Category 4 Earl headed for a close brush with North Carolina

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:16 PM GMT on August 31, 2010

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Powerful Category 4 Hurricane Earl is pulling away from Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles Islands, and is eyeing its next potential landfall--North Carolina's Outer Banks. Earl brought heavy rain and high winds to Puerto Rico and much of the northern Lesser Antilles yesterday, though it appears that the islands were spared major damage. One exception may be Anegada in the British Virgin Islands, population 200. The eye of Earl passed just north of Anegada at noon yesterday, and Earl's south eyewall probably brought sustained winds of 100 mph to the island. Second hardest hit was probably Anguilla. Amateur weather observer Steve Donahue at anguilla-weather.com estimated gusts of 100 mph on Anguilla; his anemometer broke at 88 mph. Winds in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands remained above tropical storm force (39 mph) for five hours yesterday afternoon, peaking at 52 mph, gusting to 62 mph, at 4:49 pm. Heavy rains hit Puerto Rico, where radar-estimated rainfall amounts of up to 5 - 7" occurred. Earl brought waves of sixteen feet to San Juan, and waves at buoy 41043 offshore of Puerto Rico reached 31 feet early this morning.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Earl, taken at 10:30am EDT 8/31/10. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.


Figure 2. Radar estimated rainfall for Earl from the San Juan, Puerto Rico radar. Isolated regions of 5 - 7 " of rain occurred in three locations on Puerto Rico. The rays fanning out to east from the radar location marked with a "+" are due to mountains blocking the view of the radar.

Intensity forecast for Earl
Wind shear as diagnosed by the latest SHIPS model forecast shows a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear over Earl, due to upper level winds out of the southwest from a trough of low pressure to Earl's west. This moderate shear is predicted to continue through Friday, but should not appreciably affect Earl, since the hurricane is so large and strong. Ocean temperatures are a near-record 29.5 - 30°C, and very warm waters extend to great depth, resulting in a total ocean heat content favorable for intensification. Earl is undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle, which may diminish its winds by 10 -20 mph for a day or so. However, the storm will probably regain strength after completing this cycle, and it is likely Earl will be a major Category 3 or 4 hurricane at its closest approach to North Carolina Thursday night and Friday morning. By Friday night, 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 night, when it could potentially make landfall in Massachusetts. Earl is more likely to be a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday morning, when it could potentially make landfall in Maine or Nova Scotia, Canada.


Figure 3. Swath of surface winds from Earl predicted by the 2am EDT Tuesday, August 31, 2010 runs of NOAA's GFDL model (left) and HWRF model (right). Hurricane force winds (yellow colors, above 64 knots) are predicted to stay off the coast. Tropical storm force winds (light green colors, above 34 knots) are predicted to affect coastal North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Eastern Maine. Winds between 58 mph - 73 mph (dark green colors) are predicted to small portions of the coast. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA/GFDL.

Track forecast for Earl
The latest set of computer models runs from 2am EDT (6Z) this morning push Earl's projected track a little closer to the U.S. East Coast, and we now have two of our six reliable models predicting a U.S. landfall. The latest NOGAPS run shows Earl hitting the Outer Banks of North Carolina late Thursday night, then striking Southeast Massachusetts late Friday night, and Eastern Maine on Saturday morning. The HWRF model predicts a strike on Eastern Maine Saturday morning, but keeps Earl offshore from North Carolina and Massachusetts. None of the other computer models show Earl hitting the U.S., but several models bring Earl within 100 - 200 miles of North Carolina's Outer Banks and Southeast Massachusetts. It is likely that Earl will being a 12-hour period of heavy rain and tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph to North Carolina's Outer Banks, beginning on Thursday evening. NHC is giving Cape Hatteras a 12% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. By Friday evening, western Long Island, Rhode Island, and Southeast Massachusetts can expect a 6 - 8 hour period of heavy rain and tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph. NHC is giving Nantucket a 11% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. These odds are 4% for Boston, 6% for Providence, 5% for Eastport, Maine, and 11% for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. 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. Keep in mind that the average error in position for a 3-day NHC forecast is 185 miles, which is about how far offshore Earl is predicted to be from Cape Hatteras three days from now. The average error in a 4-day forecast is 255 miles, which is about the distance Earl is expected to be from the coast of New England four days from now.

