Large and intensifying Hurricane Alex bears down on northeastern Mexico, South Texas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:23 PM GMT on June 30, 2010

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Hurricane Alex continues to intensify as it slowly bears down on the coast of northeastern Mexico. Brownsville long-range radar shows the spiral bands of Alex, which has dumped heavy rains of up to four inches in northeastern Mexico and near Brownsville, according to satellite estimates of rainfall. The Brownsville airport received 0.78" of rain in the hour ending at 8am CDT, and 0.61" in the hour ending at 9am CDT. Floods from Alex have already killed ten people--six in Nicaragua, and two each in El Salvador and Guatemala.


Figure 1. Snapshot of the Brownsville long-range radar showing Hurricane Alex approaching the coast.

The 7:12am CDT eye penetration of the Hurricane Hunters found a central pressure of 959 mb, a modest 2 mb drop from the reading four hours previous to that. They noted a very tiny eye, ten miles in diameter, with a gap in the northwest side. Tiny eyes like this tend to be unstable, and in the 9:05am CDT eye penetration, the Hurricane Hunters found that the inner eyewall had collapsed, and the pressure had risen 2 mb, to 961 mb. A new, much larger eye will form today as the day progresses. During these "eyewall replacement cycles", a hurricane will typically weaken a few millibars , and the strongest winds will spread out over a larger area as the hurricane conserves angular momentum. Thus, the hurricane still has about the same amount of destructive power, it is just spread out over a larger area. This tends to increase the hurricane's storm surge, but lessens the wind damage, since the extreme winds of the inner eyewall are no longer present. Satellite loops show a large, well-organized storm with increasing amounts of low-level spiral bands forming, and improving upper-level outflow. Data from last night's flight of the NOAA jet showed an unusually moist atmosphere surrounds Alex, so dry air is no longer a problem for it. It's a good thing Alex has less than a day before making landfall, or else is would be a large and very powerful major hurricane.


Figure 2. Visible light image of Tropical Storm Alex taken at 19:35 UTC (2:35 pm CDT) on June 29, 2010, by NASA's Aqua satellite. At the time, Alex was a tropical storm with 70 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Storm Surge
Traditionally, a storm's ranking on the Saffir-Simpson Scale--the familiar Category 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 rankings we always talk about--have also been used to quantify storm surge threat. However, large, weaker storms that cover a huge area of the Gulf of Mexico, like Alex, can generate a larger storm surge than a smaller but more intense hurricane with a higher Saffir-Simpson rating. Thus, the National Hurricane Center has formally discontinued use of the Saffir-Simpson scale to characterize storm surge, and is studying the possibility of issuing separate Storm Surge Warnings a few years from now. These would be in addition to their traditional Hurricane Warnings. To give us a better idea of a storm's surge potential, Dr. Mark Powell of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division has developed the Integrated Kinetic Energy scale to rank storms. The scale ranges from 0 to 6, and a parallel wind damage scale that runs from 0 to 6 is also generated. Alex had an Integrated Kinetic Energy of 2.6 on the 0 to 6 scale at 1:30pm CDT yesterday, and its destructive potential rating for winds was just 1.2. Thus, Alex's surge ranked alomst one-and-a-half categories higher in destructive potential than its wind. These numbers have probably increased by a full category since yesterday afternoon. 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 and northern Mexican coast.

Other Impacts
Alex is 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. Flooding damage from the expected 6 - 12 inches of rain from Alex will be the main concern. Wind damage is a lesser concern, since the core of Alex is making landfall in a swampy, sparsely populated region of Mexico. The combined wind, surge, and flooding damage from Alex may be similar to 2008's Hurricane Dolly, which hit near Brownsville. Dolly was a Category 2 hurricane offshore that weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds when it made landfall, and did about $1 billion in damage. Dolly also generated two weak EF-0 tornadoes, and Alex is capable of generating a few tornadoes as well, according to the latest discussion from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. The atmosphere is moderately unstable, there is plenty of moisture, and wind shear at low levels has been increasing this morning. The greatest threat for tornadoes will occur late this afternoon, on the right side of where the storm makes landfall.

Alex in historical context
Alex is the first June hurricane since Hurricane Allison of 1995. Allison briefly became a minimal 75 mph hurricane before weakening and hitting the Florida Panhandle as a tropical storm. Alex is the strongest June hurricane since Hurricane Bonnie of 1986, which had 85 mph winds. Bonnie was the first hurricane I flew into as a member of the Hurricane Hunters. Bonnie made landfall along the upper Texas coast, and caused less than $20 million in damage. If Alex strengthens to 90 mph winds, it will be the strongest June hurricane since Hurricane Alma of 1966, which had 125 mph winds as it skirted the Florida Keys. There have been only ten hurricanes in May or June since 1945; only four of these were major Category 3 or higher storms.

