Karl hits the Yucatan; two simultaneous Cat 4s in the Atlantic for 2nd time in history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:37 PM GMT on September 15, 2010

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The Atlantic hurricane season of 2010 kicked into high gear this morning, with the landfall of Tropical Storm Karl in Mexico, and the simultaneous presence of two Category 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic, Igor and Julia. Tropical Storm Karl's formation yesterday marked the fifth earliest date that an eleventh named storm of the season has formed. The only years more active this early in the season were 2005, 1995, 1936 and 1933. This morning's unexpected intensification of Hurricane Julia into a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds has set a new record--Julia is now the strongest hurricane on record so far east. When one considers that earlier this year, Hurricane Earl became the fourth strongest hurricane so far north, it appears that this year's record SSTs have significantly expanded the area over which major hurricanes can exist over the Atlantic. This morning is just the second time in recorded history that two simultaneous Category 4 or stronger storms have occurred in the Atlantic. The only other occurrence was on 06 UTC September 16, 1926, when the Great Miami Hurricane and Hurricane Four were both Category 4 storms for a six-hour period. The were also two years, 1999 and 1958, when we missed having two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes by six hours. Julia's ascension to Category 4 status makes it the 4th Category 4 storm of the year. Only two other seasons have had as many as five Category 4 or stronger storms (2005 and 1999), so 2010 ranks in 3rd place in this statistic. This year is also the earliest a fourth Category 4 or stronger storm has formed (though the fourth Category 4 of 1999, Hurricane Gert, formed just 3 hours later on today's date in 1999.) We've also had four Cat 4+ storms in just twenty days, which beats the previous record for shortest time span for four Cat 4+ storms to appear. The previous record was 1999, 24 days (thanks to Phil Klozbach of CSU for this stat.)


Figure 1. A rare double feature: two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic, for only the second time in recorded history.

Karl
Tropical Storm Karl made landfall as a strong tropical storm with 65 mph winds and a central pressure of 991 mb at 8:45am EDT this morning on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, just north of the Belize border. Karl took advantage of nearly ideal conditions for intensification, and in just fifteen hours intensified from a tropical disturbance to a strong tropical storm with 65 mph winds. Had Karl managed to get its act together just one day earlier, it could have been a major hurricane at landfall this morning. Fortunately, Karl has a relatively small area of strong winds--tropical storm force winds extend out just 45 miles from the center of the storm, and wind damage is not the main concern. Heavy rains are the main concern, and Belize radar shows heavy rain bands from Karl spreading ashore over northern Belize near the border with Mexico. Cancun radar shows that heavy rains are relatively limited, though, near the tourist havens of Cancun and Cozumel.


Figure 2. Radar image of Karl at landfall this morning near the northern Belize/Mexican border. Image credit: Belize National Meteorological Service.

Forecast for Karl
Karl will traverse the Yucatan Peninsula today and emerge into the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche Thursday morning as a much weakened tropical storm, with perhaps 40 - 45 mph top winds. Once in the Gulf, conditions for intensification are ideal, with wind shear is expected to be low, 5 - 10 knots, SSTs will be warm, 29°C - 30°C, and the atmosphere very moist. These conditions, combined with the topography of the surrounding coast which tends to enhance counter-clockwise flow, should allow Karl to intensify into a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall between Tampico and Vercruz, Mexico on Saturday morning. However, since Karl is a small storm, it is possible that passage over the Yucatan will disrupt the storm enough so that it will be much weaker. The ridge of high pressure steering Karl westwards is quite strong, and it is very unlikely that the storm will turn northwest and hit Texas. NHC is giving Brownsville, Texas, an 10% chance of receiving tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph.

Igor
Hurricane Igor put on a burst of intensification last night to put it at its strongest yet, a top-end Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds. Igor has weakened slightly this morning, but remains a formidable presence in the Central Atlantic with its 145 mph winds. Igor continues to show the classic appearance of a major hurricane on satellite imagery, with a well-formed eye, symmetrical cloud pattern, plenty of low-level spiral bands, and solid upper-level outflow on all sides.


Figure 3. Hurricane Igor as captured at 18 UTC Tuesday September 14, 2010, from the International Space Station. Image credit: Douglas Wheelock, NASA.

