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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Didnt see anything on recon to upgrade it to a Cat 3.

Maybe to 110mph. But thats all.
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Alex has been a vary bad little boy i said it will not hit MX


it will nevere make land fall in MX



and what dos it do it gos too MX
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Quoting leo305:




yes, Alex as of the last update (a little over an hour ago) had a pressure of 950MB


Too bad it won't set a June record, because it's July.

Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
First of all no vortex message. Second of all we are still 70 minutes from landfall.


70 minutes? Looking more like 150 minutes, per my latest estimate.

Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
The NHC had Alex pegged pretty good since day one on June 25.



Looks like it basically followed the southern end of the white cone.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
2645. JLPR2
I'm really impressed O_O
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Quoting FLdewey:



Maybe he can borrow Oz's helmet.

Certainly a rough night in Mexico.


LOL

Maybe the catchers gear too as an added bonus.
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#weather vortex dropsonde pressure..948 mb/ 27.99". Alex is now in the same class as hurricanes Betsy, Ivan, Audrey, Frederic at landfall 3 minutes ago
Member Since: January 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 529
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
We'll know soon enough...
LOL!

there going wait til 9
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2640. Patrap
Quoting Papagolash:


Couple of things you have to consider. Ike had many days crossing the Gulf to push up a storm surge in front and to the North of it. Also if you check out the topography of the Gulf those areas that dealt with high storm surge have the continental plate sticking out in front of them, whereas where Alex is making landfall there's not much. When the waters get pushed up there, there's no place for it to go, so the surge grows. Ike got to push that water up for many days. Ike also was a Cat 2 storm while traversing the Atlantic, so that's a lot of strong winds over a very large area pushing water for quite some time. Alex on the other hand Just became a hurricane yesterday, and just hit Cat 2 a few hours ago. Not much time to churn up a storm surge besides the immediate NW eye quadrant. Hope that helps. Anyone want to correct me or add to it please do.


Spot on and very concise to my ear's.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129088
2639. FLdewey
Quoting WPBHurricane05:
Jim Cantore on South Padre Island wishing he had his goggles right now. Can only imagine whats going on in Mexico.


Maybe he can borrow Oz's helmet.

Certainly a rough night in Mexico.
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Quoting AlexEmmett:

but will they upgrade it
We'll know soon enough...
Quoting bappit:

Yep. LOL
LOL!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Does DirecTV have a station dedicated to Alex coverage from Texas? I know they did a few seasons ago. If not that, is there a Texas TV station streaming live?
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2636. bappit
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Wow! That's a category 3.

Yep. LOL
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Wow! That's a category 3.

but will they upgrade it
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2634. Patrap
You're the Storm

The Impact of the eyewall begins ..

Best of Faith and Luck to those dancing in the Beast tonight
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129088
Quoting clwstmchasr:


He continues to strengthen minute by minute. I agree, this will be a cat 3 with 115mph winds in the next advisory.
That would be rapid intensification, big time.

5PM: 90MPH CAT 1.
7PM: 100MPH CAT 2.
9PM: 115MPH CAT 3.

Let's see what happens...
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2632. bassis
Looks to be about 15-20 miles from eye to barrier island
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Quoting SiestaCpl:


News conference today from Adm Thad Allen (s?) stated that BP will take responsibility for all damages from wind/water/storm blown oil....but will they cover the related water damage or state that the oil "separated from the water" and thus they will not cover the water damaged but will only clean the oil from the home. Stay tuned....


This is going to be worse than the storm surge vs wind driven water vs flooding argument.
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:
So, given that Hurricane Ike was about the same size of Alex, had a higher central pressure at landfall, had about the same windspeed, and end up with a 22-ft maximum storm surge, the question is why is Alex expected to deliver what appears to only be a 5-ft maximum surge prediction in south Texas?


