Unprecedented Hurricane Tomas pounding the Lesser Antilles

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:38 PM GMT on October 30, 2010

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Hurricane Tomas, an unprecedented Lesser Antilles hurricane for so late in the season, is bearing down on the islands of St. Lucia and St. Vincent with Category 1 winds of 75 mph. Recent radar imagery from the Martinique radar shows that Tomas is still in the organizing stage, with an eyewall that just closed off, and a weak area of echoes on the south side, due to modest wind shear of 10 knots caused by southerly upper-level winds. The Hurricane Hunters reported top surface winds in the northern eyewall near 75 mph. St.Lucia figures to get the worst blow from Tomas, as this island will experience the strong right-front quadrant of the storm--the north eyewall. Winds on the island were sustained at 46 mph, gusting to 67 mph, at 11am EDT. Winds at Barbados peaked at 37 mph, gusting to 56 mph, early this morning, and the pressure bottomed out at 994 mb. Satellite loops of Tomas show a large and well-organized Cape Verdes-type hurricane, with good upper level outflow on all sides except the south, and an impressive amount of heavy thunderstorm activity. This is a very dangerous hurricane that is just beginning to get going. You can follow the progress of Tomas through the islands today with our wundermap zoomed in on St. Lucia.


Figure 1. Morning radar image from the Martinique radar shows the eye of Tomas moving between the islands of St, Lucia to the north and St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the south. The southern portion of the eyewall had just closed off with this image. Image credit: Meteo France.

Intensity forecast for Tomas
Now that the eyewall of Tomas has completely closed off, a period of steady and possibly rapid intensification lasting until Sunday afternoon is likely. The intensification rate may then be slowed by an increasing flow of southwesterly upper-level winds, which are expected to bring dry air and a moderate 15 - 20 knots of wind shear to Tomas Sunday through Tuesday, according to the latest SHIPS model forecast. Shear is then expected to relent, allowing more intensification on Wednesday. Water temperatures are a record warm 29.5°C and the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential--a measure of the total heat content of the ocean--is a very high 100 kJ/cm^2, which is very favorable for rapid intensification. I expect the Tomas will strengthen to a Category 3 or 4 hurricane by Wednesday.


Figure 2. Hurricane specialists Robbie Berg (background) and Dan Brown (foreground) discuss the latest data on Tomas last night at the National Hurricane Center.

Track forecast for Tomas
The computer models have come into better agreement this morning that after Tomas reaches the central Caribbean 4 - 5 days from now, a turn to the north or northeast is likely, in response to a strong trough of low pressure expected to develop over the Eastern U.S. The exact timing of this turn to the north or northeast is difficult to predict at this time, as steering currents will be weak in the Caribbean after Tomas passes through the Lesser Antilles today and Sunday. At this time, is appears that the Dominican Republic and Haiti are most at risk from a strike by Tomas, though the storm could move as far west as Jamaica, or as far east as the northern Lesser Antilles Islands.


Figure 3. Hurricane specialist Dan Brown computes Tomas' radius of tropical storm force winds using the old-fashioned paper track plot and dividers technique. Hurricane specialists at NHC commonly use a paper track plot to mark all storm center fixes and compute the current motion of the storm. A storm's current heading and speed in NHC advisories is usually a 12-hour average of the motion up until the final fix position.

Tomas, Shary, and the 2010 hurricane season in perspective
Tomas' formation ties 2010 with 1995 and 1887 for 3rd place for most number of named storms in an Atlantic hurricane season. Only 2005 (28 named storms) and 1933 (21 named storms) were busier. Atlantic hurricane records go back to 1851, though there were likely many missed named storms prior to the beginning of satellite coverage in the mid-1960s. The intensification of Shary and Tomas into hurricanes today brings the total number of hurricanes this season to twelve, tying 2010 with 1969 and 1887 for second place for most hurricanes in a season. The record is held by 2005 with fifteen hurricanes, and I don't think we'll beat that record this year!

