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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Remnants, remnants, remnants. Any thoughts on the "land track"?
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2897. leo305
if its 945 it will be known as the strongest hurricane in June, 946=tied
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Quoting WPBHurricane05:
30 mph SFMR reading in the eye is flagged.

I think they'll end up going with 948 mb.


they didn't go through the eye though
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Alex is an official 2 :)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
My guess for landfall at the Laguna Madre Island is at 10 pm CDT. Complete eye over land around 12-2 am CDT.



When do you expect landfall:

A) 60 min.
B) 10 PM CDT
C) 11 PM CDT
D) 12 PM CDT
E) RECURVES NE AND GOES TO TEXAS ;)
Member Since: July 9, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 334
Brownsville about to enter the NE quad, should be the strongest winds felt so far.

Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
30 mph SFMR reading in the eye is flagged.

I think they'll end up going with 948 mb.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Clearwater1:


Here is an article I read a while back using lightning as a predictor of an approaching hurricane's strengh.
Link


Thanks for the link...

v/r

Jon
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
They probably couldn't go over the center since it basically is over Mexico.


right so they may estimate the pressure as 2-3 mb lower than that 948 like they have been doing the last 3 passes
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Recon didnt hit the exact eye.

Will likely decrease the pressure by a few mbs.
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2887. Patrap
One of the most Impressive mem's I have of K early the 29th 2005,round 3 am CDT is seeing the Eyewall Towers and the Lightening flashing around them arcing from East to west, maybe 55K up..from maybe 100 Miles away.

Didnt last Long.

But one dont forget stuff like that.

Id never seen the like's of that in 45yrs at the time.
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2886. scott39
Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
CMC model is "iffy" with the Atlantic basin
It shows a L getting its act together in the NE GOM in 144 hours
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


look at the winds though, still 30mph

remember the last 2 passes, they went 2-3mb lower from that lowest pressure

they did not go through the exact center

What is the extrapolation method when there is still wind?
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


look at the winds though, still 30mph

remember the last 2 passes, they went 2-3mb lower from that lowest pressure

they did not go through the exact center
They probably couldn't go over the center since it basically is over Mexico.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2882. Ossqss
The winds have not had time to catch up to the pressure. Alex was preparing to tighten his pirouette! I think I spelled that right :)
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Quoting 69Viking:


That's why I said "I thought", had to go find out myself and prove myself wrong LOL! I'm watching and listening to Oz and Doug talk on the phone, they're sad that they couldn't get to the eye of the storm since it was in Mexico!
LOL!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
No record. Minimum central pressure is 948.4mb.

000
URNT15 KNHC 010058
AF304 1201A ALEX HDOB 62 20100701
004830 2408N 09713W 8430 01304 9788 +184 +184 209059 060 058 012 03
004900 2409N 09714W 8432 01287 9771 +186 +186 209063 064 061 010 00
004930 2410N 09716W 8426 01275 9752 +183 +183 208068 070 064 008 00
005000 2411N 09717W 8430 01248 9728 +181 +181 207074 076 068 016 03
005030 2413N 09718W 8433 01211 9697 +171 +171 206079 079 078 022 00
005100 2414N 09720W 8425 01182 9653 +172 +172 200079 082 085 027 00
005130 2415N 09721W 8426 01133 9602 +175 +175 191079 081 087 018 03
005200 2416N 09723W 8431 01096 9549 +204 +187 180057 069 080 008 03
005230 2417N 09724W 8446 01050 9523 +211 +189 169035 039 039 006 03
005300 2416N 09726W 8434 01052 9505 +215 +193 170023 027 035 005 03
005330 2416N 09728W 8440 01042 9494 +221 +199 156011 015 028 004 03
005400 2415N 09729W 8446 01028 9488 +226 +206 312006 012 024 004 00
005430 2414N 09731W 8443 01037 9497 +218 +212 318027 032 032 005 00
005500 2413N 09732W 8415 01081 9514 +220 +217 313040 047 045 005 03
005530 2413N 09733W 8392 01125 9531 +218 +218 324053 055 999 999 03
005600 2414N 09733W 8393 01098 9509 +214 +214 332033 040 038 005 03
005630 2415N 09731W 8379 01105 9494 +217 +217 322017 023 026 004 03
005700 2416N 09730W 8387 01088 9484 +225 +225 114002 007 026 001 03
005730 2417N 09728W 8403 01071 9488 +220 +220 138018 022 029 004 00
005800 2418N 09727W 8442 01037 9494 +222 +222 143029 034 035 004 00
$$
;


look at the winds though, still 30mph

remember the last 2 passes, they went 2-3mb lower from that lowest pressure

they did not go through the exact center
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Any news links for the Mexico casulties?