Intensity forecast for Igor
Wind shear is low, 5 - 10 knots, and is expected to remain low for the next 2 - 3 days. Waters are warm, 29°C, and will remain 29°C for the next 2 - 3 days. Igor is well armored against any intrusions of dry air for at least the next three days. These conditions should allow Igor to remain at major hurricane status for the next three days. The hurricane will probably undergo one of the usual eyewall replacement cycles intense hurricanes commonly have, where the eyewall collapses and a new eyewall forms from an outer spiral band. This will weaken the hurricane by 10 - 20 mph when it occurs, and may be responsible for the 10 mph weakening Igor experienced early this morning. Igor may regain its lost intensity over the next 36 hours. By Saturday morning, 36 hours before the core of Igor is expected to pass Bermuda's latitude, the trough of low pressure steering Igor northwestwards should bring moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots to the storm, weakening it. The SHIPS models predicts shear will rise to the high range, 20 - 30 knots, during the final 24 hours of the storm's approach to Bermuda. Igor will also be tracking over cooler 28°C waters during this period, and substantial weakening by perhaps 20 - 30 mph can be expected. Igor will still probably be at least a Category 2 hurricane on its closest pass by Bermuda on Sunday. NHC is giving Bermuda a 13% chance of experiencing hurricane force winds from Igor, but this probability is likely too low. The Bermuda Weather Service is calling for Category 1 or 2 hurricane conditions for the island on Sunday, with 20 - 25 foot waves in the offshore waters.

Track forecast for Igor
The track forecast for Igor remains unchanged. Igor has made its long-anticipated turn to the west-northwest, in response to the steering influence of a broad trough of low pressure moving across the Western Atlantic. This trough will steer Igor several hundred miles to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and high waves should be the only impact of Igor on the islands. Igor appears likely to be a threat to Bermuda, and that island can expect tropical storm force winds as early as Saturday. Igor will be moving at about 12 - 15 mph as it approaches Bermuda. Tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph will probably extend out about 250 miles to the north of Igor on Saturday, so Bermuda can expect 18 hours of tropical storm force winds before the core of Igor makes its closest pass. In all, Bermuda is likely to experience a very long pounding of 24 - 36 hours with winds in excess of tropical storm force.

The models have been in substantial agreement over multiple runs that Igor will miss the U.S. East Coast, and the danger to the U.S. will probably only come in the form of high waves. Large swells from Igor have arrived in the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands, and will spread westwards over the next few days, reaching the U.S. East Coast on Friday. By Saturday, much of the East Coast from northern Florida to Cape Cod Massachusetts can expect waves of 3 - 4 meters (10 - 13 feet), causing dangerous rip currents and significant beach erosion. These waves will continue through Sunday then gradually die down. The latest NOAA marine forecast for Cape Hatteras, North Carolina calls for 8 - 10 foot waves on Saturday, and 9 - 12 foot waves on Sunday.

Igor may pass very close to Newfoundland, Canada, but it is too early too assess the likelihood of this happening.

Julia
Hurricane Julia put on a remarkable and unexpected burst of intensification this morning to become the season's fourth Category 4 storm. Julia's 135 mph winds make it the strongest hurricane on record so far east; the previous record was held by the eighth storm of 1926 which was only a 120 mph Category 3 hurricane at Julia's current longitude. Julia's intensification was a surprise, since SSTs in the region are about 27.5°C, which is just 1°C above the threshold needed to sustain a Category 1 hurricane. Julia is headed northwest, out to sea, and it is unlikely that this storm will trouble any land areas. SSTs will steadily cool to 26.5°C today, and further intensification today is unlikely. Shear will be moderate, 10 - 20 knots, over Julia during the next two days, then rise sharply to 30 knots 3 - 5 days from now, as Julia moves within 1000 miles of Igor and begins to experience strong northwesterly winds from her big brother's upper level outflow. This should substantially weaken Julia.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The GFS and ECMWF models develop a new tropical depression a few hundred miles off the coast of Africa 3 - 6 days from now. The GFS also develops a tropical depression in the eastern Caribbean 6 - 7 days from now.

