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 Niño. 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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Winds have picked up a bit more in the last little while... UKMO suggesting it's gusting up to about 50 here.

80mph in Wales by now. Apparently, will get worse overnight, before the weather clears late Saturday/early Sunday.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanejunky:


Some said it was done before Ida so go figure. Personally, I'll wait until Nov. 30th to know for sure.



+1
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8326
Quoting stormsurge39:
Is the hurricane season pretty much done for the GOM?


Some said it was done before Ida so go figure. Personally, I'll wait until Nov. 30th to know for sure.
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Sure,why not keep its name,it never died out,and in fact it strengthened when it morphed into an extratropical storm,so why not keep its name.
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Is the hurricane season pretty much done for the GOM?
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Quoting reedzone:
Does anyone think they should have kept the name despite the tropical characteristics and scientific stuff?


Yep!
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

Still here? My computer refresh slower today.
How's classes, etc. Esp., the etc. part. Have you lost the "halo effect" of golden guy at work yet? Stinks when that happens.


classes have been alright so far, not too bad, yet :P

now the Etc. haha no comment ;)

and work, well I'm still in training, slow process ha
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8326
Here you go.....hurricane Floyd

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Does anyone think they should have kept the name despite the tropical characteristics and scientific stuff?
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Quoting hurricanejunky:
Hey Flood,
Sorry to hear you need surgery but if the end justifies the means then it's a net positive, eh? WUMail me updates and when you're going to be in town. I'll be praying for ya...


As best I can tell, the end result will be pretty close to what I want; definitely a net positive if the relief is only half that advertised. Thanks, HJ for the well wishes...
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Quoting eyesontheweather:
My Rumpus is tired of sitting! OK a silly question once this is done what will your movement abilities be in your neck, because ya know every once in the while your gonna want to look up.... and check out the weather/sky j/k. Seriously, prayers are with you friend!


Thanks, eyesonweather!
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Good Afternoon,

It is still blowing off the N.C. coast!!!

This is a buoy 20 miles S.E. of Cape Fear

Frying Pan Tower
NDBC - Station 41013 Observations
Station 41013
November 13, 2009 3:50 pm EST
Location: 33.436N 77.743W
Wind Direction: N (350°)
Wind Speed: 25.3 knots
Wind Gust: 31.1 knots
Significant Wave Height: 8.9 ft
Dominant Wave Period: 6 sec
Mean Wave Direction: NNW (338°)
Atmospheric Pressure: 29.62 in (1002.9 mb)
Pressure Tendency: +0.02 in (+0.7 mb)
Air Temperature: 59.2°F (15.1°C)
Dew Point: 54.5°F (12.5°C)
Water Temperature: 69.8°F (21.0°C)

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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


Just click on the little beige rectangle up on the right side of your screen that says "Contact this blog's author", near where it says "about Jeff Masters."

Thank goodness someone older than me. I'm sure it's quite a story. Wonderful places, our Bay and state capital, Annapolis!


Yes this is good advice. Dr. Masters is very accessible via the above method and he usually responds within a day or two, unless on vacation or something.
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


Just click on the little beige rectangle up on the right side of your screen that says "Contact this blog's author", near where it says "about Jeff Masters."

Thank goodness someone older than me. I'm sure it's quite a story. Wonderful places, our Bay and state capital, Annapolis!

Now I must run! Duty and doggies have got to go do theirs! Take care all. Ach, sorry for re-posts today. I'm rushing too much.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting Lowtech:
Today's blog concerns the high tide at Norfolk and environs. The Atlantic/Norfolk hurricane is mentioned as having produced the 3rd highest tide on record. I am an elderly guy who was a youngster in 1933, living on the Chespeak Bay, south of Annapolis, MD. My mother, my grandmother and I barely escaped the tide that wrecked our property, and would likely have drowned us if we had not gotten out just in time. The memory is still very clear. If Dr. Masters would like to hear my story, he can contact me if he will let me know how to communicate privately.

Tom Worthington
Cascade, MD


Just click on the little beige rectangle up on the right side of your screen that says "Contact this blog's author", near where it says "about Jeff Masters."

Thank goodness someone older than me. I'm sure it's quite a story. Wonderful places, our Bay and state capital, Annapolis!
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
P451,the air is still pretty dry up here,but I've noticed the dewpoint which was in the 30's now in the low 40's,so the air is starting to moisten and the wind is gone to NE 10-20,so expect to see the rain get to us in the Boston area later this evening.
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Quoting reedzone:


Actually, I was off with Ida on the track, hit Mississippi instead of Florida, but hey, we try.. I dunno what to say about Extratropical Storm Ida, it's really a Superstorm of this century, not as strong as the 1993 Superstorm, but this one did alot of damage and exceeded surge from a category 2 Hurricane (Isabel) that's big.


