Strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest smashes all-time pressure records

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:09 PM GMT on October 27, 2010

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Tornadoes, violent thunderstorms, and torrential rains swept through a large portion of the nation's midsection yesterday, thanks to the strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged 24 tornado reports and 282 reports of damaging high winds from yesterday's spectacular storm, and the storm continues to produce a wide variety of wild weather, with tornado watches posted for Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, a blizzard warning for North Dakota, high wind warnings for most of the upper Midwest, and near-hurricane force winds on Lake Superior.

The mega-storm reached peak intensity late yesterday afternoon over Minnesota, resulting in the lowest barometric pressure readings ever recorded in the continental United States, except for from hurricanes and nor'easters affecting the Atlantic seaboard. So far, it appears the lowest reading (now official) was a pressure of 28.21" (955.2 mb) reduced to sea level reported from Bigfork, Minnesota at 5:13pm CDT. Other extreme low pressures from Minnesota during yesterday's storm included 28.22" (956 mb) at Orr at 5:34pm CDT, 28.23" at International Falls (3:45pm), and 28.23" at Waskuh at 5:52pm. The 28.23" (956mb) reading from International Falls yesterday obliterated their previous record of 28.70" set on Nov. 11, 1949 by nearly one-half inch of mercury--a truly amazing anomaly. Duluth's 28.36" (961 mb) reading smashed their old record of 28.48" (964 mb) set on Nov. 11, 1998. Wisconsin also recorded its lowest barometric pressure in history yesterday, with a 28.36" (961 mb) reading at Superior. The old record was 28.45" (963.4 mb) at Green Bay on April 3, 1982. The previous state record for Minnesota was 28.43" (963 mb) at Albert Lea and Austin on Nov. 10, 1998.


Figure 1. Visible satellite image of the October 26, 2010 superstorm taken at 5:32pm EDT. At the time, Bigfork, Minnesota was reporting the lowest pressure ever recorded in a U.S. non-coastal storm, 955 mb. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Yesterday's records in context
Yesterday's 28.21" (955 mb) low pressure reading in Minnesota breaks not only the 28.28" (958 mb) previous "USA-interior-of-the-continent-record" from Cleveland, Ohio during the Great Ohio Storm of Jan. 26, 1978 (a lower reading in Canada during this event bottomed out at an amazing 28.05"/950 mb), but also the lowest pressure ever measured anywhere in the continental United States aside from the Atlantic Coast. The modern Pacific Coast record is 28.40" (962mb) at Quillayute, Washington on Dec. 1, 1987. An older reading, taken on a ship offshore from the mouth of the Umpqua River in Oregon during the famous "Storm King" event on January 9, 1880, was 28.20" (954.9 mb)--slightly lower than the 2010 storm.

The lowest non-hurricane barometric pressure reading in the lower 48 states is 28.10" (952 mb) measured at Bridgehampton, New York (Long Island) during an amazing nor'easter on March 1, 1914 (see Kocin and Uccellini, "Northeast Snowstorms; Vol. 2., p. 324, American Meteorological Society, 2004.) The lowest non-hurricane barometric pressure reading from anywhere in the United States was a 27.35" (927 mb) reading at Dutch Harbor, Alaska on Oct. 25, 1977. The lowest hurricane pressure reading was the 26.34" (892 mb) recorded in 1935 during the Great Labor Day Hurricane.


Figure 2. Storm reports received by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center from the October 26, 2010 superstorm.

The six most intense storms in history to affect the Great Lakes
According to the Chicago branch of the National Weather Service and Christopher C. Burt, our Weather Records blogger, the following are the six lowest pressures measured in the U.S. Great Lakes region:

1. Yesterday's October 26, 2010 Superstorm (955 mb/28.20")
2. Great Ohio Blizzard January 26, 1978 (958 mb/28.28")
3. Armistice Day Storm November 11, 1940 (967 mb/28.55")
4. November 10, 1998 storm (967 mb/ 28.55")
5. White Hurricane of November 7 - 9, 1913 (968 mb/28.60")
6. Edmund Fitzgerald Storm of November 10, 1975 (980 mb/28.95")

So, the famed storm that sank the ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald in 1974, killing all 29 sailors aboard, was weaker than the current storm. Indeed, I wouldn't want to be on a boat in Lake Superior today--sustained winds at the Rock of Ages lighthouse on Isle Royale were a sustained 68 mph, gusting to 78 mph at 3am EDT this morning!

