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Hurricane warnings for North Carolina for Category 3 Earl

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:21 PM GMT on September 01, 2010

Hurricane warnings are flying for the coast of North Carolina, as Hurricane Earl chugs to the northwest at 17 mph. Earl has weakened some over the past day, thanks to an eyewall replacement cycle and some dry air that got wrapped into the core of the storm. Earl's eye made a direct hit on NOAA buoy 41046 at 4am EDT this morning. The buoy recorded a surface pressure of 943 mb, exactly what the Hurricane Hunters were estimating. The buoy measured winds in the eyewall of 76 mph, gusting to 96 mph. The peak winds of Earl were stronger than this, though, since the buoy only reported measurements once per hour, which is not a fine enough resolution to see the peak winds. The buoy is also located at a height of 5 meters, which is less than the standard ten meter height used to do wind measurements, so an additional upward adjustment needs to be made. Peak waves at the buoy were a remarkable 49 feet.

A recent microwave "radar in space" image (Figure 2) shows that dry air has spiraled into the core of Earl, knocking a gap into the southern eyewall. The latest 9am EDT report from the Hurricane Hunters confirmed that the southwest portion of the eyewall was missing. Top winds seen by the Hurricane Hunters were only Category 2 strength, and Earl may be weaker than the stated 125 mph winds in the 11am NHC advisory.

Figure 1. Image of Hurricane Earl taken by astronaut Douglas Wheelock aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010.

Figure 2. Microwave "radar in space" image of Hurricane Earl taken at 6:45am EDT Wednesday, September 1, 2010. The southern portion of Earl's eyewall was missing, thanks to a slug of dry air (blue colors) that had spiraled into Earl's core.

Intensity forecast for Earl
Recent satellite loops show that upper level outflow is good to the north and east of Earl, but is poor on the southwest side. The latest SHIPS model forecast shows that this is because upper level winds out of the southwest are creating 15 - 20 knots of wind shear on Earl's southwest side. The winds are from a trough of low pressure to Earl's west. This trough is forecast to weaken and move to the west away from Earl, which should reduce the shear to 10 - 15 knots by Thursday morning. If true, the relaxation in shear may give Earl enough time to mix out the dry air it ingested and regain its previous 135 mph Category 4 intensity. Water vapor satellite loops, though, show there is still plenty of dry air on Earl's west side that could potentially wrap into the storm if there is enough wind shear to drive it into Earl's circulation. Ocean temperatures are still very high, 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. It is likely Earl will be a Category 2 or 3 hurricane at its closest approach to North Carolina Thursday night and Friday morning, with a small chance it will be at Category 4 strength. 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 1 or 2 hurricane on Friday night, when it could potentially make landfall in Massachusetts. Earl is more likely to be a strong tropical storm or weak Category 1 hurricane on Saturday morning, when it could potentially make landfall in Maine or Nova Scotia, Canada.

Impact of Earl on North Carolina
The latest set of computer models runs from 2am EDT (6Z) this morning are very similar to the previous set of runs. The NOGAPS model brings Earl closest to the coast, predicting the west eyewall of the the hurricane will hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina near 2am Friday. If this track verifies, a period of 40+ mph winds will affect coastal North Carolina for a period of 12 - 18 hours beginning at about 6pm EDT Thursday night. Earl's expected radius of hurricane-force winds of 60 miles to the west will bring hurricane conditions as far west as Morehead City and Elizabeth City in North Carolina. Earl's radius of tropical storm-force winds to the west, over land, will probably be about 150 miles, so locations from Wilmington to Norfolk could see sustained winds of 40 mph in this worst-case model scenario. Storm surge would not be significant along the North Carolina coast facing the open ocean, since winds would be offshore. However, a significant storm surge of 3 - 6 feet could occur in Pamlico Sound, due to strong west to north winds. Coastal Highway 12 out of the Outer Banks would likely be blocked by sand and debris or washed out, resulting in a multi-day period where everyone on the Outer Banks would be stranded. Is is possible that the NOGAPS scenario is not the worst case, and that Earl will strike farther west, resulting in the Outer Banks getting the fearsome maximum winds of the storm's right front quadrant. However, it is more likely that Earl will pass just offshore, resulting in North Carolina receiving the weaker west side winds. Since Earl's forward speed will be about 20 mph at that time, the winds on the hurricane's west side will be about 40 mph less than the right front quadrant on the east side. The NHC wind probability forecast is calling for a 23% chance of hurricane-force winds on Cape Hatteras, 7% for Morehead City, and 3% for Norfolk, Virginia.

