Loop Current Eddy cuts off; oil danger to Keys now greatly reduced

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:24 PM GMT on May 28, 2010

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A major ocean current re-alignment is underway the Gulf of Mexico right now, and the new configuration that is developing greatly reduces the threat of oil entering the Loop Current and affecting the Florida Keys and U.S. East Coast. As I explain in my Loop Current Primer, the Loop Current is an ocean current that transports warm Caribbean water through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico. The current flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, then loops southeastward just south of the Florida Keys (where it is called the Florida Current), and past the western Bahamas. Here, the waters of the Loop Current flow northward along the U.S. coast and become the Gulf Stream. With current speeds of about 0.8 m/s, the Loop Current is one of the fastest currents in the Atlantic Ocean. Every 6 - 11 months, the top bulge of the Loop Current cuts off, forming a 250-mile diameter circular eddy in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. This clockwise-spinning eddy is filled with warm water from the Loop Current, and is called a Loop Current Eddy. The main body of the Loop Current then takes a fairly direct eastward path from the Yucatan Channel to the Florida Keys.

Over the past two days, surface currents in the Gulf of Mexico have aligned to form a Loop Current Eddy, as seen in the analysis of surface currents done by the U.S. Navy (Figure 1, and see also a 30-day animation of the eddy forming.) It remains to be seen if the deep water currents have followed suit, and a stable Loop Current Eddy cannot exist until the deep water currents also cut off into a clockwise-rotating ring of water at depth. A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is out over the Gulf of Mexico today dropping expendable buoys and current probes to determine if a stable Loop Current Eddy has formed. Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecast Service has a nice discussion on the Loop Current Eddy formation.


Figure 1. Comparison of surface currents in the Gulf of Mexico on May 19 (top) and May 27 (bottom) as simulated by the HYCOM model. On May 19, the Loop Current made a large northward loop into the Gulf, and was able to transport oil from the near the spill location southwards through the Keys. By May 27, this loop had cut off, and new oil moving southwards from the spill will now be trapped in the clockwise rotating Loop Current Eddy that is cut off from the Loop Current. Note on the west side of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Texas, there is an old Loop Current Eddy that cut off from the Loop Current in July 2009. This eddy cut off in the same location as this week's eddy, and has drifted west-southwestward at 3 - 5 km per day over the past ten months. Image credit: U.S. Navy.

If the eddy does remain in place, it will greatly reduce the chances of oil making it to Cuba, the Florida Keys, and beyond. Any oil moving southwards from the spill location will now become entrained in the eddy, and will move in a 250 mile-wide clockwise circle in the east-central Gulf of Mexico. A small portion the oil will get shed away from the eddy's periphery and make it into the Loop Current and waters surrounding the eddy, but the concentrations of oil doing so will be small. Keep in mind, though, that during the first 1 - 2 months that a Loop Current Eddy forms, it is common for the eddy to exchange substantial amounts of water with the Loop Current, and in some cases get re-absorbed into the Loop Current. A 1-year animation of the Loop Current shows that the last Loop Current Eddy, which cut off in mid-July 2009, experienced a 2-week period in early August when it re-attached to the Loop Current. A significant portion of any oil entering the eddy during a period of re-attachment will be able to enter the Loop Current and flow past the Keys.

One bad result of the eddy breaking off is that now we have an extra source of heat energy for passing hurricanes during the upcoming hurricane season. Loop Current eddies have high-temperature water that extends to great depth, and hurricanes passing over such eddies often undergo rapid intensification. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita of 2005 both underwent rapid intensification as they passed over warm Loop Current eddies in 2005. The formation of a Loop Current Eddy during hurricane season means that a much greater portion of the Gulf of Mexico has deep, warm water capable of fueling rapid intensification of hurricanes.

Oil spill update
Light offshore northwesterly winds are expected to blow over the northern Gulf of Mexico today through Saturday, resulting decreased threats of oil to the Louisiana shore, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA. These offshore winds may be able to transport oil southwards into the Loop Current Eddy that just formed; a streamer of oil moving southeastward into the Loop Current Eddy is visible in yesterday's NASA MODIS imagery (Figure 2). Winds will shift to onshore out of the south on Saturday night, then shift to southwesterly by Tuesday. The long-range forecast from the GFS model indicates continued southwesterly winds all of next week. If this forecast verifies, we will see our greatest chances yet of significant amounts of oil reaching the beaches of Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle.


