Alex building an eyewall, still not a hurricane

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:34 PM GMT on June 29, 2010

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Tropical Storm Alex is slowly building an eyewall, which is now more than 50% complete, according to recent satellite imagery and microwave images (Figure 1.) Satellite loops show a slot of dry air is spiraling into the center of the storm, and until this dry slot gets closed off, Alex will not be able to intensify significantly. Alex's heavy thunderstorms and low level spiral bands continue to slowly increase, but upper-level outflow is mediocre to the north and east, and absent elsewhere. The Hurricane Hunters are in the storm and have not found any hurricane-force winds at the surface yet.


Figure 1. Microwave "radar in space" image taken at 10:11 am CDT Tuesday June 28, 2010, showing that Alex had built an eyewall a little more than 50% complete. Image credit: Navy Research Lab.

Impacts
Alex is already bringing bands of heavy rain to the coasts of Texas and Mexico, as seen on the Brownsville, Texas radar. Hurricane local statements with projections for how Alex will affect the coast are now being issued by the National Weather Service in Brownsville and Corpus Christi. Since Alex is a large storm, it will have a storm surge that will affect most of the South Texas coast. NHC is giving a 40% - 60% chance of a storm surge of at least 3 feet affecting the Brownsville area, and 10% - 30% chance the surge will exceed 5 feet. In theory, a Category 2 hurricane moving WNW at 5 mph can bring a storm surge of up to 8 - 9 feet to the South Texas coast (Figure 2.) However, Alex is now unlikely to get that strong, and the surge should be less. Flooding damage from the expected 6 - 12 inches of rain from Alex will also be a major concern, as will wind damage. The combined wind, surge, and flooding damage from 2008's Hurricane Dolly, which hit near Brownsville, were about $1.05 billion. Dolly was a Category 2 hurricane offshore that weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds when it made landfall. I expect Alex will be similar in its impacts to Dolly, though Alex's storm surge damage is likely to be greater. If Alex hits more than 50 miles south of the Texas border, as currently appears likely, the damage will be far less, since this region of the coast is relatively sparsely populated.


Figure 2. Maximum Water Depth (storm tide minus the elevation of the land it is passing over) computed using the primary computer model used by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to forecast storm surge--the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model. The accuracy of the SLOSH model is advertised as plus or minus 20%. The "Maximum Water Depth" image shows the water depth at each grid cell of the SLOSH domain. Thus, if you are inland at an elevation of five feet above mean sea level, and the combined storm surge and tide (the "storm tide") is ten feet at your location, the water depth image will show five feet of inundation. This Maximum of the "Maximum Envelope of Waters" (MOM) image was generated for high tide, and thus shows the worst-case inundation scenarios for a mid-strength Category 2 hurricane moving WNW at 5 mph. For more information on storm surge, consult our detailed storm surge pages.

Track forecast for Alex
The latest 12 UTC (7am CDT) runs of our most reliable computer models confirm the faster movement of Alex to the coast, and residents in the affected areas now have 12 hours less to prepare for Alex's arrival than it seemed with yesterday's forecasts. Conditions will begin to deteriorate along the coast late tonight, so today is the day to finish preparations if you live near the Texas/Mexico border! The ridge that is steering Alex to the northwest is expected to strengthen today and Wednesday, which should push Alex on a more west-northwest and then westerly track on Wednesday. A few models even have Alex moving west-southwest by the time it makes landfall. The most northerly landfall location, near Brownsville, is predicted by the HWRF model.

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 4am CDT (9 UTC) wind probability product predicted that Brownsville, Texas had the highest odds of getting a direct hit from Alex:

Brownsville, TX: 88% chance of tropical storm conditions (winds 39+ mph), 23% 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.

Corpus Christi, TX: 42% tropical storm, 1% hurricane.

La Pesco, MX: 37% tropical storm, 3% hurricane.

Freeport, TX: 18% tropical storm, 0% hurricane.

Tampico, MX: 14% tropical storm, 0% hurricane.

Galveston, TX: 13% tropical storm, 0% hurricane.