Couple of things you have to consider. Ike had many days crossing the Gulf to push up a storm surge in front and to the North of it. Also if you check out the topography of the Gulf those areas that dealt with high storm surge have the continental plate sticking out in front of them, whereas where Alex is making landfall there's not much. When the waters get pushed up there, there's no place for it to go, so the surge grows. Ike got to push that water up for many days. Ike also was a Cat 2 storm while traversing the Atlantic, so that's a lot of strong winds over a very large area pushing water for quite some time. Alex on the other hand Just became a hurricane yesterday, and just hit Cat 2 a few hours ago. Not much time to churn up a storm surge besides the immediate NW eye quadrant. Hope that helps. Anyone want to correct me or add to it please do.
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Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
they even give a 6.0

30/2345 UTC 24.4N 97.4W T6.0/6.0 AT012010
Wow! That's a category 3.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2628. bappit
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Yea she is - that appears in other places too - I wonder if it is by similar mechanism.


North polar hexagonal cloud feature on Saturn, discovered by Voyager 1 and confirmed in 2006 by Cassini [

Ike had this going on as it approached the Texas coast, too, maybe even more pronounced for a while. Don't have a pic.
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2627. Patrap

727
WGUS54 KBRO 010014
FFWBRO
TXC061-489-010415-
/O.NEW.KBRO.FF.W.0023.100701T0014Z-100701T0415Z/
/00000.0.ER.000000T0000Z.000000T0000Z.000000T0000Z.OO/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
FLASH FLOOD WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BROWNSVILLE TX
714 PM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BROWNSVILLE HAS ISSUED A

* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
WILLACY COUNTY IN DEEP SOUTH TEXAS.
NORTHERN CAMERON COUNTY IN DEEP SOUTH TEXAS.

LOCATIONS AFFECTED INCLUDE...
HARLINGEN VALLEY AIRPORT.
SAN BENITO.
HARLINGEN.
LASARA.
RAYMONDVILLE.

* UNTIL 1115 PM CDT

* AT 706 PM CDT...SEVERAL AREAS AND ROADWAYS ACROSS WILLACY AND
NORTHERN CAMERON COUNTY WERE UNDER WATER. RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 4 TO 6
INCHES WITH ISOLATED HIGHER AMOUNTS HAVE OCCURRED TODAY ACROSS THE
WARNING AREA. AN ADDITIONAL 2 TO 4 INCHES WITH ISOLATED HIGHER
AMOUNTS CAN BE EXPECTED THIS EVENING AS RAIN BANDS ASSOCIATED WITH
HURRICANE ALEX CONTINUE TO AFFECT THE AREA.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

DO NOT DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE ROAD.
THE WATER DEPTH MAY BE TOO GREAT TO ALLOW YOUR CAR TO CROSS SAFELY.
MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND.

DON'T BECOME A STATISTIC. TURN AROUND...DON'T DROWN!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129088
2625. centex
I predict Alex will make landfall about 125 miles south of Brownsville Texas. LOL
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2624. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
they even give a 6.0

30/2345 UTC 24.4N 97.4W T6.0/6.0 AT012010
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i hope someone from master's gang does a write up on the pressure
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I'm still sticking to me 9PM EDT landfall prediction from earlier.

000
WTNT51 KNHC 302350
TCEAT1
HURRICANE ALEX TROPICAL CYCLONE POSITION ESTIMATE
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012010
700 PM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

AT 7 PM CDT THE CENTER OF HURRICANE ALEX WAS ESTIMATED NEAR LATITUDE
24.4 NORTH...LONGITUDE 97.3 WEST OR ABOUT 50 MILES...85 KM...
NORTHEAST OF LA PESCA MEXICO AND ABOUT 105 MILES...170 KM...SOUTH
OF BROWNSVILLE TEXAS. THIS POSITION IS ALSO ABOUT 25 MILES...40
KM...EAST OF THE COAST OF NORTHEASTERN MEXICO.

$$
FORECASTER PASCH/BERG
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2621. bappit
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Yea she is - that appears in other places too - IO wonder if it is by similar mechanism.


North polar hexagonal cloud feature on Saturn, discovered by Voyager 1 and confirmed in 2006 by Cassini [

Someone posted a link to a paper on WU a few years ago (was it Patrap?) where someone showed how in a computer model eye wall vortices can affect the shape of the eye wall. They also figured that these vortices could enter the eye itself to create those whirly-type patterns of low clouds people see from time to time.
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2620. lakeEFX
Quoting LightningCharmer:


Was half joking anyhow. I understand, and correct me if I'm wrong, there are established agreements regarding scientific missions especially for weather with regards to airspace. Besides commercial pilots would be violating airspace everytime a flight went from Miami to Mexico City. You are most likely correct; it's most likely a safety issue not a political one.


