Alex continues to slowly organize

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:17 PM GMT on June 28, 2010

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Tropical Storm Alex continues to slowly grow more organized as it steams away from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Satellite loops show that Alex's heavy thunderstorms continue to increase in areal extent, and low level spirals bands are slowly building to the south and north. The clockwise flow around an upper-level high pressure system a few hundred miles west of Alex is bringing about 15 knots of wind shear to the storm, which is slowing intensification. Heavy thunderstorm activity is limited on the storm's northwest side, thanks to the shear and some dry continental air flowing off the coast of North America. Sea Surface Temperatures are very warm, 29°C. The latest Hurricane Hunter center fix, at 12:07 pm CDT, showed a central pressures of 990 mb, a 1 mb rise in six hours. Top winds were holding steady near 60 mph. Alex has stalled out the last few hours, as it began to "feel" the trough of low pressure to its north breaking down the high pressure ridge that has been pushing the storm to the west-northwest. This stall has allowed the storm to churn up cold water from the depths, which is probably interfering with development. Satellite loops show that Alex has a very large circulation covering about 2/3 of the Gulf of Mexico. We can expect that should Alex become a Category 2 or stronger hurricane, its storm surge will affect a much wider stretch of coast than Hurricane Dolly of 2008 did.


Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image of Alex.

Track forecast for Alex
The latest 12 UTC (7am CDT) runs of our most reliable computer models have come into much better agreement. A consensus forecast arrived at by averaging together most or all of the tracks of our top models--the GFS, ECMWF, GFDL, NOGAPS, HWRF, UKMET, and GFDN--is pretty much what NHC always uses as the basis of their forecast. This consensus forecast has narrowed in on the region just south of the Texas/Mexico border as being the most likely landfall location, with the usual cone of uncertainty surrounding it. The computer model that had been making the northernmost landfall predictions, the Canadian model, is now projecting a landfall 100 miles south of the Texas/Mexico border. There has been a general southward shift of the models in their latest runs, and the most northerly landfall location, near Port Mansfield, is now being predicted by the HWRF model. The earliest landfall time is Wednesday morning, and the latest is Thursday morning. Which model should you trust? Last year, the best performing models at the 3 day forecast period were the GFS, Canadian, ECMWF, and GFDL.

With steering currents relatively weak, the uncertainty in landfall location is high. The average error in an NHC 72-hour track forecast last year was 230 miles, which is about the distance from Brownsville to Port O'Connor. Consider also that the NHC cone of uncertainty is the region where 2/3 of the time (using the last 5 years of statistics) the center of a storm will go. Forecast errors tend to be equally large along track (speed errors) and cross-track (deviations from side-to-side), so that means that about 20% of the time a storm will not be in the cone of uncertainty. Given the slow motion of Alex and the recent uncertainty of the computer models, people living just beyond the edge of the cone of uncertainty should not be confident yet that Alex will miss them.

To get the probability of receiving tropical storm force winds or hurricane force winds for your location, I recommend the NHC wind probability forecasts. The 10am CDT (15 UTC) wind probability product predicted that Brownsville, Texas had the highest odds of getting a direct hit from Alex:

Brownsville, TX: 67% chance of tropical storm conditions (winds 39+ mph), 16% chance of hurricane force winds (74+ mph). This is the cumulative probability through Saturday morning. The wind probability forecasts also include separate probabilities for each 12-hour period between now and three days from now, and each 24 hours for the period 4 - 5 days from now.

La Pesco, MX: 49% tropical storm, 6% hurricane.

Tampico, MX: 31% tropical storm, 4% hurricane.

Corpus Christi, TX: 45% tropical storm, 6% hurricane.

Freeport, TX: 23% tropical storm, 2% hurricane.

Galveston, TX: 21% tropical storm, 1% hurricane.


Figure 2. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms during 2009. OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET+United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; CMC=Canadian GEM model; TVCN=one of the consensus models that lends together all (or most) of the above models; BAMM=Beta and Advection Model (Medium Layer.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2009 verification report.

