Early 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecasts

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:22 AM GMT on April 07, 2011

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Hi everybody, this is Dr. Rob Carver filling in for Dr. Masters. 

A continuation of the pattern of much above-average Atlantic hurricane activity we've seen since 1995 is on tap for 2011, according to the latest seasonal forecast issued April 6 by Dr. Phil Klotzbach and Dr. Bill Gray of Colorado State University (CSU). They are calling for 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes. An average season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. The new forecast is nearly identical to their forecast made in December, which called for 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes. Only six seasons since 1851 have had as many as 17 named storms; 19 seasons have had 9 or more hurricanes. The 2011 forecast calls for a much above-average chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S., both along the East Coast (48% chance, 31% chance is average) and the Gulf Coast (47% chance, 30% chance is average). The Caribbean is forecast to have a 61% chance of seeing at least one major hurricane (42% is average.) Five years with similar pre-season November atmospheric and oceanic conditions were selected as "analogue" years that the 2011 hurricane season may resemble: 2008, 1999, 1996, 1955, and 2006.  The first four years listed all had neutral to La Niña SST's during hurricane season, while 2006 had El Niño SST's.  The average activity for these years was 12.6 named storms, 7.8 hurricanes, and 4.8 major hurricanes.

This year, the forecasters have introduced a new statistical model for their  April forecasts.  There are four components in this model:

1. Average sea-level pressure in March around the Azores in the subtropical Atlantic.

2. The average of January through March sea-surface temperatures (SST's) in the tropical Atlantic off the coast of Africa.

3. Average sea-level pressure in February and March for the southern tropical Pacific ocean west of South America.

4. Forecasts of September's SST in the tropical Pacific using a dynamical model from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) 

The first two components are loosely linked together.  Statistical studies have shown that a weaker subtropical high near the Azores, combined with warmer SST's off the coast of Africa in March are associated with weak winds near the surface and aloft from August to October.  This decrease in wind speeds reduces wind shear which can disrupt forming storms.  These March conditions also are associated with warmer SST's in August to October, which is also favorable for more tropical storms.   For this forecast, the first component is strongly favorable for increased hurricane activity, while the second component is weakly negative.

The last two components represent the changes in sea-surface temperature and sea-level pressure that are the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  Briefly speaking,  El Niño conditions (warm sea-surface temperatures) are not favorable for Atlantic hurricanes.  For more info on ENSO and hurricanes, Jeff has this article.

Using the ECMWF model as guidance (see Figure 1), the CSU group believes that SST's in the tropical Pacific will be neutral (less than 0.5°C from normal).  This would have a small negative effect on hurricane activity.  However, the tropical Pacific sea-level pressure shows that the atmosphere looks like a La Niña event is still going on.  This is strongly favorable for Atlantic hurricane activity in the CSU group's model.

Figure 1. Forecasts of El Niño conditions by 20 computer models, made in March 2011. The ECMWF forecast used by the CSU group is represented by the dark orange square.  The forecasts for August-September-October (ASO) show that 5 models predict El Niño conditions, 7 predict neutral conditions, and 5 predict a weak to moderate La Niña. El Niño conditions are defined as occurring when sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific off the coast of South America ( the "Niño 3.4 region) rise to 0.5°C above average (top red line). La Niña conditions occur when SSTs in this region fall to 0.5°C below average. Image credit: Columbia University.

How accurate are the April forecasts? While the formulas used by CSU do well in making hindcasts--correctly modeling the behavior of past hurricane seasons--their April hurricane season forecasts have had no skill in predicting the future. This year's April forecast is using a new system and has not yet produced a verified forecast.  The scheme used in the past three years successfully predicted active hurricane seasons for 2008 and 2010, but failed to properly predict the relatively quiet 2009 hurricane season. A different formula was used prior to 2008, and the April forecasts using that formula showed no skill over a simple forecast using climatology. CSU maintains an Excel spreadsheet of their forecast errors ( expressed as a mathematical correlation coefficient, where positive means a skilled forecast, and negative means they did worse than climatology) for their their April forecasts. For now, these April forecasts should simply be viewed as an interesting research effort that has the potential to make skillful forecasts. The next CSU forecast, due by June 1, is the one worth paying attention to. Their early June forecasts have shown considerable skill over the years.


Figure 2.
Accuracy of long-range forecasts of Atlantic hurricane season activity performed by Phil Klotzbach and Bill Gray of Colorado State University (colored squares) and Tropical Storm Risk, Inc. (colored lines). The CSU team's April forecast skill is not plotted, but is less than zero. The skill is measured by the Mean Square Skill Score (MSSS), which looks at the error and squares it, then compares the percent improvement the forecast has over a climatological forecast of 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. TS=Tropical Storms, H= Hurricanes, IH=Intense Hurricanes, ACE=Accumulated Cyclone Energy, NTC=Net Tropical Cyclone Activity. Image credit: TSR.

