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 earthlydragonfly:

I am a florida employer of over 1000 employees. Go to your boss and talk... Dont demand, cooler minds will prevail.. If you are in a flood plain, tell your boss and explain your situation. He may live in high and dry area and that prospect has not crossed his mind. I happen to be very sensitive to the tropics since I love weather. But he or she may not and have no idea what you case may be.

Also, folks lets all keep this storm in perspective at least for now it is not even a cat 2 so lets keep things grounded a bit. This should not be a major wind event or even a major surge event unless your right on the coast. Flooding could be the big factor so you should know what and where the flood plains in your area are.

Calm heads have a much better chance of making a good well thought out descision then shooting from the hip and giving your boss notice because you didnt talk it out.

My 2 cents


Excellent advice.

And, should Alex be a big non-event at landfall, that would be an EXCELLENT time to devise a storm strategy.

No better time than the present...
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:

I am a florida employer of over 1000 employees. Go to your boss and talk... Dont demand, cooler minds will prevail.. If you are in a flood plain, tell your boss and explain your situation. He may live in high and dry area and that prospect has not crossed his mind. I happen to be very sensitive to the tropics since I love weather. But he or she may not and have no idea what you case may be.

Also, folks lets all keep this storm in perspective at least for now it is not even a cat 2 so lets keep things grounded a bit. This should not be a major wind event or even a major surge event unless your right on the coast. Flooding could be the big factor so you should know what and where the flood plains in your area are.

Calm heads have a much better chance of making a good well thought out descision then shooting from the hip and giving your boss notice because you didnt talk it out.

My 2 cents


well, driving home yesterday, thousaqnds of miles away in northwest florida, an outer band passed thru and the rain was so hard people had to pull over and wait, there were accidents, our power was out three hours. So yes, lets not get excited, but still... i would not plan on driving around in that mess!
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644. jpsb
Quoting kmanislander:


Alex is presently about 60 miles ENE of the next forecast point. On a divergence trajectory that is significant if it continues and would call for landfall fairly close to the border in the absence of any change.
thanks, raining like heck here on galveston bay, blowing pretty good too, tides up 3 to 4.
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
It doesnt look like south padre was mandatory evacuated either.

South Padre Island under voluntary evacuation


I don't know that I've ever heard of a mandatory evac for a category 1. In the Keys maybe? Or New Orleans?
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Quoting twhcracker:


good lord, he is pinnacle of all what not to do in a storm. just drive down and watch the storm surge come in and get your car stuck. i did that in high school.


Link?
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I wonder if anyone has these stats. I know Alex isn't a 'major' yet; however, given the potential being there for that, how many first named storms of a season ended up being major hurricanes in the past (especially this early?) How did the remainder of those seasons fare?
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Quoting winter123:
I don't think this NW movement is just a wobble, its like 30 miles north of the forecast track and continuing to move NW or even NNW.
Link


I thought wobbles were usually counterclockwise, or back-and-forth. This doesn't look very characteristic of a wobble, but it could easily turn back west only to lurch north into Texas, or vice versa.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
Oz has guts.

More guts than brains sometimes!
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The eye will be in range of velocity scans "soon."
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Link

Beautiful (but 35 mb) loop from U Washington.
Clearly visible: small eye; small slug of dry air wrapping around to the SW of the eye; quasi stationary thunderstorms over NOLA; low level moisture advecting into Srn New Mx; strong Feeder band about to run into Port Isabel.
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When a hurricanes eyewall becomes full.... a complete circle and well defined.....It has been said that it looks like a Stadium with the ball field being the eye......
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Quoting IMA:

My biggest concern for this person is the flooding issue (though "a less than major hurricane" still packs a punch, especially with a lot of the types of structures found in Matamoros). You have no idea how easily it floods in Matamoros!

I am a florida employer of over 1000 employees. Go to your boss and talk... Dont demand, cooler minds will prevail.. If you are in a flood plain, tell your boss and explain your situation. He may live in high and dry area and that prospect has not crossed his mind. I happen to be very sensitive to the tropics since I love weather. But he or she may not and have no idea what you case may be.

Also, folks lets all keep this storm in perspective at least for now it is not even a cat 2 so lets keep things grounded a bit. This should not be a major wind event or even a major surge event unless your right on the coast. Flooding could be the big factor so you should know what and where the flood plains in your area are.

Calm heads have a much better chance of making a good well thought out descision then shooting from the hip and giving your boss notice because you didnt talk it out.

