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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Quoting pilatus:
anyone seen the developing eye on visible?


Doubt there is a eye right now. It's too weak to produce an eye.
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3106. Daveg
Yet more models clustering north of the border, with only a couple now south. Only time and many more model runs will tell I suppose.

Of course, the trend north has been more consistent over the last several runs, versus the back and forth bouncing around they did earlier today. If that means anything.

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Hey xcool..:) How are you??
Member Since: June 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 505
Quoting pilatus:
anyone seen the developing eye on visible?

yes
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Quoting jlp09550:


Looks like an eye forming on that loop
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Link

looks like a "split" to me...
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3101. xcool
AlexEmmett:
hey '


'''
i'm back
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Quoting Joanie38:


Yeah well homeless, when I want to ask something I sometimes I don't...besides..i've never been a wishcaster, northcaster, or any OTHER kind of "caster"....just here learning....I love this kind of stuff..:):)


I love it too. So don't be afraid to ask questions. This is a good place to learn. :)
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Re: 3084

Anyone want to pitch-in to send them some more coffee over there?
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3098. pilatus
anyone seen the developing eye on visible?
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Quoting CaneAddict:


More like they just plain out don't want to push the oil operation into closure unless they're sure Alex will affect it.

effect it the thing is so large waves are going to push the oil
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Quoting CaneHunter031472:
Another thing, in meteorology you cannot use historical data. It is just extremely unreliable. How can you believe all conditions will be present for a storm to follow the track of a provious storm? what are the odds of that happening same steering currents located at the same place? You could use historical data just to get a rough idea of how many hurricanes could form if temperatures and a few other conditions are similar to previous years ie: this year looks sort of like 2005, but not quite there yet.


This. I've never understood people who say "This storm is just like storm X, so it will go to Y". Odds of every single variable that made a storm the size/strength/path it had being duplicated exactly at any other exact moment? I don't really see how that is useful at all, except to say "should all these event occur again exactly the same, THEN this might happen"
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If you believe in the CLIPPER model...LOL
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Quoting AlexEmmett:

wow theyve got some balls


More like they just plain out don't want to push the oil operation into closure unless they're sure Alex will affect it.
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Quoting Or4590:
alex move to nw
NNW at 8mph a turn to the northwest will happen later today.
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there is no split to the models either.
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Quoting KoritheMan:
ROFL

Has anyone noticed this hilarious wording from the NHC in their 11:00 PM PDT Tropical Weather Outlook?

000
ABPZ20 KNHC 290534
TWOEP
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1100 PM PDT MON JUN 28 2010

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

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER HAS ISSUED THE LAST ADVISORY ON
BLANCA....WHICH HAS BECOME A REMNANT LOW ABOUT 1045
MILES WEST-SOUTHWEST OF THE SOUTHERN TIP OF BAJA CALIFORNIA.

A LARGE AREA OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS LOCATED OVER PORTIONS OF
SOUTHEASTERN MEXICO...GUATEMALA...AND EL SALVADOR...IS ASSOCIATED
WITH THE SOUTHERN CIRCULATION OF ATLANTIC TROPICAL STORM ALEX.
LOCALLY HEAVY RAINS ARE POSSIBLE DURING THE NEXT SEVERAL DAYS AS
ALEX MOVES OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN GULF OF MEXICO. THESE RAINS COULD
CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOOD AND MUD SLIDES...ESPECIALLY OVER
HIGHER TERRAIN. THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...NEAR 0 PERCENT...OF THIS
SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

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

$$
FORECASTER ROBERTS/STEWART


They obviously meant "Celia", not "Blanca". :P

haha
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


Joanie it's fine to ask questions. It's also fine to give your opinion about a track if you want to. Just love the people who come on here gripe about the posts. But I don't know why they're freedom of blog speech is more ok than us "casters" They don't like caster posts I don't like griping posts.


Yeah well homeless, when I want to ask something I sometimes I don't...besides..i've never been a wishcaster, northcaster, or any OTHER kind of "caster"....just here learning....I love this kind of stuff..:):)
Member Since: June 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 505
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


huh?

with the stranth of the storm it going be close to a cat 3
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3086. Or4590
alex move to nw
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Levi, I have also plotted the NNW movement (with your animation loop help). If he were gaining strength a little faster, the outgoing trough might have more influence. As it is, looks like the scenario (and the weaker forecast intensity) is holding.....SO FAR.
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ROFL

Has anyone noticed this hilarious wording from the NHC in their 11:00 PM PDT Tropical Weather Outlook?

000
ABPZ20 KNHC 290534
TWOEP
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1100 PM PDT MON JUN 28 2010

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

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER HAS ISSUED THE LAST ADVISORY ON
BLANCA....WHICH HAS BECOME A REMNANT LOW ABOUT 1045
MILES WEST-SOUTHWEST OF THE SOUTHERN TIP OF BAJA CALIFORNIA.

A LARGE AREA OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS LOCATED OVER PORTIONS OF
SOUTHEASTERN MEXICO...GUATEMALA...AND EL SALVADOR...IS ASSOCIATED
WITH THE SOUTHERN CIRCULATION OF ATLANTIC TROPICAL STORM ALEX.
LOCALLY HEAVY RAINS ARE POSSIBLE DURING THE NEXT SEVERAL DAYS AS
ALEX MOVES OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN GULF OF MEXICO. THESE RAINS COULD
CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOOD AND MUD SLIDES...ESPECIALLY OVER
HIGHER TERRAIN. THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...NEAR 0 PERCENT...OF THIS
SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

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

$$
FORECASTER ROBERTS/STEWART


They obviously meant "Celia", not "Blanca". :P
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3083. xcool
NNW @ 8 mph
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Quoting xcool:
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 62 knots (~ 71.3 mph)
is that suspect or is it unflagged?
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0515 UTC GOES 13
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Quoting Daveg:
Wow...what a split in the models..