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 currents will be the rule, due to waves that will reach 10 - 15 feet in offshore waters. Waves from Hurricane Danielle killed two swimmers in the U.S. over the weekend and forced hundreds of water rescues along the U.S. East Coast. Earl's waves will be worse, and will likely cause millions of dollars in beach erosion damage.

Fiona
Tropical Storm Fiona is speeding west-northwest towards Hurricane Earl, but is unlikely to bring tropical storm force winds to the Lesser Antilles. Satellite loops show that heavy thunderstorm activity has increased in some of the outer bands this morning, but remains limited near the center. Wind shear is currently moderate, 10 - 15 knots, and the main impediment to development continues to be dry air associated with the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) surrounding the storm.

Forecast for Fiona
Fiona is moving quickly to the west-northwest, at about 24 mph. This means it is catching up to Earl, which is moving at 15 mph. By tonight, Fiona will be beneath Earl's upper-level outflow channel. Strong upper-level winds from Earl's upper-level outflow and a ridge of high pressure to the northwest of Fiona will bring high levels of wind shear, 20 - 30 knots, to Fiona tonight through Friday, and probably arrest the storm's development. The scenario now called for by all the models is for Fiona to be drawn into the low pressure wake of Earl and turn to the northwest. Fiona will pass to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and will probably not bring tropical storm force winds to the islands. Fiona should then continue to the northwest and then turn north, passing very close to Bermuda on Saturday morning. It is possible Earl could destroy Fiona through high wind shear before Saturday.


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of Fiona. High level cirrus clouds flowing out from the center of Earl as part of its upper level outflow can be seen starting to impinge upon the western side of Fiona's circulation.

Danielle is dead
Tropical Storm Danielle has succumbed to the cold North Atlantic waters, and is no longer a tropical storm.

98L
A new tropical wave (Invest 98L) moved off the coast of Africa yesterday, and is centered a few hundred miles south of the Cape Verdes Islands. Strong easterly winds from the African Monsoon are creating a moderate 10 - 20 knots of shear, and the disturbance is currently disorganized. A large area of dry air lies to the north and west of 98L, and this will interfere with development. The latest SHIPS model forecast predicts shear will remain moderate, 10 - 20 knots, for the next five days, and some slow development of 98L is possible as it moves westward at 15 mph. NHC is giving a 10% chance of this system developing into a tropical depression by Thursday, and none of the computer models develop it.


Figure 5. Morning satellite image of 98L.

A rare triple threat in the Western Pacific
Over in the Western Pacific, we have an unusual triple feature--three named storms all within 700 miles of each other. A 3-way interaction between these storms is occurring, making for a very tough forecast situation. The storm of most concern is Typhoon Kompasu, which hit Okinawa today as a Category 2 typhoon. Kompasu is expected to recurve northeastward and hit North Korea on Thursday as a Category 2 typhoon. It is unusual for a powerful typhoon to thread the tight Yellow Sea and hit North Korea, and I don't know how prepared they are for strong typhoons. Kompasu is expected to hit the most populous region of North Korea, but the country is pretty mountainous, and a significant storm surge disaster is probably unlikely. In the South China Sea, Tropical Storm Lionrock and Tropical Storm Namtheun are moving through the straights between Taiwan and China towards each other. Neither are predicted to develop into typhoons, but heavy rains are occurring in Guangdong and Fujian Provinces, further exacerbating the flood conditions China has suffered this summer.


Figure 6. An unusual triple feature over the Western Pacific--three simultaneous named storms all within 700 miles of each other. Image credit: NOAA/SSD.

"Hurricane Haven" airing again this afternoon
Tune into another airing of my live Internet radio show, "Hurricane Haven", at 4pm EDT today. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. The call in number is 415-983-2634, or you can post a question to broadcast@wunderground.com. Be sure to include "Hurricane Haven question" in the subject line.

Today's show will be about 45 minutes, and you can tune in at http://www.wunderground.com/wxradio/wubroadcast.h tml. The show will be recorded and stored as a podcast.