Intensity forecast for Alex
Alex is over a region of ocean with a warm, clockwise rotating Loop Current eddy that broke off from the Loop Current in July 2009 and moved west-southwest over the past 11 months. This eddy has moderately high total ocean heat content . Wind shear has fallen to a low 5 knots, and is projected by the SHIPS model to remain in the low range, below 10 knots, this afternoon and Wednesday. The combination of low wind shear and moderately high ocean heat content should allow Alex to intensify into a Category 1 hurricane, but time is running out for it to be a Category 2 hurricane. NHC is giving Alex a 79% chance of being a hurricane on Wednesday morning, and a 4% chance it will be a major hurricane at that time. Water vapor satellite images show the amount of dry air over the western Gulf of Mexico has decreased over the past day, though as I noted above, the dry slot wrapping into Alex's core is currently keeping the storm from closing off an eyewall. Dry air may turn out to be an increasing detriment to Alex on Wednesday as the storm approaches land. 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. I don't expect Alex to stall out again, so slow motion leading to upwelling of cold water will probably not be a problem for Alex. The main issue limiting intensification will be the fact that Alex is so large, and it takes more time for a large storm to organize. Thus, I think Alex has only a 10% chance of intensifying into a major hurricane before landfall.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The last few runs of the NOGAPS model have been predicting the formation of a tropical disturbance off the coast of Nicaragua on Friday or Saturday that will move northwestward towards western Cuba. The GFS model, and the two models that use it for starting conditions, the GFDL and HWRF, are indicating the possibility that a weak extratropical storm may form along coastal Alabama this weekend. It is unlikely that such a storm would be over water long enough to transition to a tropical storm.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
It currently appears that Alex's winds will not directly affect the oil slick location. However, because Alex is such a deep low pressure region, strong southeast to south winds of 10 - 20 knots will blow over the oil slick region today through Thursday, 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. Alex is currently bringing swells of 3 - 4 feet to the coastal regions impacted by the oil slick, and these swells will increase to 6 - 8 feet on Wednesday. Wave heights will increase to 5 - 7 feet on Wednesday. Alex is expected to bring a storm surge of 1 - 2 feet along the coast in the oil spill region. The swells and waves that will accompany these high water levels will act to push oil deep into the marshlands in some locations. The long range forecast for the oil slick region is uncertain, due to the possibility a weak area of low pressure might develop late this week along the remains of a cold front draped across the region.

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

"Hurricane Haven" airing again this afternoon
Tune into another airing of my live Internet radio show, "Hurricane Haven", at 4pm EDT today. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. The call in number is 415-983-2634, or you can post a question in the comments area on my blog during the show. You can also email the questions to me today before the show: jmasters@wunderground.com. Be sure to include "Hurricane Haven question" in the subject line. Some topics I'll cover today on the show:

1) Alex
2) A look ahead at what may happen the rest of hurricane season

Today's show will be about 45 minutes, and you can tune in at http://www.wunderground.com/wxradio/wubroadcast.h tml. The show will be recorded and stored as a podcast.

Next post
I'll have an update Wednesday morning by 9:30am CDT. Rob Carver is planning on doing a late-night update tonight.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting GlobalWarming:
Texas dodged a bullet, and the NHC, once again, has been proven' impeccably accurate, like always, right, Ike? Remember the wishcasters saying that Alex was either heading up towards TX or LA? What a joke. Anyways, next, right, Ike?
What a joke you are by saying that. Anyways, I should poof you, right?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting GlobalWarming:


That was always known, Ike, at least by me, it was.


Riigghhhhttttt.
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Quoting angiest:

i forgot that it was high tide too. i remember the slosh model being 10 feet higher than what actually occurred but i can't remember if it was forecasted for galveston bay?
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That dry slot wont let it get big... itll take a while to work it all out and by that time he'll be inland
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but this would/should be the first June hurricane since 1995? With Hurricane Allison.

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Quoting IKE:
THE CYCLONE
HAS TURNED LEFT MORE THAN PREVIOUSLY FORECAST...AND THIS REQUIRES
THE NEW FORECAST TRACK TO BE SHIFTED SOUTHWARD FROM THE PREVIOUS
ADVISORY. THE NEW TRACK STILL LIES TO THE NORTH OF THE CONSENSUS
MODELS AND THE CENTER OF THE GUIDANCE ENVELOPE...AND THE ONLY
DYNAMICAL MODEL NORTH OF THE OFFICIAL FORECAST IS THE HWRF. THUS...
THERE IS STILL ROOM FOR SOME ADDITIONAL SOUTHWARD ADJUSTMENT IF
NECESSARY.