My 2 cents
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
Quoting jpsb:
Thanks and that open the door for gaining more latitude? How much latitude in your estimation.


Alex is presently about 60 miles ENE of the next forecast point. On a divergence trajectory that is significant if it continues and would call for landfall fairly close to the border in the absence of any change.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15948
Anyone know where I can dl a KML or KMZ file for Google Earth on Storm Tracking (one that INCLUDES the "Cone of Uncertainty?") Last year they had one, but this year it only has a "line" for the projected path. Really need one for work purposes.

Thanks.
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Hurricane threatens Gulf of Mexico oil clean-up


The approach of the first Atlantic hurricane of 2010 has halted some of the clean-up efforts from the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill and threatened to delay plans to capture more of the crude gushing from the leak.

The Miami-based US National Hurricane Centre says tropical storm Alex has strengthened into a hurricane and is packing winds of about 120 kilometres per hour.

The hurricane is on track to make landfall near the Texas-Mexico border late on Wednesday or early Thursday (US time).

Alex is expected to steer clear of major oil-extraction facilities in the Gulf, but efforts to clean-up oil off the Gulf coast have been sidelined by rough weather whipped up hundreds of kilometres from the storm's centre.

Authorities say controlled burns of oil on the ocean's surface, flights spraying dispersant chemicals and booming operations have all been stopped.

However, BP oil-capture and relief well drilling is continuing for now.

BP says about 8,475 barrels of oil were collected in the first 12 hours on Tuesday, but waves as high as four metres are delaying plans by several days to hook up a third system to capture even more oil.

US government officials estimate 35,000 to 60,000 barrels are gushing from the well each day.

The current containment system can handle up to 28,000 barrels daily and the planned addition would have raised that to 53,000 barrels per day.

BP's market capitalisation has shrunk by about $US100 billion ($118 billion) since its Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank in 1,525 metres of water on April 22, two days after an explosion and fire killed 11 workers.

The company's shares have lost more than half their value, but have seen sporadic bargain hunting on the way down.

The stock's slide since late April has also sparked talk of a possible takeover bid.

The already massive economic and ecological costs to tourism, wildlife, fishing and other industries have been continuing to mount for four states along the US Gulf coast.

As crude oil and dispersants float on the surface of the Gulf, crews are battling to keep it off beaches and away from wildlife breeding grounds.

Gulf tourism officials say a false perception that the spill has ruined all the beaches could affect the lucrative tourism industry over the next few years.

Many Gulf businesses are on the verge of buckling.

Oil began washing ashore on a fourth US state, Mississippi, this week, ruining local beaches and popular fishing spots.

Vice president Joe Biden, visiting the Gulf region for the first time since the 71-day crisis began, has emphasised the federal government's long-term commitment.

"We're not going to end this until everyone is made whole," Mr Biden said in Pensacola, Florida.

"This region has been hit too hard by acts of God and now by an act of man."

© Reuters 2010
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Quoting Drakoen:
The RUC 15z 500mb analysis reveals that Alex is west of the trough axis and the primary steering for the system is now the ridge centered over the Central Plains region. Alex will begin to turn more the WNW as a result of the ridge's influence.

Yeap, hopefully makes that turn sooner than later, otherwise Brownsville will be under the gun for a direct hit.
Member Since: July 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 730
Quoting angiest:


I am seeing that too in radar. Don't know if it is a trend or wobble.


Need a couple more hours before it can actually be considered the movement of the storm.
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Brownsville is the Impact area from the Onshore flow..

Take cover and stay indoors .

The Storm is now beginning in earnest and the effects are being felt as far away as New Orleans.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
Quoting GBguy88:


Deflating your tires to 10 pounds isn't smart in most situations. That puts you at significant risk of a blowout.


But so is being stuck, 12 years in recon in the army and trained in vehicle recovery. You have to take it easy on the speed and get to an air station when you can.
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Quoting txalwaysprepared:
Did Oz just flood out? He was driving thru flood water and the camera is out now.


good lord, he is pinnacle of all what not to do in a storm. just drive down and watch the storm surge come in and get your car stuck. i did that in high school.
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I hope it's okay that I post this. I checked the community standards policy - it's not non-commercial, but it's applicable under the circumstances, and could be of interest to all of you.

This is a link to the Cameron County public safety radio. You can listen to the various calls in Cameron County (which includes Brownsville).

