Tropical Storm Alex bears down on the Yucatan; extreme heat for Africa and Russia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:12 PM GMT on June 26, 2010

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The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season of 2010 is here. Tropical Storm Alex formed last might from an African tropical wave that plowed through the Caribbean this week. Alex's formation location is a typical one for June tropical storms, and the formation date of June 25 is also a fairly typical date for the first storm of the season to form (we average about one June named storm every two years in the Atlantic.) Heavy rainfall will ramp up through the day in Honduras, Belize, and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, as Alex continues to intensify, and flooding from these heavy rains will be the main concern from Alex today and Sunday. Satellite loops show that Alex's heavy thunderstorm are growing in intensity and areal coverage at a respectable pace. There is an upper-level high pressure system a few hundred miles west of Alex, and the clockwise flow air around this high is bringing upper-level winds out of the northwest of about 10 knots over the storm, contributing to the 10 knots of wind shear observed in this morning's wind shear analysis from the University of Wisconsin's CIMSS group. Sea Surface Temperatures are very warm, 29 - 30°C, and dry air is not a problem for Alex. We currently don't have a Hurricane Hunter aircraft in the storm, so we will have to wait until 2pm this afternoon to get an updated estimate of Alex's surface winds. The latest satellite estimates of Alex's winds at 8am EDT put the storm's strongest winds at 40 mph.


Figure 1. Satellite image of the tropics at 9am EDT Saturday 6/26/10. Image credit: GOES Science Project.

Forecast for Alex
As I discussed in last night's post, an examination of the nineteen tropical cyclones that have formed in the Western Caribbean and hit the Yucatan Peninsula over the past twenty years reveals that 8 went on to make a second Gulf Coast landfall in Mexico, 5 hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, and 6 died after hitting the Yucatan. The ones that died all took a more southerly path across the Yucatan, spending more time over land than Alex will. Alex is large enough and moving far enough north across the Yucatan that passage over the peninsula will not kill it. So, will Alex follow the path climatology says is more likely, and make a second landfall along the Mexican Gulf Coast?


Figure 2. Forecast swath of tropical storm force winds (34 - 63 knots, green colors) and hurricane force winds (yellow and orange colors) as predicted by this morning's 2am EDT run of the HWRF model. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA GFDL team.

The key question remains how Alex will react to the trough of low pressure expected to swing down over the Eastern U.S. on Monday. Some of yesterday's model runs predicted that this trough would be strong enough to pull Alex northwards through the oil slick region into the northern Gulf of Mexico coast. However, the models that were predicting this (the GFS, GFDL, and HWRF models) are all backing off on that prediction. It now appears likely that Alex will cross the Yucatan, emerge into the Gulf of Mexico, then slow down as the trough to its north weakens the steering currents in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday. By Tuesday, the influence of the trough will wane, high pressure will build in, and Alex will resume a west-northwest, or possibly a due west or west-southwest motion, towards the Texas/Mexico border region. Based on the current trends in the models, Alex's tropical storm force winds are likely to stay well south of the oil slick region (Figure 2.) I put the odds of Alex bringing tropical storm-force winds to the oil slick region at 10%. The most significant impact Alex will likely have on the oil slick region is to bring 2 - 4 foot swells that may wash oil over some of the containment booms. These swells will reach the oil slick region on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Continued intensification of Alex is likely today, up until landfall. It is a good thing the storm waited until last night to get organized; had it formed a day earlier, it could have easily been a hurricane in the Western Caribbean today. Once Alex emerges back into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, it will likely take the storm at least 24 hours to get re-organized, particularly since the total ocean heat content is low for the 100-mile-wide stretch of water on the west side of the Yucatan Peninsula. Once Alex moves more than 100 miles from the Yucatan, total heat content of the ocean increases substantially, and Alex will have the opportunity to intensify significantly. Steering currents will be weak in the Gulf next week, and it appears that Alex will have time to intensify into a hurricane before making its second landfall along the South Texas/northern Mexico coast. Wind shear is expected to be light, and dry air not a significant impediment. Most of the models are calling for landfall on Wednesday, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this delayed until Thursday. I give Alex a 60% chance of becoming a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico next week.