Going to be interesting...
Link


Link says "Access forbidden". Mind uploading what you see to Tinypic or something?
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Quoting Joanie38:


Not northcasting just asking a question....nevermind, no more questions .....:(


Joanie it's fine to ask questions. It's also fine to give your opinion about a track if you want to. Just love the people who come on here gripe about the posts. But I don't know why they're freedom of blog speech is more ok than us "casters" They don't like caster posts I don't like griping posts.
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Quoting AlexEmmett:

wow theyve got some balls


huh?
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Quoting Goldenblack:
Joanie's question was legitimate, anytime there is a trough digging, two highs that have not shown that they are verifying forecast positions or strength, and an upper level low approaching Florida (which really shouldn't have an effect much at that range), then a slight variation of the Tropical Forecast Points is something to at least be wary of, don't you think?


Thank you Goldenblack!! Sometimes I ma even AFRAID to ask any questions in fear of being a wishcaster when I am only trying to understand things....
Member Since: June 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 505
Lots of 60+ knot flight level wind readings, with more 70+ knot readings. Winds probably are now balanced with pressure since Alex is such a large system. Pretty much equal pressure last three fixes so he is holding his own for now. Now that he is moving away from possibly upwelled waters and shear is relaxing, he should pick up steam tomorrow and I expect gradual strengthening, with borderline cat 1-2 tomorrow night at this time.
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


the NOAA is not budging on their track...

wow theyve got some balls
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Quoting AlexEmmett:

that based of later data they just found 62sfc winds and 984 pressure
But it is moving finally slowly still but finally seeing a nnw/n motion.
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Quoting Daveg:
Wow...what a split in the models..

Going to be interesting...
Link


Do you have another link?? This one says "Access Forbidden"
Member Since: June 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 505
3072. xcool
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 62 knots (~ 71.3 mph)
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Quoting alexhurricane1991:
system is still strengthing at least pressure wise 73kt flight level is how much at the surface?


The winds will catch up to the pressure eventually. I'm off.
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Quoting xcool:
Scenario 2 here


the NOAA is not budging on their track...
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Joanie's question was legitimate, anytime there is a trough digging, two highs that have not shown that they are verifying forecast positions or strength, and an upper level low approaching Florida (which really shouldn't have an effect much at that range), then a slight variation of the Tropical Forecast Points is something to at least be wary of, don't you think?
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3068. Levi32
Quoting AlexEmmett:

that based of later data they just found 62sfc winds and 984 pressure


It's 984.7 which is rounded to 985 and the SFMR readings are suspect in these conditions...flight-level winds are the best thing to go by. So far Alex has maintained status quo for the last few hours.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
3067. Levi32
Alex is moving at about the same speed since the last vortex fix (2 hours ago), and his heading is now NNW at 340 degrees since the last fix. New vortex message will be out soon.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Quoting TexasHurricane:
1:00 AM CDT Tue Jun 29
Location: 21.4°N 91.8°W
Max sustained: 65 mph
Moving: NNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 985 mb

that based of later data they just found 62sfc winds and 984 pressure
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I am no expert but do anyone know if these computer models have taken into account that what effect is Tropical Depression Darby is taking on the present and future track of Alex. right now it looks like Alex is pulling Tropical Depression Darby east to it to Merge its Moisture field with its own.
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Man I stayed up til 1 for nothing lol. Got work in the morning. Levi, just wanted to say thanks for the good info as usual. I will see yall in the morning and I'll bet we'll have hurricane Alex by then. Night!
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3063. BA
Quoting CaneHunter031472:
Another thing, in meteorology you cannot use historical data. It is just extremely unreliable. How can you believe all conditions will be present for a storm to follow the track of a provious storm? what are the odds of that happening same steering currents located at the same place? You could use historical data just to get a rough idea of how many hurricanes could form if temperatures and a few other conditions are similar to previous years ie: this year looks sort of like 2005, but not quite there yet.


yet you see it every day, forecasters using analogs and comparing to previous years, though I imagine they are looking at general patterns in those cases

I'm with you though, I've never put much stock in analogs for current storm tracks
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3062. Daveg
Wow...what a split in the models..

Going to be interesting...
Link
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1:00 AM CDT Tue Jun 29
Location: 21.4°N 91.8°W
Max sustained: 65 mph
Moving: NNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 985 mb
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They almost always hook right...I'm just saying
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Quoting CaneAddict:
Tropical Storm/Hurricane Alex is strengthening at a good rate..becoming very well organized. 2AM I'd expect them to upgrade Alex to an 80MPH Category One hurricane. JMO


I guess they're going to wait untill 5AM to upgrade it. That could be a mistake, personally I believe this is a Hurricane but oh well. I'm off you all have a good night.
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Quoting scottsvb:



brownsville isnt ground zero but they arent out of the woods yet.... they will probably get TS force winds mostly in feeder bands only. That's cause the system is big. The main hurricane force winds will be 100- 150 miles further south.Landfall will be around 23.3-23.8N

From earlier today and last night
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About JeffMasters

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