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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248. IKE
Quoting JamesSA:
The motion of the eye on radar is steady, not wobble.

And, if you extrapolate the movement it goes ashore right near the mouth of the Rio Grande at a disturbing angle.

I liked yesterday's track into La Pesca much better! This is trouble if this trend continues.


Looks headed right near the Mexico/Texas border, for now. It's almost to the point it doesn't matter if it bends back west.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
landfall between 25.1-25.4N...60-80 miles south of the border...
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Quoting IKE:


The "zoom in" wouldn't work on here....here's a link of it....you can see Brownsville in the upper left of the radar and the COC heading NW for now...Link


Thanks Ike.
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Photobucket
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Oil being pushed into these bays and estuaries is killing me. These places are so quiet and sleepy. When you r there it's as if the rest of the world is nonexistent. It's so still and very quiet. The birds and fish etc are going to be rudely interupted. It's Extremely sad.
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Quoting IKE:
I zoomed in.....

The motion of the eye on radar is steady, not wobble.

And, if you extrapolate the movement it goes ashore right near the mouth of the Rio Grande at a disturbing angle.

I liked yesterday's track into La Pesca much better! This is trouble if this trend continues.
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Alex has covered quite a bit of ground the last three hours. If it doesn't slow and turn west soon, it'll make landfall on that part of Mexico that sticks out south of Brownsville at about 7PM
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Anyone here watching CycloneOZ?
I am not able to get into his chatroom.

Cold snap set to stay


Experts say it is unusual to see such widespread cold weather in June. - ABC

People across south-east Australia are complaining about unusually chilly temperatures and experts say there will be no relief from the cold until Sunday at the earliest.

From Brisbane this morning, Miss7t7 wrote on Twitter "Still in bed, so dam cold.. What's going on Brisbane !!!!". While in Melbourne, lexandraKR tweeted "Waiting for frostbite to set in... Sooo cold in Melbourne! Too scared to get out of bed incase I get hypothermia".

Others are embracing the weather and urging those who are complaining to toughen up.

"I am in love with this cold weather. Melbourne reminds me of Paris at the moment. How can that be a bad thing?" wrote hannahjtoy. "Is it seriuosly newsworthy that sydney temps are in the low single digits? seriuosly? it not cold! suck it up!" FilthiAssistant tweeted.

But ABC weather specialist Graham Creed says people's complaints are justified.

"It's definitely quite unusual to see such widespread cold weather in June, it would be more typical in July and August," he said.

"So people are complaining about the cold for a good reason."

Mr Creed says most areas across the south-east are experiencing temperatures well below average.

"Last weekend a cool change moved through and that introduced some significantly colder air across most of south-east Australia," he said.

"Quickly in behind that we had a high pressure ridge move through, producing clear skies during both the day and the night, but it's also helping to trap that cold air in.

"The clear skies mean we are losing what little daytime heating there is and overnight temperatures are dropping into the minuses through many of those states, producing widespread frosts.

"On top of that we've got quite a breeze in certain areas and the air is very dry so that's producing very low wind chill, so not only is the sun not providing much warmth, you've also got the assistance of the wind making it feel colder than it actually is."

He says Queensland is in for a particularly rough few days, as widespread rainfall will see the conditions change from cold and sunny to cold, cloudy and wet.

Yesterday, an icy blast through Adelaide brought enough rain to supply the city for a month, with a hail storm capping off the exceptionally wintry day.

Yesterday was also the coldest day in Melbourne in nearly two years, with the city not reaching its maximum temperature of 10.8 degrees Celsius until 7:55pm (AEST).

If the temperature in Melbourne fails to hit its forecast maximum today, it will be the first time in 14 years the city has recorded three consecutive days of temperatures below 12 degrees.

Last night Brisbane was coldest at 9:00pm (AEST), when the mercury dropped to below 8 degrees, but experts say it will be even cooler tonight.

Sydney recorded its coldest June morning today since 1949, with temperatures diving to 4.3 degrees just before 6:00am (AEST).

© ABC 2010
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Quoting IKE:
Wow....



I've always wondered what to do in the event of a hurricane in a low-lying area AND a tornado passing through. Looks like Brownsville could get just that. Average radar motion is NW.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
238. IKE
Quoting homelesswanderer:


Looks nw if not wnw to me. Hope everyone's prepared.


