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 weatherwatcher12:

Why must people post things like this.
He wanted pple like u to answer. It's called "yanking your chain". I just ignored. Didn't even press [-] - not worth it IMO.
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Good Morning everyone, This is my first post here. Been a long time lurker here for many years and thanks to all who have been very informative. I would just like to say that living here in Florida all my life (49) years,and been through so many tropical storms and Hurricanes, watching the way the models have been with Tomas, i pray that this does not make the turn to the N or NE like some models are showing towards Haiti. I do not wish a strike on any country but for the first time ever thinking of something like this, i would rather it hit Florida than that country, at least we could handle the situation far more than that poor country. Lets all hope and pray something changes in the long run. Prayers go out to all others who have been in the path of this storm so far and who might be.
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1441. afj3
Quoting Neapolitan:

A) You know this how?

B) Many Floridians, especially in the south, have friends and/or family and or business interests all over the Caribbean; there's never a lot of "breathing sighs of relief"...

I did it on purpose. I want to know if the storm is still a threat to Florida and people in this room do have the knowledge but often would rather let you know they have the knowledge than share it. So is Florida in the clear?
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1440. scott39
Quoting weatherwatcher12:

Why must people post things like this.
To get your reaction.
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Quoting scott39:
If you look at the current Sattilite, you will see that the shear is taking its toll on the convection.


Yep nearly all gone might end up a naked swirl soon ;)

Not only losing it's tail but all it's clothes


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To all in Jamaica "Hurricane Tomas has the potential to become a significant threat to weather conditions over Jamaica and its territorial waters over the next few days. Fishers on the cays and banks are further advised to commence preparations with a view to evacuation, should it become necessary.

It is likely that the Meteorological Service will begin issuing Bulletins on Hurricane Tomas later today. All interests are, therefore, advised to pay close attention to subsequent News Releases."
nch
Member Since: May 16, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 1231
Quoting scott39:
I also think that NE hook is exaggerated to move that fast. I also read that Tomas could go WSW on Tuesday According to the GFS, EURO, and UKMET. That would change the track some at landfall.
This certainly is not going to be one simple, easy-track storm...

Latest Tomas:


BTW, don't forget EDT and AST are the same for the rest of this week...
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Quoting afj3:
Looks like Florida can breathe a sigh of relief. Hurricane threats are over for 2010!

A) You know this how?

B) Many Floridians, especially in the south, have friends and/or family and or business interests all over the Caribbean; there's never a lot of "breathing sighs of relief" while hurricane season is still going on...
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Met Service of Jamaica website

October 31, 2010 at 5:00 a.m.

LOCAL WEATHER FORECAST

SIGNIFICANT FEATURE… High Pressure Ridge across Jamaica.

Comment
The High Pressure Ridge will weaken as a Trough builds on Tuesday across Jamaica. The Trough will dominate as Hurricane Tomas approaches the central Caribbean next week.



24-HOURS FORECAST
This Morning… Partly cloudy across sections of northern parishes, mainly sunny elsewhere.
This Afternoon… Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms mainly across central and western parishes and hilly inland areas of eastern parishes.
Tonight …Becoming fair.



3-DAYS FORECAST (after tomorrow)
Mon… Sunny morning. Scattered afternoon showers and isolated thunderstorms across central and western parishes.
Tue/ Wed… Partly cloudy morning across northeastern parishes. Scattered afternoon showers mainly across central and eastern parishes.

Regionally…Hurricane Tomas is located about 595 kilometres southeast of San Juan or 205 kilometres west of St. Lucia and moving toward the west northwest.



nch
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Quoting afj3:
Looks like Florida can breathe a sigh of relief. Hurricane threats are over for 2010!