The formation of Tomas so far south and east this late in the season is unprecedented in the historical record; no named storm has ever been present east of the Lesser Antilles (61.5°W) and south of 12°N latitude so late in the year. Hurricane Six of 1896 came close--it was also a tropical storm south of 12°N and east of 61.5°W on October 29, but nine hours earlier in the day. That storm recurved to the north and missed the Lesser Antilles. Tomas' track through the southern Lesser Antilles so late in the year is unprecedented. There have been only two other tropical storms that formed after October 15 south of 12°N and east of 61.5°W: Hurricane Jose, which was a tropical storm in that region on October 18, 1999, and Tropical Storm Nicolas, on October 16, 2003. Tomas most reminds me of a storm I flew into with the Hurricane Hunters--Hurricane Joan of 1988, which was a tropical storm on October 14 near Tomas' current location, and later strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane that hit Nicaragua. According to Chenoweth (2008), Tomas is the first tropical storm to cross through the Lesser Antilles Islands south of 16°N this late in the year since 1724. In that year, a tropical storm on 12 November crossed the islands at 13.7°N 61.5°W, and later became a hurricane that affected Jamaica. There was also a hurricane on 30 October 1671 that crossed 61.5°W at 13.3°N, and did damage on Barbados.

Another unusual aspect of Tomas' formation is that we now have two simultaneous hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean on October 30. There has been only one hurricane season since 1851 that had had two simultaneous hurricanes later in the year--1932, when Hurricane Ten and Hurricane Eleven both existed November 7 - 10. Today is also the 5th latest date in the season that there have been two simultaneous named storms in the Atlantic. The record was set way back in 1887, when Hurricane Eighteen and Tropical Storm Nineteen were both active on December 8. There were three years that had simultaneous November named storms: 1932, 1961, and 2001.

References
Chenoweth, M. and D. Divine (2008), "A document-based 318-year record of tropical cyclones in the Lesser Antilles, 1690-2007", Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, doi:10.1029/2008GC002066.

Next update
I'll have more on Sunday by 3pm EDT. I'm headed home to Michigan today, after a very valuable week here at the National Hurricane Center. The experience gave me a new appreciatation for just how good the forecasters are at what they do. NHC's hurricane experts are truly world-class, and we are very fortunate to have such a talented group of hard-working forecasters keeping us informed on the dangers we face from Atlantic hurricanes.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting KoritheMan:


Like I said, people jump on the retirement bandwagon too quickly. This is only my opinion of course, but every hurricane is bad. They all down trees, power lines, knock out communications, end lives, destroy property, etc. The list goes on. Are we going to retire every hurricane just because a localized area may get hit especially hard? Think about it.

Retirement should be reserved only for the most damaging and deadly of storms, such as Georges, Ike, Hanna, etc., not storms like Igor which produce strong winds because of the fast forward speed.

I'm not trying to be unsympathetic, but we can't just go retiring everything. Like the time Hawaii requested retirement of Ioke.


Well, it appears the World Meteorological Organization isn't listening to you...
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1142. Grothar
Quoting tornadodude:
so I might have acquired a 15 passenger van to be used for hurricane encounters and tornado chasing, any ideas on how to "trick it out"?

It only has the 2 front seats, and nothing else in back


If there are only two seats, how do you know it is a 15 passenger van? The rest of people have to lie down??
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Quoting KoritheMan:


troll?


Nope...

I live in Caracas, Venezuela. By the moment Tomas is 500kms north Margarita Island...

Today it rained a lot here and tomorrow I think it will be the same my friend...

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1139. JRRP
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NOt going north on this model....has to go west!



Looks like it misses the Trough on this model and High Pressure is coming back in......go west here as well.


Misses trough on this model and high pressure is moving back in forcing Tomas West.


Here is 3 very credible models that block Tomas from moving North and forcing him West. You all decide!
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1137. roleli
Quoting JLPR2:


That's true, just pointing out what the models are showing, the NHC must have its reasons for disagreeing with the models.


The perennial reality is whether the system will agree with the models or NHC or any of them.

Right now Jamaica can do without the rain, especially after the damage done by the tail of Nicole. Rain and Wind would be a major disaster
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1136. Grenada
Quoting DDR:
Southern edge or feeder band is approaching Trinidad and Tobago,im expecting possible heavy rains/gusty winds from about midnight. Radar...Link



I don't like the look of that.
Member Since: August 21, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 96
Quoting tornadodude:
so I might have acquired a 15 passenger van to be used for hurricane encounters and tornado chasing, any ideas on how to "trick it out"?

