Category 3 Hurricane Earl pounding northern Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:40 PM GMT on August 30, 2010

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An intensifying Hurricane Earl is pounding Puerto Rico and northern Lesser Antilles Islands with heavy rain and high winds this morning. The eye of Earl passed just north of Anguilla at 9am EDT, and Juliana airport on neighboring St. Martin Island recorded sustained winds of 47 mph, gusting to 68 mph at 8am EDT before going silent. An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft currently in Earl just found a central pressure of 960 mb at 9:42 am EDT. This is a significant drop of 25 mb in 25 hours. Top flight level winds at 10,000 feet seen by the Air Force aircraft were 128 mph. Using the usual rule of thumb that the surface winds are 90% of the 10,000 foot flight level winds gives one surface winds of 115 mph, which is right at the border of Cat 2/ Cat 3 strength. Top winds seen at the surface by the Air Force's SFMR instrument were lower, 104 mph. Recent satellite imagery shows that Earl is not perfectly symmetrical--there is still fewer heavy thunderstorms on the hurricane's north side, suggesting that upper-level northerly winds are bringing 5 - 10 knots of wind shear to the storm.


Figure 1. Radar image of Earl taken at 7am EDT 8/30/10 from the St. Maarten radar. Image credit: Meteorological Service of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.

Outlook for the Caribbean islands today
Latest radar animations out of Puerto Rico and St. Marten show that the eye of Earl is on track to pass just to the northeast of the islands of Anguilla, St. Maarten, and The Settlement in the British Virgin Islands today. The periphery of Earl's southern eyewall will probably bring Category 1 hurricane conditions to some of these islands today. NHC is giving its highest odds for hurricane-force winds to Saint Maarten--a 99% chance. These odds are 4% for St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and 2% for San Juan, Puerto Rico. The main threat to Puerto Rico will be heavy rains--up to eight inches in isolated areas. Earl's rains, in addition to causing flooding and dangerous landslides, will also help alleviate drought conditions that have affected many of the islands this year.

Intensity forecast for Earl
Wind shear as diagnosed by the latest SHIPS model forecast is nearly non-existent over Earl--just 3 knots--put is probably higher than that, based on the fact that the northern portion of Earl cloud pattern is ragged. Further evidence of this is the fact that Earl's eyewall had a gap in its west side, according to the latest report from the Hurricane Hunters. Ocean temperatures are a near-record 30°C, and very warm waters extend to great depth, resulting in a total ocean heat content highly favorable for rapid intensification. These nearly ideal conditions for intensification should bring Earl to Category 4 strength by Tuesday morning, and Category 5 is not out of the question. Earl should be able to maintain major hurricane status through Thursday, when it will make its closest approach to North Carolina. Sea surface temperatures are very warm, 29°C, along the U.S. East Coast, and wind shear is expected to remain low through Thursday. By Friday, when Earl will be making its closest approach to New England, wind shear will rise to a high 20 - 30 knots and ocean temperatures will plunge to 20°C, resulting in considerable weakening. Earl will still probably be a Category 2 hurricane on Friday, when it could potentially make landfall in Massachusetts or Nova Scotia, Canada.


Figure 2. Swath of surface winds from Earl predicted by the 2am EDT Monday August 30, 2010 run of NOAA's GFDL model. Hurricane force winds (yellow colors, 64 kt and above) are predicted to stay off the coast and tropical storm force winds (light green colors, 34 knots and above) are predicted to stay off the U.S. coast, but affect the coast of Canada. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA/GFDL.

