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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1707. xcool
Tazmanian .OH WOW .
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Can you give me the link? Great image.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21368
1705. cg2916
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Looking better.

Quoting xcool:




WOW


Uh oh, TX.
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New blowup

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Quoting cg2916:


You can never tell...


Yes, but you can certainly make an educated guess...somewhere on the central to south Texas coast, with a slim chance of a hit in Matagordo. Now that having been said, a storm this weak is hard ot nail for track and final intensity so yes it is possible for a further extreme course change, but really, how probable is that?
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Quoting xcool:




WOW



OMG TX LAND FALL IT IS
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5096 Comments: 116576
Quoting Skyepony:
49kt flight level, 46kt surface
Not good enough.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21368
Another classic case of winds lagging pressure.

That said here is the steering for the new pressure reading.

The only problem for Alex is that the weakness calls but he has no impetus to get there, at least for now.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 16236
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1698. cg2916
Quoting Michfan:
Product: Air Force Vortex Message (URNT12 KNHC)
Transmitted: 29th day of the month at 00:54Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 304)
Storm Number & Year: 01L in 2010
Storm Name: Alex (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 7
Observation Number: 07
A. Time of Center Fix: 29th day of the month at 0:35:40Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 20°44'N 91°34'W (20.7333N 91.5667W)
B. Center Fix Location: 91 miles (147 km) to the NW (312°) from Campeche, Campeche, México.
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 571m (1,873ft) at 925mb
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 42kts (~ 48.3mph)
E. Location of the Estimated Maximum Surface Wind: 55 nautical miles (63 statute miles) to the NW (308°) of center fix
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 33° at 46kts (From between the NNE and NE at ~ 52.9mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 15 nautical miles (17 statute miles) to the WNW (282°) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 987mb (29.15 inHg) - Extrapolated
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 21°C (70°F) at a pressure alt. of 760m (2,493ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 23°C (73°F) at a pressure alt. of 766m (2,513ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): 18°C (64°F)
K. Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Not Available
M. Eye Shape: Not Available
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Wind, Pressure and Temperature
N. Fix Level: 925mb (If this vortex is from mid 1990's or earlier 925mb might be incorrect. See note.)
O. Navigation Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 2 nautical miles
Remarks Section:
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 46kts (~ 52.9mph) in the northwest quadrant at 0:30:30Z
Sea Level Pressure Extrapolation From: 925mb
Maximum Wind Outbound: 52kts (~ 59.8mph) in the southeast quadrant at 0:42:20Z
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 52kts (~ 59.8mph) in the southeast quadrant at 0:42:20Z


Only 50 mph surface winds?
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1697. xcool




WOW
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1695. JamesSA
They are already preparing a disaster response out of San Antonio, lining up charter buses to evacuate thousands, etc. Everything is being made ready to roll if it is needed.
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"Alex likely to become hurricane tonight"

Jay Vise Reporting
Forecasters say that Tropical Storm Alex will likely be upgraded sometime tonight.

"More than likely, Alex will become a hurricane overnight into the morning hours, as it continues to move toward the Mexico and Texas coastlines," according to Channel 4 Chief Metorologist Carl Arredondo.

While Alex is not a direct threat to the northern Gulf coast, Arredondo says we will see some effects from the tropical system, especially heavy rain.

"We're going to see bands of showers and thunderstorms across the region for the next couple of days, from the outer bands of Alex," according to Arredondo. "The rainfall could be significant, causing street flooding in some areas.