Figure 2. Visible satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico taken at 2:55pm EDT Thursday May 27, 2010, by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite. Thin streaks of oil can be seen moving southeast and then southwest around the eastern side of the new Loop Current Eddy. Image credit: NASA.

Oil spill resources
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
My post Wednesday with answers to some of the common questions I get about the spill
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
NOAA trajectory forecasts
Deepwater Horizon Unified Command web site
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Surface current forecasts from NOAA's HYCOM model
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

Central American disturbance
The Atlantic is currently quiet, with none of our reliable global forecast models predicting tropical cyclone development over the next 6 days. There is an area of disturbed weather (90E) just off the Pacific coast of Mexico that will be a major concern for southern Mexico and much of Central America over the next 3 - 4 days. The disturbance will bring heavy rains to Central America during the weekend, potentially bringing serious flooding rains to portions of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. NHC is giving the disturbance a high (>60% chance) of the disturbance developing into a tropical depression by Sunday. Wunderbloggers Weather456 and StormW have more on the tropics.


Figure 3. Satellite image of the Central American disturbance 90E this morning.

Join the "Hurricane Haven" with Dr. Jeff Masters: a new Internet radio show
Beginning next week, I'll be experimenting with a live 1-hour Internet radio show called "Hurricane Haven." The show will be aired at 4pm EDT on Tuesdays, with the first show June 1. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. Some topics I'll cover on the first show:

1) What's going on in the tropics right now
2) Preview of the coming hurricane season
3) How a hurricane might affect the oil spill
4) How the oil spill might affect a hurricane
5) New advancements in hurricane science presented at this month's AMS Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology
6) Haiti's vulnerability to a hurricane this season

I hope you can tune in to the broadcast, which will be at http://www.wunderground.com/wxradio/wubroadcast.h tml. If not, the show will be recorded and stored as a podcast.

I'll be back with at least one update over the coming 3-day Memorial Day weekend. Have a great holiday!

Jeff Masters

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1757. cg2916
Quoting SevereHurricane:


Financial cutbacks?


No, they already bought whatever imaging software they use.
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1756. cg2916
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Is this a glitch?


Noticed that, too. Maybe they're just rushing it.
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1755. cg2916
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
You can tell on this one though. Everything on the coast is TS warnings.


Doesn't show the cone, though.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Is this a glitch?


Yes, its their normal "cone" graphic thats currently not in color, so you don't see the other information.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Is this a glitch?


Financial cutbacks?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1752. IKE
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Is this a glitch?


It should be...it's terrible.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1751. cg2916
Quoting DestinJeff:


click pic to make bigger ... 06 GFS


Got something NE of Haiti and the GOM. Yeah, right.
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Is this a glitch?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting cg2916:
This is pretty useless:



It doesn't even show the areas around it, and you can't tell the difference between hurricane/TS watches/warnings.
You can tell on this one though. Everything on the coast is TS warnings.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1747. IKE
NHC isn't jumping on the GFS and CMC bandwagon...yet.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1746. leo305
NHC believes it will die over land by monday
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting belizeit:
I see last nights ascat pass put the wind speed at 35 knots so i thought they would jump the TD status right to TS


Maybe I'm blind but that pass only shows orange and red barbs at the strongest with this system. Those are 25 and 30 kts respectively. 35 kt barbs are brown. Not to say that there aren't 35 kt winds with this system, but that pass doesn't show it.
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Definitely a TD. Nice structure.
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1742. IKE
Quoting cg2916:
This is pretty useless:



It doesn't even show the areas around it, and you can't tell the difference between hurricane/TS watches/warnings.