Impact of Earl on New England
The NOGAPS model brings Earl closest to the coast of New England, predicting the west eyewall of the the hurricane will pass over Nantucket at about 2am Saturday morning, and the tip of Cape Cod a few hours later. If this track verifies, 40+ mph winds would affect southeastern Massachusetts for a period of 6 - 12 hours beginning at about 8pm EDT Friday night. Earl should be a weaker Category 1 or 2 hurricane then, with hurricane-force winds extending 30 miles to the left of its track. Hurricane conditions would then affect the eastern tip of Long Island, coastal Rhode Island, and Southeast Massachusetts. Earl's radius of tropical storm-force winds to the north, over land, will probably be about 150 miles, so locations from Central Long Island to southern Boston would experience sustained winds of 40 mph in this worst-case model scenario. A storm surge of 3 - 5 feet might occur in Long Island Sound, and 2 - 3 feet along the south coast of Long Island. A deviation to the left, with a direct hit on eastern Long Island and Providence, Rhode Island, would probably be a $10 billion disaster, as the hurricane would hit a heavily populated area and drive a drive a 5 - 10 foot storm surge up Buzzards Bay and Narragansett Bay. The odds of this occurring are around 5%, according to the latest NHC wind probability forecast. The forecast is calling for a 25% chance of hurricane-force winds on Nantucket, 8% in Providence, 6% in Boston, and 18% in Hyannis. 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 New England early Saturday morning.

Impact of Earl on Canada/Maine
Late morning Saturday, Earl is expected to make landfall somewhere between the Maine/New Brunswick border and central Nova Scotia. At that time, Earl should be a strong tropical storm or weak Category 1 hurricane. This won't be another Hurricane Juan, the 2003 Category 2 hurricane which made a direct hit on Halifax, Nova Scotia, causing over $200 million in damage. Earl's impact is likely to be closer to 2008's Hurricane Kyle, which hit near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Kyle produced a storm surge of 2.6 feet, and did $9 million in damage to Canada. The NHC wind probability forecast is calling for a 29% chance of hurricane-force winds in Yarmouth, 24% in Halifax, and 17% in Eastport, Maine.

Beach erosion
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. Beach erosion damage in the mid-Atlantic states will likely run into the millions, but will probably not be as bad as that suffered during Nor'easter Ida in November of 2009. That storm (the remains of Hurricane Ida that developed into a Nor'easter) remained off the coast for several days, resulting in a long-duration pounding of the shore that caused $300 million in damage--$180 million in New Jersey alone.

Record ocean temperatures off the U.S. Mid-Atlantic Coast
The period May - July was the hottest such 3-month period in history for the Northeast and Southeast U.S., according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. Most of the hurricane-prone states along the coast, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina had their hottest May - July in the 116-year record. These record air temperatures led to record ocean temperatures, according to an analysis I did of monthly average 5x5 degree SST data available from the UK Met Office Hadley Centre.. The region of ocean bounded by 35N - 40N, 75W - 70W, which goes from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Central New Jersey, had the warmest July ocean temperatures since records began in 1875--a remarkable 2.12°C (3.8°F) above average. The year 2008 was a distant second place, with temperatures 1.5°C (2.7°F) above average. The ocean region off the Southeast U.S. coast, bounded by 30N - 35N, 80W - 75W, from the Georgia-Florida border to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, had its 4th warmest July ocean temperatures on record. Temperatures were 0.8°C (1.4°F) above average, which fell short of the record 1.1°C anomaly of 1944. The August numbers are not available yet, but will probably show a similar story.

All this warm water off the East Coast means it is much easier for a major hurricane to make landfall in the mid-Atlantic or Northeast U.S. Usually, ocean temperatures fall below the 26.5°C threshold needed to support a hurricane as soon as a storm pushes north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. This year, those temperatures extend all the way to the New Jersey coast (Figure 3.) Such warm ocean temperatures increase the odds of a major hurricane making it to the mid-Atlantic or New England coasts. Since record keeping began in 1851, there have been only 15 major hurricane in U.S. coastal waters north of the North Carolina/Virgina border--about one per decade. The last such storm was Hurricane Alex of August 6, 2004.

