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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Quoting CaneAddict:


Well that makes 2 of us :]. By the way I live in North Saint petersburg..not too far from you.


I live 14 miles from the La border(sabine river) in Texas. So I really want to keep an eye on this one. Thanks for the info, and yes, I realize it's not written in stone.
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Quoting Torgen:


A lot of us here in the Tampa Bay metro area. We should have a WU meet up!


Lol yeah, I've hung out with StormW before.
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Delcambre
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I feel all those who bashed me on the forecast of Alex owes me an apology IF it really does end up going north of the NHC track.
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3345. bappit
Quoting atmoaggie:

The tugging and the substance to be tugged, itself, are in question here. How Alex responds to the OHC on the other side of the Yucatan is important, too. And not set in stone.


The Gulf has somewhat low total heat content considering the reputation its surface temps have. That excludes the eddy left by the loop current and the loop current itself.
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Quoting CaneAddict:


First impressions are...everything.


Quoting reedzone:
I can't believe you all! Calling me a wishcaster for predicting a northward trend as now being shown by models. You're ridiculious! I'm not saying it's gonna be a category 5 and hit Houston, I'm just predicting a stronger trough which is clearly evident on the water vapor. We can forecast, this is what this site is for, expessing opinions. Though you bash me every way you can because of how innacurate I was last year.
Quoting reedzone:
I can't believe you all! Calling me a wishcaster for predicting a northward trend as now being shown by models. You're ridiculious! I'm not saying it's gonna be a category 5 and hit Houston, I'm just predicting a stronger trough which is clearly evident on the water vapor. We can forecast, this is what this site is for, expessing opinions. Though you bash me every way you can because of how innacurate I was last year.


Reedzone, I have enjoyed your contribution to this board. Keep up the good work, you are getting better at what you post imo, don't take the remarks of others so seriously, some are actually light hearted jabs and some are from those that see you are letting your buttons be pushed, just keep postin and let those that read do what they want with it.
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Well I'm off to bed. Check out the GEM model if you dare. Lol.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting LouisianaWoman:
Ahh yes, Ike. He added insult to injury after we were told that flooding in our neighborhood would be "a once in a hundred years" event. Turns out it happened to be a twice in three years event, landing us with 5 feet of water in the yard. lol

Where are you?
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Alex is being marooned
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Quoting winter123:

Not 94L, that is an upper level low. 94L was to the east of it but it is dead now.


I think 94L was dead to begin with. I don't even know why the NHC mentioned that one, upper-level low made conditions unfavorable for development the whole time.
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Quoting tennisgirl08:


Oh, ok. I gotcha now. It's amazing how the weather patterns change so fast..lol.
Sadly that's how it is. Well really not sadly, that's what makes weather fun, if weather wasn't unpredictable there would be half the mets there are now.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Goodnight dear. No hard feelings.
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Boy if you cherry pick the models... you can really sway opinions.

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just look at GOM rainbow loop folks tells the story
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3335. Torgen
Quoting CaneAddict:


Well that makes 2 of us :]. By the way I live in North Saint petersburg..not too far from you.


A lot of us here in the Tampa Bay metro area. We should have a WU meet up!
Member Since: June 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 321
Quoting RitaEvac:
lol look at rainbow GOM loop and check out the CDO of Alex, your going to really see that NW jump!!


More like a change in direction..rather then just a jog or jump.
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3333. xcool
Link

NEW CMC
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3332. jpritch
Quoting CanesfanatUT:


How much do they produce? How much land would it take to make 250 thousand bbl's of mogas per day?

Serious.


The DOE and DARPA estimate that it would take 15,000 square miles of algal ponds to replace all the petroleum fuel used in the US. (Just for comparison, the area of farmland used to grow corn in the US is well over 100,000 square miles.) Fuel from algae is much more efficient to produce than any other biofuel.

Right now, they are only producing amounts to use in testing aimed at making all military vehicles, aircraft, etc. fuel agnostic, and in developing systems to produce fuel in the field. But the growing of algae is simple and scalable, and can be done with seawater, wastewater, brackish water, etc., just about anywhere.
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Quoting Chicklit:

Me too. A little sensitive about the NOLA folks.
They've been through a lot. So I should understand her fear.
This time though, they're spared.
Even so, life is really tough there right now.
So I understand LAWoman being skiddish.
Sorry to be insensitive.
Been a long day and probably jumped on that too hard. Goodnight.