Link
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4454
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1691. cg2916
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
239

URNT12 KNHC 290054

VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL012010

A. 29/00:35:40Z

B. 20 deg 44 min N

091 deg 34 min W

C. 925 mb 571 m

D. 42 kt

E. 308 deg 55 nm

F. 033 deg 46 kt

G. 282 deg 15 nm

H. EXTRAP 987 mb

I. 21 C / 760 m

J. 23 C / 766 m

K. 18 C / NA

L. NA

M. NA

N. 1345 / 9

O. 0.02 / 2 nm

P. AF304 0701A ALEX OB 07

MAX FL WIND 46 KT NW QUAD 00:30:30Z

SLP EXTRAP FROM 925 MB



MAX OUTBOUND AND FL WIND 52 KT SE QUAD 00:42:20Z

;


So 987 pressure and what knots?
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1690. Skyepony (Mod)
49kt flight level, 46kt surface
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1689. xcool
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1688. Michfan
Product: Air Force Vortex Message (URNT12 KNHC)
Transmitted: 29th day of the month at 00:54Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 304)
Storm Number & Year: 01L in 2010
Storm Name: Alex (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 7
Observation Number: 07
A. Time of Center Fix: 29th day of the month at 0:35:40Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 20°44'N 91°34'W (20.7333N 91.5667W)
B. Center Fix Location: 91 miles (147 km) to the NW (312°) from Campeche, Campeche, México.
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 571m (1,873ft) at 925mb
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 42kts (~ 48.3mph)
E. Location of the Estimated Maximum Surface Wind: 55 nautical miles (63 statute miles) to the NW (308°) of center fix
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 33° at 46kts (From between the NNE and NE at ~ 52.9mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 15 nautical miles (17 statute miles) to the WNW (282°) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 987mb (29.15 inHg) - Extrapolated
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 21°C (70°F) at a pressure alt. of 760m (2,493ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 23°C (73°F) at a pressure alt. of 766m (2,513ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): 18°C (64°F)
K. Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Not Available
M. Eye Shape: Not Available
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Wind, Pressure and Temperature
N. Fix Level: 925mb (If this vortex is from mid 1990's or earlier 925mb might be incorrect. See note.)
O. Navigation Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 2 nautical miles
Remarks Section:
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 46kts (~ 52.9mph) in the northwest quadrant at 0:30:30Z
Sea Level Pressure Extrapolation From: 925mb
Maximum Wind Outbound: 52kts (~ 59.8mph) in the southeast quadrant at 0:42:20Z
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 52kts (~ 59.8mph) in the southeast quadrant at 0:42:20Z
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Quoting Skyepony:
natrwalkn~ on that page, on the right is where you can ignore users, change settings & things. It's like your home user name page even if you don't have a blog.


Thanks for the info. I got it figured out. :)
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Quoting whs2012:
I have a question? I know this might sound stupid, but it is about the oil spill. I live in the Houston/Galveston area, and I remember after Hurricane Ike, I went to the Galveston coast to assist in the clean up....I also remember looking at the water and it actually being blue? I guess all the sediments and debris from the ocean washed up on land...so if Alex did hit the Louisiana area, would it honestly be that bad? Of course minus BP having to halt the cleanup process...but wouldn't all the oil wash up on shore and make it easier to dispose of? Like wouldn't the oil naturally separate from the water during the storm surge like the debris and sediments did during Ike?


NO. It would be bad if a hurricane went anywhere through the oil. Depending on the storm strength/size it could push the oil miles inland with the surge. And that would be the ecological disaster that everyone is so valiantly trying to prevent.
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Enough with the "sneaking door" stuff....get real.
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Whipster > sure! I assumed if we're all in here, probably all interested in hearing the discussion :)
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1683. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
239

URNT12 KNHC 290054

VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL012010

A. 29/00:35:40Z

B. 20 deg 44 min N

091 deg 34 min W

C. 925 mb 571 m

D. 42 kt

E. 308 deg 55 nm

F. 033 deg 46 kt

G. 282 deg 15 nm

H. EXTRAP 987 mb

I. 21 C / 760 m

J. 23 C / 766 m

K. 18 C / NA

L. NA

M. NA

N. 1345 / 9

O. 0.02 / 2 nm

P. AF304 0701A ALEX OB 07

MAX FL WIND 46 KT NW QUAD 00:30:30Z

SLP EXTRAP FROM 925 MB



MAX OUTBOUND AND FL WIND 52 KT SE QUAD 00:42:20Z

;
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1682. Hhunter
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1681. 7544
his nose is ponting to the ne hmmmmmmm
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We got a couple 50 kts but they're suspect. So highest is 46 kts
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
1679. cg2916
Quoting DestinJeff:
I think 00Z xtrp will be at the TX/LA border, thus increasing the delta between it and the model consensus.

those CIMMS maps that Taz is sick of show significant features that will influence steering, and for now they look less than set-up as forecasted.