Track forecast for Alex
All of the models take Alex to the west or west-northwest into northern Mexico by early Thursday morning. However, the steering currents are fairly weak, and Alex could stall and move erratically at times today. I don't anticipate that this weakness in the steering currents will allow Alex to move northward and make landfall in Texas. After landfall, the ridge of high pressure forcing Alex westward should remain in place and strengthen, keeping Alex's remnants over northern Mexico for several days.

Intensity forecast for Alex
Alex is over a region of ocean with 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, through landfall. The combination of low wind shear, moderately high ocean heat content, and plenty of moisture should allow Alex to continue to intensify today. Alex's pressure is already characteristic of a Category 3 hurricane, but the storm is so large that it is taking time for the winds to catch up to the pressure falls. It is unlikely that Alex's winds will be at Category 3 strength at landfall, since the storm is undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle, and does not have time to build a tight inner eyewall with strong winds before landfall. A Category 2 storm at landfall looks more likely.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The latest run of the NOGAPS model predicts the formation of a tropical disturbance in the Western Caribbean on Monday. None of the other models is showing anything brewing over the coming seven days.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
Alex is generating very rough conditions over the Deepwater Horizon blowout location, with 6 - 8 foot waves and 3 - 4 foot swells. Strong southeast to south winds of 15 - 25 knots will blow over the oil slick region today through Thursday, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. The resulting currents will push oil to many protected bays and estuaries that haven't seen oil yet. In addition, the 1 - 2 foot storm surge Alex is generating along the Louisiana coast will act to push oil deep into some low-lying marshlands. While this oil will be diluted some by the wave action, the impact of the oil and accompanying toxic dispersants on the marshlands is of concern. The latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana show oil will also move westward along the central Louisiana coast towards the Texas border. Winds will decrease to 10 - 15 knots Friday through Monday but remain out of the southeast, keeping the pressure on the regions of coast in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi that are seeing oil hit their shores this week.

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

Next post
Either Rob Carver or myself will do an update late this afternoon or this evening.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Weather inbound to Hurricane Alex.
Hurricane Alex
Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Weather inbound to Hurricane Alex.
Hurricane Alex
Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Flight deck view from a WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft
Hurricane Alex

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Quoting snotly:
Any chance Alex is forming two eye walls? Looks like inner convection ring might choke itself off soon.


If that is a concentric eyewall, and it takes over, that would make the hurricane winds much larger in diameter.
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Are there any models showing any other storms brewing soon? If so, where?
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Ok, Explain to me why the NHC has not shifted the track north considering Alex is further north then projected at landfall now!!
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1294. Asta
LINK
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1293. beell
17Z RUC Modeled Sounding
Valid 1PM CDT
Ciudad Victoria
(Approx 90 miles inland, west of La Pesca, MX

Photobucket
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1292. snotly
Any chance Alex is forming two eye walls? Looks like inner convection ring might choke itself off soon.
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Quoting firematt255:
Not going to happen.


'Arf! Is this Apocalyps's alter ego?
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Quoting beell:
RUC Modeled Sounding.
Brownsville, TX. Valid 1PMCDT


Yeah, crazy warm and crazy moist all the way up. I posted something similar earlier. I don't think I've ever seen something that steep in the summer during the short time that I've been working with soundings.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11669
Quoting JFLORIDA:


notoriously un loose perhaps here! lol.

Look at this I will check more on what was found out:

Electric Hurricanes

Three of the most powerful hurricanes of 2005 were filled with mysterious lightning.

January 9, 2006: The boom of thunder and crackle of lightning generally mean one thing: a storm is coming. Curiously, though, the biggest storms of all, hurricanes, are notoriously lacking in lightning. Hurricanes blow, they rain, they flood, but seldom do they crackle.

Surprise: During the record-setting hurricane season of 2005 three of the most powerful storms--Rita, Katrina, and Emily--did have lightning, lots of it. And researchers would like to know why.


The reason for those three having some small amount of lightning was determined to be due to inclusion of fine particulate matter in the circulation...I don't jhave the link anymore, but the idea was static discharge due to the interaction of this particulate matter
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1287. guygee
Quoting Floodman:


un-loose...LMAO!

By the way, no hail in hurricanes typically and very little lightning as well
Hey Flood! Very little lightning, but all the transformers blowing makes it look like a lot of blue lightning is flashing.

Got a present for ya' Ronald C. "Pigpen" McKernan (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973) solo, on the harp singing "New Orleans (Baby, Please Don't Go)-That Train" (streaming)
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1286. Levi32
Recon may find Cat 2 winds in the NE quad....they just went into the NW quad and found 85mph surface winds.

K gone now...back later.
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1285. snotly
Quoting 1900hurricane:
One of the images below is Alex and one is not. Which one is Alex and who is the impostor?