I may have a short update this afternoon, once the latest models runs are available.
Jeff Masters

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just remembered Hurricane Haven in 15 mins - sharing in case it helps anyone else. :)
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Quoting angiest:


People have been seeing spurious movement for days. Either west, or sw, or north. When all along it has been WNW, sometimes a little to the north, and others a little to the west.


That's because a lot of people aren't used to seeing the 'wobble' of a hurricane's progress. You really need to look at several pictures to determine what direction the thing is going.
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1130. EtexJC
Quoting hurricanehanna:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona,........Wyoming. 50 Yep, nothing has changed since 4th grade History. Am I missing something?


You forgot Guam, N. Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, America Samoa, Wake Islands, Midway Islands, Baker Island, Howland Island, and Jarvis Island.
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1119:i thought so :P
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Quoting docrod:


Gloria was the strongest I went through. There was a storm that create Willoughby Spit (spelling?) but I don't know if it was tropical or not


Did it in one night, the great hurricane of 1806
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1127. Walnut
Quoting TropicalNonsense:

this is what i was thinking earlier too. the EXACT same thing.

Huge population centers all along the eastern seaboard. NHC and the local mets have a lot of stress ahead of them calling this one correctly. Sure wouldn't want to be in their shoes right now.
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The cake... Being Earl is a lie... hes never stayed in the nhc cone.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
Have you heard of the calm before the storm?
Sunny here... not a cloud in the sky and almost no wind to speak of... eerily quiet...

I have always hated that part of a storm....you know it's coming, you've made preparations...and then you just wait
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I don't get why everyone tries to bash the NHC because they weren't completely accurate on their 5 day forecast "cone". You mean to tell me, that man was wrong in predicting what mother nature is doing? That never happens!

You know why it appears that the NHC has a greater rate of inaccuracy than Dr. Masters, Stormw, etc? Because they are the only ones going out on a limb putting out a visible 5 day track. Storm doesn't do this, Dr. Masters doesn't do this, you know why? Because getting it right 5 days out is HARD, very hard. The only reason the NHC does it is because it is expected of them and that is their job. Yes they are wrong a lot, and that is because humans as a race lack complete understanding of weather. If you want to blame anyone for not being able to accurately, 100% predict the weather, then blame the young age of our species and our lack of complete understanding.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
Have you heard of the calm before the storm?
Sunny here... not a cloud in the sky and almost no wind to speak of... eerily quiet...


Same here, but our CBS 6 station in Richmond are saying that gusty winds and rain could extend as far as if not just west of richmond, anyone think this is possible if the center remains under 100 miles offshore VA Beach??
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1122. ssmate
Quoting moonlightcowboy:
According to 24-hr Marine Sfc Forecast, the weakness left by Danielle will be closed soon.



WATER VAPOR already shows the weakness become less amplified, moving laterally now - meaning, imo, its influence on Early will become significantly less. What's left to steer Earl then? At this point, only its natural coriolis motion, and the two influencing high pressures - the Azores high bridging westwards, and the CONUS high bridging seastwards.

That leaves only the approaching CONUS trough(s) left to influence steering - plus, whatever variables the approaching Fiona may cause.

I'm expecting Earl to slow more, weaken somewhat with the dry air infiltration, and consequently, continue towards the coastline. After that, we'll have to see how quickly the CONUS trough gets to the seaboard, how amplified it is. And early on, just my initial take, is that it looks like the trough is not going to be as amplified, and seems to be becoming more tilted itself swest to neast. And, imo, that delays the erosion of the CONUS high, allowing Earl to possibly make landfall.

Definitely gonna be a timing thing. And, certainly folks in the way of his possible strike should be getting their plans finalized.

Not doomcasting - just what my novice eyes are seeing.
Once again a great forecast. Thanks MLC..
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Earl may stall later tonight with a wnw or w drift. NHC must be pulling there hair out right now inregards to what track to put up at 5pm.
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Only 4 more named storms left till it reaches my prediction of 10 storms. I may have to raise my numbers up a tad.:)
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1118. Vero1
StormW~~

In a hurricane as Earl...How long does it take for a complete EWRC?
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Quoting sammywammybamy:
Now if i was a Person Who Lived in Florida and Didnt See the Forcast Track and Saw a Satelite photo of earl near the bahamas.. i Would be peeing in my pants....