It only has the 2 front seats, and nothing else in back


Link
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When the models lay virtually on top of one another thru 2-3 days out, then we can typically say that there is excellent consensus. we don't even have that right now let alone thru days 4, 5, and thereafter. We will definitely have to wait and see. The models will likely feel out the approaching trough and come into better agreement within the next two days. Until then, we should see Tomas continue on a more western track as forecast by the NHC...
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1133. JLPR2
Buoy at 16N 63W


Wind Speed (WSPD): 31.1 kts
Wind Gust (GST): 38.9 kts
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Quoting davidwebb:

Thunders on Caracas area, too many clouds at the northeast side...

Maybe tomorrow we'll be on tha news...



troll?
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 550 Comments: 19790

Thunders on Caracas area, too many clouds at the northeast side...

Maybe tomorrow we'll be on tha news...

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1130. JLPR2
Quoting roleli:


Interesting as the NHC is carrying the storm south of Jamaica... @Levi32 seems to be agreeing with NHC or NHC with him :)
Quoting weatherwatcher12:

As is being said, the models are almost useless now. There must be a reason why the NHC is riding the south of the guidance.


That's true, just pointing out what the models are showing, the NHC must have its reasons for disagreeing with the models.
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1129. JRRP
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Why not?


Like I said, people jump on the retirement bandwagon too quickly. This is only my opinion of course, but every hurricane is bad. They all down trees, power lines, knock out communications, end lives, destroy property, etc. The list goes on. Are we going to retire every hurricane just because a localized area may get hit especially hard? Think about it.

Retirement should be reserved only for the most damaging and deadly of storms, such as Georges, Ike, Hanna, etc., not storms like Igor which produce strong winds because of the fast forward speed.

I'm not trying to be unsympathetic, but we can't just go retiring everything. Like the time Hawaii requested retirement of Ioke.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 550 Comments: 19790
1127. JLPR2
Quoting Relix:


I've been waiting 10 minutes to get a drink. I needed to do something meanwuhile haha


LOL! I guess that's a valid excuse. XD
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1126. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
By GUY ELLIS
Associated Press
CASTRIES, St. Lucia (AP) - Newly born Hurricane Tomas swept through a cluster of eastern Caribbean islands Saturday, tearing off roofs, damaging houses and downing power lines.

Authorites in St. Vincent were trying to confirm reports that three people died, including two men who might have been blown off a roof, said Jimmy Prince, emergency management spokesman.

Fierce winds tore roofs from nearly 100 homes and more than 400 people sought emergency shelter as the island plunged into darkness, he said.

"Many of them are workers who were unable to get off Mustique," he said, referring to a tiny island just south of St. Vincent.

In St. Lucia, winds ripped off the roof of a hospital, a school, a stadium and toppled a large concrete cross from the roof of a century-old church, government officials said.

Heavy rains also unleashed a landslide that blocked a main highway linking the capital to the island's southern region.

Prime Minister Stephenson King said he was still stranded in Barbados on an official trip and apologized to people on an island that reported a complete blackout.

"It hurts me to know that I am not around to give courage, strength and guidance at a time when we all must bond together and give support to each other," he said in a statement.

The government ordered two airports and all businesses closed and people called radio stations to admonish parents who were letting children play in the streets, where trees and power lines were falling.

"This is no joke," said calypso singer Nintus, one of the callers.

Organizers of the island's biggest Creole festival called off the event due to the storm, disappointing both would-be revelers and dozens of vendors who traveled to the capital to sell vegetables, fruits and other provisions.

"All my preparations have gone down the drain," said vendor Theckla Darius, from the rural community of Fond Assau. "It's been a lot of effort for nothing."

St. Vincent and Martinique, where at least 20,000 people were without power, streets flooded and tree branches were down. A cruise ship carrying nearly 2,000 tourists docked instead in Dominica.

Tomas had already knocked down power lines and damaged houses in Barbados as a tropical storm.

As the storm passed into the Caribbean, hurricane warnings were ended for the eastern islands, but tropical storm alerts remained in effect for Dominica, Martinque, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tobago and Grenada.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Tomas had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph) winds late Saturday and was centered about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of St. Lucia. It was moving west-northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).

