Record storm surges hit Mid-Atlantic coast

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:22 PM GMT on November 13, 2009

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Record storm surges have caused major flooding along the North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware coasts over the past 24 hours, thanks to the powerful winds of a slow-moving Nor'easter energized by the remains of Hurricane Ida. Norfolk, Virginia, suffered its highest storm surge on record last night, when a surge of 5.96 feet hit the Sewells Point tide station. The previous record was 5.62' during Hurricane Isabel of 2003, with the Chesapeake-Atlantic Hurricane of 1933 close behind at 5.61'. Last night's peak surge did not hit at high tide, and the storm tide--the combination of surge plus the tide--peaked at 7.74' above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW), slightly below the 7.89' storm tide of Hurricane Isabel.


Figure 1. Rain gauge-measured precipitation from Ida-extratropical for the 24 hours ending at 7 am EST this morning. The storm dumped copious amounts of rain over a wide swath of coast. Image credit: NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.

The highest storm surges at Sewell's Point tide gauge in Norfolk, Virginia since 1927:

5.96' Nov 2009 Ida-extratropical
5.62' Sep 2003 Hurricane Isabel
5.61' Aug 1933 Chesapeake-Atlantic Hurricane
4.73' Sep 1933 Hurricane 13, Cat 1)
4.66' Mar 1962 Ash Wednesday Nor'easter
4.05' Sep 1936 (Hurricane 13, Cat 2)

Top storm tides in Norfolk history:

1933 hurricane (Aug 23rd 1933)..............8.9 feet MLLW
April 11th 1956 Nor'easter..................8.0 feet MLLW
Hurricane Isabel (Sep 18th 2003)............7.9 feet MLLW
Ida-extratropical (Nov 12th 2009)...........7.8 feet MLLW
Ash Wednesday storm (Mar 7th 1962)..........7.8 feet MLLW

Serious coastal flooding is occurring from northern North Carolina to the Delaware/New Jersey border, with record high storm surges recorded at many locations. The storm surge at Lewes Point, Delaware at 9:48 pm EST last night reached 4.63 feet, beating the record high of 4.17' set during the January 4, 1992 Nor'easter. Tide records go back to 1919 at Lewes Point. The highest surge at any of the NOAA-maintained tide gauges from Ida-extratropical was 6.74' at 9:24 pm EST at Money Point, Virginia, located on an inlet about five miles south of downtown Norfolk.

Ida-extratropical also brought hurricane-force wind gusts to the Virginia coast yesterday, with a gust of 75 mph recorded at the Oceana NAS. The Norfolk airport recorded sustained winds of 52 mph, gusting to 70 mph, at the height of the Nor'easter last night. Heavy rains of 6 - 11 inches since Tuesday have created flooding on most of the the rivers along the entire North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland coasts. Ida-extratropical is slowly weakening and pulling away to the northeast, and the rains have ended along most of the coast, though. Virginia has now seen its highest storm surges, but this afternoon's high tide cycle is likely to bring another round of record or near-record storm tides to the coasts of Maryland, Delaware, and extreme southern New Jersey. This afternoon's high tide is forecast to bring a storm tide of 7.6' to Atlantic City, NJ, which would be the 10th highest tide there since 1911, but well short of the record 8.98' storm tide during the December, 1992 Nor'easter. By Saturday, Ida-extratropical will be on its way out to sea, and the storm surges and rains will finally abate.


Figure 2. Predicted storm tide (height above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW, the lowest tide measured in a full 19-year natural tidal cycle, black line) for Lewes, Delaware (at the mouth of Delaware Bay), as predicted by the GFS model. A storm tide of 8.0 feet is forecast this afternoon during the high tide. For a full description of this plot, see the NOAA Extratropical Surge web site.


Figure 3. Tide gauge trace from the Sewell's Point gauge in Norfolk, VA, shows a storm surge of nearly 6 feet (green line) hit at 8:30 pm EST, with a maximum storm tide of 7.8 feet above MLLW occurring at high tide. Image credit: NOAA Tides and Currents.