Track forecast for Earl
Once Earl passes the Lesser Antilles, steering currents favor a northwesterly course towards North Carolina. History suggests that a storm in Earl's current location has a 25% chance of making landfall on the U.S. East Coast, and Earl's chances of making a U.S. landfall are probably close to that. None of the computer models show Earl hitting the U.S., but the storm will likely come uncomfortably close to North Carolina's Outer Banks and to Massachusetts. The latest set of model runs (2am EDT, or 6Z) project Earl will miss North Carolina by 200 - 300 miles on Thursday, and Massachusetts by a similar distance on Friday. Keep in mind that the average error in a 4 - 5 day NHC forecast is 200 - 300 miles, so the East Coast cannot breathe easily yet. The Outer Banks of North Carolina and Cape Cod, Massachusetts are both at the edge of the cone of uncertainty. NHC is giving Cape Hatteras a 9% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. These odds are 14% for Nantucket, 4% for Boston, and 2% for New York City. The main determinant of whether Earl hits the U.S. or not is a strong trough of low pressure predicted to move off the U.S. East Coast Friday. This trough, if it develops as predicted, should be strong enough to recurve Earl out to sea late in the week, with the storm just missing landfall in the U.S., but possibly making landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Regardless of Earl's exact track, the U.S. East Coast can expect a long period of high waves beginning on Thursday. Significant beach erosion and dangerous rip current will be the rule, due to waves that will reach 10 - 15 feet in offshore waters (Figure 3.)


Figure 3. Wave forecast for 8am Friday, September 3, 2010, as produced by the 8pm EDT August 29 run of NOAA's Wavewatch III model. The model is predicting waves of 4 - 5 meters (13 - 16 feet) in the offshore waters from North Carolina to New Jersey.

Hurricane History for the northern Lesser Antilles
The last Cape Verdes-type hurricane to affect the Barbuda and the surrounding northern Lesser Antilles Islands was Hurricane Debby of 2000, which passed over the islands on August 28 as a Category 1 hurricane. Damage was less than $1 million, and no fatalities were reported. The last hurricane of any kind to pass through the northern Lesser Antilles Islands was Category 4 Hurricane Omar, on October 16, 2008. Omar took an unusual track, moving towards the northeast, and the storm's eyewall missed all of the islands. Omar did $80 million in damage to the Caribbean, mainly on the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Dominica, the SSS Islands (Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten), and the U.S. Virgin Islands. No direct deaths were attributed to Omar, and the name Omar was not retired from the 6-year rotating list of hurricane names.

Links to track Earl
Wundermap of the northern Lesser Antilles Islands
Long range radar out of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Visible rapid scan satellite loop

97L
The tropical wave (Invest 97L) now 1000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands has a well-defined surface circulation and enough heavy thunderstorms to be classified as a tropical depression, if it can maintain that state for another six or so hours. Satellite loops show the surface circulation clearly, but also that heavy thunderstorm activity has been slow to build. The storm is experiencing low wind shear of less than 5 knots, and is over warm 29°C waters. The main impediment to development continues to be dry air associated with the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) surrounding the storm. The latest SHIPS model forecast calls for shear to stay in the low range, 5 - 10 knots, through Tuesday, and this should allow 97L to organize into a tropical depression today or Tuesday. NHC is giving 97L a 90% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday.

97L is moving quickly to the west, at about 20 mph. This means it is catching up to Earl, which has slowed down to 14 mph. By Tuesday night, Earl is expected to be a large and powerful major hurricane with a well-developed upper-level outflow channel heading clockwise out from Earl's center at high altitudes. These strong upper-level winds will bring high levels of wind shear, 20 - 30 knots, to 97L, and probably arrest the storm's development. The most likely scenario depicted in the computer models is for 97L to be drawn into the low pressure wake of Earl and pass to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles. Earl would then eventually destroy 97L through high wind shear, and by robbing the storm of its moisture. An alternative scenario is that 97L will stay far enough away from Earl that it will be able to pass through the northern Lesser Antilles islands as a tropical storm on Wednesday and Thursday, then bend northwestwards to potentially threaten the Bahamas and U.S. East Coast. There is a very high degree of uncertainty on what may happen to 97L. History suggests that a storm in 97L's current location has a 25% chance of making landfall on the U.S. East Coast.


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of 97L.

Danielle
Hurricane Danielle is on its way to oblivion over the cold North Atlantic waters, and is only of concern to shipping interests.