True, but there really isn't a whole lot that does compare to the 1993 Superstorm after all. That thing was ridiculous. Obviously this isn't anything to sneeze at and will call for a lengthy recovery but the amazing part is it still may not be done. That's pretty scary.
I thought Ida made landfall in Alabama? You were right about the elements coming together to create a super storm just not the timing.

Oh well, this is a blog for weather enthusiasts who don't get paid but still do a pretty darned good job. That's why it replaced TWC as my main tropical weather resource years ago.
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Hey Flood,
Sorry to hear you need surgery but if the end justifies the means then it's a net positive, eh? WUMail me updates and when you're going to be in town. I'll be praying for ya...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Today's blog concerns the high tide at Norfolk and environs. The Atlantic/Norfolk hurricane is mentioned as having produced the 3rd highest tide on record. I am an elderly guy who was a youngster in 1933, living on the Chespeak Bay, south of Annapolis, MD. My mother, my grandmother and I barely escaped the tide that wrecked our property, and would likely have drowned us if we had not gotten out just in time. The memory is still very clear. If Dr. Masters would like to hear my story, he can contact me if he will let me know how to communicate privately.

Tom Worthington
Cascade, MD
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


What's your prediction? I understand if you're gun shy with some of the jokers trying to ridicule your previous efforts. It's all good though since your posts are usually meaningful and many times useful. Everybody on here has missed at one point or another.


Actually, I was off with Ida on the track, hit Mississippi instead of Florida, but hey, we try.. I dunno what to say about Extratropical Storm Ida, it's really a Superstorm of this century, not as strong as the 1993 Superstorm, but this one did alot of damage and exceeded surge from a category 2 Hurricane (Isabel) that's big.
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


By the way, WU mail. -- sorry, H-J, I think I was thinking of someone else. My bad, no mail.


No problem...you did have me wondering there for a sec...
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Quoting Floodman:
OKay, just so everyone knows: I just got back from the surgeon and I will be having back surgery on Thursday; talked it over long and hard with the surgeon and he is confident (as am I) that the procedure fusing the L4-L5 will do as expected and that I will be back on my feet in 2 weeks or so; I should have relief from the leg pain immediately and that my back pain will subside nearly completely as the surgery heals up.

Let the wild rumpus start!
My Rumpus is tired of sitting! OK a silly question once this is done what will your movement abilities be in your neck, because ya know every once in the while your gonna want to look up.... and check out the weather/sky j/k. Seriously, prayers are with you friend!
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1994 Gordon
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Quoting reedzone:
Ohh, safe recovery Floodman :)

Accuweather Met. Henry Margusity believes if the storm caused so much damage, had rain/wind of tropical nature, they should have kept the name, even though it's Extratropical. After looking at the damage reports, I can't disagree.. This was a historic storm, a slim chance of it returning and won't that blow the minds of people if that does happen. Comes to show you that Mother Nature differs from man. :)


What's your prediction? I understand if you're gun shy with some of the jokers trying to ridicule your previous efforts. It's all good though since your posts are usually meaningful and many times useful. Everybody on here has missed at one point or another.
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What was the storm surge at Sewels Point during Hurricane Floyd? I know that storm hit the Tidewater region pretty hard, but the only data that the Tides and Currents website has for that timeframe is the predicted data (historic average?), rather than the actual.
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140. Halyn
Quoting PcolaDan:
Looks like they trying to save a beach road in Delaware. Live cam


Looks like an exercise in futility .. I signed the petition, too. Not sure how much clout a taxpaying, retired great-granny has these days .. but gave it a shot. Was and am impressed by this blog :) .. Stay safe, all .. :)

Member Since: August 7, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 98
Quoting reedzone:
Ohh, safe recovery Floodman :)

Accuweather Met. Henry Margusity believes if the storm caused so much damage, had rain/wind of tropical nature, they should have kept the name, even though it's Extratropical. After looking at the damage reports, I can't disagree.. This was a historic storm, a slim chance of it returning and won't that blow the minds of people if that does happen. Comes to show you that Mother Nature differs from man. :)


Thanks, reed!

As for the storm, anything is possible; I went through Ivan twice, about 8 days apart...
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Quoting eyesontheweather:
Boy you got that right. NBC has an uncanny ability to pay lots of money for a good product and run it into the ground FAST!!!!!