.....

Brownsville may be spared the worst.


Away from the populated and Built up coastal areas too for sure Ike.

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000
WTNT41 KNHC 292047
TCDAT1
TROPICAL STORM ALEX DISCUSSION NUMBER 17
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012010
400 PM CDT TUE JUN 29 2010

AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER REPORTED A CENTRAL PRESSURE OF
981 MB AT 1716 UTC...WITH 850 MB FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS OF 68 KT AND
SFMR WINDS NEAR 55 KT. SINCE THEN...SATELLITE IMAGERY SHOWS THAT
ALEX IS BECOMING BETTER ORGANIZED...WITH A WELL DEFINED CURVED
CONVECTIVE BAND WRAPPING ALL THE WAY AROUND THE CENTER. THIS
PATTERN YIELDS SATELLITE INTENSITY ESTIMATES OF 65 KT FROM TAFB AND
SAB. THE INITIAL INTENSITY REMAINS 60 KT FOR THIS ADVISORY...BUT
IT IS ANTICIPATED THAT THE NEXT AIRCRAFT MISSION NEAR 0000 UTC WILL
FIND THAT ALEX IS A HURRICANE.

ALEX HAS TURNED FARTHER TO THE LEFT AND THE INITIAL MOTION IS NOW
310/11. THERE IS LITTLE CHANGE TO THE OVERALL FORECAST
PHILOSOPHY...AS THE TRACK GUIDANCE REMAINS IN GOOD AGREEMENT THAT
ALEX WILL GRADUALLY TURN WEST-NORTHWESTWARD AND WESTWARD ON THE
SOUTH SIDE OF THE STRENGTHENING LOW/MID-LEVEL RIDGE OVER THE
SOUTHERN PLAINS AND NORTHWESTERN GULF COAST. HOWEVER...THE CYCLONE
HAS TURNED LEFT MORE THAN PREVIOUSLY FORECAST...AND THIS REQUIRES
THE NEW FORECAST TRACK TO BE SHIFTED SOUTHWARD FROM THE PREVIOUS
ADVISORY. THE NEW TRACK STILL LIES TO THE NORTH OF THE CONSENSUS
MODELS AND THE CENTER OF THE GUIDANCE ENVELOPE...AND THE ONLY
DYNAMICAL MODEL NORTH OF THE OFFICIAL FORECAST IS THE HWRF. THUS...
THERE IS STILL ROOM FOR SOME ADDITIONAL SOUTHWARD ADJUSTMENT IF
NECESSARY.

ALEX IS NOW IN A LOW-SHEAR ENVIRONMENT OVER WARM SEA SURFACE
TEMPERATURES...WHICH APPEARS FAVORABLE FOR STRENGTHENING UNTIL
LANDFALL. ON THE OTHER HAND...THE CIRRUS OUTFLOW FROM THE CENTRAL
CONVECTION IS POOR AT THIS TIME...AND LARGE SLOTS BETWEEN THE
CONVECTIVE BANDS SUGGEST THAT SOME DRY AIR ENTRAINMENT IS STILL
OCCURRING. THE GFDL...GFDN...AND HWRF ARE SHOWING MORE
INTENSIFICATION THAN EARLIER...BUT NONE OF THEM FORECAST A PEAK
INTENSITY OF MORE THAN 80 KT. THESE MODELS ARE CLOSE TO THE
SHIPS/LGEM MODELS AND THE PREVIOUS INTENSITY FORECAST...SO THERE IS
NO CHANGE TO THE INTENSITY FORECAST. WHILE NOT EXPLICITLY IN THE
FORECAST... IT IS LIKELY THAT ALEX WILL REACH A PEAK INTENSITY OF
80-85 KT BEFORE IT MAKES LANDFALL BETWEEN THE 24 AND 36 HR FORECAST
POINTS.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL 29/2100Z 23.2N 94.0W 60 KT
12HR VT 30/0600Z 23.9N 95.1W 65 KT
24HR VT 30/1800Z 24.5N 96.5W 75 KT
36HR VT 01/0600Z 24.9N 98.1W 75 KT...INLAND
48HR VT 01/1800Z 25.2N 99.9W 40 KT...INLAND
72HR VT 02/1800Z 25.5N 103.0W 25 KT...DISSIPATING INLAND
96HR VT 03/1800Z...DISSIPATED

$$
FORECASTER BEVEN
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24167
From the NHC 5pm Forecast Discussion:

HOWEVER...THE CYCLONE
HAS TURNED LEFT MORE THAN PREVIOUSLY FORECAST...AND THIS REQUIRES
THE NEW FORECAST TRACK TO BE SHIFTED SOUTHWARD FROM THE PREVIOUS
ADVISORY.