Storm surges and sea level rise
The storm surge flooding in the Norfolk area was exacerbated by the fact that sea level has risen and the land has subsided significantly over the past century. Over the past 60 years, absolute sea level along the coast of Virginia has risen by about 2.6 mm/year. However, the relative sea level has risen by 4.44 mm/year since 1927 (Figure 4), meaning that the land has sunk by about 1.84 mm/year. The net result is that the ocean is now about 1.16 feet higher at Norfolk than it was in 1927. The Norfolk tide gauge shows the highest rate of relative sea level rise of any gauge on the U.S. East Coast (though relative sea level rise is much higher along the Gulf Coast, with rises near 3 feet/century at New Orleans). Thus, today's 5+ foot storm surge brought water more than a foot higher in Norfolk than the 5+ foot storm surge of the 1933 hurricane. Storm surge damages will steadily increase along the entire coast this century as sea level rise accelerates and coastal development continues. It is urgent that government take action in coming years to limit development in vulnerable coastal regions. The ocean is going flood our sand castles that we are building in harm's way, at an ever increasing rate.


Figure 4. Monthly mean sea level at the Sewells Point, VA tide gauge in Norfolk, without the regular seasonal fluctuations due to coastal ocean temperatures, salinities, winds, atmospheric pressures, and ocean currents. The long-term linear trend is also shown, including its 95% confidence interval. Relative sea level has increased by 1.16 feet since 1927, the highest rate of rise on the U.S. East Coast. Image credit: NOAA Tides and Currents.

Portlight responding to the flooding in Virginia
Portlight.org is deploying up to 3 self-sufficient mobile kitchens capable of feeding over 2000 people a day to the Virginia coast. They will be providing meals for first responders, volunteers, and, of course, affected residents. Donations are welcome--visit the portlight blog to learn more and make a PayPal donation. Thanks!

Take action: sign the QuikSCAT letter
The QuikSCAT satellite, launched in 1999, provides crucial measurements of surface wind speed and direction over Earth's oceans twice per day. Forecasters world-wide have come to rely on data from QuikSCAT to issue timely warnings and make accurate forecasts of tropical and extratropical storms, wave heights, sea ice, aviation weather, iceberg movement, coral bleaching events, and El NiƱo. QuikSCAT's antenna is expected to fail within the next six months, according to engineers at NASA/JPL, and QuikSCAT data has already been removed from our global weather forecast models, due to concerns about data reliability.

There exists a narrow window of opportunity in the next few days to get the wheels in motion to launch a QuikSCAT replacement instrument on a Japanese satellite in 2015. The funding for this must start within the next budget cycle, and there is currently no funding in place for a replacement QuikSCAT. If we miss this this opportunity, it may be ten years or more before a QuikSCAT replacement can be launched. To this end, I urge all of you to sign the QuikSCAT funding letter being presented to John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The letter is at: http://coaps.fsu.edu/scatterometry/statement/.

If you agree with the letter, please sign it (via the web site) as soon as possible: there is a very small window of opportunity to influence the next budget cycle, with this window closing within a few days.

Note that to validate your signature you must type the validation code in the bottom box. This code is the word that appears after 'code =', then click on the sign button.

For more information on QuikSCAT, see my post, The case for a new QuikSCAT satellite.


Figure 5. NASA's QuikSCAT satellite, launched in 1999. Image credit: NASA.

Expect a new blog until Monday, when I'll discuss the outlook for the remainder of hurricane season. It is finally over?

Jeff Masters

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Just happy to see the nor'easter storm is over and everything is fine. At least according to the posts.
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Quoting eyesontheweather:
Jeez, there is enough syrup in here to feed Paul Bunyan and all his dude's and dudette's


hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
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Well since the nor'easter is gone...any long-range models showing anymore cool air for Florida?
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Or Babe..guess the nor'easter is no big deal as of now.
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Quoting LongStrangeTrip:


Excellent point, Awake!

And with that, I wish you all a good evening. My chariot (and my prince) awaits! :)
Jeez, there is enough syrup in here to feed Paul Bunyan and all his dude's and dudette's
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Quoting NRAamy:
I don't mind, I have been called worse!! LOL

yeah, so have I! And on this blog!!