Figure 3. Water surface temperatures from AVHRR satellite data for the 6-day period ending August 31, 2010. Ocean temperatures of 26.5°C, capable of supporting a hurricane, stretched almost to Long Island, New York. Image credit: Ocean Remote Sensing Group, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Tropical Storm Fiona last night showed us why hurricane forecasting is such a difficult job. The storm made an unexpected slow-down in forward speed. This slow-down resulted in less wind shear affecting Fiona than expected, since the storm is farther from the upper-level outflow of Hurricane Earl. The wind shear analysis from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS group shows just a moderate 10 - 20 knots of shear affecting Fiona, which is low enough that the storm has been able to organize into a respectable 60 mph tropical storm. Martinique radar shows that the outer bands from Fiona are bringing heavy rain squalls to the same islands of the northern Lesser Antilles that were affected by Earl. Our wundermap shows that winds in the islands are all below 20 mph, but winds will increase to 30 - 40 mph later today as Fiona draws closer. Satellite loops show that heavy thunderstorm activity has decreased some in recent hours. This may be due to the fact that Fiona is currently crossing the cold water wake of Earl.

Forecast for Fiona
In the short term, moderate wind shear and dry air should keep Fiona from attaining hurricane status, though we do have several models that predict it could become a Category 1 hurricane. Fiona is likely to come close enough to Bermuda on Saturday or Sunday to pose a threat to that island, though it is possible high wind shear from Earl could kill the storm by then. The long term fate of Fiona remains unclear, with some models calling for dissipation this weekend, and other models calling for Fiona to be left behind by Earl to wander over the ocean near Bermuda early next week.

Figure 4. Morning radar image of Fiona from the Martinique radar. Image credit: Meteo France.

TD 9
Invest 98L gained enough heavy thunderstorm activity to be classified as Tropical Depression Nine this morning. This wil probably be Tropical Storm Gaston by tomorrow morning. The latest SHIPS model forecast predicts shear will remain moderate, 10 - 15 knots, for the next five days, and TD 9 could be a Category 1 hurricane five days from now, as predicted by the GFDL model. The storm will likely pose a threat to the northern Lesser Antilles Islands by Tuesday.

Next post
I'll have an update this afternoon.

Jeff Masters

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1173. angiest
Food for thought. It is a good thing that we are not expecting the imminent landfall of a major from Central Texas back to LA/MS, as one of the major evacuation routes, I-10, has been closed since the weekend due to a chemical spill. How many of our Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike evacuees traveled one way or the other through the Winnie, TX, area?

I trust none of the evac routes along the NE coast are blocked for any such thing.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
This could become a beast imo.


I do not see where it was named Gaston yet.
And sorry about the fish comment. Earl did affect some of the islands. No deaths, thank goodness, but there's still time for that as it brushes the States, unfortunately.
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I have to ask if Fiona is helping or did help keep Earl south in latitude...Does anyone know the full effect of the Fuji as compared to steering currents? I asked this question yesterday for the radio show but missed it.

Now with this slow arse trof, I'm beginning to question whether or not to tell my parents to cancel their flight to Maine on Saturday...

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1169. Patrap
Quoting Plibster:

There is no way that Earl can come in towards the NC/SC line is there? I am watching him speed up and the trof tilt. It kinda looks like it could, but I am no met. Thanks for your help.

Im not a met..,but the High is the driver right now,,so that realm in my mind is not impossible.

I just spoke with Presslord and Portlight is making plans to deploy as to any Serious Impact to the region.

As Relief and Communications Coordinator I wont be posting much if at all tomorrow as I may be traveling.

We had a call last night and decided not to do that,,but as per the latest we feel it necessary to enact Our Action Plan tonight.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137156
I saw someone earlier said they were "upping" their predictions to 13 storms

yea my prediction is we will have 13 named storms by the end of September
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Interesting that the official track forecast has Earl at 75W/30N tomorrow morning. Looking at his current location, what direction will he have to take to fulfill that prediction?
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Quoting Chicklit:
Fiona looks like she's coming undone.



She's Come Undone
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1165. Asta
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Quoting Patrap:
N. Carolina Gov, enacts a State of Emergency.
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Quoting extreme236:
PGI39L is off Africa, appears to be a possible threat.

Is there any ending in sight? lol
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you all so have too under staned that none of the mode runs where forcasting 98L too do any thing in tell now
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Good Afternoon.

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1159. angiest
Quoting alfabob:
Fiona looks better organized, although still exposed.

It would appear Earl is trying to rip her apart but he may, surprisingly, not win.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting txbullseye:

I agree...we were out for 2 weeks after Ike..and 3 weeks after Rita...please be prepared for an extended time away from home. Electrical outages, no gas anywhere for a generator, the heat is awful, the mosquitos will each you alive. It is no vacation!!