Its Getting Really too close... Its Creating Beautiful Weather.

Hopefully this Turns NW so this doesnt slam into the east coast (Fl,Ga,SC,NC,VA)


this is what i was thinking earlier too. the EXACT same thing.
Member Since: July 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 524
Whoever Saying the Atlantic Basin will be Quiet after Earl and Fiona Must be Smoking Something...

Look What Africa is Spitting Out...



!!!!!!!
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1115. docrod
Quoting rocketboy108:
Questions for Hurricane Have:

1) What is the strongest storm to strike the Tidewater VA area,....I grew up there and remember Donna in Sept. 1960, and Isabel in 2003, both were Cat IIs. Has anything stronger hit there?

2) At what point before Friday morning, can we feel confident of the Earl track prediction?


Gloria was the strongest I went through. There was a storm that created Willoughby Spit (spelling?) but I don't know if it was tropical or not
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1114. FLdewey
Hopefully Earl is a filet-o-fish storm... just damages coastal Wendy's and Burger Kings.
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Quoting rocketboy108:
Questions for Hurricane Have:

1) What is the strongest storm to strike the Tidewater VA area,....I grew up there and remember Donna in Sept. 1960, and Isabel in 2003, both were Cat IIs. Has anything stronger hit there?

2) At what point before Friday morning, can we feel confident of the Earl track prediction?


Our local weather stations are calling for an OBX landfall, and the center being around 75 miles off the VA coast, with rain and strong winds extending as far as Richmond, although richmond may only see 30-40 mph winds but some rain as well.
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.......and the beat goes on............
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1111. angiest
Quoting mcluvincane:


????????????????????????


People have been seeing spurious movement for days. Either west, or sw, or north. When all along it has been WNW, sometimes a little to the north, and others a little to the west.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting help4u:
Watch the news obama said he was proud to be president of 57 states,maybe he needs a history lesson said this during presidental campaign,their our 57 isalamic states.

For the very last time, our President is an American born Christian. Tired of this stuff and am reporting you to Admin. This is about the TROPICS and STORMS, not politics!!!
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Quoting StormW:


No, no, no...the term is meteorologist...tropical meteorologist.
Senior Chief Tropical Meteorologist! ;)
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Quoting StormW:


That's what's nice about private forecasting.


Which is why so many of us come back to this site year after year to get "the word" from "the man" - StormW! Respect your wisdom, appreciate your commitment on this site and the past few years you have the voice of reason that I come to read!
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1107. CJ5
Landfall is going to be a race. Where Earl meets the trough is where the western movement will end and a N movement will begin. Now, how fast it moves NE will also be a question. There is a lot inhabited coast line we are looking at. Sad.
Member Since: July 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1755
Quoting KanKunKid:


No it is ACE as in Stroker Ace. Burt Reynolds wanted someone else, but Jim Nabors liked him.


Love that movie...Tried to name my son Stroker...Mama said no way...
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Quoting hcubed:


Not downplaying your experience and knowledge, but I can't walk up to my job and say "StormW's saying it's gonna be a bad one, can I evac?"

They'll only release us when the NHC tells us.

I use YOUR updates to get the "between-the-lines" data. Anything to get a few more hours to prepare.


Only your local authorities can order an evacuation... it's not the duty of the NWS or NHC...
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Have you heard of the calm before the storm?
Sunny here... not a cloud in the sky and almost no wind to speak of... eerily quiet...
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it would be nice to have a live blog where the trolls would have to say the drivel face to face. Now that would be fun to watch. However bloody to clean up. I for one would enjoy the it.

Now we can focus on where Earl is planning to make his arrival.
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1088. shadoclown45 7:38 PM GMT on August 31, 2010
The cake is a lie.

???????????????????
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Quoting HurricaneLovr75:
Ok listen, I'm talking about overall is forcasting. If there is a chance of New England getting a direct hit does it matter who is telling me what is going to happen?

NHC - Should turn north any min now.