;)


I consider it a right of passage to be riducled and receive nasty e-mails! I love it!
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like sera the season of hurricanes 2010?
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Good evening Mrs. Flood
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Wow...you take your pup for a walk for 20 minutes and all the posts you miss!
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Quoting floridafisherman:
sorry to hear about your experience in that storm. sort of reminds me of a day when i was fishing out in the gulf (about 2 miles out) one summer in my jonboat lol. weather was fine, seas were flat and suddenly a storm popped up and seas went to over 3 ft in a matter of minutes. i lost alot of fishing tackle to the waves and was sure i would capsize. luckily i made it back to the ramp, but my boat sustained damage when a wave threw it into the dock by the ramp. summer storms in florida can be wicked.


Had one of those days too. Out between West Ship Island and Cat Island in MS with a friend from TN. Noticed the air getting real thick and I could just "feel" something. Looked around and noticed Cat was disappearing in a haze. Told friend we had to reel in the lines NOW and head for the dock at West Ship. He asked why and I told him to just hurry and do what I say. Only 2 miles or so from the dock. By the time we got there waves at the dock were about 6 ft. Got on the leeward side of dock and I timed my jump with rope in hand when the bow started going back down below the dock. Tied off, he jumped to dock and we then spent better part of an hour in the fort with all the other refugees. Storm ended and we went back out fishing. Got back to shore later that evening and had notes on our windshield saying to call home right away. Found out there had been waterspouts near shore and in Back Bay and two boats had sunk. Who knew?
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Quoting LongStrangeTrip:


Sorry, Grothar...should have introduced myself...I'm Mrs. Flood. :)


Sorry Mrs. Flood. I was off the blog when you joined. My wife is so afraid of being banned, she just lurks and laughs. Keep us informed about Mr. Flood. I love that guy (figuratively, that is) We all do.
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I don't mind, I have been called worse!! LOL

yeah, so have I! And on this blog!!

;)
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awake..

i sort of agree with you that weather systems certainly get more publicity when they are named. and that publicity would probably bring awareness of the storm to many people who would originally not have known anything was brewing. however, i dont think they should get actual names like tropical storms. perhaps a numeric naming system, like winter storm 1.
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Quoting LongStrangeTrip:


I hear tell that won't stop Flood from callin' you darlin'! lol


I don't mind, I have been called worse!! LOL
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Quoting Floodman:


No, that was another group of...no, strike that...MUM


Uh-huh...c'mon, darlin', it's time to go home!
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
Hmmm, the Nor'Easter name thing.
I think people pay more attention when it has a name, and when it is on the NHC Hurricane site.
Easy to skip over gale warning, think it's for sailors. Just thinking out loud. More imp. for public information, to pay attention...and for broadcast writing - "Storm Ida" gives it an identity. Easy to snooze through "an extra-tropical low off the Mid-Atlantic" zzzzzzz -- whoops, it cost millions of dollars in damages!!!
No, I'm not drinking, maybe that's the problem.
Timer went off on dinner... so goodnight and good backs, Mr. & Mrs. Flood, Amy, manly-man Grothar and all good people!


Excellent point, Awake!

And with that, I wish you all a good evening. My chariot (and my prince) awaits! :)
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254. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Mauritius Meteorological Services

Tropical Cyclone Outlook (1800z 13NOV)
========================================

11.0S 71.8E (Tropical Disturbance)

Dvorak Intensity T1.5/1.5 24 HRS

movement is southwest at 10 knots

THIS IS EXPECTED TO INTENSIFY FURTHER AND MOVE
IN A GENERAL SOUTH WESTERLY DIRECTION.

Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Tropical Disturbance Summary (2030z 13NOV)
==============================================
An area of convection (93S) located at 11.2S 71.8E or 230 NM south-southeast of Diego Garcia. A 1632z ASCAT PASS indicates strong southeasterly flow out of the Mascarene high has helped to strengthen the low level circulation center. According to the SAME ASCAT pass, winds at the center has increased to around 25 knots. Deep convection has also become more persistent over the low level circulation center. Favorable environmental conditions, to include low to moderate vertical wind shear and broad poleward venting has helped to sustain this deep convection.