Why must people post things like this.
Member Since: May 16, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 1231
1432. scott39
Quoting BahaHurican:
It prolly was meant to go through the floor to begin with...
Yea, After it bounced off the ceiling.
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1431. Mixie
Quoting Neapolitan:

True. But just yesterday here, at least two members suggested here that they'd rather it hit Haiti for one reason or another...though neither comment was quite as heartless or senseless as that from the poster who wrote, without the slightest hint of irony, that he prayed the storm would go south into Nicaragua because he has a northern Caribbean cruise planned for next weekend. However, he did take the time to note that if that happened he would "feel bad" for all the people living in tiny shanties and such there. What a thoughtful guy. :-\


I wouldn't even begin to say/write what I think about people like that - I'll keep my mouth shut except to say it was maybe that same attitude by a captain/company that caused the Fantome schooner to disappear.
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1430. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
21L/H/T/C2
MARK
14.22n/63.54w


weakening flag flagged

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1429. afj3
Looks like Florida can breathe a sigh of relief. Hurricane threats are over for 2010!
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Yeah, looks like he is leaving it behind.


But if he leaves it behind then he'll be like the dog who had his tail cut off... "very, very mean". Not good. Not good all at.
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Quoting scott39:
That prayer hit the ceiling.
It prolly was meant to go through the floor to begin with...
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1426. scott39
Quoting BahaHurican:
Frankly, either PR or Cuba would be better equipped to handle this than Haiti right now... it would be freaky but cool if that swift NE hook would take place... it's not impossible, just IMO unlikely. Tomas is definitely one to watch in the Caribbean.
I also think that NE hook is exaggerated to move that fast. I also read that Tomas could go WSW on Tuesday According to the GFS, EURO, and UKMET. That would change the track some at landfall.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

True. But just yesterday here, at least two members suggested here that they'd rather it hit Haiti for one reason or another...though neither comment was quite as heartless or senseless as that from the poster who wrote, without the slightest hint of irony, that he prayed the storm would go south into Nicaragua because he has a northern Caribbean cruise planned for next weekend. However, he did take the time to note that if that happened he would "feel bad" for all the people living in tiny shanties and such there. What a thoughtful guy. :-\
People tend to not look at both sides of the coin. I would be a fool to say I don't fear what he could do to us if he hit us but although we had severe damage from Ivan our lives were spared. I could not even begin to imagine the amount of lives that would be lost if this hits Haiti. Homes can always be replaced but not lives. At least we have homes to shelter in unlike those poor people in Haiti.
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1423. Mixie
Quoting BahaHurican:
Frankly, either PR or Cuba would be better equipped to handle this than Haiti right now... it would be freaky but cool if that swift NE hook would take place... it's not impossible, just IMO unlikely. Tomas is definitely one to watch in the Caribbean.


sure right about that! I was hoping it would do that crazy LBAR loop - its gone past that track now :( so am now hoping for the HWRF scenario - I'm sure anyone else can handle Tomas better than Haiti.
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1422. scott39
If you look at the current Sattilite, you will see that the shear is taking its toll on the convection.
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Quoting Mixie:


Are you from Dominica too? :) Yes, I can't really sleep for very long until I know what's happening with my mom - it's been like this since Friday night when I realised what relatively short notice all those islands were working with.
No, Cayman Islands. Ivan hit us as a Cat 4-5 but I can relate to what you are feeling. Not knowing is terrible.
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1420. scott39
Quoting Neapolitan:

True. Though just yesterday here, at least two members suggested that they'd rather it hit Haiti for one reason or another...though neither comment was quite as heartless or senseless as that from the poster who wrote, without the slightest hint of irony, that he prayed the storm would go south into Nicaragua because he has a northern Caribbean cruise planned for next weekend. However, he did take the time to note that if that happened he would "feel bad" for all the people living in tiny shanties and such there. What a thoughtful guy. :-\
That prayer hit the ceiling.
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1419. Mixie
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I said last night that in a way although I dread it I would almost rather it hit us in Cayman than for it to hit Haiti. Building codes here are very strict and those poor people in Haiti still living in tents. Just recently so many deaths there due to severe weather and that wasn't even any kind of developed system.


and I agree wholeheartedly - I even found the news sites to not be giving any significant attention to Tomas (CNN/BBC) even in their 'Latin American' sections, no mention - perhaps they're too busy with bomb scares, terrorist packages and US elections but the world should be looking this way right now to see what they can do to mitigate damage in Haiti - for that the forecasters have been there giving information long enough. Makes me a bit upset - by the time they look around, there's nothing more than any of us can do but sit and wait for the death tolls.
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Quoting scott39:
Unfourtunately for Haiti it wont have to be a Major hurricane to cause catastrophic damage. Hopefully The trough will wait until a little later to turn it or even before it would be better.
Frankly, either PR or Cuba would be better equipped to handle this than Haiti right now... it would be freaky but cool if that swift NE hook would take place... it's not impossible, just IMO unlikely. Tomas is definitely one to watch in the Caribbean.
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Poll Time:
Do you think Tomas Will Reach Major Hurricane Status?
(A) YES
(B) NO
(C) HE WILL REACH ABOVE CATEGORY 3 STATUS