Uh...they need to improve that feature!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1741. cg2916
This is pretty useless:



It doesn't even show the areas around it, and you can't tell the difference between hurricane/TS watches/warnings.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I see last nights ascat pass put the wind speed at 35 knots so i thought they would jump the TD status right to TS
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1739. cg2916
Quoting kingy:
the oil leak is looking nice and black, I struggle to believe this is mud that is being forced up the pipework. This looks like the BP 'topkill' mud has been blown back up the pipe and oil is now leaking again. The longer it is taking BP to claim success is a sure sign of failure.

You got to hand it to BP's 'don't ask don't tell' approach to PR, it has worked to their advantage. By drip-feeding us inaccurate info for 30 days they managed to avoid the 'sudden' impact of the worst eco-disaster in US history. Yes the news leaked out, but the force of the blow was lessened by 30 days of well-spun PR which our media lapped up like the fools that they are.

Anyway, unless BP get lucky this oil spill will triple in size by the time the relief wells are sunk. By then this spill will be 10 times the size of the exxon spill.


They have to re-stock their mud.
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1738. IKE
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting masonsnana:
Good Morning 456. Tks for update


Anytime
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1736. IKE
Quoting DestinJeff:


Ike, you win the door-prize for first NHC challenge of the season! Congratulations!


LOL.

Well it does:)
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1735. IKE
Quoting kingy:
the oil leak is looking nice and black, I struggle to believe this is mud that is being forced up the pipework. This looks like the BP 'topkill' mud has been blown back up the pipe and oil is now leaking again. The longer it is taking BP to claim success is a sure sign of failure.

You got to hand it to BP's 'don't ask don't tell' approach to PR, it has worked to their advantage. By drip-feeding us inaccurate info for 30 days they managed to avoid the 'sudden' impact of the worst eco-disaster in US history. Yes the news leaked out, but the force of the blow was lessened by 30 days of well-spun PR which our media lapped up like the fools that they are.

Anyway, unless BP get lucky this oil spill will triple in size by the time the relief wells are sunk. By then this spill will be 10 times the size of the exxon spill.


I agree it looked quite a bit darker. Looks like oil to me.

Agree that the media works from behind or either believes BP too much. Maybe BP is delaying the inevitable until deep into a holiday weekend when most folks are not paying attention.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1734. eddye
im back people yeah and can this come into the carribean
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1733. cg2916
- - - MAXIMUM WIND SPEED (INTENSITY) PROBABILITIES - - -

VALID TIME 18Z SAT 06Z SUN 18Z SUN 06Z MON 06Z TUE 06Z WED 06Z THU
FORECAST HOUR 12 24 36 48 72 96 120
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
DISSIPATED 1 2 9 19 47 NA NA
TROP DEPRESSION 30 16 26 33 24 NA NA
TROPICAL STORM 68 76 59 43 24 NA NA
HURRICANE X 6 6 5 4 NA NA

It should be TS Agatha by the next two advisories.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1731. kingy
the oil leak is looking nice and black, I struggle to believe this is mud that is being forced up the pipework. This looks like the BP 'topkill' mud has been blown back up the pipe and oil is now leaking again. The longer it is taking BP to claim success is a sure sign of failure.

You got to hand it to BP's 'don't ask don't tell' approach to PR, it has worked to their advantage. By drip-feeding us inaccurate info for 30 days they managed to avoid the 'sudden' impact of the worst eco-disaster in US history. Yes the news leaked out, but the force of the blow was lessened by 30 days of well-spun PR which our media lapped up like the fools that they are.

Anyway, unless BP get lucky this oil spill will triple in size by the time the relief wells are sunk. By then this spill will be 10 times the size of the exxon spill.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1730. IKE
Looks closer to the coast to me then where the NHC has it.