Tomas, the Atlantic season's 12th hurricane, was expected to drop up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain in the region.

Forecasters said it could become a Category 2 storm Monday evening and possibly reach Category 3 by midweek, with winds around 115 mph (184 kph).

It was forecast to head toward Jamaica and could unleash heavy rains in southern portions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which is struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake and cope with a recent cholera outbreak.

Haiti issued an orange storm alert, the second highest level. Authorities warned southern and western regions - including the quake-ravaged capital of Port-au-Prince, where an estimated 1.3 million people are living in tent camps - to be on guard for high winds, thunderstorms and possible flooding.

But with few usable storm shelters and no feasible evacuation plan, residents will largely be on their own.

Tropical storm warnings were issued for Dominica, Tobago and Grenada, where the airport closed and gas stations sold out of fuel.

Another tropical storm, Shary, headed into the open Atlantic after missing Bermuda.

___

Associated Press writers Duggie Joseph in Kingstown, St. Vincent and Rodolphe Lamy in Fort-de-France, Martinique contributed to this report.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
so I might have acquired a 15 passenger van to be used for hurricane encounters and tornado chasing, any ideas on how to "trick it out"?

It only has the 2 front seats, and nothing else in back
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Right now cloudy where I live here in Caracas...

Tomorrow early in the morning we're waiting for the hurricane...

Will keep u in touch!

LOL
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Quoting JLPR2:
Models are taking Jamaica out of the equation leaving Haiti and DR with the worse of Tomas.


As is being said, the models are almost useless now. There must be a reason why the NHC is riding the south of the guidance.
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Quoting CycloneBoy:


Agreed Tampa, can't rule anything out right now past the next 2-3 days...anyone who knows even a little about forecasting understands that you take anything past that with a grain of salt. If more models view a weaker than anticipated trough, this sucker could wind up anywhere


Some of the best models are now showing a block coming for Tomas and forcing it West. Don't know which way it go yet. Looks like it might depend on strenght of the system. A stronger storm heads North while a weaker system moves more South and West. Have to wait and see.
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The NHC is probably seeing what Tampa's saying. A slow or weak trough.
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whats so incredible about the web is how fast info gets from one area of the world to another good night
Member Since: September 11, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 4266
Quoting KoritheMan:


I hope not.


Why not?
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1118. roleli
Quoting JLPR2:
Models are taking Jamaica out of the equation leaving Haiti and DR with the worse of Tomas.



Interesting as the NHC is carrying the storm south of Jamaica... @Levi32 seems to be agreeing with NHC or NHC with him :)
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Quoting Krycek1984:


Canada may request Igor to be retired, I dunno tho.


I hope not.
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Quoting notverylikely:


retarded or brain injury?


Sorry to hear of your problem.....so sorry for you!
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1115. Relix
Quoting JLPR2:


LOL, seriously, you are checking the weather from over there? XD


I've been waiting 10 minutes to get a drink. I needed to do something meanwuhile haha
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1114. roleli
It appears the NHC has adjusted the forecast track carrying the storm further south than before.

In Jamaica and keep an eye on this one... Hope things are not as bad as we are hearing in St. Lucia and Barbados
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Quoting TampaSpin:


I am not sure where it is going. But, for any idiot to say its not going in no way toward the GOM is really an idiot. Looking at the models currently some are now trending toward a much weaker trough and what trough there is lifting out quickly being replaced by high pressure. It is very foolish to say that there is no way going into the GOM currently.


Agreed Tampa, can't rule anything out right now past the next 2-3 days...anyone who knows even a little about forecasting understands that you take anything past that with a grain of salt. If more models view a weaker than anticipated trough, this sucker could wind up anywhere
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1111. JLPR2
Quoting Relix:
Logging in to check from Circotic (lol)...

Pretty safe here in PR. Some rain bands and the like, but outside from that very relaxed. Don't think Tomas will do anything here. Still I am sad for Haiti. I would prefer a thousand times for it to go over us than them.


LOL, seriously, you are checking the weather from over there? XD
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Quoting serialteg:
wassup homies...

keepin tabs on this one from pr.

some models got it goin in circles and loops... seen it happen before, gonna surf tomas obviously.