Yet Another Remarkable Mid-latitude Cyclone so far this Year!
Yesterday's superstorm is reminiscent of the amazing low pressures reached earlier this year (Jan. 19-22) in the West, where virtually every site in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, southern Oregon, and southern Idaho--about 10 - 15% of the U.S. land area--broke their lowest on record pressure readings. However, the lowest readings from that event fell well short of yesterday's mega-storm with 28.85" (977 mb) being about the lowest recorded at any onshore site.

Commentary
We've now had two remarkable extratropical storms this year in the U.S. that have smashed all-time low pressure records across a large portion of the country. Is this a sign that these type of storms may be getting stronger? Well, there is evidence that wintertime extratropical storms have grown in intensity in the Pacific, Arctic, and Great Lakes in recent decades. I discuss the science in detail in a post I did earlier this year. Here is an excerpt from that post:

General Circulation Models (GCMs) like the ones used in the 2007 IPCC Assessment Report do a very good job simulating how winter storms behave in the current climate, and we can run simulations of the atmosphere with extra greenhouse gases to see how winter storms will behave in the future. The results are very interesting. Global warming is expected to warm the poles more than the equatorial regions. This reduces the difference in temperature between the pole and Equator. Since winter storms form in response to the atmosphere's need to transport heat from the Equator to the poles, this reduced temperature difference reduces the need for winter storms, and thus the models predict fewer storms will form. However, since a warmer world increases the amount of evaporation from the surface and puts more moisture in the air, these future storms drop more precipitation. During the process of creating that precipitation, the water vapor in the storm must condense into liquid or frozen water, liberating "latent heat"--the extra heat that was originally added to the water vapor to evaporate it in the first place. This latent heat intensifies the winter storm, lowering the central pressure and making the winds increase. So, the modeling studies predict a future with fewer total winter storms, but a greater number of intense storms. These intense storms will have more lift, and will thus tend to drop more precipitation--including snow, when we get areas of strong lift in the -15°C preferred snowflake formation region.

Invest 90L
A low pressure system (Invest 90L) in the middle Atlantic Ocean has developed a broad circulation, but has very limited heavy thunderstorm activity. NHC is giving 90L a 10% of developing into a tropical depression by Friday. Another area of disturbed weather a few hundred miles west of 90L is disorganized, and is also being given a 10% chance of developing.

Next update
I'll have an update on Thursday morning. I'm at the National Hurricane Center in Miami this week, as part of their visiting scientist program, and hopefully the weather in the rest of the country will slow down enough so I can write about goings-on here at the Hurricane Center!

Christopher C. Burt is responsible for most of the content of this post, with the exception of the commentary, which I wrote.

Jeff Masters

The Big Blow! (pjpix)
This photo and the other in my series were both take from the same spot ... just different directions and just a representative scene mirroring so many others here in the midwest. These were taken yesterday morning right after the thunderstorm front had gone through but the winds continued to increase in intensity as the barometer dropped ... to a record low in some midwest spots. The big Blow was the equivlant of a Cat 2 or Cat 3 hurricane and indeed a very unusual storm in the upper midwest for this time of the year.
The Big Blow!
Cell Rotation Animation (SunsetSailor)
Gif Created on Make A Gif
Cell Rotation Animation
()
Disappearing Pier 5 (mactoot)
I posted a video of continuous hits at youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckrpWF-dXwU
Disappearing Pier 5
October Storm (cambuck1)
October Storm

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Whoa 3 DISTURBANCES NOW!!! And before I went to bed last night it was just 1 disturbance with a 10% chance!!! Wow.
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Quoting Patrap:
This sounds Like a Hurricane for sure as it Howls..