Preach on! it was happening before the Peacock bought 'em out, but it's certainly accelerated since then
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


The Weather Channel is a joke now. John Hope is rolling over in his grave. I can't believe what they've done to that network. UGH! Where's my Weather Channel 2?

I know. While I'm not entirely dissatisfied w/ coverage of this Atlantic event, why can't they have the anchors all over the nearby location instead of just insanely getting pounded in the exact same spot over and over again. Ridiculous. It's called mobile mini-cam for a reason.

By the way, WU mail. -- sorry, H-J, I think I was thinking of someone else. My bad, no mail.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Ohh, safe recovery Floodman :)

Accuweather Met. Henry Margusity believes if the storm caused so much damage, had rain/wind of tropical nature, they should have kept the name, even though it's Extratropical. After looking at the damage reports, I can't disagree.. This was a historic storm, a slim chance of it returning and won't that blow the minds of people if that does happen. Comes to show you that Mother Nature differs from man. :)
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


The Weather Channel is a joke now. John Hope is rolling over in his grave. I can't believe what they've done to that network. UGH! Where's my Weather Channel 2?
Boy you got that right. NBC has an uncanny ability to pay lots of money for a good product and run it into the ground FAST!!!!!
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Quoting InTheCone:
I don't say much, just lurk mostly, but I want to lend my support to the Floodman! We'll all be hopin' for the best, God Bless!


Thanks, InTheCone...much appreciated!
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I don't say much, just lurk mostly, but I want to lend my support to the Floodman! We'll all be hopin' for the best, God Bless!
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Seems like you have had some pretty severe weather your side of the pond. For those that are interested we have a potentially catastrophic baroclynic storm developing just of ireland right now. Good blog at theweatheroutlook.com

Best wishes, squish.
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Sorry to hear there's also bad weather in the Mother Country (well, the original U.S. mother country).

I really need to get something done today. Some disaster person...few supplies here to feed hard-working hubby. TGIF and TTYL.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Tell us about the storm where you are Cotillion! :)


I'm pretty sheltered from it, I'm about the only place in Britain not getting too much!

The rain has died down a bit, it was getting pretty heavy earlier. Still blowing around a bit, but not too bad. It seems the winds will more likely come later for most places as the system moves across. Most of the bad aspects will remain in the south (I'm in the north of England).

Unfortunately, those same places (SW England and SW Wales) are getting yet more rain on Monday.
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


Add on: Now, isn't that professional of them, the movie Misery will be pre-empted because of the weather news in some markets...better be mine.


The Weather Channel is a joke now. John Hope is rolling over in his grave. I can't believe what they've done to that network. UGH! Where's my Weather Channel 2?
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


Add on: Now, isn't that professional of them, the movie Misery will be pre-empted because of the weather news in some markets...better be mine.


How ironic..."Misery" will be pre-empted.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11149
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
LOL Flood! I know everything will result in the best for you!


thanks, Geofrey..I have to tell you guys (and anyone who happens to be lurking) that this is the best online community I've ever been a part of, with the possible exception of a certain chat room Mrs Flood and I used to frequent...you guys are the best!
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LOL Flood! I know everything will result in the best for you!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11149
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Good afternoon. Just to let you know, my husband had the surgery about 6 months ago and is feeling a lot better now. First few days were kind of tough(not painwise but mobility) but now is doing very well and able to return to work but no heavy lifting or bending. The only therapy he was advised to do after was walking and swimming. Hope all goes well for you.


Thanks, stormwatcher...tell your husband I hope everything continues to go well for him...I've been in this flare up for over 7 months and it gets hard to maintain a decent outlook sometimes; I'm hoping I find the relief that he did
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Pressure down another mb at Coleshill, UK to 28.64" / 970 mb Link


Most of the worst weather is to the south west and into Wales.

Flood watches and warnings for most places, more rain on already saturated ground. Torro has a tornado watch up (a tornado hit Hampshire last week). Winds are generally around the 60-70mph mark, with a 78mph recorded in SW Wales.

Windstorm season doesn't even peak 'til January.
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Oh, the Hippo must be for other Kinder products as well. Mmmmmm...happy hippos. Those are so good.
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
What the heck with a barge full of hazardous materials is floating around near VA Beach?
Can't they steer that thing? I know nothing about barges.


Add on: Now, isn't that professional of them, the movie Misery will be pre-empted because of the weather news in some markets...better be mine.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918

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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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