Maximum sustained winds near the center is 20-25 knots with a minimum sea level pressure of 1003 MB. The potential for this disturbance to form into a significant tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours is UPGRADED TO FAIR.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 47029
Quoting LongStrangeTrip:


Ahhh, so THAT'S what happened to your back...

;)


No, that was another group of...no, strike that...MUM
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Okay, LST my dear, time to head out of here...

Folks, we will likely be back later...if not, have a great ebvening and play nice!
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Quoting icmoore:
Pleased to meet you too LST!! Things are okay for me Flood but I think I read something about surgery for you :(


It's a good thing, dear; I finally have something that might help with this thing. A shame I had to take a couple of falls for there to be anything to really operate on...Mrs. Flood will be keeping folks up to date on what's going on...
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Quoting LongStrangeTrip:


LOL...my daughter is doing the NANOWRIMO thing. I told her she should write her novel in Japanese!


Us okies have a hard enough time with our version of english...
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Hmmm, the Nor'Easter name thing.
I think people pay more attention when it has a name, and when it is on the NHC Hurricane site.
Easy to skip over gale warning, think it's for sailors. Just thinking out loud. More imp. for public information, to pay attention...and for broadcast writing - "Storm Ida" gives it an identity. Easy to snooze through "an extra-tropical low off the Mid-Atlantic" zzzzzzz -- whoops, it cost millions of dollars in damages!!!
No, I'm not drinking, maybe that's the problem.
Timer went off on dinner... so goodnight and good backs, Mr. & Mrs. Flood, Amy, manly-man Grothar and all good people!
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
grothar...

ya, tons of multi-lingo people here. i do prefer the blog in english, but when the weather and blog is slow, i see nothing wrong with speaking to each other in another language.

stormw....

sorry to hear about your experience in that storm. sort of reminds me of a day when i was fishing out in the gulf (about 2 miles out) one summer in my jonboat lol. weather was fine, seas were flat and suddenly a storm popped up and seas went to over 3 ft in a matter of minutes. i lost alot of fishing tackle to the waves and was sure i would capsize. luckily i made it back to the ramp, but my boat sustained damage when a wave threw it into the dock by the ramp. summer storms in florida can be wicked.
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Quoting Floodman:


Or dear..or dude...I used dudette for a while but unfortunately the NOW people caught up to me


Ahhh, so THAT'S what happened to your back...

;)
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.
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Quoting clwstmchasr:
Ida lost all of it's sustained tropical winds over North Florida. That's when the NHC stopped issuing advisories.

Yes, some of the energy from Ida helped "energize" this nor'easter. However, it was not tropical.

We can't have it both ways. Either the entire philosophy of the NHC has to change - meaning that all strong lows get named (and Joe B. will be happy) whether they are tropical or not or we leave it alone.

I have to question why is so important that a nor'easter have a name. Every warning possible was issued for the Atlantic Coastline. For some reason it seems to be a big deal they the warnings were Gale and not tropical. They mean the same thing.


You make good points...one of the reasons they started naming TCs was the shear number of them (the 1950s were another uptick cycle in formation). Decent N'oreasters are fewer by far...
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Quoting LongStrangeTrip:


I hear tell that won't stop Flood from callin' you darlin'! lol


Sorry, Grothar...should have introduced myself...I'm Mrs. Flood. :)
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Quoting LongStrangeTrip:


I hear tell that won't stop Flood from callin' you darlin'! lol


Or dear..or dude...I used dudette for a while but unfortunately the NOW people caught up to me
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Quoting ConchHondros:


Naw...I wrote a book in college and started one with my son this week...1500 words a day for 45 days gets you a movie deal or some really good bathroom material...6 in 1 :)


LOL...my daughter is doing the NANOWRIMO thing. I told her she should write her novel in Japanese!
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As for where ex-Ida/N'oreaster is going, last time I looked a NNE to NE track...after Saturday...until then a nice slow crawl up the mid-atlantic
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Quoting Grothar:


(P.S. that is Freund not Freundin) I'am a guy, a big, strong. strapping tough guy!) lol


I hear tell that won't stop Flood from callin' you darlin'! lol
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Quoting LongStrangeTrip:


Conch, are you participating in NANOWRIMO??