Video of the rain / wind storm that rolled thru Lawrenceville, IL on 10-26-2010 @ 7:30 AM.



This was the Storm of the Century (Superstorm 2010) for the Midwest. This was actually a little bit stronger then the 1993 Superstorm in terms of pressure.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

I'll say. Wow. That's like someone who has never run a mile in under, say, 4:30 suddenly coming in at 3:45. Incredible...


It's more like someone breaking a 60-year record.
How old is planet earth? How long is 60-years compared to its age?
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244. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting aspectre:
30 VAbeachhurricanes "Increased precip won't cause the actual sea water to freeze more"

Actually it does. Precipitation is composed of fresh water, sea water is a saline solution.
Increasing salinity (the amount of salt in a given volume of water) lowers the freezing point. Conversely decreasing the salinity increases the freezing point.
Precipitation dilutes the surface layer of sea water with fresh water, lowering salinity and thus causing the surface layer to freeze at a higher temperature.


I have to agree with VaBeach here~ we put salt on roads to help snow & ice melt because by adding salt you raise the melting point. Less salt makes it harder to freeze because a lower temp is needed..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36055
just checking in. Three invests. Wow. Are any of these invests scheduled to destroy Tampa in the near future?
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This sounds Like a Hurricane for sure as it Howls..

Video of the rain / wind storm that rolled thru Lawrenceville, IL on 10-26-2010 @ 7:30 AM.

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Quoting RipplinH2O:
OK, I've been sitting here quietly reading the debate for years, then just this year signing up so I can actually comment if so moved. I now feel so moved. The climate change debate basically has two sides, each labels the other side with a term meant to provoke and each suspects the other side of an agenda. Until bloggers are willing to accept the possibility of the other side's input, surpress the need to suspect and stop the labeling, it's not a debate, it's trolling...on BOTH sides!
+1. Well said my friend.

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Quoting Ameister12:

Has the center reformed NE and into the confection or is it the same center?
centre pretty well void of convection all is to the right of coc of system and looks to be moving nne centre is to the left spinning naked
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52155
October 26 2010 Elburn IL Tornado Damage from October Super Storm


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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
INV/90L/XX
MARK
26.55N/40.99W

Has the center reformed NE and into the confection or is it the same center?
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Ya know, you have a good point! Here we were talking about Hurricane Richard. I am not saying that Richard wasn't important (Richard did hit Belize as a strong cat. 1 after all), but I wish I knew this mega 954 mb Fall Storm was going to happen over the US.

I felt like there should have been a lot of attention on BOTH Richard and the potential for this storm to come. I mean, didn't the models see this storm coming? I had no idea this was going to happen a few days ago. None.
models did depict system over grt lakes infomation was sent out just that u missed it thats all
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52155
Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
332 PM CDT Wednesday Oct 27 2010


Synopsis...
deep 974 mb surface low is centered over southern Ontario just
northeast of Minnesota. A stationary front extends from southwest
Virginia through the lower Mississippi Valley and into southern
Texas. A secondary cold front is currently located across the
middle Mississippi Valley...and surface high pressure is centered
over The Four Corners region.


Locally...moderate southerly winds continue to result in higher than
normal temperatures and dewpoints. Scattered showers are moving
northeastward across the area.


&&


Short term...
the cold front will continue its progression toward the area
tonight. Expect wind shift to arrive first...around midnight across
the northwestern portion of the forecast area...and closer to day
break across the southeastern portion of the area. Dry air will lag
by a few hours...but expect significant dry air advection during
daylight hours Thursday. Dewpoints are forecast to drop
quickly...from the upper 50s and 60s near day break to 30s and 40s
by middle afternoon. Afternoon highs should top out in the upper 70s
and lower 80s. Strong northerly winds will also contribute to
dangerous fire conditions. See fire weather section of the afd for
more information.


Strong cold air advection sets in Thursday night as the high builds
into the area. Compared to tonight/S temperatures...overnight lows
Thursday night and Friday night are forecast to be 20 to 25 degrees
colder across the northern half of the area and 15 to 20 degrees
colder across the southern half of the area. Additionally...
afternoon temperatures will struggle to reach even the low 70s on
Friday.