A "storm" can span across more than one month. It depends on when exactly the "record" was set.
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2878. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
CMC model is "iffy" with the Atlantic basin
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948 mb, still only 98 mph winds.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Told ya'. Lol. J/k.


That's why I said "I thought", had to go find out myself and prove myself wrong LOL! I'm watching and listening to Oz and Doug talk on the phone, they're sad that they couldn't get to the eye of the storm since it was in Mexico!
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948.4 mb
(~ 28.01 inHg)
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Quoting Drakoen:


If this looked like this out in the Atlantic with that reading this would be classified as that.


That's what happened with Ike. ADT was used heavily in that one.
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000
WTNT31 KNHC 010100
TCPAT1
BULLETIN
HURRICANE ALEX INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 21B
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012010
800 PM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

...ALEX ABOUT TO MAKE LANDFALL IN NORTHEASTERN MEXICO...

SUMMARY OF 800 PM CDT...0100 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...24.3N 97.5W
ABOUT 40 MI...65 KM NNE OF LA PESCA MEXICO
ABOUT 110 MI...180 KM S OF BROWNSVILLE TEXAS
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...100 MPH...155 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...W OR 270 DEGREES AT 10 MPH...17 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...948 MB...27.99 INCHES
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
No record. Minimum central pressure is 948.4mb.

000
URNT15 KNHC 010058
AF304 1201A ALEX HDOB 62 20100701
004830 2408N 09713W 8430 01304 9788 +184 +184 209059 060 058 012 03
004900 2409N 09714W 8432 01287 9771 +186 +186 209063 064 061 010 00
004930 2410N 09716W 8426 01275 9752 +183 +183 208068 070 064 008 00
005000 2411N 09717W 8430 01248 9728 +181 +181 207074 076 068 016 03
005030 2413N 09718W 8433 01211 9697 +171 +171 206079 079 078 022 00
005100 2414N 09720W 8425 01182 9653 +172 +172 200079 082 085 027 00
005130 2415N 09721W 8426 01133 9602 +175 +175 191079 081 087 018 03
005200 2416N 09723W 8431 01096 9549 +204 +187 180057 069 080 008 03
005230 2417N 09724W 8446 01050 9523 +211 +189 169035 039 039 006 03
005300 2416N 09726W 8434 01052 9505 +215 +193 170023 027 035 005 03
005330 2416N 09728W 8440 01042 9494 +221 +199 156011 015 028 004 03
005400 2415N 09729W 8446 01028 9488 +226 +206 312006 012 024 004 00
005430 2414N 09731W 8443 01037 9497 +218 +212 318027 032 032 005 00
005500 2413N 09732W 8415 01081 9514 +220 +217 313040 047 045 005 03
005530 2413N 09733W 8392 01125 9531 +218 +218 324053 055 999 999 03
005600 2414N 09733W 8393 01098 9509 +214 +214 332033 040 038 005 03
005630 2415N 09731W 8379 01105 9494 +217 +217 322017 023 026 004 03
005700 2416N 09730W 8387 01088 9484 +225 +225 114002 007 026 001 03
005730 2417N 09728W 8403 01071 9488 +220 +220 138018 022 029 004 00
005800 2418N 09727W 8442 01037 9494 +222 +222 143029 034 035 004 00
$$
;
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Recon just had an 87 knot SFMR

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NHC is officially late on advisory 21B.
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000
WTNT31 KNHC 010100
TCPAT1
BULLETIN
HURRICANE ALEX INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 21B
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012010
800 PM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

...ALEX ABOUT TO MAKE LANDFALL IN NORTHEASTERN MEXICO...