Portlight's 2-year anniversary
On September 14, 2008, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike on Texas and Louisiana moved members of the wunderground community to put into action their own impromptu relief effort. From this humble beginning has grown a disaster-relief charity I have been proud to support--Portlight.org. We've been blessed this hurricane season with relatively few landfalling storms, so Portlight's new disaster relief trailer (Figure 4), financed with a $21,500 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, has yet to be deployed. With five weeks of peak hurricane season still to come, the new trailer may yet get a call to action. The mobile kitchen in the trailer will be able to feed several hundred people per day, and the trailer is equipped with portable ramps to help with shelter accessibility, as well as durable medical equipment to facilitate mobility and independence for survivors. The trailer is mobile, and Portlight is willing to load it up and fly it to Bermuda, if Igor ends up making a mess there!

The lack of landfalling storms has allowed Portlight to continue to concentrate their efforts on Haiti, where their assistance has been a tremendous boost for those most in need, the disabled. Portlight is working on constructing steel shelters out of shipping containers for homeless Haitians, as detailed in the Haitian Relief Recap blog post. Please visit the Portlight.org web site or the Portlight blog to learn more and donate. A few other items of note:

Portlight has been able to facilitate providing assistance to people with disabilities in Pakistan, where the worst natural disaster in their history has left 4 million homeless. While not directly involved in delivering relief, Portlight has been able to connect local Disabled People's Organizations with important sources of food, water, filtration systems, and medical equipment.

ABC News4 in Charleston broadcast a story about the Portlight relief trailer, and Portlight has also been featured on the Pacifica Radio Network.

Portlight launched a quarterly newsletter, The Portlight View, which can be seen on the newly redesigned website.


Figure 4. The new Portlight disaster relief trailer, funded by their $21,500 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation.

I'll have an update Thursday morning.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting alfabob:
The inner core is almost gone, which is probably why the eye now looks "pinhole" sized on satellite imagery.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
1082. BDAwx
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Does Bermuda have caves in the hills?

Not that are known to Bermudians at least - except for the crystal caves in eastern parts of Hamilton and Smith's. These caves are partially drowned.They are limestone hills with about a foot of soil on top.

The thing with Bermuda being so small is that after hurricanes everything is coated with salt! :O

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Quoting islandeye:


I suppose this is the main cause for my concern, as it seems this is day 3 of the models suggesting this scenario with a relatively similar track. Persistance from day to day seems to be the the only trustworthy indicator worth looking at when a computer is doing the thinking...appreciate your many contributions to this blog, and your adherence to fact...
Thanks!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Very low confidence at this point since it is a good 10+ days out. All I can say is that the model (GFS) has been very consistent with the development of this system, and that is what I'm paying attention to, not the long-term track.


I suppose this is the main cause for my concern, as it seems this is day 3 of the models suggesting this scenario with a relatively similar track. Persistance from day to day seems to be the the only trustworthy indicator worth looking at when a computer is doing the thinking...appreciate your many contributions to this blog, and your adherence to fact...
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1078. vince1
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Dewey, I have, all it takes is a couple trolls pushing this button and a comment is automatically removed. Some people seem to enjoy flagging comments by respected bloggers just cause they can.

Wow, that is definitely a "feature" that should be disabled. It can be used against someone just because a few folks don't like what's being said.
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Bermuda. Some choice: Shore or mountains.....
Escape surge get decapitated by tree branch travelling at 140 mph!
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*New Tweet - CycloneOz*

Guidance is no for Karl intercept. Reason is storm path is expected to be 50 - 100 miles S of Tampico. Wait for the next one. -PensacolaDoug
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


At least people can be safe from surge there.
small islands such as Bermuda and the Windwards and Leewards tend to not have much of an issue with storm surge... the surge tends to go around them, rather than over them. When it hits a continent or large island (like Hispaniola or Cuba), there isn't anywhere else for the surge to go, other than up.
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1074. NCSaint
StormW - Despite being as far out as it is, how much stock can you typically put into the GFS models showing the TC development off CV early next week? The environment still looks favorable for its development using other forecast tools so that part seems reasonable (TC development) but I'm more interested by how it shows the ridge building back in despite the forecast tracks and remnants of Igor and Julia. Seems like they would leave TROF holes in the ridge, aloowing a poleward opening rather than the westerly track GFS is forecasting. Again, I know it's unreasonably far on the future to really forecast on, but where would you rate it's liklihood?
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


I looked back at 1893 again, after I made a couple of mistakes this morning---and Aug 22, 1893 didn't come close. I would have been dubious about that anyway, since the intensity measurements of storms at sea are interpolated (guesswork) 1961 had satellites.