Long term...
expect some modification of the air mass to take place by Sunday as
winds become southeasterly once again. Temperatures should increase
by a few degrees each day Sunday and Monday.
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Quoting alfabob:
I think they should start adding other powerful cyclones to the naming system in the future, not just hurricanes.





Ya know, you have a good point! Here we were talking about Hurricane Richard. I am not saying that Richard wasn't important (Richard did hit Belize as a strong cat. 1 after all), but I wish I knew this mega 954 mb Fall Storm was going to happen over the US.

I felt like there should have been a lot of attention on BOTH Richard and the potential for this storm to come. I mean, didn't the models see this storm coming? I had no idea this was going to happen a few days ago. None.
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Thunderstorms aligned with the FLow here are popping all around all the way to the GOM...

NEXRAD Radar
New Orleans, Base Reflectivity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI

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Typhoon Chaba


Rainbow Image

Okinawa is the Island just Nnw of the Storm .



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229. JRRP
nice circulation
Link
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5073
Quoting Patrap:
Current Tornado Watches per SPC

Latest issuance



Okay, I guess I am not in the tornado watch. Wake County (where I am at in Raleigh) is not in the watch, but the county next door (Chatham County to our west) is. I still am keeping a wary eye on that T-storm squall because we are so close to the tornado watch.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52155
OK, I've been sitting here quietly reading the debate for years, then just this year signing up so I can actually comment if so moved. I now feel so moved. The climate change debate basically has two sides, each labels the other side with a term meant to provoke and each suspects the other side of an agenda. Until bloggers are willing to accept the possibility of the other side's input, surpress the need to suspect and stop the labeling, it's not a debate, it's trolling...on BOTH sides!
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Quoting afj3:
Hello All,
Waddup with that thing off the South American coast? Can it form and if so, is it south enough to avoid shear but north enough to stay over water and keep developing?


This is tough for that thing off of South America. If its starts to go north, bam, westerly wind shear will be a problem for development. If it stays south, well I don't know if it has enough Coriolis effect to develop that far south. I mean, this thing is spinning around 6 N latitude, that's really far south.

But then again, Typhoon Vamei in 2000 developed in the W-Pac really close to the equator. There has never been a document case of development close to the equator before (in the Atlantic basin).
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Current Tornado Watches per SPC

Latest issuance

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Quoting Patrap:
955mb, or 954.9 is way down the Ol' MB road.

Wowsa.

Luckily it wasnt March
it would of been 10 feet of snow whipped up into 20 foot drifts
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52155
College of DuPage Meteorology
Severe Weather and Flash Flood Warnings


US51 KAKQ 272023
TORAKQ
VAC007-041-145-760-272100-
/O.NEW.KAKQ.TO.W.0039.101027T2023Z-101027T2100Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WAKEFIELD VA
423 PM EDT WED OCT 27 2010

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN WAKEFIELD HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
NORTH CENTRAL AMELIA COUNTY IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA...
NORTHWESTERN CHESTERFIELD COUNTY IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA...
SOUTHEASTERN POWHATAN COUNTY IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA...
SOUTHWESTERN CITY OF RICHMOND IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA...

* UNTIL 500 PM EDT

* AT 421 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS DANGEROUS
STORM WAS LOCATED 5 MILES SOUTH OF MACON...OR 7 MILES SOUTHWEST OF
POWHATAN...AND MOVING EAST AT 40 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
MOSELEY...ROUTE 288 AND ROUTE 60...WOODLAKE SUBDIVISION...
SALISBURY...BRANDERMILL SUBDIVISION...ROUTE 288 AND ROUTE 360...BON
AIR...BEXLEY...CHULA...KIMBERLY FARMS...CHESNUT OAKS...FOUNDERS
BRIDGE...CLOVER HILL...GENITO...PILKINTON...FLAT ROCK...
CLAYVILLE...SKINQUARTER...HOLLY HILLS AND MIDLOTHIAN.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TAKE COVER NOW. MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A
STURDY BUILDING. AVOID WINDOWS. IF IN A MOBILE HOME...A VEHICLE... OR
OUTDOORS...MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT
YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.
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We have a tornado warning headed straight for the richmond metro area.