Uncertainty in the NHC Cone of Uncertainty
A research project funded by NOAA known as the Joint Hurricane Testbed has produced a remarkable number of tools now in operational use at the National Hurricane Center to improve hurricane forecasts and warnings. One of these projects, called "Prediction of Consensus TC Track Forecast Error and Correctors to Improve Consensus TC Track Forecasts", was an effort by Dr. Jim Goerss at the Navy Research Lab to improve the accuracy of the NHC "cone of uncertainty" (AKA the "Cone of Death") showing where a storm is expected to track 2/3 of the time. The radius of the circles that make up the cone are based on error statistics of the official NHC forecast over the past five years. We can expect in certain situations, such as when the models are in substantial disagreement, a consensus forecast made using these models will have much greater than average errors. Since the NHC typically bases their forecast on a consensus forecast made using a combination of reliable hurricane forecasting models, it is instructive to view the "GPCE" (Goerss Prediction Consensus Error) circles to see if the uncertainty cone should be smaller or larger than usual. The consensus forecast I'll look at is called "TVCN", and is constructed by averaging the track forecasts made by most of (or all) of these models: GFS, ECMWF, NOGAPS, GFDL, HWRF, GFDN, and UKMET. In the case of this morning's 12 UTC (7am CDT) June 28 run of these models, here is what the radius of the "cone of uncertainty" should be, in nautical miles:

12 hours: 42 nm
24 hours: 73 nm
36 hours: 96 nm
48 hours: 112 nm
72 hours: 173 nm
96 hours: 327 nm
120 hours: 376 nm

And here is the radius of NHC's "cone of uncertainty" for their official forecast, based on the average errors for the past five years:

12 hours: 36 nm
24 hours: 62 nm
36 hours: 85 nm
48 hours: 108 nm
72 hours: 161 nm
96 hours: 220 nm
120 hours: 285 nm

So, the GPCE error estimates are showing that the latest forecasts for Alex out to 72 hours are 4% - 17% higher in uncertainty than average. The 4 - 5 day forecasts are 32% - 49% more uncertain than average--but of course, we expect Alex to be inland at those times.

Intensity forecast for Alex
Alex is currently over a region of ocean with relatively low total ocean heat content (about 10 - 30 kJ/cm^2). By Tuesday and Wednesday, the heat content will increase to 40 - 70 kJ/cm^2, which is high enough to allow Alex to rapidly intensify. Wind shear is currently a moderate 15 knots, and is projected by the SHIPS model to decrease to the low range, below 10 knots, on Tuesday and Wednesday. The combination of low wind shear and high ocean heat content should allow Alex to intensify into a hurricane. NHC is giving Alex a 78% chance of being a hurricane on Wednesday morning, and a 16% chance it will be a major hurricane at that time. Water vapor satellite images, though, show plenty of dry air over Texas and the adjoining waters, and this dry air may turn out to be a significant detriment to Alex. Another factor limiting Alex's intensification may be that the atmosphere is more stable than usual right now--temperatures at 200 mb are a rather warm -50°C, and are expected to warm an additional 1 - 2 degrees by Wednesday. Another factor limiting Alex's intensification may be its slow forward speed. Alex has already stalled out once, and may stall out later in its path, as well. A stalled-out storm tends to pull up cold water from the depths, limiting intensification. In short, Alex has the potential to intensify into a major hurricane, but there are enough roadblocks that I give a 20% chance of this happening.

Elsewhere in the tropics
None of the reliable computers models is calling for tropical storm formation over the the next seven days in the Atlantic.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
It currently appears that Alex will not directly affect the oil slick location, other than to bring 2 - 4 foot swells to the region on Wednesday. However, because Alex is such a deep low pressure region, strong southeast winds of 15 - 25 knots will blow over the oil slick region today through Wednesday, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. The resulting currents should act to push oil to the west and northwest onto portions of the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coasts, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana. Oil will also move westward along the central Louisiana coast towards the Texas border.

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

Portlight continues its Haiti response
Hurricane season is here, and Haiti is not ready. Over 1.5 million Haitians are living outside in tents or under tarps, and are highly vulnerable to a hurricane. Portlight is working on constructing steel shelters out of shipping containers for homeless Haitians, as detailed in the Haitian Relief Recap blog post. Please visit the Portlight.org web site or the Portlight blog to learn more and to donate to Portlight's efforts in Haiti.