Local Met - Oh it not going to hit us?

Storm - going west on the next run

Who has been right so far.

Not that I don't believe the NHC cuz I do but I think Storm looks at things different and He is very good at it.


New England will be in the Cone i am pretty certain.

When the new upper air data comes in later the forecast
will hopefully be more specific.
Member Since: July 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 524
It will be interesting to see what happens when/if Earl & Fiona interact.

From what I am reading it is nearly impossible to predict.
Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
1097. 10Speed
Quoting StormFreakyisher:
I thought some of you said Fiona was going to be the troublemaker for the CONUS but it is expected to head out to sea.


Earl is going to gooble her up.
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Quoting beell:
Earl stationary for an hour or two. Then a jog to the N.


????????????????????????
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Quoting Walnut:
The blog is really degrading... anyway, hope we can get back on track. When I see that model run that shows pretty much a clear basin in 10 days, that just seems off. Hard to believe the hot bathwater in the GOMEX will remain storm-free that long.


yeah, weird isn't it.....Besides Alex, the GOM hasn't been able to get going.
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Quoting Walnut:
The blog is really degrading... anyway, hope we can get back on track. When I see that model run that shows pretty much a clear basin in 10 days, that just seems off. Hard to believe the hot bathwater in the GOMEX will remain storm-free that long.


It will always happen mane.. Either on a blog, social network, youtube and ect.. You never going to stop drama b/c there's always idiots out there.. But I agree that we need more weather talk.. Well im going to go.. BBL.. Hopefully the blog will be clean..
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Quoting jason2010xxxx:
U CAN NOT CALL THIS A FISH STORM BECAUSE IT GOING TO HIT LAND SOMEWHERE ON THE EAST COAST.


Darn, I've been wishcasting this to be a fish since day uno :(
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Quoting btwntx08:

everyone changed there mine it could be the one behind her

Lol people thought Danielle was going to hit the CONUS then Earl then Fiona and yet they never did or aren't yet expected too.
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Quoting angiest:


A prominent American politician once discussed the 57 states.

ahhhhh, okay. I never listen to him so who knew. Thanks for the clarification :)
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Now if i was a Person Who Lived in Florida and Didnt See the Forcast Track and Saw a Satelite photo of earl near the bahamas.. i Would be peeing in my pants....

Its Getting Really too close... Its Creating Beautiful Weather.

Hopefully this Turns NW so this doesnt slam into the east coast (Fl,Ga,SC,NC,VA)

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According to 24-hr Marine Sfc Forecast, the weakness left by Danielle will be closed soon.



WATER VAPOR already shows the weakness becoming less amplified, moving laterally now - meaning, imo, its influence on Early will become significantly less. What's left to steer Earl then? At this point, only its natural coriolis motion, and the two influencing high pressures - the Azores high bridging westwards, and the CONUS high bridging seastwards.

That leaves only the approaching CONUS trough(s) left to influence steering - plus, whatever variables the approaching Fiona may cause.

I'm expecting Earl to slow more, weaken somewhat with the dry air infiltration, and consequently, continue towards the coastline. After that, we'll have to see how quickly the CONUS trough gets to the seaboard, how amplified it is. And early on, just my initial take, is that it looks like the trough is not going to be as amplified, and seems to be becoming more tilted itself swest to neast. And, imo, that delays the erosion of the CONUS high, allowing Earl to possibly make landfall.

Definitely gonna be a timing thing. And, certainly folks in the way of his possible strike should be getting their plans finalized.

Not doomcasting - just what my novice eyes are seeing.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
The cake is a lie.
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1086. unruly
Quoting DestinJeff:
I love to work on cars and am very very good at it, but not ACE certified. Stupid auto repair center won't hire me.
did you mean ASE certified? lol
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1085. FLdewey
Quoting hydrus:
JEFF....pray to the emblem of the generative power..

What the French Toast?
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Quoting KanKunKid:


No it is ACE as in Stroker Ace. Burt Reynolds wanted someone else, but Jim Nabors liked him.


hahaha.... a "Bandit" mechanic
Member Since: July 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 524
Hi everyone!! Eow what a very active season!!!!
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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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