Like this satellite image of Carla, September 10, 1961



Yeah, though even in 1961 it was far from perfect. Pressure readings were still off a fair amount, etc (Anna being a Cat 3 at 976mb is very unlikely, for example - either the pressure is off or the winds are).

Although, massive improvements from 1893, of course. Still, some of those seasons are fascinating.
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Day 5 marine forecast in Bermudas Webpage:
http://www.weather.bm/maps/chart4.jpg

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
No, it comes in through the Caribbean, a trough picks it up, and hits the eastern coast of Florida in a similar fashion to Charley and Wilma.
I must modify. Same storm, different track. My bad.
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1069. hydrus
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Quoting clwstmchasr:


Certainly not concerned about the GOM yet. Just something that we'll need to keep and eye on.
Exactly. The track means nothing to me right now. What I'm interested in is the great persistence being shown by the GFS.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting BDAwx:


Highest point on Bermuda is about 76m/230feet.


Might not be a bad place to set up camp, and start building your Ark.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
>
Dry air + EWRC?
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Hey Storm, quick question:

I've seen where some say that the MJO becomes absent during strong ENSO cycles, have you seen any evidence showing the current La Niña event effecting the MJO?

I was looking at the verifications for the MJO forecasts, but I'm not having much luck with interpretation. To me it looks to be a bit off lately, but I'm not 100% sure which lines to be looking at.

Link
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1062. tkeith
Quoting xcool:
Plain Text
?? ON Weather Underground
somethings different...
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Quoting OracleDeAtlantis:
Igor is out of his cage, convection wise. It's been since hurricane Ike back in 2008, that I've seen one this impressive, visually.

Right now he's changing his clothes for the next act.

I have my new boogie board and short fins ready. If I'm not heard from again, I'll be in the belly of the beast.



Igor will be pumping swells onto the eastern seaboard for the next week or so.
Might get one more day in for body-surfing up here.
enjoy.
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Quoting islandeye:


Thank you, Miami...although i don't think anyone saw me comment twice in attempts to withdraw some info. on the topic ;) it's good someone's sticking to their guns...and oh yeah, crap, this is exactly what i was afraid of...sat in Charley's eyewall for 2 hours....what is your confidence in this scenario?
Very low confidence at this point since it is a good 10+ days out. All I can say is that the model (GFS) has been very consistent with the development of this system, and that is what I'm paying attention to, not the long-term track.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
TropicalStormKarl's heading had turned westward to (5.7degrees west of) WestNorthWest
from its previous heading of (0.4degrees north of) WestNorthWest
TS.Karl's average speed moving between its last 2 reported positions was ~12mph(~19.3km/h)

14Sep . 09pmGMT - - 18.3n84.2w - - 40mph - - 1001mb - - NHC.Adv.#1
15Sep . 12amGMT - - 18.4n84.8w - - 45mph - - - 999mb - - #1A
15Sep . 03amGMT - - 18.6n85.5w - - 45mph - - - 999mb - - #2
15Sep . 06amGMT - - 18.6n86.0w - - 45mph - - - 999mb - - #2A
15Sep . 09amGMT - - 18.5n86.7w - - 65mph - - - 995mb - - #3
15Sep . 12pmGMT - - 18.6n87.6w - - 65mph - - - 991mb - - #3A
15Sep . 03pmGMT - - 18.6n88.2w - - 60mph - - - 992mb - - #4
15Sep . 06pmGMT - - 18.8n88.7w - - 55mph - - - 994mb - - #4A
15Sep . 09pmGMT - - 19.0n89.4w - - 45mph - - - 997mb - - #5

Copy &paste 18.3n84.2w, 18.4n84.8w, 18.6n85.5w, 18.6n86.0w, 18.5n86.7w-18.6n87.6w, 18.6n87.6w-18.6n88.2w, 18.6n88.2w-18.8n88.7w, 18.8n88.7w-19.0n89.4w, vsa, 19.0n89.4w-19.37n90.71w into the GreatCircleMapper for a look at the last 12^hours.

Using straightline projection upon the speed&heading averaged
over the 3hours spanning the last two reported positions:
~5hours from now to the Bay of Campeche
after passing over Campoton,Campeche,Mexico
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Bermuda does have hills over 200 feet high.
I hope those aren't ant hills!
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>

My "change attitude latitude" is 20 North...
now reached!