2011 Atlantic hurricane season forecast from Tropical Storm Risk, Inc.

The  British  private  forecasting  firm  Tropical Storm Risk, Inc.  (TSR),   issued  their  2011  Atlantic hurricane season forecast on April 5. They are also calling for  a  very  active  year: 14. 2 named storms, 7.5 hurricanes, and 3.6 intense hurricanes. We would round that to 14 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes.   This  compares to their forecast issued in December of 15.6 named storms, 8.4 hurricanes,   and intense hurricanes. TSR predicts a 55%  chance  of  an  above-average  hurricane season, 28% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 17%  chance  of  a  below normal season. TSR bases their April forecast on predictions  that  sea  surface temperatures this fall in the tropical  Atlantic  will  be  above  about  0.08°C above average, and trade  wind  speeds  will  be  about 0.2  m/s  slower  than average.  The decrease in the trade wind speeds is favorable for enhanced hurricane activity, while the forecast SST's are expected to be neutral for hurricane activity.

TSR puts their skill level right next to the forecast numbers: 13% skill above chance at forecasting the number of named storms, 11% skill for hurricanes, and 10% skill for intense hurricanes. That's not much skill, and really, we have to wait until the June 1 forecasts by CSU, NOAA, and TSR to get a forecast with reasonable skill.

Rob's critiques of the April forecasts
I have to note that Jeff and I wrote this article together.  He wrote the general framework before the forecasts were issued, while I wrote the details based on the actual forecasts.  So the preceding text is a joint production.  However, I have a few observations to make that are my responsibility alone.

First, I am disappointed that the CSU group has changed forecast models only after three seasonal forecasts.  This makes it very difficult to assess the skill of the current forecast using past performance.  This is very important for forecast users, and they do it everyday.  For example, I tend to discount a forecast of rain if it comes from a source that over-forecasts rain (The boy who cried wolf problem).

In the documentation that came with the April forecast, the CSU group argue that the hindcasts show the new forecast model has skill.  However, I think hindcasts are a poor substitute for real forecasts in understanding the skill of a statistical forecast model, like that of the CSU's group.  As Jeff noted, the previous forecast model did well with the hindcasts and yet had mixed results with the actual forecasts.  This does not give me confidence that the new forecast model will be superior to the previous model.

From a philosophical viewpoint, I am inherently cautious about statistical forecast models like the one used by the CSU group.  Essentially, they look at what happened in the past and use that to predict the future.  However, for making forecasts, we assume that the relationships in space and time between the predictors (such as the average March sea-level pressure around the Azores) and the predictands (Atlantic hurricane activity) does not change as we move forward in time.  In a world with climate change, that's a tricky assumption to make.

In any event, it is customary in the meteorological community to continue running older forecast guidance models after the introduction of newer models.  This allows forecasters and forecast users to leverage their knowledge of the forecast skill of the older model and gain insight into the forecast skill of the new model.  The CSU group really should have included the forecast from the previous statistical forecast system in this forecast.     

I am uneasy with some of the methodology choices made in implementing the forecast model.  Data for the first three predictors was obtained from the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), NOAA's newest and most advanced reanalysis product.  However, CFSR data for 2010 and 2011 has not been released yet, so the CSU group used NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis (NNR), NOAA's first-generation reanalysis, to fill in the gaps.  Due to differences in design, resolution, etc., CFSR and NNR can have different depictions of the state of the atmosphere.  So using NNR's March 2011 average SLP instead of CFSR's could alter the forecast in unexpected ways.  It would be interesting to see how CFSR's 2010-2011 data changes the results. 

In any event, we will have to wait and see what the Atlantic hurricane season of 2011 brings.

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The recent update of the 4/4/11 storm. Big numbers
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
Quoting MrMixon:


I hear ya... we're way behind on precip around here too. The Western Slope is looking good, but things are downright crispy out on the plains at the moment...


The plains and front range didn't get much in the way of "upslop" storms this year. A lot of the systems either came across the great lakes and northern plains, or came up from the gulf - not much went across the middle, through the TX panhandle.
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Quoting jeffs713:
I think Gro went into hibernation or something.

I know TC will side with the facts, once they are proven to be facts, as opposed to conjecture or rumor. I know quite a few people who refuse to side with facts if they disagree with their opinion or ideology, but TC isn't one of the stubborn sheeple.


+1000
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:




Hi, Jeffs713.

There are some that will not allow the facts to deter them from their opinions. I have seen twincomache side with the facts before. Just keep giving him the facts and I believe he will go with the facts.