The "zoom in" wouldn't work on here....here's a link of it....you can see Brownsville in the upper left of the radar and the COC heading NW for now...Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Station 42055
NDBC
Location: 22.017N 94.046W
Conditions as of:
Wed, 30 Jun 2010 14:50:00 UTC
Winds: SSW (200°) at 33.0 kt gusting to 38.9 kt
Significant Wave Height: 13.5 ft
Dominant Wave Period: 8 sec
Mean Wave Direction: SW (227°)
Atmospheric Pressure: 29.60 in and rising rapidly
Air Temperature: 82.6 F
Dew Point: 75.7 F
Water Temperature: 83.8 F

http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=42055


Station 42002
NDBC
Location: 25.790N 93.666W
Conditions as of:
Wed, 30 Jun 2010 14:50:00 UTC
Winds: at 33.0 kt
Atmospheric Pressure: 29.60 in
Air Temperature: 84.6 F

http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=42002
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


I estimated Ike's latitude degree (north-south) diameter to be 1,700 miles (25 degrees) across last night. Of course this includes the spiral bands and not just the part that's over water.
I think so too. (all spiral outer bend)
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Need help with Avatar

My avatar file appeared to be corrupted so I removed the picture, and now cannot find where to upload a new one. Can anyone direct me to the location to do so?

TIA!
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BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BROWNSVILLE TX
1008 AM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BROWNSVILLE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN CAMERON COUNTY IN DEEP SOUTH TEXAS
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Come on guys, this thing wobbles all the time. Now that we have radar within reach it'll look like a drunken sailor as it approaches the coast line.
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Quoting IKE:
I zoomed in.....



Looks nw if not wnw to me. Hope everyone's prepared.
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217:

i see you are blind as a bat.
Member Since: June 13, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2336
Quoting drg0dOwnCountry:


I estimated Ike's latitude degree (north-south) diameter to be 1,700 miles (25 degrees) across last night. Of course this includes the spiral bands and not just the part that's over water.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
Quoting AussieStorm:
Evening all... I see we have Hurricane Alex, Could become a Cat 2 just before landfall.
Storm surge of how many ft can be expected from Alex?

The curvature of the Texas coast will make this worse as water piles up. My rough guess based on worrying about boats many times during storms is 3-5' Galveston 5-8' Corpus Christie 6-9' South Padre. If it really slows down add a foot or two.
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Quoting hurricane23:


A hurricane is not a point on a map its affects extend miles away from the center of circulation. Concentric eyewalls are noted pretty clearly on BRO radar.



Thank you, Adrian, for that tidbit of "fundamental" information. Instead of "downplaying" everything (watched it for years) why not recognize the simple facts - in this case the current forecast (in the present) is busted. And, Alex is moving further north and could potentially have a greater effect on the folks in Brownsville at least.


I have all the respect in the world for the NHC, but they are not always right themselves. It's weather - it's always changing.

Have fun, y'all. Too busy today to watch wobbles and read nonsense.
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Quoting IKE:
Center crossing 24N now. Brownsville is at 26.0N.....Alex looks on a NW path....right now.




Unfortunately?

Not convinced Brownsville doesn't get hurricane force wind gusts, at least.


Hmm.. you have a point there, Just saw the radar, clearly continues a NW motion. Wouldn't surprise me if the track is north of my track.
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Are the models showing any other development next week?
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The good news is, a lot of the homes on both sides of the border are concrete block. The bad news is, a lot of the little "towns' in that part of Texas have basically no building code enforcement at all. The same can be said for the Mexico side as well.

Sadly a moderate cat two or weak three would be like a cat five in a lot of other places. Having hunted in the area for years, you also see a lot of shacks that will not stand up to a real wind, just a few miles inland off the coast.
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I remember a Hurricane coming towards Houston years ago and alot of them came into Austin over 150 miles northwest, Austin had several tornados hit the area. So it is not just the area where it hits.
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223. IKE
....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
214:

I realize these maps distort latitude vs longitude, but on THAT track the storm will not land fall in Mexico.
Member Since: June 13, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2336
non stop rains now for damn good while onshore now in S TX into Mexico, gonna get green down there this summer
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220. amd
Quoting IKE:
Wow....



NE eyewall a little further away from the center is strengthening quite well. Would make sense with the latest dropsonde that I posted earlier showing surface winds of 92 mph (for comparison's sake, the SFMR estimate was only 78 mph).
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


ok how are you guys getting these zoomed out radars? It won't let me do it

and yes I am a paid member
There is a side panel on the Brownsville, Texas image. You click that and then you will see something along the lines of "long-range radar" and something saying "216 NM". You just click that and you're good to go.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting rmbjoe1954:
I see Alex is starting to turn west.


still looks NW to me
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I see Alex is starting to turn west.
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Wow! Over 15 inches of rain!