CRS
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5984
*New Tweet - CycloneOz*

Waiting for guidance to go to Tampico, MX to cover Karl. Broadcast from hotel room only. Will be out in streets to tape HD...if I go at all.
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1049. xcool
MEDIUM RANGE MODELS STILL SHOWING A VISITOR IN THE CARIBBEAN ON
DAY 10 (SAT 25TH). ECMWF & GFS SHOWING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT UPPER
LEVEL PATTERN AT THAT TIME (ECMWF A DESERT SW RIDGE & ERN
TROF...GFS AN ERN RIDGE AND WRN TROF).
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Quoting Goaskalice:


Bermuda is 22 miles in length and 2 mile at it's widest


Wow I didn't realize it was that small. I just pray it isn't a direct hit or that they are on the dirty side of the storm.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
No, it comes in through the Caribbean, a trough picks it up, and hits the eastern coast of Florida in a similar fashion to Charley and Wilma.


Thank you, Miami...although i don't think anyone saw me comment twice in attempts to withdraw some info. on the topic ;) it's good someone's sticking to their guns...and oh yeah, crap, this is exactly what i was afraid of...sat in Charley's eyewall for 2 hours....what is your confidence in this scenario?
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1046. xcool
Plain Text
?? ON Weather Underground
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Julia went back to Cat 3, so...

Managed two Category 4s at once in the Atlantic for 12 hours.

As to the other, I think I've found something: Link

Seems 1926 was El Nino-to-warm neutral; 1916 was a pretty strong La Nina. The years of no hurricanes (1905, 1914) were very strong El Ninos.

Still would be nice to know about some of the seasons from 1875 to 1896 (where that data set starts).
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Quoting FLdewey:
There's something you don't see every day...


Not at all he got a 24 hour ban last year LOL
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Bermuda does have hills over 200 feet high.
bermuda will have very high wing gust at the 200 ft location.
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1040. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
1038. xcool
THE TROPICS ARE VERY ACTIVE AND SATELLITE IMAGERY ACROSS THE EAST
CNTRL ATLC SUGGESTS ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENT IS POSSIBLE OVR THE
WEEKEND OR EARLY NEXT WEEK. SVRL AREAS OF STRONG CONVECTION ARE
EVIDENT EXTENDING FROM NEAR 45W TO THE W AFRICAN COASTLINE ALONG
OR JUST SOUTH OF 10N. OP AND ENSEMBLE GUIDANCE CONTINUE TO SUGGEST
ADDITIONAL TC DEVELOPMENT WITH ONE DISTURBANCE NEAR 45W AND
ANOTHER ONE EAST OF 20W. GFS AND SVRL GFES MEMBERS ARE VERY
BULLISH WITH THIS DISTURBANCE INDICATING A TC MOVING SOUTH OF PR
AROUND THE 23RD. GFES ENSEMBLE GUIDANCE SHOWS SIG TIMING
DIFFERENCES BUT SOME SUGGEST AT LEAST SOME WEAK DEVELOPMENT. IT IS
SEPT AND CONDITIONS ACROSS THE ATLC LOOK VERY FAVORABLE SO AM
EXPECTING SOMETHING TO DEVELOP. MODEL GUIDANCE HAS ALSO HAD A SLOW
BIAS WITH TROPICAL CYCLONES THIS YEAR SO ANTICIPATING WEATHER
ASSOCIATED TO THESE DISTURBANCES A DAY OR TWO THAN EARLIER
SUGGESTED BY MODELS. IN SUMMARY...SIG AMT UNCERTAINTY SEEN EARLY
NEXT WEEK ESPECIALLY REGARDING TIMING BUT ANTICIPATING A WETTER
AND MORE UNSETTLED PERIOD. MOST OF THE GLOBAL MODELS LIKE THE AEW
NEAR THE AFRICAN COASTLINE BUT THIS SYSTEM IS AT LEAST EIGHT DAYS
FROM REACHING THE LESSER ANTILLES IF IT WERE TO REACH THIS FAR
WEST.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
Hi Miami. That 300 hour run does not look good for us. Would that be approaching through the straits?
No, it comes in through the Caribbean, a trough picks it up, and hits the eastern coast of Florida in a similar fashion to Charley and Wilma.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
1036. hydrus
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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.