Elsewhere in the Tropics
Over in the Western Pacific, tropical cyclone activity is ramping up, with two named storms expected to affect land this week. As is typical in a La Niña year, these storms have developed close to mainland Asia, and don't have a lot of time over water to intensify into strong typhoons. The storm of most concern is Typhoon Kompasu, which is expected to hit Okinawa today and recurve northward into Korea on Thursday. It now appears the Kompasu will not have major impacts on China's largest city, Shanghai. In the South China Sea, the fearsome sounding Tropical Storm Lionrock is forecast to hit the Chinese coast near Hong Kong on Tuesday, but is not predicted to develop into a typhoon.

The GFS model is predicting formation of a tropical depression off the coast of Africa about seven days from now.

Jeff Masters

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231. dader
Quoting StormW:
I'm back! Give me some time to perform a reanalysis of things, and I'll have a full update.

I received a nice email earlier, asking me to make some guest appearances on myfoxhurricane.com


Very nice- congrats. Look forward to the update
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Forecasts now should be better than they were 5 days ago b/c they now have hurricane hunter data to work with.
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Quoting WxLogic:


Morning... new blog re-post.

Here's some info...

Steering:

In the picture below you'll see a Red Circle:


12Z

This region is currently an area of weak steering (COL). This will cause Earl to have some unpredictable behaviors... sometimes as erratic movements happens, it could bring it closer to the TROF above or closer to the Islands if it goes/tries to go around the DLM High over E CONUS.

Given the past 3 to 6 hr trends on steering I'm noticing that the E flank of the DLM High is getting eroded a bit by the deepening TROF N of Earl. Due to this I do believe earl will soon be feeling more the effects of this weakness as it strengthens further in the 30C+ degree waters and resume a quicker pace than what it currently has in 24hrs or so and start heading more NW as the DLM High on the E CONUS becomes oriented in a SW TO NE fashion.

Now if the DLM High does not take this SW to NE orientation and is able to push the TROF N of Earl further to the E then it would then force Earl to take a more Westerly track before forcing Earl to travel closer to the E CONUS coastline, but will currently doubt it will be making actual landfall for the time being given the current conditions, but things could change as a better steering pattern attempts to get established.


Sounds reasonable. GFS, Navy and CMC steering forecasts at E-Wall agree that Earl should start to feel a significant tug Tuesday evening Eastern).
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Earl hitting NYC could be a disaster.

Chances look a little better than the 2% predicted by NHC.
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Hi there. Question.

As it stands right now, 1) do you think that watches or warnings will be posted for the Outer Banks and extreme eastern NC, and 2) if so, when would the first watches be issued?
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Quoting bird72:


450 miles is just a little miss...........................................................rolleyes.jpg.


To put that 450 miles in perspective, it'd be like saying Earl would landfall in New York, when really it landfalls in Eastport, Maine:

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Quoting bassis:


Flood & Levi, thank you for bring more expertise here


I would venture to guess it would surpass K as the costliest (unadjusted) simply because property value is so high there.

I don't have the information handy, but as memory serves there was a hurricane that hit Miami in the 20s or 30s that, when adjusted for inflation and wealth, would have caused over $100 billion in damages today.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting Levi32:
Earl is still most likely to recurve east of the US but only a small track error could result in a large portion of the US coastline experiencing a hurricane....it really is a nail-biting situation. The good news is Earl could weaken some before turning up towards the Carolinas, but he could just as easily be a Cat 4 once the dry air disperses and if the shear is not strong enough to affect him significantly.


If... you just look at the last two plots (like people like to do).. he has started his turn. If you look at the last three... he is right on the NHC track.
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Quoting katrinakat5:
...


You didnt post facts, just rants about how sofl is going to be hit and shoving it peoples face about how you were right that PR was going to get hit...
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Cool Storm! Becoming a celebrity?
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Quoting StormW:
I'm back! Give me some time to perform a reanalysis of things, and I'll have a full update.