This is true for commercial air flights (I went to college for my degree in travel), but I don't know if it's true for military flights.
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Quoting whipster:
Cantori was funny getting slammed by the squall...what a buffoon.
Haha..Mount Cantore..HAHA...new landmark has been made..
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Quoting truecajun:


IDK answer to that one, but how crazy is this? my mom told me that her insurance company just recently sent out a letter that if there is oil in the water/hurricane damage on your home, then it won't be covered by flood insurance or wind and hail. so basically, any hurricane or hurricane related flood damage will not be covered in Louisiana. I forgot which company she said they are with, but it's a big "fancy" one. I told her she must have misunderstood, but she swears that's what it said.


News conference today from Adm Thad Allen (s?) stated that BP will take responsibility for all damages from wind/water/storm blown oil....but will they cover the related water damage or state that the oil "separated from the water" and thus they will not cover the water damaged but will only clean the oil from the home. Stay tuned....
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Quoting leo305:
Audrey a CAT 4 with 946mb in june, Alex 948mb a weak CAT 2 in june


I'd be willing to bet if Alex isn't upgraded to a Cat 3 at landfall tonight it will be in the post storm report, just look at the blowup on the latest visible as it gets ready to crush the barrier island it's starting to hit!
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2616. Patrap


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129088
Jim Cantore on South Padre Island wishing he had his goggles right now. Can only imagine whats going on in Mexico.
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BRO issues Flash Flood Warning for Cameron, Willacy [TX] till 11:15 PM CDT
Member Since: January 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 529
2613. Patrap
Quoting PensacolaNative:
Patrap, looks like Madre Bay is going to get alot of storm surge looking at your sat pics


I have to concur.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129088
Cantori was funny getting slammed by the squall...what a buffoon.
Member Since: August 14, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 439
2611. bappit
Quoting stormpetrol:
Looking at the latest visible loop , Alex has the satelite presentation of a 115-125 mph CAT 3 hurricane in my opinion, I strongly suspect even though its close to making landfall , the NHC will upgrade Alex to the status it so rightly deserves!

Nope. What's the IKE?
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2610. leo305
Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
115 KTS 948 mb

would be a category four if the system was small.


132MPH is CAT 4..

what is that at the surface?
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No gaps has something in the atlantic almost immediately and in the upper islands at the end. What is that?
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Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting Patrap:


Natures a Pattern Gurl fo sho..

But ya knew dat JF.

Dats why We see alot alike.


Yea she is - that appears in other places too - I wonder if it is by similar mechanism.


North polar hexagonal cloud feature on Saturn, discovered by Voyager 1 and confirmed in 2006 by Cassini [
Member Since: May 22, 2006 Posts: 188 Comments: 24743
2606. IKE
Cantore getting hammered at South Padre Island.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2605. hydrus
.
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2604. Asta
2568
like I said.
Link
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2603. angiest
Quoting stormpetrol:
Looking at the latest visible loop , Alex has the satelite presentation of a 115-125 mph CAT 3 hurricane in my opinion, I strongly suspect even though its close to making landfall , the NHC will upgrade Alex to the status it so rightly deserves!


They didnt with Ike with similar pressure and higher official wind.
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2602. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
115 KTS 948 mb

would be a category four if the system was small.
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2601. Ossqss
Full-screen
Station 42020
NDBC
Location: 26.966N 96.695W
Conditions as of:
Wed, 30 Jun 2010 23:50:00 UTC
Winds: ENE (60°) at 27.2 kt gusting to 31.1 kt
Significant Wave Height: 21.0 ft
Dominant Wave Period: 13 sec
Mean Wave Direction: ESE (115°)
Atmospheric Pressure: 29.60 in and falling
Air Temperature: 84.0 F
Water Temperature: 84.2 F

http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=42020

The other Bouy in close proximity used earlier is now offline :(
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2600. xcool
Hurricane Audrey 946 Lowest pressure
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Any bets on 9 pm?

I'd say 105-110 mph with a pressure of 948 mb.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24449
Patrap, looks like Madre Bay is going to get alot of storm surge looking at your sat pics
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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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