...FIRST TROPICAL DEPRESSION OF THE EASTERN PACIFIC HURRICANE SEASON FORMS OFF THE COAST OF GUATEMALA... ...EXTREMELY HEAVY RAINFALL EXPECTED ACROSS SOUTHEASTERN MEXICO... GUATEMALA...AND EL SALVADOR...
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Weather456:
Good Morning

Blog Update

90E nears depression status; heavy rains expected
Good Morning 456. Tks for update
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting cg2916:


It is TD 1-E, check the NHC site, they're putting out advisories.
Quoting cg2916:


It is TD 1-E, check the NHC site, they're putting out advisories.
Quoting cg2916:


It is TD 1-E, check the NHC site, they're putting out advisories.


ok. The information is still valid.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1727. cg2916
Quoting Weather456:
Good Morning

Blog Update

90E nears depression status; heavy rains expected


It is TD 1-E, check the NHC site, they're putting out advisories.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1726. IKE
TROPICAL DEPRESSION ONE-E SPECIAL FORECAST/ADVISORY NUMBER 1
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL EP012010
1200 UTC SAT MAY 29 2010

CHANGES IN WATCHES AND WARNINGS WITH THIS ADVISORY...

AT 5 AM PDT THE GOVERNMENTS OF GUATEMALA AND MEXICO HAVE ISSUED A
TROPICAL STORM WARNING FOR THE PACIFIC COASTS OF EXTREME
SOUTHEASTERN MEXICO AND ALL OF GUATEMALA FROM BOCA DE PIJIJIAPAN
SOUTHEASTWARD TO THE GUATEMALA-EL SALVADOR BORDER. A TROPICAL STORM
WARNING IS RECOMMENDED FOR ALL OF THE EL SALVADOR COAST.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT...

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* THE PACIFIC COASTS OF EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN MEXICO AND ALL OF
GUATEMALA FROM BOCA DE PIJIJIAPAN MEXICO SOUTHEASTWARD TO THE
GUATEMALA-EL SALVADOR BORDER.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
EXPECTED SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA WITHIN 36 HOURS.

TROPICAL DEPRESSION CENTER LOCATED NEAR 12.9N 93.5W AT 29/1200Z
POSITION ACCURATE WITHIN 20 NM

PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE EAST-NORTHEAST OR 65 DEGREES AT 4 KT

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 1005 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 30 KT WITH GUSTS TO 40 KT.
12 FT SEAS.. 70NE 70SE 0SW 60NW.
WINDS AND SEAS VARY GREATLY IN EACH QUADRANT. RADII IN NAUTICAL
MILES ARE THE LARGEST RADII EXPECTED ANYWHERE IN THAT QUADRANT.

REPEAT...CENTER LOCATED NEAR 12.9N 93.5W AT 29/1200Z
AT 29/0600Z CENTER WAS LOCATED NEAR 12.8N 93.8W

FORECAST VALID 29/1800Z 13.0N 93.0W
MAX WIND 40 KT...GUSTS 50 KT.
34 KT... 70NE 70SE 40SW 60NW.

FORECAST VALID 30/0600Z 13.3N 92.2W
MAX WIND 50 KT...GUSTS 60 KT.
50 KT... 25NE 25SE 15SW 15NW.
34 KT... 70NE 70SE 40SW 60NW.

FORECAST VALID 30/1800Z 13.7N 91.6W
MAX WIND 50 KT...GUSTS 60 KT.
50 KT... 25NE 25SE 15SW 15NW.
34 KT... 70NE 70SE 40SW 60NW.

FORECAST VALID 31/0600Z 14.4N 91.0W...INLAND
MAX WIND 35 KT...GUSTS 45 KT.
34 KT... 0NE 70SE 50SW 0NW.

FORECAST VALID 01/0600Z 14.9N 91.2W...DISSIPATING INLAND
MAX WIND 20 KT...GUSTS 25 KT.

EXTENDED OUTLOOK. NOTE...ERRORS FOR TRACK HAVE AVERAGED NEAR 200 NM
ON DAY 4 AND 250 NM ON DAY 5...AND FOR INTENSITY NEAR 20 KT EACH DAY

OUTLOOK VALID 02/0600Z...DISSIPATED

REQUEST FOR 3 HOURLY SHIP REPORTS WITHIN 300 MILES OF 12.9N 93.5W

NEXT ADVISORY AT 29/1500Z

$$
FORECASTER STEWART



Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Good Morning

Blog Update

90E nears depression status; heavy rains expected
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1724. cg2916
BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_RENUMBER_ep902010_ep012010.ren
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201005291205
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END