Elsewhere in the tropics
A tropical wave (Invest 94L) is a few hundred miles northeast of the northernmost Lesser Antilles Islands. This wave is producing a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity, and is passing beneath a trough of low pressure that is generating 30 - 40 knots of wind shear, and is not a threat to develop today. However, by Monday, the storm will be in a region of much lower wind shear, and NHC is giving the storm a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Monday morning. None of the models currently develop 94L, but Bermuda should keep and eye on this system, as it will pass very close to the island on Tuesday.

Extreme heat wave in Africa and Asia continues to set all-time high temperature records
A withering heat wave of unprecedented intensity and areal covered continues to smash all-time high temperatures Asia and Africa. As I reported earlier this week, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Chad, Niger, Pakistan, and Myanmar have all set new records for their hottest temperatures of all time over the past six weeks. The remarkable heat continued over Africa and Asia late this week. The Asian portion of Russia recorded its highest temperate in history yesterday, when the mercury hit 42.3°C (108.1°F) at Belogorsk, near the Amur River border with China. The previous record was 41.7°C (107.1°F) at nearby Aksha on July 21, 2004. (The record for European Russia is 43.8°C--110.8°F--set on August 6, 1940, at Alexandrov Gaj near the border with Kazakhstan.) Also, on Thursday, Sudan recorded its hottest temperature in its history when the mercury rose to 49.6°C (121.3°F) at Dongola. The previous record was 49.5°C (121.1°F) set in July 1987 in Aba Hamed.

We've now had eight countries in Asia and Africa, plus the Asian portion of Russia, that have beaten their all-time hottest temperature record during the past two months. This includes Asia's hottest temperature of all-time, the astonishing 53.5°C (128.3°F) mark set on May 26 in Pakistan. All of these records are unofficial, and will need to be certified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). According to Chris Burt, author of Extreme Weather, the only year which can compare is 2003, when six countries (the UK, France, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) all broke their all-time heat records during that year's notorious summer heat wave. Fortunately, the residents of the countries affected by this summer's heat wave in Asia and Africa are more adapted to extreme high temperatures, and we are not seeing the kind of death tolls experienced during the 2003 European heat wave (30,000 killed.) This week's heat wave in Africa and the Middle East is partially a consequence of the fact that Earth has now seen three straight months with its warmest temperatures on record, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. It will be interesting to see if the demise of El Niño in May will keep June from becoming the globe's fourth straight warmest month on record.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
East to southeast winds of 5 - 15 knots will blow in the northern Gulf of Mexico today through Wednesday, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. The resulting weak ocean currents should push the oil to the west and northwest onto portions of the Louisiana and Alabama coasts, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana. I would expect Mississippi to have its most serious threat of oil yet early next week as these winds continue. The long range outlook shows a continuation of east to southeast winds along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast.

Resources for the BP oil disaster
Map of oil spill location from the NOAA Satellite Services Division
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil 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's interactive mapping tool to overlay wind and ocean current forecasts, oil locations, etc.
Gulf Oil Blog from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

Wunderground's severe weather expert Dr. Rob Carver will likely be posting at least one update on Alex this weekend. My next update will be Sunday morning.

Jeff Masters

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1098. Levi32
4 hours ago, but core was becoming better defined. It is very nice now on radar, with the embryo of an eyewall evident.



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1096. Ossqss

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1095. IKE
Check out the 12Z ECMWF
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Tazmanian:
94L is looking a little better


Hey Taz have you looked at the lastest 12z for late next weekend? They have been consistant the last few runs
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Its a shame...poor Alex was just about to put on a show.

Really tightening up:

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Quoting kmanislander:


That is a flight level wind. Surface is 39 knots
Yeah I see. Missed the "925mb" part.
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.
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1086. Levi32
Quoting StormW:


Levi, is that a 925mb flight level?