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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:
They are probably waiting to see how Alex responds to the ridge later today as a WSW motion is indicated by some fairly reliable models. Although, none have been very reliable with Alex.


The models that move the storm WSW also leave behind a stable ULL in the BOC, which would cause flooding in NOLA.

Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Forecast inundation surge






Link


If Alex can pull itself together and strengthen to a high-end cat. 2, I wouldn't be surprised to see 20+ ft surge.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
214. IKE
Wow....

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
I think your dead on

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186:


Low ball, low ball, low ball.

We have repeatedly seen the NHC contradict their own data with Alex. This is just another example.
Member Since: June 13, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2336
WFUS54 KBRO 301508
TORBRO
TXC061-301545-
/O.NEW.KBRO.TO.W.0007.100630T1508Z-100630T1545Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BROWNSVILLE TX
1008 AM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BROWNSVILLE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN CAMERON COUNTY IN DEEP SOUTH TEXAS.

* UNTIL 1045 AM CDT

* AT 1008 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
TORNADO OVER PORT ISABEL...MOVING SOUTHWEST AT 50 MPH.

* THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR...
LAGUNA VISTA.
BROWNSVILLE AIRPORT.
BROWNSVILLE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

PLEASE REPORT TORNADOES OR FUNNEL CLOUDS...WINDS OF 58 MPH OR
HIGHER...HAIL THE SIZE OF PENNIES OR LARGER...AND ANY WIND DAMAGE TO
YOUR NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BROWNSVILLE BY CALLING 956-504-1432.

&&

LAT...LON 2602 9726 2601 9726 2602 9724 2601 9723
2592 9736 2592 9737 2590 9738 2585 9745
2588 9747 2588 9751 2605 9764 2612 9730
2611 9729 2609 9722 2606 9722 2606 9721
2605 9720
TIME...MOT...LOC 1508Z 061DEG 45KT 2606 9731

$$

HART






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209. IKE
Center crossing 24N now. Brownsville is at 26.0N.....Alex looks on a NW path....right now.


Quoting reedzone:


This is what I've been stressing the most on this storm, the northward trend. Unfortunately for him, he will only get TS force winds lol.


Unfortunately?

Not convinced Brownsville doesn't get hurricane force wind gusts, at least.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
what kind of tropical disturbance is one of the computer models showing in the western carribean by monday?
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


That would cause a lot of flooding in Mexico, Texas and the inland CONUS.


Would you like it better if I had hoped it plowed into Texas and carved us a new one? This is going to go where it will.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:


ok how are you guys getting these zoomed out radars? It won't let me do it

and yes I am a paid member
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Quoting SALAMETGRAD:

That's exactly like looking at the XTRAP and saying that will be the final track without taking other forces into consideration.


Take a look at my track, no straight line there ;)
The high will eventually take control, but not budging this west until this afternoon.
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204. jpsb
Quoting hurrkat05:
jpsb the high that was steering alex is not building it has weakened substantially in the last 12 hours..the deepening 750mb trough in the sw will dive south and that will be whats going to take alex out once and for all..the steering where alex is right now is nill..nothing to push him anywhere combined with his size he is not going to feel the friction of mexico..the mountains on a slow moving hurricane the size of alex will come into play here as well..so it will be another 36 hours befoore alex will move on the path that will eventually steer him ne...until then expect a erratic motion for the next 24 hours..
thanks for your take, I will be watching with interest. This apparent move nnw is of more then a little concern to me, I am 400 miles north of Alex and already feeling some of his outer bands. Couple more hundred miles north for Alex and I might get a real blow here. Tides are up 3 to 4 feet too.
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Tornado warning for Cameron County. Radar indicated a possible tornado over Port Isabel.
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Quoting hurricane23:


A hurricane is not a point on a map its affects extend miles away from the center of circulation. Concentric eyewalls are noted pretty clearly on BRO radar.

Im so confused! I thought the winds were only located in the stormy bands
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South Padre Island, Texas.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


That's almost a cat. 3! Is that flight-level or surface winds?



Looks like some mesocyclones coming into Brownsville...tornado threat.



So the storm hasn't really strengthened in terms of pressure. But is that why NHC didn't update the winds either?


SAB gave out a 5.5, which is CAT3. And these are satellite estimates, not recon data so A: It has to be surface level and B: recon is more accurate because it actually goes inside it rather than looking at it and estimating the intensity based on its appearance.
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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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