The XTRAP is not a model! It's an extrapolation!
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Quoting Floodman:


No.Period.

The furthest east this will go is Galveston and that is a very long shot indeed, unless things have changed drastically in the last couple of hours...



Folks on the Outer Banks should be paying close attention..
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1677. Skyepony (Mod)
natrwalkn~ on that page, on the right is where you can ignore users, change settings & things. It's like your home user name page even if you don't have a blog.
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1675. JamesSA
Quoting wxvoyeur:


Do we have a model consensus and cone of death for Cantore? ;-)
It's not a cone of death yet, still at the cone of despair stage.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Center fix was ~20.733N 91.583W, been traveling a little East of North..

thanks! thats what i thought i was seeing:)
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1673. cg2916
Quoting Floodman:


No.Period.

The furthest east this will go is Galveston and that is a very long shot indeed, unless things have changed drastically in the last couple of hours...



You can never tell...
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1672. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Randrewx:
Hey Keep.
Doing fine.
Hanging out on my place as usual...just stopped in for a few laughs.

good to hear i drop by from time to time but i get lost overthere
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Quoting SouthDadeFish:
Broad center of low pressure.


Yeah.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
1668. cg2916
What are maximum winds?
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Quoting watchdog40:


Do you think this could turn and come toward Florida?


No.Period.

The furthest east this will go is Galveston and that is a very long shot indeed, unless things have changed drastically in the last couple of hours...

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Quoting watchdog40:


Do you think this could turn and come toward Florida?


Absolutely nothing supports the idea that it will come towards florida.
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1665. 7544
Quoting RecordSeason:
1618:

Wilmafication into Florida, just watch.


siting ther just like wilma did getting stronger the longer it sits there lots can change remeber charlie . imo alex dosent not know where he wants to go . its a huge storm in size no one has seen this in along time for june so its all up the air .

will alex surpise us all

or will he follow the path hes suppose too
staytuned . for part 3
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This what Joe Bastardi had to say as of 8PM This evening

"Their path and speed (11 am) causes me problems. If its still that far out at 12z Wednesday, then its likely to hit further north. The models key on bringing it to the coast faster than the speed of TPC. That is a good track if the storm is on the coast Wed night. If its that slow, that far east Wed Am, the threat is further north. This message is carried by the models. The slower speed would imply more the chance of a fork in the road that would carry it further north.

That being said.. the forecast track is a good one if one simply speeds it up. I disagree with the intensity as I think this season is one where rapid deepening to the coast is something that will happen with the less mature storms we have, so I am naturally biased toward the deeper idea. The slower this moves, the greater the threat further north"

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1663. xcool
Skyepony YEAH MORE TO NE
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1662. JamesSA
Quoting Skyepony:


The right side of the brown is flat & the Yucatan the left is mountains south of there the blue on both ends is the 2 oceans.
LOL! I see now. That brown area to the right looks just like the Yucatan too!
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1661. Skyepony (Mod)
Center fix was ~20.733N 91.583W, been traveling a little East of North..
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ALEXIKE


I don't really see it as Alex being so much bigger than Ike just that Alex has not tightened up yet.
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1659. gator23
Quoting watchdog40:


Do you think this could turn and come toward Florida?

he does, no one else does.
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Quoting AustinTXWeather:
StormW now on Barometer Bob - includes a chatroom: http://irc.hurricanehollow.org/


Thanks!
Member Since: August 14, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 440
Quoting CADZILLA:
Cantore is in Louisiana ... so Alex is going to Louisiana.


Do we have a model consensus and cone of death for Cantore? ;-)
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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