Link
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Quoting weatherboyfsu:
The very lastest visible shows what appears to be a stadium effect taking shape....... Watch all the eyes widen if that happens. Everyone(Brownsville area) will have to change their under drawers...... LOL


Stadium effect?
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795
WFUS54 KCRP 301635
TORCRP
TXC007-355-391-409-301715-
/O.NEW.KCRP.TO.W.0013.100630T1635Z-100630T1715Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CORPUS CHRISTI TX
1135 AM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN CORPUS CHRISTI HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHWESTERN ARANSAS COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS...
CENTRAL NUECES COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS...
EXTREME SOUTH CENTRAL REFUGIO COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS...
EASTERN SAN PATRICIO COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS...

* UNTIL 1215 PM CDT

* AT 1131 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO 6 MILES NORTH OF
GREGORY...OR 8 MILES EAST OF TAFT...MOVING SOUTHWEST AT 40 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
GREGORY...
TAFT...
PORTLAND...
CORPUS CHRISTI NORTH BEACH...
DOWNTOWN CORPUS CHRISTI...
CORPUS CHRISTI DEL MAR WEST CAMPUS...
ANNAVILLE...
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
Quoting Drakoen:


While the long term motion is NW the system as of recent has been moving more towards the WNW towards the northern Mexico coast.


I am seeing that too in radar. Don't know if it is a trend or wobble.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
The very lastest visible shows what appears to be a stadium effect taking shape....... Watch all the eyes widen if that happens. Everyone(Brownsville area) will have to change their under drawers...... LOL
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
615. jpsb
Quoting kmanislander:
Latest steering shows the ridge has relaxed some more and now oriented SE to NW across the Texas area. WNW may no longer be possible given the strength of the system.

Gohere and toggle between current steering and 3 hours ago. You can see the high lift to the N above Texas.
Thanks and that open the door for gaining more latitude? How much latitude in your estimation.
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Quoting reedzone:


We're not, tell Alex to stop moving NW lol!


While the long term motion is NW the system as of recent has been moving more towards the WNW towards the northern Mexico coast.
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Quoting snotly:



My thinking is that compared to the burst of convection around the eyewall this was the only area still left behind.


Yeah, I spoke too soon. It actually seems that the eye is expanding, and the eyewall on the eastern side is in the process of wrapping around a much larger eye. That gap should be filled in...
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Quoting CoopNTexas:
Stop overduing the weakness in the ridge.


We're not, tell Alex to stop moving NW lol!
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7437
Tell him that if he drive further to mx the communication breaks up and the storm head more north anyway!
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Don't know if they have live news feeds, but the two big stations in the Valley are KRGV & KGBT (i.e. dot com). KRGV used to have lots of weather bug cams. Being from HRL originally, I still have family there and watched several of them during Dolly (until they went kaput). Another good link is this for current METAR obs: http://weather.noaa.gov/weather/metar.shtml
KPIL is on the west edge of the Laguna Madre (Cameron County Airport), and KBRO, KHRL & KMFE are self-explanatory. You can watch the SPECIs come out as the WX deteriorates (or until the ASOS' crater, whichever comes first!)
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Quoting RuBRNded:


He needs to deflate the tires to 10lbs, then he'll get traction.


Deflating your tires to 10 pounds isn't smart in most situations. That puts you at significant risk of a blowout.
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I don't think this NW movement is just a wobble, its like 30 miles north of the forecast track and continuing to move NW or even NNW.
Link
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Stop overduing the weakness in the ridge.
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Quoting GBguy88:


Maybe I need my eyes checked, but close-up on the eye seems to be showing some degradation of the southwest eyewall.



My thinking is that compared to the burst of convection around the eyewall this was the only area still left behind.
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Morning. Had to go out and just checking in. Looks like Alex is misbehavin'. Thanks for the info. Stay safe!
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YEah..prime example of what not to do.

Thanks for the education.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
Quoting atmoaggie:
Ohh, been there...beaches don't let go once you're digging a rut.


He needs to deflate the tires to 10lbs, then he'll get traction.
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Quoting GBguy88:


This person with the issue of being at work until 5...maybe they aren't able to leave at will due to the potential loss of a job. Yes, it's a bad situation to be in, but consider the employer when someone says "You're making a bad call, I'm leaving." That warrants a termination from a lot of bosses. Not really worth it for a less than major hurricane if you don't have another job on hand.


True dat...

Roll dem bones and understand the result...
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833

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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.

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