Figure 3. Still frame from the remarkable video taken inside the Haitian Presidential Palace during the 2010 earthquake.

To remind people of just how devastating the earthquake was, the Haitian government released a video earlier this month showing the inside of the Haitian Presidential Palace during the mighty Haitian earthquake.

Next post
Dr. Rob Carver is planning on making a post late tonight, and I'll have an update by 9:30am CDT on Tuesday.

Jeff Masters

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NHC track and models have it turning NW right now and its not doing that, I dont know what to believe.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:


Whiskey?
Its more like Tequila ;D


Alcolico, :0.
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This storms popping like the fourth of July
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Quoting jlp09550:


No animation this time because the GHCC server isn't working properly at the moment.
Yup.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2603. TxKeef
I have a question, I noticed on the cloud temperature maps that the cloud tops were -80C
Wouldn't that be -112F? Is that correct?
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No animation this time because the GHCC server isn't working properly at the moment.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Tazmanian:
mode runs are now worth less

i agree why is everyone basing the lives on a computer model
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
Ridiculously wrong about how a hurricane functions? Seriously? And you are sad about something, apparently...

To all:
Hokay, y'all make sure you get every last word from the kiddie that refuses to try to listen or learn about how hurricanes work. Enjoy your evacuation.

I just want to say this. Do not let this one ruin your impression of some of our young posters. Not all of them are posers. We have some youngsters that know a lot and a few others that are convinced they know everything, yet refuse to learn anything, that give all the rest a bad name.

This one believes there is a great conspiracy at play to un-fear everything. From his temp obs showing the real temperature and all of the official obs showing 8 degrees less, his barometer is 6 mb lower that any official, conspirator's observation (a sign that Alex is coming to LA, according to him), and a hurricane is going to retrain it's strength because a rainband it still over water..., oh yeah, and the NHC is conducting a ploy to make sure no one knows that Alex is going to make landfall in LS, MS, AL, FL, and the UK.

I'll be hitting the minus on the rest of Mr Minus's posts in hope that no lurker makes the mistake of trying to get good info from the worst of wrong places. Join?
You're late. I've been minusing since the 1900s....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
The area I'm currently thinking that has the highest chance off an Alex landfall are between 24˚N-28˚N. In the center of the cone right at 26˚N is the city of Brownsville. Keep in mind this is my cone and could be wrong, don't rely on me, rely on the NHC.

My hand written cone, lol.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2598. scott39
Quoting Levi32:
Oh ya look at this....that upper trough over Louisiana that was shearing Alex is lifting out, and look at him go boom as soon as it lets his outflow expand towards the northwest again. Amazing what that will do for a tropical system.

Water Vapor Loop

We are about to see another ridiculously symmetrical upper-level high with nearly perfect outflow channels around the storm.

Well be at your house soon.LOL
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6912
Somebody PLEASE check this to see if I've entered the correct coordinates, cuz
TropicalStormAlex heading toward DeepwaterHorizon spillfall within 4days.
(Straightline projection using its last 2 positions. Take with HUGE grain of salt)

Copy&paste TAM, MOB, PBI, SAL, 19.7N91.6W, 20.3N91.7W-28.7N88.4W, 20.5N91.8W-28.7N88.4W, 21.0N91.6W-28.7N88.4W, 20.5N91.8W-21.0N91.6W into the GreatCircleMapper.

The shortest red line shows the heading between the last two positions. Below the map shows:
TSAlex had a heading of 20.6degrees (~2degrees north of NorthNorthEast), while
traveling a distance of 37miles(~60kilometres) over 6hours at a speed of 6mph(~10kph);
TSAlex's distance from DeepwaterHorizon* decreased by 36miles from 603miles to 567miles;
the previous closure rate was ~2mph, and at the current closure rate of 6mph,
TSAlex remains ~95hours away from the DeepwaterHorizon.