I received a nice email earlier, asking me to make some guest appearances on myfoxhurricane.com


Oh Thank God...please bring a large case of sanity to this blog when you have time
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Quoting Relix:
6 people missing in El Yunque!

I heard the same thing. That is so sad.
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Gonna take a break until later this evening to see how the track is panning out and how our friends on the Islands have fared....BBL.
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Quoting katrinakat5:
i have been saying this all along sou fla people go out and get your supplies while you still have time...this is going to be a cat 5 folks it will do lots of damage please get prepared..

Please stop inducing panic here. There are lurkers here that may panic based on your comments.
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Government shuts down in PR
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Really? The 11:00 am advisory on August 25th had Earl at 20.5 N and 57.0 W five days out.

Now five days out, Earl is 18.7 N and 63.6 W.

Missed by 1.8 N and 6.6 W, a difference of 450 miles.


Very good statement of the facts with graphic evidence Allstar. IT is not bashing the NHC it is just the error in the long range forcast that they so often state themselves, Just look at the satement in the 5 am discussion this morning.
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Earl is still most likely to recurve east of the US but only a small track error could result in a large portion of the US coastline experiencing a hurricane....it really is a nail-biting situation. The good news is Earl could weaken some before turning up towards the Carolinas, but he could just as easily be a Cat 4 once the dry air disperses and if the shear is not strong enough to affect him significantly.
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Quoting AllStar17:


Really? The 11:00 am advisory on August 25th had Earl at 20.5 N and 57.0 W five days out.

Now five days out, Earl is 18.7 N and 63.6 W.

Missed by 1.8 N and 6.6 W, a difference of 450 miles.


They don't have a time machine to go into the future, then return with a report.

The forecasts have stated margins for error. Forecasts 5 days out are not particularly useful so why would you latch onto that as gospel?
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Quoting Bordonaro:
HH extrapolated a 955MB pressure


and right in the centre of the track
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210. Relix
6 people missing in El Yunque!
Member Since: August 3, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2741
SFMR of 125mph, though the readings around it are suspect.

Regardless, Earl is strengthening.
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Quoting BrandiQ:


Well there are many people on here that may think this person knows what they are talking about and scare the bejesus out of them...


wouldnt be the first time that has happened
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First time I've ever seen that... ALL the models take Earl into Nova Scotia's southeast-shore.
I still think the "right" turn might be able to steer him out to sea and simply "coast-hug" NS, similar to Bill... but... ( a big but )
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HH extrapolated a 955MB pressure
15:23:30Z 18.850N 63.483W 696.1 mb
(~ 20.56 inHg) 2,794 meters
(~ 9,167 feet) 955.4 mb
(~ 28.21 inHg)
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Quoting PRweathercenter:
I think a lot of the puerto rican bloggers are slowly losing power.


Yeah! The electricity here in Cayey county, southeast of PR, has been failing, internet also. There is a strong band heading to my area in about 15 mints. I will try to keep u guys inform but I may loose electricity. I will try to turn the electric plant if necessary but I can't know if we are going to have internet.
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Quoting tornadodude:


probably doesn't have many, if any


Well there are many people on here that may think this person knows what they are talking about and scare the bejesus out of them...
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Extrap surface pressure plummeting, now down to 956.6

Time: 15:25:30Z
Coordinates: 18.8167N 63.5833W
Acft. Static Air Press: 696.2 mb (~ 20.56 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 2,782 meters (~ 9,127 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 956.6 mb (~ 28.25 inHg)
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 190° at 17 knots (From the S at ~ 19.5 mph)
Air Temp: 14.6°C* (~ 58.3°F*)
Dew Pt: -*
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 20 knots (~ 23.0 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 35 knots (~ 40.2 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 6 mm/hr (~ 0.24 in/hr)
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Quoting Floodman:


8' storm surge? Ha (Time, 1998).