Naw...I wrote a book in college and started one with my son this week...1500 words a day for 45 days gets you a movie deal or some really good bathroom material...6 in 1 :)
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Quoting Grothar:


Amazing how many multi-lingual people on the blog. Very impressive. Before you leave for your little vacation, Any thoughts of where ex-Ida may end up? (P.S. that is Freund not Freundin) I'am a guy, a big, strong. strapping tough guy!) lol


Ooops...mea culpa...nein, kein freundin...mein freund!
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Quoting Floodman:


That's easy to say with 16 days left...but what if you're wrong?

It's over on Noevember 30th (playing it safe, I am)


Amazing how many multi-lingual people on the blog. Very impressive. Before you leave for your little vacation, Any thoughts of where ex-Ida may end up? (P.S. that is Freund not Freundin) I'am a guy, a big, strong. strapping tough guy!) lol
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Quoting floridafisherman:
alles ist fein hier floodman

on a weather note, beautiful weather here in sw florida today. perfect temps, sunny, nice breeze. might get a little chilly tonight though, esp since theres no cloud cover to trap in the heat


Ausgeseichnet! I love Florida when I'm not working and the weather is good...
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Jerry...nope...but hope springs eternal....
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Quoting Floodman:


What up, Conch! Getting late...time for beat up old Floodmen to scoop up their wives and head for the hacienda


I'm ready when you are, darlin'. :)
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Pleased to meet you too LST!! Things are okay for me Flood but I think I read something about surgery for you :(
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alles ist fein hier floodman

on a weather note, beautiful weather here in sw florida today. perfect temps, sunny, nice breeze. might get a little chilly tonight though, esp since theres no cloud cover to trap in the heat
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Man, am I selfish...Amy, how's the epi doing for you? Any results yet?
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Quoting ConchHondros:
sorry for the delayed response Flood and Boss Lady...I had to put in my 1500 words for the day...Im good!!


Conch, are you participating in NANOWRIMO??
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Quoting ConchHondros:
sorry for the delayed response Flood and Boss Lady...I had to put in my 1500 words for the day...Im good!!


What up, Conch! Getting late...time for beat up old Floodmen to scoop up their wives and head for the hacienda
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Quoting NRAamy:
Donna Flood! Largo extranio viaje!!!!!!!!!!!


:)


Ja ja ja...a mi me gusto!!
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hey ic!

:)
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Quoting icmoore:
Hi Amy and Flood!! and um am I in the presence of the Darlin' of all Darlins' THE QUEEN DARLIN' herself !?! Hi Mrs Flood!!


That would be me, although I never thought about it like that. LOL

Hi, IC...pleased to meet you!
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Quoting icmoore:
Hi Amy and Flood!! and um am I in the presence of the Darlin' of all Darlins' THE QUEEN DARLIN' herself !?! Hi Mrs Flood!!

Did I tell you that we only got one tenth of an inch of rain when Ida paseed by in Melrose , FL (near Gainesville) ? Should of watered my plants :)


I like old home week...LOL

Howdy, ic, how's things? Sorry about the lack of rain with Ida...at least you didn't get too much, huh?
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Donna Flood! Largo extranio viaje!!!!!!!!!!!


:)
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sorry for the delayed response Flood and Boss Lady...I had to put in my 1500 words for the day...Im good!!
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Hi Amy and Flood!! and um am I in the presence of the Darlin' of all Darlins' THE QUEEN DARLIN' herself !?! Hi Mrs Flood!!

Did I tell you that we only got one tenth of an inch of rain when Ida paseed by in Melrose , FL (near Gainesville) ? Should of watered my plants :)
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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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