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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131. srada
Quoting Cotillion:


Yeah, 72 hours out as shown by Earl advisory #10 for Saint Martin.

I wonder if the NHC will end up putting up any TS Watches for the US East Coast later tonight/tomorrow considering Earl will be fairly close to the NC coast in just over 72 hours.

To be on the safe side, at least.


to have to evacuate and pack up all personal belongings if this mother of all clusters comes in farther west in less than 72 hours here in NC will not be ideal at all, TV media here is downplaying it..and a lot of people dont even know here at work we are staring down at a Cat 3/4 in a couple of days...our window is slowly closing..
Member Since: August 17, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 772
Quoting Bordonaro:

NOW would be a good time to think and prepare for a possible pretty strong CAT 2 Hurricane passing over NS, with the strongest winds over the Halifax Capital District.

Possible impacts may include winds as high as 100MPH for a period of 1 hr, torrential rains, serious coastal flooding. Time to secure loose items, having plywood handy to shutter windows, trim those trees by your home, having a 3 day supply of food, water, fill up your gas tank, new batteries for your radio.


Thanks..I think :o(
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129. dader
Quoting latrendsetter:
channel 4 in miami just said and also brian norcross said if earl does not go that nw way it is possible south florida can get hit. It depends on the speed of the cane and that high that is moving in and going towards the east. Also how fast the high moves and stays.

***VOICE YOUR OPINIONS ON THIS PLEASE***


1. NBC Miami plays the role of Chicken Little in the South Florida area- although I do like norcross.

2. He is basically stating what would happen on an X-trap w a little more WNW movement. Nothing earth shattering there.
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Quoting AllStar17:
Slowly getting better organized:


its going to be ripped apart by the outflow from Earl
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Slowly getting better organized:
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125. RMCF
Quoting Clearwater1:
If the track keeps trending west, this could be the big one for NYC. Certainly hope not, but just saying. I know they can't evacuate, so I can only imagine what the outcome of that would be. cat 3 or 4 hitting the city. Storm surge? Any guesses to what that would be. After all, Manhattan is an Island

Bad an 8 foot storm surge gets Manhattan and floods wall street it would not be good.
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Quoting Jax82:
Looks like the island of Anegada, BVI is going to take a direct hit from Earl. The models were north of the Island, so Earl is a little farther south than anticipated.


According to Wikipedia, Anegada has about 200 people living on it... I hope they've all bunkered down or left the island... its gonna be a rough ride
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Quoting NovaScotia33:


Ike- we in Nova SCotia finally got a mention in the media from the Canadian Hurricane Center. This is extermely rare 5 days before potential landfall here. Looking at your graph, I can see why. I think we may get a direct hit.

NOW would be a good time to think and prepare for a possible pretty strong CAT 2 Hurricane passing over NS, with the strongest winds over the Halifax Capital District.

Possible impacts may include winds as high as 100MPH for a period of 1 hr, torrential rains, serious coastal flooding. Time to secure loose items, having plywood handy to shutter windows, trim those trees by your home, having a 3 day supply of food, water, fill up your gas tank, new batteries for your radio.
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HH inbound for a another Vortex run

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Forecast verification for Earl.

earl verification

It is busy, but the blue and white squares and circles are forecast points, and the red circles and yellow squares are actual points. Since becoming a hurricane the forecast is pretty good. Prior to that, though likely always in the cone, is not terribly good.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Here's a chart showing the average model error in nautical miles vs. forecast time. Most models have been performing well through days 3 and 4 but track errors deteriorate fast after day 4.

The worst performing model (pink line) is the BAMD. BAMM and BAMS have also been doing poorly. Currently the best performing model is the AP07, part of the GFS ensemble.

Model error for Earl from Tropicalatlantic.com

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Earl is well on its way to becoming a CAT 4 hurricane... i predict the winds to be at 130 mph



I used photoshop to blend the RGB with the Water Vapor to highlight the eye wall and eye... looks like Earl is becoming a string hurricane... should go through eye wall replacement tonight
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Ive been reading the blog and posts the past couple days, and have seen the NHC be off by a couple hundred miles once already.