If this is the case, then why do they still call it NW???
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282. IKE
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
NEARING FINAL APPROACH



Thankfully it will be over soon. Then it's on to Bonnie.
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Quoting Daveg:


Agree MX is definitely more likely (just real close to the border), but even though a few folks say he is moving due west, I think he is move NW still with a bit of a WNW jog from time to time.....at least based on all the sat loops I am looking at.

Looking at satellite animation, motion seems to be towards the WNW.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting GlobalWarming:
Texas dodged a bullet, and the NHC, once again, has been proven' impeccably accurate, like always, right, Ike? Remember the wishcasters saying that Alex was either heading up towards TX or LA? What a joke. Anyways, next, right, Ike?


You know, if Ike were to stop suddenly you'd disappear completely...you're practically an artiste!
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Quoting LoneStarWeather:

South Texas will. I don't think we're going to see more than 2-3" of rain here in Houston.


Yes, that is what I meant.
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278. IKE
THE CYCLONE
HAS TURNED LEFT MORE THAN PREVIOUSLY FORECAST...AND THIS REQUIRES
THE NEW FORECAST TRACK TO BE SHIFTED SOUTHWARD FROM THE PREVIOUS
ADVISORY. THE NEW TRACK STILL LIES TO THE NORTH OF THE CONSENSUS
MODELS AND THE CENTER OF THE GUIDANCE ENVELOPE...AND THE ONLY
DYNAMICAL MODEL NORTH OF THE OFFICIAL FORECAST IS THE HWRF. THUS...
THERE IS STILL ROOM FOR SOME ADDITIONAL SOUTHWARD ADJUSTMENT IF
NECESSARY.

.....

Brownsville may be spared the worst.
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My in-laws live on the beach in Galveston (west end).. does anyone know what kind of surge they may be looking at there?
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Quoting AllStar17:
People are getting way to caught up in where this will make landfall. This storm is huge and Texas will feel serious impacts whether it makes landfall there or not.

South Texas will. I don't think we're going to see more than 2-3" of rain here in Houston.
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NEARING FINAL APPROACH

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Quoting Daveg:


Agree MX is definitely more likely (just real close to the border), but even though a few folks say he is moving due west, I think he is move NW still with a bit of a WNW jog from time to time.....at least based on all the sat loops I am looking at.



Exactly! Which is why the NHC is staying north of the consensus. If it were to continue moving NW for the next 8-12 hours, it would be located on the top of the NHC cone. So it was a good call to shift it slightly south in my opinion.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7396
Quoting GlobalWarming:
Texas dodged a bullet, and the NHC, once again, has been proven' impeccably accurate, like always, right, Ike? Remember the wishcasters saying that Alex was either heading up towards TX or LA? What a joke. Anyways, next, right, Ike?
Not trying to make waves but even Dr. Masters had that in the title of one of his blogs concerning Alex.
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Quoting IKE:
Looks to be moving just north of west.
Looks WNW to me, if it continues it will likely be the main motion on the 8PM intermediate advisory.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
ALEX Graphics Archive

3-Day Track Forecast, Uncertainty Cone, and Watch/Warning

3-Day Cone and Watch/Warning (no track line)

5-Day Track Forecast, Uncertainty Cone, and Watch/Warning

5-Day Cone and Watch/Warning (no track line)

Surface Wind Field and Watch/Warning

Wind History

Maximum 1-minute Wind Speed Forecast Table

34-kt Surface Wind Speed Probabilities (120 Hours)

50-kt Surface Wind Speed Probabilities (120 Hours)
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People are getting way to caught up in where this will make landfall. This storm is huge and Texas will feel serious impacts whether it makes landfall there or not.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Couldn't listen to it at work, but maybe if they have shows on Wednesday :)


There's always the podcast. How's it goin' man?
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Quoting IKE:
Shifted slightly south?