Yup. Extrapolation puts it at 45-50kts at the surface.
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94L is looking a little better
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114719
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Vortex shows 59 knots (rounded to 70mph) so they might issue one.


That is a flight level wind. Surface is 39 knots in vortex message
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Landfall likely within 3 hours.

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I measured the distance between the vortex message and Belize City by using the Google Earth ruler and according to it Alex is about 61.66 miles away.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Vortex shows 59 knots (rounded to 70mph) so they might issue one.


That was flight level.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
enjoy your peak
its all about to come to a crashing halt
once over land
be back to depression in short order
as daylight fades
good the evil vision is gone
prepare the next one may not be so kind


I didn't know yo were that poetic.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4436
Usually when storms hit the Yucatan, they slow down and turn north, or northwest. I believe Alex will slow down and turn northwest, circulation might reform north if it really gets disorganized over land, which is a good bet. Happened with Dolly in 2008. I'm still expecting the trough to lift it north some, then as the ridge builds in back of the trough, it steers westward into Mexico or Southern Texas. It might stall at the time the trough is leaving and the ridge builds. My forecast based on maps, a little bit of climatology.
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1076. Levi32
Quoting StormW:
Good afternoon!


Hey Storm!
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Quoting IKE:


It's got to get to near 19N to make it into the GOM. It probably will, but it's been moving almost due west for close to a day now.


Landfall is coming in about 4 hours. It will not get above 17.7 N by then and maybe less.
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1074. Levi32
Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


Sorry, I meant Levi.

I could see this easily becoming a hurricane and possibly knocking down a couple categories. Mexico may have to deal with a Cat 2 hurricane for a 2nd landfall. A major hurricane in the gulf even isn't out of the question, but it will greatly depend on how Alex looks after crossing the Yucatan, which is a rough ordeal for any tropical cyclone.



Based on my track, but if Alex busts everyone and stays really far south, it likely won't have the time to get that strong.
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Quoting extreme236:


Eh, I doubt it. Only a 10kt increase. Maybe if it were more like 15-20. We'll see though.
Vortex shows 59 knots (rounded to 70mph) so they might issue one.
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


Hey, I'm just saying it could...Weather456 said it could...


Always a possibility, but time and real estate are limited
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1070. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
enjoy your peak
its all about to come to a crashing halt
once over land
be back to depression in short order
as daylight fades
good the evil vision is gone
prepare the next one may not be so kind
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting seflagamma:


when you put it that way... hummmm...

perhaps not so nice.. forgot about their mountains..

I just did not want this storm to get into GOM..



I understand entirely. Unfortunately these storms have to go somewhere and in the end someone gets the brunt of it, even if they are only at sea to torment shipping.

Certainly, if this has shot through the Yucatan channel that would have been a nightmare scenario in the making.
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Guys don't forget stormcarib.com....great resource for reports out of the islands/ Central America.

Ambergris Caye - Alex
By Diane Campbell
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 2010 12:38:59 -0600

Those of us on Ambergris Caye are going to get a direct visit from Alex later today. Estimates are now that the center of the storm will reach us around 9 pm. NEMO has been activated for a couple of days. Boats are out of the water, tourists who were planning to leave have gone, people in the lowest lying areas of the island have been advised to move.
Lots of families with little kids evacuated voluntarily starting yesterday. Boats have been pulled out of the water, but few of us are boarding up our windows. The main concern at present is flooding on the mainland. Out here in the cayes heavy rains run off and we're ok - the mainland areas near rivers are the ones at risk. My dogs refuse to go outside ..... the cat doesn't care.

Stay dry!



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1065. IKE
Quoting kmanislander:


This storm look to be committed track wise. I expect it to barrel onshore and continue more or less slightly N of due W into the interior. Very little room left for a turn at sea.