Thats easy with Cuba in frame.
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Quoting StormTop5000:
landfall in 4 hours..
Not going to happen.
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Quoting CaneWolf:


Helps if you take off the date stamps...
Quoting leo305:


top is Ike *(notice cuba)*
bottom is alex

Yeah, easy one. But the point I was trying to make was their similarities.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11669
Thanks Patrap.
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1281. angiest
Quoting CaneWolf:


Helps if you take off the date stamps...


Yes, yes it does. :)
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
need Oz's link please
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Quoting WaterWitch11:
i just don't even understand the point of TWC anymore. what a shame.


if i win the lotto i will set up a wunderground blog weather channel with dr masters and storm w and scroll the blog posts on the side the whole time, even with the posts from the nutty people. it will be a huge hit.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 1448
Alex is the bottom photo, and Ike is the top photo of 2008.
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1277. Patrap

856
WFUS54 KHGX 301858
TORHGX
TXC039-321-301930-
/O.NEW.KHGX.TO.W.0017.100630T1858Z-100630T1930Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HOUSTON/GALVESTON TX
158 PM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN LEAGUE CITY HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHWESTERN BRAZORIA COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST TEXAS...
NORTHEASTERN MATAGORDA COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST TEXAS...

* UNTIL 230 PM CDT

* AT 155 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO THIS TORNADO
WAS LOCATED NEAR LAKE JACKSON... MOVING WEST AT 30 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IN THE TORNADO WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
WILD PEACH VILLAGE...VAN VLECK...SWEENY...JONES CREEK AND BRAZORIA.

PLEASE REPORT SEVERE WEATHER TO THE COUNTY SHERIFF...LOCAL POLICE...
OR DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND ASK THEM TO RELAY YOUR REPORT TO
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE.

LAT...LON 2881 9584 2912 9597 2915 9543 2897 9542
TIME...MOT...LOC 1858Z 086DEG 25KT 2905 9553
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
1276. leo305
Quoting 1900hurricane:
One of the images below is Alex and one is not. Which one is Alex and who is the impostor?




top is Ike *(notice cuba)*
bottom is alex
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
One of the images below is Alex and one is not. Which one is Alex and who is the impostor?



Helps if you take off the date stamps...
Member Since: June 29, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
Time: 18:50:00Z
Coordinates: 24.3833N 96.4333W
Acft. Static Air Press: 843.5 mb (~ 24.91 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 1,169 meters (~ 3,835 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 963.3 mb (~ 28.45 inHg)
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1272. angiest
Quoting Titoxd:
Quick question for anyone that knows the answer: Why is there a purple ring at a constant distance from the Doppler radar in the velocity views?


Link
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting JFLORIDA:
Not much lightening and/or hail(?) in tropical systems. We had some thunder this AM but Fla and Louisiana are quite a bit out.
Oh there is definitely lightning in these lines coming thru central LA. One hit not far down the road and flickeredo the power lol
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1270. Patrap
Quoting TheDawnAwakening2:
Surface convergence has finally strengthened over Alex's center as well as strong upper level divergence perhaps allowing Alex to finally gain the much needed persistent convection to gain and try to close off the eye. Dry air from convective subsidence from the strong Yucatan convective band last night intruded into his core, not allowing any consistency in the convection he tried to develop. Outflow is becoming good to great in all quadrants as any shear is minimal and OHC is high enough for steady intensification. Concentric eyewalls developed earlier seen by the outer wind maxima the hurricane hunters found. Also radar indicated a strong outer convective eyewall away from the center. At this time Alex is running out of time over the warmer waters of the western GOM for a more explosive deepening period likely keeping him below category three status. I forecasted Ike to deepen to 105mph which may still be in reach, but if Alex had looked like this yesterday, we might have been talking about a category four or five storm. Fortunately for those in the landfall zone this was not the case.


Thats a really great synopsis.

Thanks
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
Quoting TexasHurricane:


ok, where was h suppose to be? That means he is moving slower?


Finally starting the westward turn by the looks
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One of the images below is Alex and one is not. Which one is Alex and who is the impostor?


Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11669


AOI
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Quoting Orcasystems:


ROFLMAO... this time they actually updated the models to where they thought Alex would be... he ain't there :)


ok, where was h suppose to be? That means he is moving slower?
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Quoting Floodman:


un-loose...LMAO!

By the way, no hail in hurricanes typically and very little lightning as well


I've been called that once.
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SFMR

76 knots
(~ 87.4 mph)
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15921
HH found

963mb
86.2 mph
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


so what do they say?