Probably due to the model consensus of a less northward component in motion. I'm surprised that the hurricane warning field is so large, I think they should narrow down the hurricane warning field and increase the tropical storm warning field if the cone they gave out is accurate, which it seems to be.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
267. IKE
Looks to be moving just north of west.
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Quoting IKE:
Shifted slightly south?



Definitely! More like 80 miles south of the TX/MX border instead of 30 like it was before.
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Despite where she may land, either way Brownsville is going to feel the NE quadrant of this storm so they are in for a ride either way.
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Quoting TxMarc71:
Does appear to be moving due west now....

Yep. I agree. The NHC is always slow to show a change in direction because they want to make sure so they don't cause panic if all of a sudden the 'xtrap' shows coming to their door step.
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Loop I saved last week--shows West movement well in my opinion.
Link
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The show is podcasted ,,just go to the page tonight.
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I just hope that wherever Alex ends up, that he does not stall out over land. he could sit there for a few days and just cause and utter mess for anyone under him.
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260. Daveg
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Mexico landfall is more likely but a Texas landfall isn't too far out of the question.



Agree MX is definitely more likely (just real close to the border), but even though a few folks say he is moving due west, I think he is move NW still with a bit of a WNW jog from time to time.....at least based on all the sat loops I am looking at.

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Models finally updated top the Vortex reports




AOI


Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
WHILE NOT EXPLICITLY IN THE
FORECAST... IT IS LIKELY THAT ALEX WILL REACH A PEAK INTENSITY OF
80-85 KT BEFORE IT MAKES LANDFALL BETWEEN THE 24 AND 36 HR FORECAST
POINTS.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting IKE:
Shifted slightly south?



Yep, a good reason why they are staying north of the consensus. Alex continues a NW movement, so until it turns completely WNW without wobbles, I think they are going to stay north of the consensus.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7396
Quoting Daveg:
Personally, I think it will be REAL close to MX/TX border. Real close.

But then I'm new at this and definitely no expert.
Mexico landfall is more likely but a Texas landfall isn't too far out of the question.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
The ridge is building in from the west. Alex wasn't strong enough to feel the trough to take it to Texas. Its typical with troughs like these. The windows to turn tend to be very small.
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Does appear to be moving due west now....
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252. IKE
Shifted slightly south?

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So tomorrow afternoon is the main time for development then, correct? Alex should be over the loop current eddy at that time.
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great show! I never listened to it before. It was cool.
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Great show Doc

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Someone call Africa and tell them to hold off on sending out any more "waves" untill Jeff gets back from his vacation
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Quoting angiest:


I think there may have been a couple of isolated pockets of northern Trinity Bay that taken close to that. Maybe I'll be able to find something about it.


Not what I was looking for, but it is Ok. Interesting the 22ft in Sabine Pass, about 125 miles east of Galveston...

Link
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
246. Daveg
Personally, I think it will be REAL close to MX/TX border. Real close.

But then I'm new at this and definitely no expert.
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Quoting Hurricanejer95:
000
WTNT41 KNHC 291454
TCDAT1
TROPICAL STORM ALEX DISCUSSION NUMBER 16
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012010
1000 AM CDT TUE JUN 29 2010

SATELLITE IMAGERY SHOWS THAT ALEX HAS A SOMEWHAT RAGGED APPEARANCE
THIS MORNING...WITH A CONVECTIVE BURST OCCURRING JUST EAST OF THE
CENTER AND AN APPARENT DRY SLOT WEST OF THE CENTER. AN AIR FORCE
RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT REPORTED 850 MB FLIGHT-LEVEL
WINDS OF 70 KT AND SFMR WINDS OF 57 KT IN THE NORTHEAST QUADRANT...
THE LATTER ABOUT 20 NM FROM THE CENTER. THE MINIMUM CENTRAL
PRESSURE WAS 982 MB.
BASED ON THE AIRCRAFT WINDS...THE INITIAL
INTENSITY REMAINS 60 KT. THE CIRRUS OUTFLOW IS FAIR TO THE NORTH
AND EAST...AND POOR ELSEWHERE.


4:00 PM CDT Tue Jun 29
Location: 23.2°N 94.0°W
Max sustained: 70 mph
Moving: NW at 13 mph
Min pressure: 981 mb



Old discussion.
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It can hit MX and TX can still get the worst of the hit being ont he "dirty" side.
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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.