Not meaning to sound like an alarmist, but a New York City landfall for a CAT3 or 4 would rank in the top 5 costliest hurricanes in history


Flood & Levi, thank you for bring more expertise here
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Quoting Floodman:


8' storm surge? Haardly...read the predictions on this page.

Here's a little excerpt:

Experts now believe that after Miami and New Orleans, New York City is considered the third most dangerous major city for the next hurricane disaster. According to a 1990 study by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the city has some unique and potentially lethal features. New York's major bridges such as the Verrazano Narrows and the George Washington are so high that they would experience hurricane force winds well before those winds were felt at sea-level locations. Therefore, these escape routes would have to be closed well before ground-level bridges (Time, 1998). The two ferry services across the Long Island Sound would also be shut down 6-12 hours before the storm surge invaded the waters around Long Island, further decreasing the potential for evacuation.

A storm surge prediction program used by forecasters called SLOSH (Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes) has predicted that in a category 4 hurricane, John F. Kennedy International Airport would be under 20 feet of water and sea water would pour through the Holland and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels and into the city's subways throughout lower Manhattan. The report did not estimate casualties, but did state that storms "that would present low to moderate hazards in other regions of the country could result in heavy loss of life" in the New York City area (Time, 1998).



Not meaning to sound like an alarmist, but a New York City landfall for a CAT3 or 4 would rank in the top 5 costliest hurricanes in history

I used to work as a Disaster Planner for a large insurance company on Wall Street(which will remain nameless). I got a look at FEMA's projections of NYC getting hit with the strong side of a major. Due to the extreme right angle caused by Long Island jutting out into the Atlantic, downtown, from Battery Park to at least City Hall could see flooding up to 30 feet high!
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Quoting AllStar17:


How's college going? Seems like you still have a little bit of time to come on the blog, which is certainly good!


Well orientation week means no homework until Thursday which means I do have some free time in between activities, but at this point I can't do updates until we're in the real schedule and then I can work with my options.

I am glad to be able to check the tropics and pop in here though while I can.
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12z GFS is underway
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Quoting stormpetrol:
+1
Personally I wouldn't even bother to mention it any more, I mentioned it last night and basically got jumped on like tics on a bull and scoffed at.Nothing like people trying to convince themselves, cause I don't think they have the ones that really notice convinced.Personally I'm getting totally fed up with this blog, no wonder W456 stop posting!


The NHC constantly updates their storm tracks and as such they are usually correct...as long as one does not look back too far. but that is their job...I would never wish them to stay with a wrong or outdated set of tracks and storm info...but the Blog does forget those issues and then argues these matters until we all want to shoot the Blog...but who can afford a new laptop every few days?
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Quoting AllStar17:


Really? The 11:00 am advisory on August 25th had Earl at 20.5 N and 57.0 W five days out.

Now five days out, Earl is 18.7 N and 63.6 W.

Missed by 1.8 N and 6.6 W, a difference of 450 miles.


450 miles is just a little miss...........................................................rolleyes.jpg.
Member Since: August 5, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 389
The old cold front is represented by the trough trailing down from Danielle on the surface map:

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By my rough estimate, the western eyewall is ~125nm ENE of San Juan radar.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting bluenosedave:


In my experience, if you're right on the forecast line 5 days out, you're probably going to be safe in the end. The forecast is changing and will continue to change. For better or for worse, who knows? Be prepared, and read the cover of your Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


Hope you're right. I used to think that too... that is until Wilma's forecast path was right over West Palm Beach for many, many days. Turned out they were right.
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Quoting Levi32:
I hope 456 is doing alright in St. Kitts. I hope he checks in after the fact to let us know how they're doing.


How's college going? Seems like you still have a little bit of time to come on the blog, which is certainly good!
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Re:# 143
I have never wanted someone to be wrong more than at this moment.
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Quoting BrandiQ:


Where are your facts to this up?


probably doesn't have many, if any
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187. Relix
Holy hell!! It's 11 30 and the heavens have split intwo! Wow just wow. I did some storm hunting and had to come back. It's that bad
Member Since: August 3, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2741
Hey Levi,

Randomly post us some thoughts here before you leave... LOL
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Before the Hurricane
Develop a plan. Know your homes vulnerability to the threats above - surge, wind, and flooding. Check your supplies - water, batteries, food. For information on developing a Hurricane Supply kit, see our page on that topic. Know where you can evacuate to - friends, relatives, a hotel?