At 120hours away, personnel evacuations & shutdown procedures for ship evacuations begin.
Even knowing that straightline projections are almost always wrong, especially over long distances, AdmiralAllen and BP have gotta be chewin' on nails with worry... rusty nails.
(See the bottom of blog1521post705 for more info, & blog1521post3353 before obvious corrections)

* Which I've been marking as 28.7N88.4W
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Levi32:


He's north of the NHC track which means the weakness is probably a bit more pronounced than they and the models thought, but this motion would have to be continued for a while longer yet to have any significant bearing on the ultimate landfall.

The ridge that is supposed to curve Alex back west is pretty dang far north over Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming right now....I still see plenty of room for Alex to get far enough north to hit Texas instead of Mexico. We'll see how it looks in the morning.


that's what i'm thinking. this one is for Texas. there i said it. this is the first time i have ever "called" a storm on here. i'm a little nervous :0
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2595. Patrap
Quoting atmoaggie:
C-12


B concourse I presume.

Figures,Im at the Bar over on A.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129400
2594. JLPR2
Quoting rareaire:
evening all. I see Alex is gaining weight!


Quick Call Jenny! XD
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mode runs are now worth less
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2592. jpsb
Quoting winter123:


I'll compare it to the largest tropical cyclone ever, Typhoon Tip (1979). It created such a large sphere of influence that it was basically shear free and just went wherever.
Alex is huge, just like Ike, Allen both also just went where they wanted to go.
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evening all. I see Alex is gaining weight!
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2590. scott39
Quoting StormW:


I can't rule it out...how far north, I don't know yet...gotta see how things have evolved in the a.m.
The shear size and potiential strength of Alex is making me a little nervous!
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6912
Quoting truecajun:


loved that song in highschool. what was his name. tracy lawrence?


Toby Keith
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2588. Levi32
Oh ya look at this....that upper trough over Louisiana that was shearing Alex is lifting out, and look at him go boom as soon as it lets his outflow expand towards the northwest again. Amazing what that will do for a tropical system.

Water Vapor Loop

We are about to see another ridiculously symmetrical upper-level high with nearly perfect outflow channels around the storm.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26695
2587. amd
Quoting leo305:
so were are the hurricane hunters now? Are they going back into alex?


they are still in Alex. They are right now checking out the SE side of the storm.

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2586. JLPR2
Quoting muddertracker:

Go west young man, haven't you been told?
Mexico's full of whiskey, women and..well..mold?


Whiskey?
Its more like Tequila ;D
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
Ridiculously wrong about how a hurricane functions? Seriously? And you are sad about something, apparently...

To all:
Hokay, y'all make sure you get every last word from the kiddie that refuses to try to listen or learn about how hurricanes work. Enjoy your evacuation.

I just want to say this. Do not let this one ruin your impression of some of our young posters. Not all of them are posers. We have some youngsters that know a lot and a few others that are convinced they know everything, yet refuse to learn anything, that give all the rest a bad name.

This one believes there is a great conspiracy at play to un-fear everything. From his temp obs showing the real temperature and all of the official obs showing 8 degrees less, his barometer is 6 mb lower that any official, conspirator's observation (a sign that Alex is coming to LA, according to him), and a hurricane is going to retrain it's strength because a rainband it still over water..., oh yeah, and the NHC is conducting a ploy to make sure no one knows that Alex is going to make landfall in LS, MS, AL, FL, and the UK.

I'll be hitting the minus on the rest of Mr Minus's posts in hope that no lurker makes the mistake of trying to get good info from the worst of wrong places. Join?


I'm way ahead of you man...by the way, very cogent comment in regards to our younger posters...seems the better ones are intelligent AND emotionally mature; when have we seen MiamiCanes09 call someone an idiot (or worse)?

Some of you young folks are very impressive...while some of you are just depressing...
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
2584. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129400
Quoting muddertracker:

Go west young man, haven't you been told?
Mexico's full of whiskey, women and..well..mold?


loved that song in highschool. what was his name. tracy lawrence?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting leo305:
so were are the hurricane hunters now? Are they going back into alex?
Yes, #7 is flying N. heading back to the center for another pass.
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2581. Levi32
Quoting atmoaggie:

Should still get in the 00 Z GFS. Just wrapping up assimilation mode.

