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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Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15776
My personal opinions, I think there will be a landfall on the Upper Texas Coast-Southwestern LA Coast,or 50 Miles on either side. That my cone, I have been saying that for the last 3 days, That's my story & I am sticking to it. Those who have been keeping up with the blogs, I have already given my reasoning many post ago,But as of now looking at all the data, I do beleive this is very possible. I maybe totally wrong, but I have been wrong before so.. We Shall See
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Quoting MechEngMet:
Okay all you science majors out there, riddle me this. If a large rotating mass is positioned on a rotating sphere (something like, oh say Alex on Earth for instance) with minimal to no steering influence, what is it's resulting motion likely to be?

Bonus question: Explain Gyroscopic precession and Coriolis effect, without panicking the calculus challenged.

High points to the most creative answers.
Get a Tye-dye shirt creation platform (a.k.a. a record player on speed) and gently drop a marble on it with a little lateral momentum, while it is in motion while recording with a high frame rate camera. Playback in slow-mo and you'll see just what is going on with coriolis.
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Taz - not so funny to those of us that live with the oil spill daily...
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Evening Kman, I was gonna say that but didn't wanna be a smart elic. Good answer, IMO
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Quoting xcool:




WOW


GULP!
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
1751. help4u
First time all bamm models in Texas around corpus christie.
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HH heading into some intense flight-level winds.
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1749. MZV
Quoting Tazmanian:
this is the strongets TS i evere seen in my life
I was saying yesterday it was the strongest and best organized tropical depression I'd ever seen.

Often with June tropical storms they are sloppy, sheared off, full of dry air with multiple vortexes.

I think that's why Levi32 and StormW have been saying this storm is a Pacific "typhoon" configuration... except, unfortunately... in the Gulf.
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Quoting MechEngMet:
Okay all you science majors out there, riddle me this. If a large rotating mass is positioned on a rotating sphere (something like, oh say Alex on Earth for instance) with minimal to no steering influence, what is it's resulting motion likely to be?

Bonus question: Explain Gyroscopic precession and Coriolis effect, without panicking the calculus challenged.

High points to the most creative answers.


(tentative hand in the air)
Uh, sir, that's in the NEXT chapter. But, if it's anything like 2AM after a good frat party, then I'd suggest that it falls down on it's face?

I'll leave the bonus points for the football players - they need it more...
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Quoting Clearwater1:
For all of those that insisted that Brownsville and that area of Tx was ground zero, early on. . . good job. Now Hunker Down, for God's sake.



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
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Its so huge it take the winds time to catch up with the pressure, this storm is huge , like a typhoon one would see out in the western pacific , just wait til it really starts to get its act together and its gonna take the longest route to shore in my opinion.This could be one for the books!
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1744. 7544
Quoting Tazmanian:
LOL the back line is point at LA and BP


yeap
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don't stop maps just explain them better pls
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LOL the back line is point at LA and BP
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114720
Quoting MechEngMet:
Okay all you science majors out there, riddle me this. If a large rotating mass is positioned on a rotating sphere (something like, oh say Alex on Earth for instance) with minimal to no steering influence, what is it's resulting motion likely to be?

Bonus question: Explain Gyroscopic precession and Coriolis effect, without panicking the calculus challenged.

High points to the most creative answers.


NE

PS. Not a science major
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
Lots of strong flight level winds; surface lagging.