It's got to get to near 19N to make it into the GOM. It probably will, but it's been moving almost due west for close to a day now.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1064. Levi32
000
URNT12 KNHC 261847
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL012010
A. 26/18:20:40Z
B. 17 deg 11 min N
087 deg 21 min W
C. 925 mb 669 m
D. 39 kt
E. 007 deg 18 nm
F. 175 deg 43 kt
G. 058 deg 74 nm
H. EXTRAP 998 mb
I. 24 C / 766 m
J. 23 C / 760 m
K. 21 C / NA
L. NA
M. NA
N. 134 / 09
O. 0.02 / 1 nm
P. AF302 0301A ALEX OB 07
MAX FL WIND 43 KT NE QUAD 17:52:20Z
MAX OUTBOUND FL WIND 59 KT S QUAD 18:26:10Z
SLP EXTRAP FROM 925 MB
MAX FL TEMP 25 C 008 / 19 NM FROM FL CNTR
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Wondering if we'll see a special advisory on the quick intensification of Alex.


Eh, I doubt it. Only a 10kt increase. Maybe if it were more like 15-20. We'll see though.
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Product: Air Force Vortex Message (URNT12 KNHC)
Transmitted: 26th day of the month at 18:47Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 302)
Storm Number & Year: 01L in 2010
Storm Name: Alex (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 3
Observation Number: 07
A. Time of Center Fix: 26th day of the month at 18:20:40Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 17°11'N 87°21'W (17.1833N 87.35W)
B. Center Fix Location: 59 miles (96 km) to the ESE (111°) from Belize City, Belize.
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 669m (2,195ft) at 925mb
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 39kts (~ 44.9mph)
E. Location of the Estimated Maximum Surface Wind: 18 nautical miles (21 statute miles) to the N (7°) of center fix
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 175° at 43kts (From the S at ~ 49.5mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 74 nautical miles (85 statute miles) to the ENE (58°) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 998mb (29.47 inHg) - Extrapolated
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 24°C (75°F) at a pressure alt. of 766m (2,513ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 23°C (73°F) at a pressure alt. of 760m (2,493ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): 21°C (70°F)
K. Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Not Available
M. Eye Shape: Not Available
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Wind and Pressure
N. Fix Levels (sfc and flt lvl centers are within 5nm of each other): Surface and 925mb (If this vortex is from mid 1990's or earlier 925mb might be incorrect. See note.)
O. Navigation Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 1 nautical mile
Remarks Section:
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 43kts (~ 49.5mph) in the northeast quadrant at 17:52:20Z
Maximum Flight Level Wind Outbound: 59kts (~ 67.9mph) in the south quadrant at 18:26:10Z
Sea Level Pressure Extrapolation From: 925mb
Maximum Flight Level Temp: 25°C (77°F) which was observed 19 nautical miles (22 statute miles) to the N (8°) from the flight level center

Special Notes:
- If this vortex is from approximately the mid 1990's or earlier, the "fix level" is properly decoded as "Other". Meaning, the level is not 1500ft, 850mb, 700mb, 500mb, 400mb, 300mb, or 200mb, but might not necessarily be 925mb. In vortex messages since approximately the mid 1990's, the number "9" in the vortex for this section explicitly decodes as 925mb and "NA" means "Other".
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000
URNT15 KNHC 261846
AF302 0301A ALEX HDOB 25 20100626
183700 1633N 08729W 9250 00722 9990 +186 +999 247039 040 044 007 01
183730 1632N 08730W 9248 00723 9990 +186 +999 244038 040 044 007 01
183800 1631N 08730W 9250 00722 9990 +187 +999 245039 039 045 005 01
183830 1630N 08731W 9251 00722 9990 +190 +999 244038 038 043 004 05
183900 1629N 08732W 9248 00725 9990 +193 +999 244037 038 043 002 01
183930 1629N 08734W 9247 00726 0052 +199 +199 242038 039 044 002 00
184000 1628N 08735W 9245 00728 0053 +195 +195 241037 038 043 004 00
184030 1627N 08736W 9248 00729 0055 +189 +189 240036 036 043 005 01
184100 1627N 08737W 9246 00730 9990 +185 +999 242035 036 044 005 01
184130 1626N 08738W 9247 00730 9990 +182 +999 244034 035 044 007 01
184200 1625N 08739W 9247 00730 9990 +183 +999 247034 035 042 008 01
184230 1625N 08741W 9246 00731 9990 +183 +999 248035 035 043 008 01
184300 1624N 08742W 9249 00728 9990 +183 +999 250035 035 042 009 01
184330 1623N 08743W 9250 00728 9990 +185 +999 251034 034 042 009 01
184400 1622N 08744W 9246 00733 9990 +185 +999 253034 035 043 009 01
184430 1622N 08745W 9248 00731 9990 +183 +999 254034 035 041 010 01
184500 1621N 08746W 9246 00733 9990 +185 +999 251032 034 042 010 05
184530 1619N 08746W 9240 00741 9990 +187 +999 254037 039 999 999 05
184600 1619N 08744W 9255 00726 9990 +186 +999 248039 039 039 006 05
184630 1618N 08742W 9245 00736 0061 +191 +191 245039 039 039 007 00
$$
;
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WNW