Night night, miss thing. catch you tomorrow-ish!
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either Alex just took a MAJOR wobble or he's starting to go more NW in the last few satellite runs.. time will tell

this time tomorrow many people along the TEXAS will be getting their emergency cash ready, checking generators, etc..
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
LOL. The blog was written using the 00:00UTC steering currents, now with the 03:00UTC steering currents the ridge weakened. LOL, my blog grew outdated earlier than I expected.


Oh, ok. I gotcha now. It's amazing how the weather patterns change so fast..lol.
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Ahh yes, Ike. He added insult to injury after we were told that flooding in our neighborhood would be "a once in a hundred years" event. Turns out it happened to be a twice in three years event, landing us with 5 feet of water in the yard. lol
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Hey, feed me crow if your wrong. I agree 100%. That trough isn't going to be a piece of cake, plus Alex if moving much more northerly than expected.


Glad to have you both agree with me on this. I'm really not wishcasting this.. I can't believe some people on here. I went over the line last year, but really gained more knowledge afterwards. I make a forecast and get called a wishcaster because it doesnt comply with the models or NHC.
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Quoting TampaSpin:
I just honestly don't see Alex making Landfall anywhere near Mexico......that trough is too far south.....IMO...more like the Texas/Louisiana line than Mexico.....MAY be wrong and sure the heck won't be my last to be wrong if i am.....


Well that makes 2 of us :]. By the way I live in North Saint petersburg..not too far from you.
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Link

South of Galveston, Cat 2...??

Yes? No? Anyone?
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My observation of the sat. loop shows that the moisture from Alex is heading in a more of a northely component.Also notice the diretion of clouds comeing out of the southwest going northeast to the west of Alex.
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Quoting eye:
Well, if Alex hits LA, maybe you all will get a Louisiana Purchase III, with the state being so poor and all....


That comment was so not needed.
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Quoting BaltOCane:


I am in total agreement with that.
Sorry 'bout biting your head off... didn't mean to.

Me too. A little sensitive about the NOLA folks.
They've been through a lot. So I should understand her fear.
This time though, they're spared.
Even so, life is really tough there right now.
So I understand LAWoman being skiddish.
Sorry to be insensitive.
Been a long day and probably jumped on that too hard. Goodnight.
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Quoting tennisgirl08:


Hey Miami - the update blog you just posted states this:
"Current motion associated with Alex is towards the west at around 10-15 mph, with several NW jogs. If you have been following Jeff Masters' blog you will hear a lot of people suggesting that Alex has been moving towards the NW, this is untrue as a ridge to the north of Alex strengthened unexpectedly and stopped all motion except for due westward motion."

So, are you now saying that ridge has now weakened considerably?
I am so confused...LOL Just trying to get a handle on what's really happening here. I mean no disrespect..
LOL. The blog was written using the 00:00UTC steering currents, now with the 03:00UTC steering currents the ridge weakened. LOL, my blog grew outdated earlier than I expected.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting xcool:
TampaSpin i agree & LOOK AT new cmc .sir.


new cmc...can you give a link please?
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
Quoting bjdsrq:


You missed my point. Don't care how he owns oil stock. My point is banning all US offshore drilling hurts a lot of people in the US. Hundreds of thousands more umemployed, more destruction to retirement nest eggs, and $7/gal gasoline. Think we can tolerate that on top of 10% unemployment and $11T in debt? I don't.

Industry reforms yes, but an all out offshore drilling ban is ignorant and economically suicidal. Thousands of GOM offshore wells have produced w/o incident and most are not deep water wells.

You youngsters probably won't remember 3-mile Island in the late 1970s. One small scare with a nuclear plant, and Fed govt reacted in a similar short sighted way with a ban. The result was zero new nuke plants built in the US ever since (30+ years.) Meanwhile, every other major country in the world has been racing ahead with new nuke power technology roll outs leaving us decades behind and in the dust. Thus, the US is still dependent on coal for energy just like 150 years ago. Its an embarrasing shame.
\\

As an unrepentant member of the anti nuke crowd I would like to accept the credit you bestow. However it doesn't match the facts. Nuke building had almost ground to a standstill pre 3MI. Good old return to the dollar was doing them in. Insurance post 3MI plus increased costs on other fronts drove the final nail.

Think one of the factors in BP cutting corners on this well may well have been the drop in oil prices due to economic meltdown.