000
URNT15 KNHC 290104
AF304 0701A ALEX HDOB 27 20100629
005500 2004N 09052W 9248 00669 9989 +193 +167 197047 048 041 008 00
005530 2003N 09051W 9248 00671 9989 +199 +168 195047 047 041 008 00
005600 2002N 09051W 9245 00673 9990 +200 +169 194045 045 043 009 00
005630 2001N 09050W 9252 00669 9990 +201 +170 192048 049 046 009 00
005700 2000N 09049W 9244 00676 9992 +199 +170 195048 048 045 009 00
005730 1959N 09048W 9251 00673 9996 +194 +171 199053 056 999 999 03
005800 2000N 09046W 9252 00672 9995 +197 +173 191056 056 999 999 03
005830 2002N 09046W 9253 00668 9990 +206 +174 190056 056 042 008 03
005900 2004N 09046W 9250 00670 9989 +208 +176 189056 056 043 008 00
005930 2006N 09045W 9247 00674 9990 +204 +175 189056 057 043 008 00
010000 2008N 09044W 9248 00671 9992 +195 +175 189056 056 044 009 03
010030 2011N 09044W 9257 00663 9991 +194 +174 185057 060 043 011 00
010100 2013N 09044W 9243 00675 9992 +189 +174 186057 060 042 012 00
010130 2015N 09043W 9253 00667 9990 +196 +173 184056 057 045 012 00
010200 2017N 09043W 9249 00669 9988 +200 +172 186057 058 046 012 00
010230 2019N 09043W 9250 00669 9989 +196 +172 182054 056 043 012 00
010300 2021N 09042W 9253 00663 9991 +185 +173 181053 056 047 017 03
010330 2023N 09042W 9254 00663 9990 +180 +172 181056 058 046 018 03
010400 2025N 09042W 9249 00666 9988 +182 +171 179059 064 046 019 00
010430 2027N 09042W 9250 00662 9986 +180 +170 178062 062 053 034 03
$$
;
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
1739. JamesSA
Quoting DestinJeff:
Post 1697 shows my point about XTRP very well. We tend to quickly respond with "Xtrp is not a model." Understood, it isn't. But it is telling in a different way.

The angle between xtrp and ofcl is now roughly 45 degress at the axis. That means something. That means short term movement has not been as forecasted. Look for ofcl at 11 EDT to close that gap by shifting right.
I agree with the point you are making. We saw that with Bill most of the way across the Atlantic last year. The models were constantly calling for a curve to the North, but it just plowed west and the models would be re-adjusted with their curve right ahead of it again. XTRP was the best "model" for a good bit of time, LOL!
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1738. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620
this is the strongets TS i evere seen in my life
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114720
Models Link

Link
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Okay all you science majors out there, riddle me this. If a large rotating mass is positioned on a rotating sphere (something like, oh say Alex on Earth for instance) with minimal to no steering influence, what is it's resulting motion likely to be?

Bonus question: Explain Gyroscopic precession and Coriolis effect, without panicking the calculus challenged.

High points to the most creative answers.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting xcool:
MrstormX CLP5 NOT MODEL


Yah what I said....
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4436
1733. xcool
945
WHXX01 KWBC 290046
CHGHUR
TROPICAL CYCLONE GUIDANCE MESSAGE
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
0046 UTC TUE JUN 29 2010

DISCLAIMER...NUMERICAL MODELS ARE SUBJECT TO LARGE ERRORS.
PLEASE REFER TO NHC OFFICIAL FORECASTS FOR TROPICAL CYCLONE
AND SUBTROPICAL CYCLONE INFORMATION.

ATLANTIC OBJECTIVE AIDS FOR

TROPICAL CYCLONE ALEX (AL012010) 20100629 0000 UTC

...00 HRS... ...12 HRS... ...24 HRS. .. ...36 HRS...
100629 0000 100629 1200 100630 0000 100630 1200

LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON
BAMS 20.7N 91.6W 22.1N 92.3W 23.6N 93.1W 24.9N 94.0W
BAMD 20.7N 91.6W 21.7N 92.2W 22.8N 93.1W 23.9N 94.2W
BAMM 20.7N 91.6W 22.0N 92.2W 23.4N 93.1W 24.7N 94.0W
LBAR 20.7N 91.6W 21.9N 92.3W 23.7N 93.6W 25.5N 94.8W
SHIP 50KTS 56KTS 65KTS 73KTS
DSHP 50KTS 56KTS 65KTS 73KTS