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90L



91




92

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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52155
All NOAA FLoaters
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215. afj3
Hello All,
Waddup with that thing off the South American coast? Can it form and if so, is it south enough to avoid shear but north enough to stay over water and keep developing?
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955mb, or 954.9 is way down the Ol' MB road.

Wowsa.

Luckily it wasnt March
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INV/92L/XX
MARK
22.55N/53.55W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52155
212. JRRP

Link
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5073
INV/91L/XX
MARK
6.3N/43.3W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52155
INV/90L/XX
MARK
26.55N/40.99W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52155
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Severe Weather?! Three Invests?!!
This is a wild afternoon!


I know! This is nuts! What the heck happened?! I haven't checked the weather in the last 48 hours, and all this?! Here I am sitting in school really busy, I peak at the weather, and now I just can't get back to work. Its really ridiculous! WoooW!
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208. 7544
of if 91l gains some lat we really need to watch it . just need one more 93l to form and this could be record for invest in one day lol
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Severe Weather?! Three Invests?!!
This is a wild afternoon!
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30 VAbeachhurricanes "Increased precip won't cause the actual sea water to freeze more"

Actually it does. Precipitation is composed of fresh water, sea water is a saline solution.
Increasing salinity (the amount of salt in a given volume of water) lowers the freezing point. Conversely decreasing the salinity increases the freezing point.
Precipitation dilutes the surface layer of sea water with fresh water, lowering salinity and thus causing the surface layer to freeze at a higher temperature.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

The thing is, there appears to be no level of proof that will ever be enough for those who deny the proven science behind AGW. If one points at the numerous data points that show the planet is warming, the non-believers say those data aren't valid, and that pretty much ends the debate right then and there. It's like arguing with someone who swears up and down that water isn't wet, or that the sky isn't blue, or that the earth really sin't the center of the Universe.

(Of course, there's also the "Yes, it's warming, but it's not caused by man" line of denial, and the "Yes, it's caused by man, but it's not going to be that hot" line of denial, and the "Yes, it's going to be that hot, but it'll help as much as it will hurt" line of denial, and the "Yes, it's going to be overwhelmingly bad, but China and India don't care, so why should we?" line of denial, and so on, and so forth, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, world without end, amen.)

It's always struck me as somewhat amusing that scientists who speak out and demand that action be taken are accused of "politicizing" the GW debate, while Big Energy and the politicians they pay for are the very ones doing the accusing. If anything, the majority of scientists are constantly trying to "scientize" the debate; it's those with the most to gain by maintaining the fossil fuel status quo who spend the most cash and spew the most rhetoric in the very hopes of politicizing--and therefore polarizing and paralyzing--the debate.
Nea...I agree with basically everything you say here and in your numerous posts on the issue. The thing is though, on this issue, I've seen discussions in many blogs on many sites.....and I've never seen one person change their stance on the issue(or at least admit to it) one way or the other. It's frustrating I know.
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aaaaaaaaaand, I am under a tornado watch? What?!
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Oh my gosh! Wow, the weather is extremly extremly extremly crazy!

I am falling out of my chair, this is nuts!

954 mb storm over central US? What?!
Invest 90L? What?!
Invest 91L? What?!
Invest 92L? What?!
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202. Jax82
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201. 7544
looks like 92l is moving nw at this hour might get further north and really develope imo
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30 VAbeachhurricanes "Increased precip won't cause the actual sea water to freeze more"

Actually it does. Precipitation is composed of fresh water, sea water is a saline solution.
Increasing salinity (the amount of salt in a given volume of water) lowers the freezing point. Conversely decreasing the salinity increases the freezing point.
Precipitation dilutes the surface layer of sea water with fresh water, lowering salinity and thus increasing the temperature at which the surface layer freezes.
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198. 7544
back to tropics alot happening today out of all the invest which one is the one to watch 91L ?
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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.