The profit margin rules all.
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lol look at rainbow GOM loop and check out the CDO of Alex, your going to really see that NW jump!!
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Quoting TampaSpin:
I just honestly don't see Alex making Landfall anywhere near Mexico......that trough is too far south.....IMO...more like the Texas/Louisiana line than Mexico.....MAY be wrong and sure the heck won't be my last to be wrong if i am.....
Hey, feed me crow if your wrong. I agree 100%. That trough isn't going to be a piece of cake, plus Alex if moving much more northerly than expected.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
3314. xcool
Torgen /easy to read...
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Quoting taco2me61:
with all due respect the 5 day cone of uncertainty has always had Houston in it.... Remember it could be anywhere in that cone....

Taco :o)


Actually, Houston has not been in the cone of error for the last several advisories... go check it out...
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Yeah, that's the only one that I could post on the blog so I just went with that one. But yeah a more defined northerly component in motion is definitely evident on rainbow and pretty much every other loop.


Hey Miami - the update blog you just posted states this:
"Current motion associated with Alex is towards the west at around 10-15 mph, with several NW jogs. If you have been following Jeff Masters' blog you will hear a lot of people suggesting that Alex has been moving towards the NW, this is untrue as a ridge to the north of Alex strengthened unexpectedly and stopped all motion except for due westward motion."

So, are you now saying that ridge has now weakened considerably?
I am so confused...LOL Just trying to get a handle on what's really happening here. I mean no disrespect..
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3311. Torgen
Quoting xcool:


cmc tx sw LA NOW



I hope one day to be able to look at images like these and not feel like a dog that someone's trying to teach calculus. :p
Member Since: June 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 321
3310. xcool
TampaSpin i agree & LOOK AT new cmc .sir.
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Quoting CaneAddict:


Definitely starting to become a bigger concern. The current NHC track doesent look like it's even close to what the actual track is going to be.
Expect a more northerly track at 5PM because of the trough digging a bit more to the south. I still don't think Louisiana is safe so that could give you an idea of what type of track I'm thinking.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting LouisianaWoman:
Seems to me as if you're assuming a whole lot here. For the record, Ritas path of distruction ended near Morgan City(ish) not even close to New Orleans. You're thinking of a different beast, her name was Katrina. But that's a moot point, I'm not referencing a similiar path, I was referencing the fact that it was suppose to be a south Tx/Mexico event and ended up much differently than what most had forecasted.

Only a day or so from landfall, Ike's official forecast was some 200 miles further down the coast than Galveston. The turn to the north was not forecasted to happen until after landfall for a while.

If this track had transpired, a lot less people would have been directly affected and Ike wouldn't be the Ike we'll not soon forget.

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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
We'll know tomorrow if the northern revision in some models (or reversion back) sticks or not.


Are we getting the "windshield wiper effect" with the models?
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I just honestly don't see Alex making Landfall anywhere near Mexico......that trough is too far south.....IMO...more like the Texas/Louisiana line than Mexico.....MAY be wrong and sure the heck won't be my last to be wrong if i am.....
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You have to be careful when looking at the "cone of uncertainty" - it's a 2/3 probability area (based on a 5 year averaged forecast error), by definition. That's only a 66% confidence level. Add in the fact that hurricanes are not simple points, but very broad storms, and you will find yourself unpleasantly surprised.
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3303. xcool


cmc tx sw LA NOW
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Quoting reedzone:
I can't believe you all! Calling me a wishcaster for predicting a northward trend as now being shown by models. You're ridiculious! I'm not saying it's gonna be a category 5 and hit Houston, I'm just predicting a stronger trough which is clearly evident on the water vapor. We can forecast, this is what this site is for, expessing opinions. Though you bash me every way you can because of how innacurate I was last year.


First impressions are...everything.
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3301. jscs
Quoting louisianaweatherguy:
the lastest models have been going back towards HOUSTON??!?!?!? ugghhh... oh great here we go...


No, it's only oh great here you guys go. Most of us won't worry until three days before we know where it's heading, and on the surface of the expert of the blog, this one isn't to worry about for a long time if at all.
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3300. drj27
this is what its going to look like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7vaHSmSP-Q&feature=related
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Quoting Chicklit:

LA Woman is showing tracks of Rita.
Thus my response.
The discussion is about a more northerly course if the trough lifts it, which is a possibility.
My point is, even if it goes a little more north from the bottommost part of the Bay of Campeche into Mexico, it will still not get farther north than Texas at the most.


I am in total agreement with that.
Sorry 'bout biting your head off... didn't mean to.
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.