That looks like a Gas Chamber's swell
right?? Been to Middles today?
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tomas might screw up the winds for the prico surf tournament large storm expect some heavy weather even though the storm will be way south of you
Member Since: September 11, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 4266
Quoting KoritheMan:


I think Karl is a potential candidate. But I agree. Some people jump on the "retirement" bandwagon too easily.


Canada may request Igor to be retired, I dunno tho.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
are you a smart lugensquash or a stupid lugensquash
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
its not going in to the GOM only thing going there is you fishing see ya


Little fish you must be along with your neighbor.
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1106. Relix
Logging in to check from Circotic (lol)...

Pretty safe here in PR. Some rain bands and the like, but outside from that very relaxed. Don't think Tomas will do anything here. Still I am sad for Haiti. I would prefer a thousand times for it to go over us than them.
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Quoting MrstormX:
Did you guys hear about the unconfirmed death reports coming in from St. Vincent, tragic....


sucks. i love hurricanes and riding them out, but i know not a lot of people are so fortunate as to have cement houses and other comforts. condolences to those who have lost
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Quoting JLPR2:


Yeah, sort of.
It has been cloudy all day and tomorrow is Tomas's closest point to PR that should create some ominous weather of Halloween.
By the way I'm close to you in Carolina.


well we're all waitin on and seein with these weak steering later on and ive seen them do the loops and come back to us so ... but well its unlikely, focusing on the surf. well the N side is the strong one so we'll get somethin
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1103. JLPR2
Quoting Grothar:


Weather here has been great, almost too nice. Perfect day. Looks like you dodged a bullet.


Have dodged several this year. XD
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Quoting weatherwatcher12:

"The weather radar used to locate precipitation (rain, snow, hail) and measuring their intensity in real time. Distributed throughout the national territory on the mainland and overseas, they have a range of about 100 km to the measure and 150 to 200 km for the detection of hazards." From Meteo
Definitely open eye-wall then...
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Quoting Grothar:


Always functioned better at night. Think it may have had something to do with living in Europe so many years. Funny, the NHC keeps moving Tomas more South and West and the other models give it a sharp turn North. Never saw that much disagreement.


They always see something different lol
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1100. JLPR2
Quoting serialteg:


shout out to my PR peeps

estoy en sj hoy... these rains, maybe we got em from this guy who knows?


Yeah, sort of.
It has been cloudy all day and tomorrow is Tomas's closest point to PR that should create some ominous weather for Halloween.
By the way I'm close to you in Carolina.
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Quoting MrstormX:

Whats the range of that radar? could be its not picking up the whole eye-wall well enough, although I tend to agree that it probably is open or quite weak on the SW side.

"The weather radar used to locate precipitation (rain, snow, hail) and measuring their intensity in real time. Distributed throughout the national territory on the mainland and overseas, they have a range of about 100 km to the measure and 150 to 200 km for the detection of hazards." From Meteo France
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1098. Grothar
Quoting TampaSpin:


Dang you are a true nite owl.....or a Vampire. Guess this is your time of year to blossom or feed.....LOL


Always functioned better at night. Think it may have had something to do with living in Europe so many years. Funny, the NHC keeps moving Tomas more South and West and the other models give it a sharp turn North. Never saw that much disagreement.
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1097. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting TampaSpin:


I am not sure where it is going. But, for any idiot to say its not going in no way toward the GOM is really an idiot. Looking at the models currently some are now trending toward a much weaker trough and what trough there is lifting out quickly being replaced by high pressure. It is very foolish to say that there is no way going into the GOM currently.
its not going in to the GOM only thing going there is you fishing see ya
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285

Quoting JLPR2:
Also the eyewall is now open on the south side.
Whats the range of that radar? could be its not picking up the whole eye-wall well enough, although I tend to agree that it probably is open or quite weak on the SW side.
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Quoting serialteg:


i believe you meant "than" :)


haha +1 :pp
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Quoting JLPR2:
Also the eyewall is now open on the south side.


shout out to my PR peeps

estoy en sj hoy... these rains, maybe we got em from this guy who knows?
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1093. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting TampaSpin:


Is it big fish in little pond or little fish in big pond.......ROFLMAO
are you a smart lugensquash or a stupid lugensquash
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285

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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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