DO YOU THINK TOMAS WILL HIT HISPANOILA?
(A) YES
(B) NO
(C) IT WILL STAY WEST, AND HIT CUBA

Ummm...for the first question, 'A' and 'C' have a lot of overlap, no?
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I said last night that in a way although I dread it I would almost rather it hit us in Cayman than for it to hit Haiti. Building codes here are very strict and those poor people in Haiti still living in tents. Just recently so many deaths there due to severe weather and that wasn't even any kind of developed system.

True. But just yesterday here, at least two members suggested here that they'd rather it hit Haiti for one reason or another...though neither comment was quite as heartless or senseless as that from the poster who wrote, without the slightest hint of irony, that he prayed the storm would go south into Nicaragua because he has a northern Caribbean cruise planned for next weekend. However, he did take the time to note that if that happened he would "feel bad" for all the people living in tiny shanties and such there. What a thoughtful guy. :-\
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1415. scott39
Unfourtunately for Haiti it wont have to be a Major hurricane to cause catastrophic damage. Hopefully The trough will wait until a little later to turn it or even before it would be better.
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Quoting reedzone:
Before I head to church, just wanted to say the storm will probably not weaken, but hold in intensity as I mentioned yesterday, slow strengthening or holding steady on intensification. Seems to be doing just that. Shear is only 20 knots compared to a week ago where it was 50-60 knots in this area. I expect Tomas to remain at 100 mph. Possible major by either tomorrow or Tuesday.
Hey reed. Looks like the blog ate my post replying to Inactivity which was saying pretty much the same thing... It would be nice if it stayed relatively small, considering it doesn't seem likely for a reduction in wind speed to occur...

@ Inactivity... wish this thing could just fizzle before hitting anything else, right?
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1413. Mixie
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
During and right after Ivan I could not get through to any of my children(all adults) who were at different locations on the island. I was a nervous wreck until I received word they were all ok. The hardest part is the not knowing what is happening with family.


Are you from Dominica too? :) Yes, I can't really sleep for very long until I know what's happening with my mom - it's been like this since Friday night when I realised what relatively short notice all those islands were working with.
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1412. Dakster
Good Morning...

SLU Glad your family is ok! I bet the bridges are high priority to get fixed and I am sure it will happen fairly fast once the weather clears.

I see the models still think Tomas is going hit the Mona passage. Still waiting to see if the NHC buys that scenario or not. The circle of possibilities is still rather large...
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10034
Poll Time:
Do you think Tomas Will Reach Major Hurricane Status?
(A) YES
(B) NO
(C) HE WILL REACH ABOVE CATEGORY 3 STATUS

DO YOU THINK TOMAS WILL HIT HISPANOILA?
(A) YES
(B) NO
(C) IT WILL STAY WEST, AND HIT CUBA
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I said last night that in a way although I dread it I would almost rather it hit us in Cayman than for it to hit Haiti. Building codes here are very strict and those poor people in Haiti still living in tents. Just recently so many deaths there due to severe weather and that wasn't even any kinda of developed system.
Was thinking same thing.... that forecast track is just about worst case scenario for SW Haiti, especially if Tomas gets to cat 3+ and / or expands in size. The S peninsula and area near PaP would be under at least TS conditions for a longer period, and the eye would remain over water, meaning little opportunity for disruption by mountainous terrain. Just about the only way it could be worse would be a eye passage just to the SW of Port-au-Prince....

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Before I head to church, just wanted to say the storm will probably not weaken, but hold in intensity as I mentioned yesterday, slow strengthening or holding steady on intensification. Seems to be doing just that. Shear is only 20 knots compared to a week ago where it was 50-60 knots in this area. I expect Tomas to remain at 100 mph. Possible major by either tomorrow or Tuesday.
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FWIW, ATCF says the central pressure actually went up one milliabr to 983, but that wasn't enough to lower the winds from 85 knots (100 mph). IOW, it'll still be a Cat 2 at 11...