Always hard to tell where the center is when they don't have eyes...at least for me. The convection can sometimes trick you.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


Hey, I'm just saying it could...Weather456 said it could...


No, he said Hurricane.

Nothing about a major.
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Quoting MrstormX:


I suspect so

That's what is forcast by the NHC. Just look at the satelite image with track turned on.
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Quoting smmcdavid:
Good afternoon all...

Haven't really been able to check in today. I see we have TS Alex as of this morning and a more westerly forecast. Anything else new?
check out africa. its a scary scene and its on land. looks like a hurricane.
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Quoting IKE:
KMAN...you may be correct. It's been located at 17.2N, so that's even further south then the coordinates listed on the last advisory.


This storm look to be committed track wise. I expect it to barrel onshore and continue more or less slightly N of due W into the interior. Very little room left for a turn at sea.
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Vortex message

A. Time of Center Fix: 26th day of the month at 18:20:40Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 1711'N 8721'W (17.1833N 87.35W)
B. Center Fix Location: 59 miles (96 km) to the ESE (111) from Belize City, Belize.
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 669m (2,195ft) at 925mb
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 39kts (~ 44.9mph)
E. Location of the Estimated Maximum Surface Wind: 18 nautical miles (21 statute miles) to the N (7) of center fix
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 175 at 43kts (From the S at ~ 49.5mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 74 nautical miles (85 statute miles) to the ENE (58) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 998mb (29.47 inHg) - Extrapolated
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 24C (75F) at a pressure alt. of 766m (2,513ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 23C (73F) at a pressure alt. of 760m (2,493ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): 21C (70F)
K. Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Not Available
M. Eye Shape: Not Available
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Wind and Pressure
N. Fix Levels (sfc and flt lvl centers are within 5nm of each other): Surface and 925mb (If this vortex is from mid 1990's or earlier 925mb might be incorrect. See note.)
O. Navigation Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 1 nautical mile
Remarks Section:
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 43kts (~ 49.5mph) in the northeast quadrant at 17:52:20Z
Maximum Flight Level Wind Outbound: 59kts (~ 67.9mph) in the south quadrant at 18:26:10Z
Sea Level Pressure Extrapolation From: 925mb
Maximum Flight Level Temp: 25C (77F) which was observed 19 nautical miles (22 statute miles) to the N (8) from the flight level center
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Quoting Crawls:


Where can I find a story on this?


Personally, I can attest to itchy, watery eyes when they burn the oil. I'm not prone to allergies, either.

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/jun2010/bphe-j21.shtml

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Quoting Floodman:
What's the current forward speed?
WNW at 13mph.
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Quoting wfyweather:
I dont see anything that states this is a 50 kt system
AL, 01, 2010062618, , BEST, 0, 172N, 873W, 50, 998, TS, 50,
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What's the current forward speed?
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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.