating, the hotel that we stay at will be hit by the hurricane. We always bring the usual flashlights, batteries, meds. documents, etc. and we also bring 2 rolls of Visqueen and duct tape. This was a blessing when water poured in our windows during Frances. Hotel staff will NOT help during a hurricane, except to move you if the roof blows off, which did happen, but luckily not our room! We also bring tarps and tools we will need for repairs when we get home since we may not be able to find them readily if there is damage.
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Quoting rareaire:
Yes a very big chance but it has to ride 2 more after that!
Quoting WINDSMURF:
Is there a chance that Fred will not be picked up and not make that turn to the North? or is that set in stone?
read Dr Masters blog that he just posted !!
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Quoting Orcasystems:


I just have problems when people say its over... without looking at a calender... there is still a lot of season left and the GOM is ripe for something to happen. Its going to take a long time for all of that stored energy to dissipate.

Granted.. a CV storm might not make it here... but anything local could build up very quick.

totally agree, we should be looking to the GOM for our next storm
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Quoting gator23:

He is the worst. DOOM DOOOM!!!!!!!!!!


THAT QUOTE IS ONE OF THE REASONS BASTARDI DOES NOT WORK FOR THE NHC. HE IS ABOUT ENTERTAINMENT, NOT A SCIENTIFIC FORECASTER
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Quoting caneluver:
Ok ORCA, I will eat my words. I'm getting hungry anyhow.


I just have problems when people say its over... without looking at a calender... there is still a lot of season left and the GOM is ripe for something to happen. Its going to take a long time for all of that stored energy to dissipate.

Granted.. a CV storm might not make it here... but anything local could build up very quick.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting WINDSMURF:
Is there a chance that Fred will not be picked up and not make that turn to the North? or is that set in stone?
Yes a very big chance but it has to ride 2 more after that!
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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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