...48 HRS... ...72 HRS... ...96 HRS. .. ..120 HRS...
100701 0000 100702 0000 100703 0000 100704 0000

LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON
BAMS 26.1N 94.8W 27.8N 97.2W 29.4N 99.5W 31.7N 99.3W
BAMD 25.1N 95.2W 27.1N 96.9W 29.8N 98.6W 33.6N 98.6W
BAMM 26.0N 94.9W 28.2N 97.0W 30.4N 99.2W 33.3N 99.4W
LBAR 27.1N 95.7W 30.2N 96.1W 31.9N 95.3W 32.6N 94.2W
SHIP 79KTS 86KTS 79KTS 64KTS
DSHP 79KTS 37KTS 28KTS 27KTS

...INITIAL CONDITIONS...
LATCUR = 20.7N LONCUR = 91.6W DIRCUR = 0DEG SPDCUR = 4KT
LATM12 = 20.1N LONM12 = 91.6W DIRM12 = 341DEG SPDM12 = 4KT
LATM24 = 19.2N LONM24 = 91.1W
WNDCUR = 50KT RMAXWD = 20NM WNDM12 = 50KT
CENPRS = 987MB OUTPRS = 1006MB OUTRAD = 250NM SDEPTH = D
RD34NE = 60NM RD34SE = 30NM RD34SW = 30NM RD34NW = 50NM


north.
BAMS NOW..
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620
from the new mode runs MX is out of the woods
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114720
Quoting jlp09550:
ALEX looks like he is gearing up to be quite strong.
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1730. WxLogic
Good evening...

Looking forward to the 12Z runs tomorrow which should have by then the data from the GIV mission.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:

Sure.
Thanks!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Recon should do a NE quad penetration.

Should be interesting.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15776
1727. xcool
MrstormX CLP5 NOT MODEL
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620
Quoting Tazmanian:



can we plzs stop with the maps its geting vary annyoing


Really ??. Maybe you should take a break.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
64 knt flight level winds
Member Since: August 1, 2006 Posts: 28 Comments: 3716
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
XCOOL did you taint those models? Good thing the CLP5 isn't really a model or I would be worried.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4436
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Alex appears to be winking as night falls...

Link
Member Since: June 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 760
1718. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting xcool:
Skyepony YEAH MORE TO NE


That's about 4 hrs now..keeps this up another 2 & they should officially change the direction..
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Can you give me the link? Great image.

Sure.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15776
Quoting sarahjola:
i think people need to calm down. this is all opinion, and if you want to just listen to the nhc then go on their web site. why come to a blog that has people giving their opinion, and take personal offense to people's opinion? it makes no sense. the blog is for everyone who has an opinion. i'm not saying leave, but i am saying stop complaining cuz everybody don't have the same opinion as you or the nhc. we come here to kick ideas around, give opinion, and if possible teach each other a thing or two. storms are unpredictable. the forecast has changed more than once from nhc. it will continue to change until it makes landfall. storms change course all the time. no reason to call people ignorant. if everyone was the same this world would suck!:)i am an adult, and i will conduct myself as one. i come here to get the different aspect from people and look at satellite and then maybe even give my own opinion. i would not ever call someone ignorant for having an opinion different than mine. its weather it will do what it wants not what statistics tell it to do. i will come back later and hopefully people aren't bickering about opinions on weather.:)


Bravo!!!
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as someone said early this morning(2or3a.m.) its riding the coast. they may be right:)
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For all of those that insisted that Brownsville and that area of Tx was ground zero, early on. . . good job. Now Hunker Down, for God's sake.
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Quoting RecordSeason:
1667:

The storm has moved East of N for 6 to 9 consecutive hours.

Admit it.


No, I wil not admit it...you need to PROVE it
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Anyone care to mention what Bastardi is saying about this?
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An open invitation but no gas to get there at this time.

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
1708. JamesSA
Quoting xcool:




WOW
Not WOW, Uh oh!
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1707. xcool
Tazmanian .OH WOW .
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620

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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.