ANALYSIS 02:53:35 03:18:40 RUNNING-02:54:08 ON-TIME
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


The 00Z GFS got about 2/3 of them in, don't know if it was a timing or QC problem with the other 1/3.




Alright thanks to you both.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26695
you and dump the mode runs out the window i be looking forword on how far N it gosovere night
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Quoting Patrap:


What Gate is arrival ?



C-12
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting leo305:
so were are the hurricane hunters now? Are they going back into alex?


Looks like they are going to do one last fly in.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Quoting MrstormX:


Funny yet scary observation... looks like he might go bananas tonight.

Yeah, and has DMax (steroids) ahead. Sheesh.
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Quoting atmoaggie:

These appear to be complete: http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/ramsdis/online/tropical.asp


Only reason I use GHCC's site is because it's updated more frequently.. about every 5-15 minutes. The one you provided is updated at the 15th and 45th minute of the hour.
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Quoting WxLogic:


atmo... that quick, wow... nice to know we have some fast QA checks.
well, see nrt's post.
The QA is all automated, really, lots of things to program for, but works pretty well and quickly...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
2573. Patrap
ALEX RECON HH Tail # 304 Latest Message
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129400
2572. leo305
so were are the hurricane hunters now? Are they going back into alex?
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Quoting Tazmanian:
woud t it be funny if this storm this kep going N and hit LA be come that what am seeng if it dos not turn soon that where it will end up


Funny?
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2570. Levi32
Quoting scott39:
Is the forecasted ridge in place with where Alex is ,to hit N MX/S TX?


He's north of the NHC track which means the weakness is probably a bit more pronounced than they and the models thought, but this motion would have to be continued for a while longer yet to have any significant bearing on the ultimate landfall.

The ridge that is supposed to curve Alex back west is pretty dang far north over Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming right now....I still see plenty of room for Alex to get far enough north to hit Texas instead of Mexico. We'll see how it looks in the morning.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26695
the storm is heading north but the NOAA track hasn't really changed any. Kinda surprised.. Anyone think this will start moving more north or stay?
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Omit everything except first and last frame
Member Since: June 13, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2336
2567. MZV
Quoting fldude99:


Exactly..but that's what people do here on this blog, freak out


Yeah the talk about Alex affecting TX, LA, MS is off base right now. That's a stationary front. Sure Alex is big but he needs a day or two to get close enough to bring weather into the US.
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2566. Patrap
Quoting atmoaggie:

Should still get in the 00 Z GFS. Just wrapping up assimilation mode.

ANALYSIS 02:53:35 03:18:40 RUNNING-02:54:08 ON-TIME


What Gate is arrival ?



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129400
Some pretty good rainbands this evening here in South Louisiana...they come in with a big gust of wind and heavy downpours
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Quoting Chicklit:
Alex is starting to look like a gorilla.

well hes being a very bad bad boy we need to punish him taz can u spay him
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Quoting Chicklit:
Alex is starting to look like a gorilla.


Funny yet scary observation... looks like he might go bananas tonight.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Quoting jlp09550:


Yeah, it was down for the past hour or so. It just got working again, but it's missing imagery from 23:45-2:15 UTC.

These appear to be complete: http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/ramsdis/online/tropical.asp
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
The area I'm currently thinking that has the highest chance off an Alex landfall are between 24˚N-28˚N. In the center of the cone right at 26˚N is the city of Brownsville. Keep in mind this is my cone and could be wrong, don't rely on me, rely on the NHC.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2560. scott39
Quoting StormW:


Is that a yes or no? Sorry still learning
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6912
Quoting Levi32:
G-IV sure covered its tracks very well....anyone yet know which model runs will have this data?



The 00Z GFS got about 2/3 of them in, don't know if it was a timing or QC problem with the other 1/3.


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Alex is starting to look like a gorilla.
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Quoting KaNaPaPiJoSa:
anyone find it odd that alex is following the CLIP? Go West Young Man, Go West!!!!

Go west young man, haven't you been told?
Mexico's full of whiskey, women and..well..mold?
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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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