The lesser known SECOND evacuation from Rita
washingtonpost.com > Nation > Special Reports > Gulf Coast Hurricanes
In Beaumont, Tex.
After Rita, Another Exodus
Heat, Humidity and Lack of Basic Services Drive Out Residents

BEAUMONT, Tex., Sept. 27 -- The threat of Hurricane Rita prompted a mass evacuation of the southeast corner of Texas. Now the post-Rita evacuation has started.

If the storm's ferocious winds and rain didn't destroy the spirit of the hardiest souls here, the unrelenting 100-degree heat and high humidity -- coupled with the lack of electrical power and nonfunctional water and sewer systems -- have.

"I can't take it anymore," said a sweaty Herb Rhoades, 47, of Nederland, who arrived Tuesday at the disaster relief staging area with a suitcase in hand and his Jack Russell terrier, Harley, in tow. "I thought maybe I could at first."

And so Rhoades and his dog boarded one of hundreds of chartered buses that have been loading up area residents and leaving every hour since Hurricane Rita struck Texas's Gulf Coast early Saturday morning. By Tuesday, more than 1,000 people had been transported out of town to San Antonio, with little more than a small bag of clothes, a personal care kit handed out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a brown bag lunch provided by the Salvation Army. At least the bus was air-conditioned.

These latest evacuees are being told they will remain in San Antonio for a week or two. But local officials have said that restoring power after massive outages -- caused by the area's famous huge pine trees toppling onto power lines -- could take four to six weeks. In the meantime, traffic signals are out, hospitals, schools and grocery stores are closed, and only a few gasoline stations, using generators, have opened. Beaumont, a city of 115,000, has no power but does have sporadic water and sewer service. The next-largest city to the south, Port Arthur with 60,000 people, remains dark and dry. Although floodwaters have largely receded, some spots of standing water have provided a breeding ground for hordes of mosquitoes and snakes.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 501
Quoting Legion:


Why you had to bring that up?
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PGI39L is off Africa, appears to be a possible threat.
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1154. o22sail
Quoting unf97:
Earl's eye now sitting on 73W longitude.

If it blows past 75W without a significant turn, I'm pulling the cloth off the cabana out back and tying some stuff down. Then off to the ABC store :)
(Richmond, Va)
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Goodluck East Coasters. Please don't wait until the last minute to get to a safe place. Please remember to tie up loose objects or place them safely in a garage or basement. Please stay ahead of the game and get your supplies NOW before everyone starts to hit the panic button and wipe out the shelves. It's much easier to deal with the lines at a smaller store vs. a bigger one. (I know, I know, I just said this to where thousands of people can read it.) But my store of choice is usually a dollar store instead of Walmart because not many people hit up the small stores. Never the less, be safe and god speed.
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Fiona looks like she's coming undone.

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1150. Patrap
Folks in the Warned and watch areas should consider their action plan and be ready at a moments notice to leave.

Earl is destined to maintain its current intensity at least as it closes to the coastline.

Gas the vehicle..pack yer papers,,make ready for evacuation when told to do so.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137156
From Twitter from Jim Cantore
Looking at some of the latest models, I CANNOT rule out a Cape Cod landfall. Timing on trough essential.
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1147. Asta
Quoting Fotograffa:

Let's hope that doesn't happen this time. I guess Nauset Beach will never get stairs again after this one!! I know all the places you mentioned very well...hoping for the best

I know all the areas you mentioned very well. I too noticed the Chatham break last week and even if the storm doesn't come up thru the bays...that area could still get hit hard. The National Seashore there is fragile and oh so beautiful. I've sat at Race Point for hours just looking out over the ocean...stay safe ok?

HOPE is NOT a PLAN....
think of your road trip as an "Evacuation"
It might be agood way to think about it.
If you don't get hit hard, it's still okay..
but if you do get hit..
you'l be glad you were somewhere else...
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1146. scCane
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
I do believe it is likelier than not that Earl will reach his peak intensity tonight, looking as good as he does and approaching the Gulf Stream. Can definitely see him getting into the upper 920s in pressure, 'pulling a Hugo' as it were. But then after passing my latitude tomorrow, he should begin to slowly weaken.

Thank gosh for that front if it weren't for it we'd be dealing with another Hugo.
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Quoting Patrap:
The forecasst delimma is that the CONUS trof is going negatively tilted,Ne to Sw at a greater amplified rate ,thus allowing for a more westward track,maybe as well as the increase in forward speed.