Not saying it will hit the Mainland US, but anything is certainly possible. As Earl continues to strengthen, he may very well move wherever he desires.
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Quoting NOLALawyer:


Ok, well I guess everyone in PR can breathe easy now. Dr. Masters and Ike have declared you safe from everything but rain and some light winds.


Its a strong hurricane and it is VERY VERY unlikely that puerto rico will get a direct hit as Earl is above their lattitude. With that in mind they would need to be prepared for rainy squally weather. I think this isvery reasonable to assume.
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113. TDogg
On a side note, we need to have some of those Pacific names over here. I can assure you we on the east coast will take heed of ANY storm nameed Lionrock!
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If the track keeps trending west, this could be the big one for NYC. Certainly hope not, but just saying. I know they can't evacuate, so I can only imagine what the outcome of that would be. cat 3 or 4 hitting the city. Storm surge? Any guesses to what that would be. After all, Manhattan is an Island
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Growing more worried up here on Long Island; as model runs, one after another gradually brings Earl further west. Possible major hurricane off off Cape Hatteras? Ooh boy!
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Stall = harbinger of long-awaited nw turn?
Hmmm...


I'm sorry but NHC just gave it a faster forward progress not 15 min ago. The radar out of PR only updates every 5, and there most certainly has been forward progress at an even rate.

Loop out of PR

I really don't know what you're seeing.
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Could someone post a long loop of PR radar again.
(from WU radar)
Thanks
CRS
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Earls track continues to shift closer to the Outer Banks of NC. I had planned on taking a trip this holiday weekend to Nags Head. Had planned on surfing assuming Earl was a little further offshore. Latest tracks may be too close for comfort now.
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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.
And don't forget your Towel.
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Quoting katrinakat5:
well if you dont see that turn to tomorrow sou fla you better get your supplies and get ready for a cat 5 that will be worse then andrew..earl will be a much larger storm then andtrew was..


Most irresponsible and fear inducing statement of the morning......
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Quoting rarepearldesign:


EEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK! Right over my house.


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.
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Quoting bird72:


Cool story..

A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* ANGUILLA
* SAINT MARTIN AND SAINT BARTHELEMY
* ST. MAARTEN...SABA...AND ST. EUSTATIUS
* BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
* U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
* PUERTO RICAN ISLANDS OF CULEBRA AND VIEQUES

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCPAT2+shtml/301445.shtml?


Thank God. Finally. It's important. I don't want anyone to get hurt because of weather. That's all I've ever preached.
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Orientation of the high sounds like it will determine eastern impact or not
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Quoting Orcasystems:


You might want to look at all of the Vortex fixes they have taken over the last few days. .... look at the facts and data.. so far.. bang on track plus or minus 50 miles.






I agree. People are bashing the NHC fast and furious. My thought is that they are the professionals and know more than us.
IF and I do mean IF there is a drastic change in the path of Earl, they will make an advisory.
Until then ya just gotta chill and go with the flow.
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Looks like the island of Anegada, BVI is going to take a direct hit from Earl. The models were north of the Island, so Earl is a little farther south than anticipated.
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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!


Facts can never be defeated...
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Here in Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina... We're gonna be watching this one closely now... Guessing we're gonna be in the news headlines for a couple of days :) Hopefully it's a story that breezes by.............

Made me a little bit nervous when Dr. M talked about the potential intensity. I know it likely would not come ashore (IF it did clip us here on the OBX) at a Cat 5, or even a Cat 4, but at the very least the wave energy that is gonna be traveling with it and coming at our shoreline will be tremendous...
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New York.
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Quoting gordydunnot:
Well i hope the foretasted track takes place but looking at the eastern US visible satellite loop, that high looks much larger and looks to be building eastward don't know how the system is suppose to punch through that.I wish the storm would turn this afternoon Danielle weakness is closing fast,



That's exactly right, imo, except the bit about Danielle's weakness - that ship has already sailed. Agree with your statement about the high - Post #38.
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Quoting katrinakat5:
well they are finally issuing watches for the southern bahamas..you right tropicla freak the NHC has done a very poor job here..sou fla better be ready this will be a cat 5 then...