Know when to take action - Watch vs Warning
WATCH: Hurricane conditions are possible in the specified area of the WATCH, usually within 36 hours.
WARNING: Hurricane conditions are expected in the specified area of the WARNING, usually within 24 hours. Remember that there is no such thing as a "minor hurricane." Category 1 and 2 hurricanes still can do significant damage.

Prepare before a Watch or Warning is issued and be ready to evacuate when the Watch comes or earlier if so instructed.

An Approaching Storm
As a storm approaches, you should prepare your house and your yard. Some things to consider:

Turn down the temperature on your freezer and refrigerator as low as possible. This will buy you more time in the event of a power loss. 24 to 48 hours before will cool the food. Avoid opening them whenever possible. If you are evacuating.
Before you evacuate, call at least one person out of state to let them know your plans.
Ensure that your Hurricane Emergency Kit is fully stocked.
Charge electronic devices, for example, computers, cell phones, rechargeable batteries, razors, and the like.
Make extra ice, bag it - this will be useful to use and to keep the freezer cold.
If you have a generator, do NOT run it inside or near the house. But make sure you have fuel to run it.
Make sure your car has fuel.
Pick up yard debris - furniture, tools, decorative items, branches - anything loose that could become a missile. We have placed furniture in the pool upon occasion.
Secure boats, trailers, campers, RVs, and the like in the safest place you can find. Tie them down, anchor them, or however you can best secure them. But, take into account that there may be a storm surge.
Secure all doors and windows with locks, and shutters if available. Plywood, properly secured, can be effective. Don't forget your garage doors.
Move items that may be damaged by water to higher areas of your home if you can not take them with you if evacuating. Move them away from windows in case they are broken.
Huge items must even be secured in big storms. An engine block was found 40 or 50 feet up in a pine tree in the Homestead (actually Redlands) area after Andrew. Don't think that something is too big to be moved by the wind.
Re-check tie-downs.
Bring cars, bikes, scooters and anything like that into your garage if possible.
Bring in grills or other cooking items.
Bring in hoses, trash cans, hot tub covers, wind-chimes, plants.
Caulk and fill bathtubs - extra water comes in handy for toilets and more..
It may sound strange, but do your laundry, dishes, and take a shower. Why? Because if you lose power, having as much clean as possible will make a big difference.
Check if your pool pump should be on or off.
Close and fasten gates so they don't swing.
Close chimney flues.
Close/latch inside doors and cabinets.


If you have time, help your neighbors. Debris in their yards can easily impact your home and yard.

During a storm.


Stay inside, away from windows
Be alert for tornadoes
Stay away from flood waters and storm surge. It can be deceptively strong.
Be aware of the eye. It may be calm, but winds can and will pick up quickly and could catch you outside.
Un-plug electronic devices that are not in use to avoid surge damage.

After a Storm

Know power safety - avoid downed lines
Know food safety - what is good and for how long.
Chain saw safety is critical
Generator safety is important too
Water treatment - whether water needs to be boiled or not.
Listen to local officials
Use flashlights instead of candles
Inspect your home for damage.
Stay off roads as much as possible
You may need to super-chlorinate your pool

********************************************************
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 55978
Hey Levi!
Hope you enjoy your classes. Even random thoughts appreciated.
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Quoting IamTheCanesSurfer:
NHC is doing a great job. Stop freaking people out.


Really? The 11:00 am advisory on August 25th had Earl at 20.5 N and 57.0 W five days out.

Now five days out, Earl is 18.7 N and 63.6 W.

Missed by 1.8 N and 6.6 W, a difference of 450 miles.
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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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