EP, 01, 2010052906, , BEST, 0, 128N, 938W, 30, 1005, DB, 34, NEQ,

We will have TD 1-E, not Agatha yet, with winds of 30 knots (35 mph) and a 1005 MB low.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1723. cg2916
Quoting CybrTeddy:
000
ABPZ20 KNHC 291124
TWOEP
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
500 AM PDT SAT MAY 29 2010

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

LATEST MICROWAVE SATELLITE IMAGERY INDICATES THE LARGE LOW PRESSURE
AREA CENTERED ABOUT 200 MILES WEST-SOUTHWEST OF PUERTO DE SAN JOSE
GUATEMALA IS ORGANIZING INTO A TROPICAL DEPRESSION AS IT MOVES
EAST-NORTHEASTWARD AT ABOUT 5 MPH. THERE IS A HIGH CHANCE...NEAR
100 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE...AND
FORECAST ADVISORIES WILL LIKELY BE INITIATED LATER THIS MORNING.

HEAVY SQUALLS CONTINUE TO MOVE ONSHORE THE COASTAL AREAS OF EXTREME
SOUTHEASTERN MEXICO AND MUCH OF GUATEMALA...AND THE AREA OF HEAVY
RAINS EXTENDS AS FAR EAST AS EL SALVADOR. THESE RAINS ARE EXPECTED
TO CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS CAUSING LIFE-THREATENING
FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES IN THESE AREAS.

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

$$
FORECASTER STEWART/KIMBERLAIN




100% is crazy. They must have known that it would they were going to name it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1722. IKE
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
invest_RENUMBER_ep902010_ep012010.ren


There it is.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1721. cg2916
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
invest_RENUMBER_ep902010_ep012010.ren


We got it!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
invest_RENUMBER_ep902010_ep012010.ren
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
000
ABPZ20 KNHC 291124
TWOEP
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
500 AM PDT SAT MAY 29 2010

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

LATEST MICROWAVE SATELLITE IMAGERY INDICATES THE LARGE LOW PRESSURE
AREA CENTERED ABOUT 200 MILES WEST-SOUTHWEST OF PUERTO DE SAN JOSE
GUATEMALA IS ORGANIZING INTO A TROPICAL DEPRESSION AS IT MOVES
EAST-NORTHEASTWARD AT ABOUT 5 MPH. THERE IS A HIGH CHANCE...NEAR
100 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE...AND
FORECAST ADVISORIES WILL LIKELY BE INITIATED LATER THIS MORNING.

HEAVY SQUALLS CONTINUE TO MOVE ONSHORE THE COASTAL AREAS OF EXTREME
SOUTHEASTERN MEXICO AND MUCH OF GUATEMALA...AND THE AREA OF HEAVY
RAINS EXTENDS AS FAR EAST AS EL SALVADOR. THESE RAINS ARE EXPECTED
TO CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS CAUSING LIFE-THREATENING
FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES IN THESE AREAS.

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

$$
FORECASTER STEWART/KIMBERLAIN


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1718. leo305
BP will say whether or not TOP KILL has failed by sunday..

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1717. IKE
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Daily update 5/29/10 sorry if the first three pictures are missing..

NOAA predicts stunning numbers, tropical update 5/29/10
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:

Good Evening


Good "evening" Aussie.. I'll get it right eventually mate..

..are you in the threatened area of Sydney? I'm not sure I understand the alert.. you expect seriously heavy rains that will stress the levee's?

Msgambler.. :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
HAGD
Member Since: February 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1125
Quoting gulfcoastdweller:


must have been the "I" named storm.....can't remember the name

The I storm was Ida but it might have been Claudette.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Not sure, shamed to say we are there too much.....LOL
Member Since: February 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1125
We get free rooms all the time and took some friends last year for their first time. We checked in and at 11pm they called the rooms and told us we had to check out. They did allow us to stay the night and be out by 6am. I cannot remember the storm though. It was one they waited till the last minute to close for though.
Member Since: February 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1125
Quoting indianrivguy:
Good morning gang.. good afternoon Aussie!

Good Evening
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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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