AL, 21, 2010103112, , BEST, 0, 140N, 633W, 85, 983, HU, 64, NEQ, 35, 15, 10, 20, 1011, 175, 15, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, TOMAS, D,
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Tamas is moving slooooowly
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5930
Quoting Grenada:
I now can't see a difference between the sea and clouds, it's all melded into one, the wind is picking up a bit and we now have light rain.
stay safe!
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"Authorities in St. Vincent said they had unconfirmed reports that three people died during the storm Saturday, including two men who might have been blown off a roof."
- Quoted from the Washington post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/31/AR2010103100867.html
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1404. scott39
HH have found this morning that Tomas is leaning to the NE. This is caused by the Southwesterly wind shear.
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Quoting Mixie:


STILL????? yes, from this image it really looks so. Isn't this system a bit lop-sided? I can't even see the eye even though I know its there - strange. This is the first time a TS/hurricane caused me sleepless hours (since it was 91L!).

Got to get some more sleep now - I seriously hope that Tomas could stall and change his mind if he's considering passing through Haiti.
I said last night that in a way although I dread it I would almost rather it hit us in Cayman than for it to hit Haiti. Building codes here are very strict and those poor people in Haiti still living in tents. Just recently so many deaths there due to severe weather and that wasn't even any kind of developed system.
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some ways Tomas reminds me of Charley of 2004
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1401. Grenada
I now can't see a difference between the sea and clouds, it's all melded into one, the wind is picking up a bit and we now have light rain.
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1400. Mixie
Quoting stormwatcherCI:


Looks like you have some very heavy rain headed your way shortly.


STILL????? yes, from this image it really looks so. Isn't this system a bit lop-sided? I can't even see the eye even though I know its there - strange. This is the first time a TS/hurricane caused me sleepless hours (since it was 91L!).

Got to get some more sleep now - I seriously hope that Tomas could stall and change his mind if he's considering passing through Haiti.
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1399. Grenada
Quoting BahaHurican:
Better to lose a roof than a life... sure hope this turns out to be an "exaggerated" report...



Totally agree. While we waited for Ivan I remember seeing a load of guys on a roof hammering like crazy...... also the first roof I saw fly!!!!
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1398. scott39
Quoting Inactivity:


True. But I believe that it won't weaken in the Caribbean.Remember the 2010 factor?
I still think it will make it to a Major hurricane. Hopefully the short term shear will keep it from becoming an even bigger monster.
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Quoting pottery:

It's overhead now (that area of convection).
Gusty, squally weather.
But no rain to talk about.
Very dark to the east...
I know you have been having flooding issues there from reading your posts so hopefully it won't be so heavy as to make it much worse.
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Quoting Mixie:


exactly - I'm so grateful for internet technology that people can find weather blogs and sites like this; its still amazing that with all the tech, there's still little news coming out as yet - thought the twitter people would be far more active - on Dominica, they certainly weren't so for all the islands its still a guessing game how many people may have lost their lives. The official news reports coming out now is the same as late last night.
During and right after Ivan I could not get through to any of my children(all adults) who were at different locations on the island. I was a nervous wreck until I received word they were all ok. The hardest part is the not knowing what is happening with family.
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1395. Grenada
Quoting Mixie:


exactly - I'm so grateful for internet technology that people can find weather blogs and sites like this; its still amazing that with all the tech, there's still little news coming out as yet - thought the twitter people would be far more active - on Dominica, they certainly weren't so for all the islands its still a guessing game how many people may have lost their lives. The official news reports coming out now is the same as late last night.



There's a post now on Storm Carib site from St. Vincent and one from Angiqua, the former was obviously in an area not too badly hit.
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1394. pottery
Quoting stormwatcherCI:


Looks like you have some very heavy rain headed your way shortly.

It's overhead now (that area of convection).
Gusty, squally weather.
But no rain to talk about.
Very dark to the east...
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Quoting Grenada:



Probably trying to keep it on!
Better to lose a roof than a life... sure hope this turns out to be an "exaggerated" report...
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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.