So things can and will Likely change and once again I urge all interest to stay up on Earl and his Forecast

There is no way that Earl can come in towards the NC/SC line is there? I am watching him speed up and the trof tilt. It kinda looks like it could, but I am no met. Thanks for your help.
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Quoting btwntx08:
1076:yea lol

Today's pick 3: 732

Juegalo en Combo. Solo te cuesta $6
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This isnt right. Why is there still specualation as to Earl goes. If theres a possibility of it stayin left of course why isnt local news covering it. Hey if Earl impacts Surf City that is quite a different scenario than grazing of hitting OBX. I guess the standard answer would be stay tuned for more info. Im lucky I live about 70 miles as the crow flys from the coast,I am very concerned about our residents on the coast if this monster lands West and South into the mainland of NC. But it is getting a little late now. Any thoughts.
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1141. angiest
Quoting greghLafayette:

looks like its getting close to florida and it hasnt turned fully yet....

He's far enough away from Florida and still moving much more like NW that WNW. While not out of the question (he's not north of Florida yet), Florida is looking in the clear.

None of Earl's rainbands are visible from Miami radar, meaning none of his substance are visible at more than 250nm. Just some showers that seem to be related to the overall circulation.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
1140. Gearsts
Quoting Tazmanian:

98L went from 10% then 20% back down too 10% the it jump too 50% then 80% then a TD 9 then now a new name storm
10% was and error
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Quoting LADobeLady:

I hope you get exactly what you wish for, but only you. The good people of Florida know what it's like to live in the aftermath of a storm.

No Power for 9 days and extreme tree damage from Gloria's 115mph winds here on Long Island on the EAST side of the eye in 1985...

Maybe nothing by Florida standards but I can promise you it was legit non the less.
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1138. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137156
Hi Guys, clear blue skies in ECFL right now.

Haven't been to the beach nor will I get there as I gotta go out to an appointment now.
L8R...Earl is putting on quite the hurricane show. Glad to see it's still fish. At least people can see the size of the thing and if it does pass east as we all hope they'll know the warnings were there for very good reasons.
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1136. Asta

Quoting ncstorm:

I hear ya but as I said this morning on this same blog, people will be caught unaware because they have been downplaying that only the Outerbanks will receive minimal hurricane force winds..if all of eastern NC goes back in the cone, we will have chaos (and I hate to use that word) with last minute evacuations from huge populated areas..I-40 was terrible for floyd leaving..this will not be good at all!!

Stay prepared and stay ahead if you can!
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1135. NASA101
Quoting Thaale:

Do you think a fast development from 98L to TD9 to (possibly soon) Gaston would make the northern scenarios more likely?

GASTON now has an awesome model consensus - have a look at the 18Z BAM models and 12Z GFS, UKMET, GFDL and HWRF all taking it WNW towards the northern islands as a hurricane barreling Westwards! Too early I know....
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Quoting CoopsWife:

Roger that, Patrap. Go bags are packed just in case it veers left towards VaBeach. Back road maps planned out, and I can get 100 miles NW in 2.5 hours or so without resorting to the interstate. I son't think we will have to leave, but I can get out the door in 15 minutes if need be. If I don't have to leave, well, I can iron those shirts again, no problem!

Remember you'll have alot of people thinking the same thing and those back roads may not be as easy a drive as you think. I was part of the Rita evac and after 5 hours if trying to get out of town from the West side of Houston via backroads and only making 10 miles I ended up turning around and luckily getting a room at a nice sturdy, concrete hotel with no trees nearby. Which of course was a waste of time & momey since Rita turned last minute, although I would do it again.

So in summary....don't count on being able to make the time you think you can on the roads, hopefully you can! Best of luck to you!
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1133. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137156
Quoting angiest:

"And every last inch of [him]'s covered in hair!"

Ahh good times. Loved the music in Beauty and the Beast.

I think it would be "And every last inch of him covered in clouds!" lol
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1131. Patrap
Earl Floater - Rainbow Color Infrared Loop
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137156
1128. hydrus
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 26865
Does anyone know how accurate Chips has been because it shows Earl getting to 150 knts and Fiona getting to 120 knts
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1126. breald
NHC just said they may be issuing watches and warnings for the Mid Atlantic/New England at 5pm today.
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1125. angiest
Quoting Thaale:

Do you think a fast development from 98L to TD9 to (possibly soon) Gaston would make the northern scenarios more likely?

I haven't paid attention yet to what the steering looks like, but for any individual storm I discount that logic anyway. It's a general rule but not a very good forecasting tool since each storm exists in its own environment. Plenty of low latitude storms have chugged into the Caribbean
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
1123. xcool
btwntx08 ookay rob
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15707

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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