ROFLMAO... this time they actually updated the models to where they thought Alex would be... he ain't there :)
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Surface convergence has finally strengthened over Alex's center as well as strong upper level divergence perhaps allowing Alex to finally gain the much needed persistent convection to gain and try to close off the eye. Dry air from convective subsidence from the strong Yucatan convective band last night intruded into his core, not allowing any consistency in the convection he tried to develop. Outflow is becoming good to great in all quadrants as any shear is minimal and OHC is high enough for steady intensification. Concentric eyewalls developed earlier seen by the outer wind maxima the hurricane hunters found. Also radar indicated a strong outer convective eyewall away from the center. At this time Alex is running out of time over the warmer waters of the western GOM for a more explosive deepening period likely keeping him below category three status. I forecasted Ike to deepen to 105mph which may still be in reach, but if Alex had looked like this yesterday, we might have been talking about a category four or five storm. Fortunately for those in the landfall zone this was not the case.
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Quoting jaseone:
Recon missed the center on that pass through, could Alex be moving further to the N than they were expecting? Looks like they were expecting it to be close to due W from the last vortex message.


No, they are seeing southerly winds ... they are still east of the center ... which they seem to be looking for to the west. This is in agreement with obs here that the storm seems to be moving pretty much due west.
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1258. beell
RUC Modeled Sounding.
Brownsville, TX. Valid 1PMCDT

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185030 2423N 09628W 8426 01179 9630 +213 +204 025007 013 033 000 00
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1256. Levi32
963mb.

000
URNT15 KNHC 301858
AF304 1201A ALEX HDOB 26 20100630
184830 2423N 09621W 8428 01200 9659 +207 +197 184035 038 048 003 00
184900 2423N 09623W 8436 01182 9653 +198 +198 183028 032 043 000 03
184930 2423N 09624W 8435 01173 9639 +209 +202 186013 016 038 002 00
185000 2423N 09626W 8435 01169 9633 +214 +202 191004 007 032 002 03
185030 2423N 09628W 8426 01179 9630 +213 +204 025007 013 033 000 00
185100 2423N 09630W 8436 01177 9635 +216 +207 013019 021 034 000 03
185130 2424N 09631W 8426 01182 9636 +214 +209 019029 033 043 002 00
185200 2425N 09633W 8432 01183 9645 +208 +208 025040 041 047 003 03
185230 2426N 09634W 8430 01193 9658 +199 +199 029051 057 063 009 00
185300 2427N 09635W 8432 01202 9990 +185 +999 033063 066 072 011 01
185330 2428N 09636W 8432 01218 9696 +186 +186 039069 071 075 010 01
185400 2429N 09637W 8429 01236 9714 +178 +178 046069 070 076 009 00
185430 2431N 09638W 8421 01260 9731 +177 +177 051079 084 075 011 03
185500 2432N 09640W 8436 01260 9746 +186 +185 051085 086 071 006 00
185530 2433N 09641W 8429 01282 9766 +182 +181 052085 086 071 006 00
185600 2434N 09642W 8430 01298 9781 +188 +179 053082 084 069 005 00
185630 2435N 09643W 8429 01313 9800 +180 +178 055083 084 066 011 00
185700 2436N 09644W 8433 01318 9820 +165 +165 056080 082 068 014 03
185730 2438N 09646W 8429 01334 9825 +176 +174 056079 080 062 013 00
185800 2439N 09647W 8425 01347 9836 +176 +170 057077 078 061 007 00
$$
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


Eh well sometimes, linking to the site is questionable, during a storm especially.

Thats just how I am, un loose I guess.


un-loose...LMAO!

By the way, no hail in hurricanes typically and very little lightning as well
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1254. angiest
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HOUSTON/GALVESTON TX
158 PM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN LEAGUE CITY HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHWESTERN BRAZORIA COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST TEXAS...
NORTHEASTERN MATAGORDA COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST TEXAS...

* UNTIL 230 PM CDT

* AT 155 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO THIS TORNADO
WAS LOCATED NEAR LAKE JACKSON... MOVING WEST AT 30 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IN THE TORNADO WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
WILD PEACH VILLAGE...VAN VLECK...SWEENY...JONES CREEK AND BRAZORIA.

PLEASE REPORT SEVERE WEATHER TO THE COUNTY SHERIFF...LOCAL POLICE...
OR DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND ASK THEM TO RELAY YOUR REPORT TO
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Hard rain ( maybe 3-4 inch/hr rate ) in mcAllen....50 miles inland. Probably not going to stop for 24 hrs for the most part.

Side note: We have had our wettest March thru June in probably 20-30 yrs.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1252. angiest
Quoting Titoxd:
Quick question for anyone that knows the answer: Why is there a purple ring at a constant distance from the Doppler radar in the velocity views?


That wasn't there earlier today. I'm not entirely sure where that is coming from but is likely to be some kind of atmospheric effect. Sometimes radars will show you some strange things that aren't there.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
1251. IKE
12Z ECMWF.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Orcasystems:
Models Just updated :)


so what do they say?
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1249. Patrap
NEXRAD Radar
Brownsville, Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity 1.45 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645

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About

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