Again with Florida...geeez
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you are right stormpetrol! You express your opinion,this is America!
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channel 4 in miami just said and also brian norcross said if earl does not go that nw way it is possible south florida can get hit. It depends on the speed of the cane and that high that is moving in and going towards the east. Also how fast the high moves and stays.

***VOICE YOUR OPINIONS ON THIS PLEASE***
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Quoting Ryuujin:
Again. Please Wishcasters. For the sake of people on the east coast, stop saying that you'll know he'll stay off the east coast, or that because Dr. Masters says it'll only be Rain Bands that affect PR that there isn't anything to worry about. I'd much rather Err on the side of caution, than to truly give this cavalier attitude I see from people that don't seem to think that there are any threats to land, ever. It kind of makes me sick, because if anyone here follows that cavalier attitude and gets seriously hurt or killed then..well that's just not something I'd want on my conscious as a follower of Weather, much less someone that purports to know what's going on.


Cool story..

A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* ANGUILLA
* SAINT MARTIN AND SAINT BARTHELEMY
* ST. MAARTEN...SABA...AND ST. EUSTATIUS
* BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
* U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
* PUERTO RICAN ISLANDS OF CULEBRA AND VIEQUES

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCPAT2+shtml/301445.shtml?
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Ah. Just rechecked the JTWC and 09W has been named. Namtheun.

Namtheun path

And the interaction with 07W aka LionRock
http://www.usno.navy.mil/NOOC/nmfc-ph/RSS/jtwc/warnings/wp0710.gif
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Good Morning (what's left of it) all! Boy have I been having a time getting to this site. Real slow. Must be a lot of lurkers like me :) Now to catch up on the weather news. I don't like the looks of Earl. He's in a good position to head to the Keys. Here's hoping everyone is correct and it curves out. Keeping everything crossed.
Member Since: March 28, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1532
For what it's worth, here is the discussion out of Cleveland on the timing of the front/trof that should help induce the turn. Depending on the westward movement of Earl the next couple of days, interests should start paying attention. I don't get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the uncertainty in the timing...

.SHORT TERM /6 PM THIS EVENING THROUGH THURSDAY NIGHT/...
NOT MUCH CHANGE IN THE PATTERN UNTIL THE SECOND HALF OF THE WEEK.
WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH AREAS OF MID AND HIGH CLOUDS AGAIN ON
TUESDAY... I DOUBT THE BROAD AREA TO OUR SOUTH WILL DISAPPEAR
ALTHOUGH THERE WILL BE A LOT OF SUBSIDENCE AND RIDGING ALOFT. THE
COLD FRONT TO THE WEST WILL MAKE A SURGE THROUGH WEDNESDAY BUT
VIRTUALLY ALL THE MODELS KEEP IT NORTH AND WEST OF THE AREA WHICH
IS REASONABLE CONSIDERING THE STRONG RIDGE. THEN THE FRONT MAY
HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE TROPICAL SYSTEM TO MOVE NORTHEAST SOMEWHERE
NEAR/OFF THE EAST COAST. WE ARE STILL LOOKING FOR THE FRONTAL
PASSAGE THURSDAY NIGHT OR FRIDAY MORNING ALTHOUGH NOT A LOT OF
CONFIDENCE IN THE SPECIFIC TIMING YET.
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Stall = harbinger of long-awaited nw turn?
Hmmm...
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This is the first time since 2006 that we've had two straight names becoming major hurricanes (Gordon and Helene).

If Earl does reach Category 4, it'll be the first time since 2005 (Dennis and Emily; Emily was a Category Five, but did have to come through Cat 4 first) that it has occurred. Curiously, it was D and E last time.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Quoting bird72:


Earl was put passing 300 miles from the islands 1 week ago from NHC it's self...
+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!
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.