SUMMARY OF 800 PM CDT...0100 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...24.3N 97.5W
ABOUT 40 MI...65 KM NNE OF LA PESCA MEXICO
ABOUT 110 MI...180 KM S OF BROWNSVILLE TEXAS
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...100 MPH...155 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...W OR 270 DEGREES AT 10 MPH...17 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...948 MB...27.99 INCHES




A
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this is nuts.. starting to look like a blob



AOI
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
2866. centex
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
NHC probably waiting for a vortex message beforland alreadye issuing the 9PM advisory.
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
NHC probably waiting for a vortex message before issuing the 9PM advisory.
land already disrupting center so don't expect upgrade.
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Quoting mtyweatherfan90:
Dang it, Alex has claimed now a death toll. 3 people died in a carcrash southeast of Monterrey in Nuevo León due to extreme rainfall and poor visibility. Also several mudslides have been reported at Monterrey-Saltillo Highway which passes right next to the Sierra Madre Range




My homemade rain gauge reports around 75 mm in the last 4 hours (3/4 in. per hour). Several underpasses and roads are closed due to floods. Creeks about to crest. Main river, Santa Catarina River, is around 40% its capacity. And the worse is yet to come. Pictures soon...


Any news links for the Mexico casulties?

Quoting WatchingThisOne:


So what makes a storm a "June storm"? Can't be landfall because they don't all landfall. I suspect tropical storm status ... naming ... so this would be a June storm. Anyone?


A "storm" can span across more than one month. It depends on when exactly the "record" was set.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
2864. Drakoen
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Likely the last DVORAK rating for Alex.

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
6.0 / 948.0mb/115.0kt


Also the most impressive. Category 4 rating.


If this looked like this out in the Atlantic with that reading this would be classified as that.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30615
Most of the time, the only light flashes seen in a hurricane are transformers blowing.
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Quoting leo305:
are the hurricane hunters closing in on the center?
Yes.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2861. scott39
Is CMC a good model?
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2860. leo305
are the hurricane hunters closing in on the center?
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DVORAK estimates Alex as a Category 4. Even though it isn't, still impressive.
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NHC probably waiting for a vortex message before issuing the 9PM advisory.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2856. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
you're welcome, StSimonsIslandGAGuy
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2854. Patrap
If folks can figure that ALEX was and is a CV storm.


Den they aint been listening for well over 10 days.

They shrug off influence like Bantha-fodder on Tattoine,,they are tencious D and well,,full-o-flava
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2853. SLU
Quoting CapeObserver:


What classifies a Cape Verde storm?


A storm which forms within roughly 600 miles of the Cape Verde Islands.
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Quoting RecordSeason:
"Too much dry air..."

"Water can't support a major"

"too much shear"

and my own "It's going east"

Looks like EVERYONE eats crow tonight.
He admits it went west! (Sry, dude, had to)
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Quoting 69Viking:
Answer: Cape Verde-type hurricanes typically develop from tropical waves which form in the African savanna during the wet season, then move into the African steppes. The disturbances move off the western coast of Africa and become tropical storms or tropical cyclones within 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) of the Cape Verde Islands, usually in August or September. However, Cape Verde hurricanes have formed as early as July or as late as October. An average of two form per hurricane season.[1]

I bet we get one as defined before August of this year!
Told ya'. Lol. J/k.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Likely the last DVORAK rating for Alex.

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
6.0 / 948.0mb/115.0kt


Also the most impressive. Category 4 rating.
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:
I am a lightning photographer... I have noticed the absence of lightning in Hurricanes from my experience of living here in Central Florida for over 40 years. However, Tropical storms is a different matter all together. 2004 Tropical Storm Bonnie came very close to central florida and I noted an extraordinary amount of lightning in that storm.

Just my personal observations
Mark
I think the disorganization of a TS has something to do with that. And rainbands can still have lightning in a tropical system, though, not always. Can be a good forensic tool if one is looking for downbursts.
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2848. centex
Land disrupting center.
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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.