Where's Grothar?
I think Gro went into hibernation or something.

I know TC will side with the facts, once they are proven to be facts, as opposed to conjecture or rumor. I know quite a few people who refuse to side with facts if they disagree with their opinion or ideology, but TC isn't one of the stubborn sheeple.
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Quoting jeffs713:

You and I are talking about entirely different things.

The military is already deemed as "essential". Each department determines who is "essential" internally. Congress decides if furloughed workers are paid for time they were not at work, due to the shutdown. Anyone who works is deemed essential, and is paid once the budget impasse is resolved, that isn't in question. Whats in question is whether the furloughed workers get paid or not.

One side says "they didn't work, they don't get paid". The other side says "they didn't work because we *couldn't* pay them without a budget".




Hi, Jeffs713.

There are some that will not allow the facts to deter them from their opinions. I have seen twincomache side with the facts before. Just keep giving him the facts and I believe he will go with the facts.

Where's Grothar?
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Quoting Skyepony:


Yeah~ I'd trade it all for rain.


I hear ya... we're way behind on precip around here too. The Western Slope is looking good, but things are downright crispy out on the plains at the moment...

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Quoting twincomanche:
I don't believe that to be correct. The justice department of both the Carter administration and the Clinton administration gave the opinion out that the President has broad discretionary powers to decide who is considered essential. If they are deemed to be essential then they work and get paid. That would mean that the people who see that the military gets a paycheck would work and get paid and so would our folks in uniform.


Gates was just on TV addressing our men and women in uniform at a base. He stated to them " the good news is you will get paid, the bad news is I don't know when".
So yes you are correct, they will get paid but it would be a deferred payment once the government is opened back up from business if they shut down
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
627. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting MrMixon:


Heh... you're seeing everything on radar but rain today...

:)


Yeah~ I'd trade it all for rain.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38198
Quoting Skyepony:

MrMixon~ Your welcome.. My bookmark into WUnderground is to my local radar. Fires, bugs, birds, chaff & rain..it's like a third eye.


The fact that Florida has enough bugs that you can occasionally pick them up on radar reminds me of another reason I live at 8,300 above sea level (fewer bugs)! :)
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Quoting twincomanche:
I agree with what you say. The other question is whether our Armed Services are going to get paid if this thing goes on past the 15th. Last time they did. This time seems to be in some question.
That sounds like a poison pill in the making. If you vote against paying them, you get castigated for not paying the armed forces. If you vote for paying them, you get castigated for not reducing spending.
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624. Skyepony (Mod)
Looking at what's burning in FL most are open burning authorizations.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38198
Quoting hydrus:
I got in without it..Try again laLinkter if ya have the time..
I can see the basic plot, but can't narrow down to anything. As soon as I try to focus in on something or change the parameters, I get a popup for user ID and password. (I am using firefox, which is why the site might actually be working as intended... hehe)
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Quoting Skyepony:
I see like 7 fires on radar now..


Heh... you're seeing everything on radar but rain today...

:)
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Quoting PlazaRed:
I counted 10 of these small earthquakes today and all in about exactly the same place.
Seems a bit odd!

MAP

2.6

2011/04/08 13:16:49

35.236

-92.366

6.0

ARKANSAS


Plaza, Here is a helicoder reading near that area, kinda gives another perspective....

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Quoting jeffs713:

It requires a username and password... Looks fantastic, though!
I got in without it..Try again la......Link......ter if ya have the time..
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618. Skyepony (Mod)
I see like 7 fires on radar now..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38198
Quoting hydrus:
Good morning Jeff...I do not know if you have this link in your arsenal. But is useful for forecasting rain events. It is a radar formatted forecast model for the U.S. It has numerous settings to help narrow down rain events for certain areas....Link

It requires a username and password... Looks fantastic, though!
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Quoting twincomanche:
I don't believe that to be correct. The justice department of both the Carter administration and the Clinton administration gave the opinion out that the President has broad discretionary powers to decide who is considered essential. If they are deemed to be essential then they work and get paid. That would mean that the people who see that the military gets a paycheck would work and get paid and so would our folks in uniform.

You and I are talking about entirely different things.

The military is already deemed as "essential". Each department determines who is "essential" internally. Congress decides if furloughed workers are paid for time they were not at work, due to the shutdown. Anyone who works is deemed essential, and is paid once the budget impasse is resolved, that isn't in question. Whats in question is whether the furloughed workers get paid or not.

One side says "they didn't work, they don't get paid". The other side says "they didn't work because we *couldn't* pay them without a budget".
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What in the world is going on in the GOM?
Was there a Viagra spill?
If this keep "up" more than 4 hours......
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On a whether note...
Warm sector, dry line, low pressure. Severe weather in Washington, D.C. Which feature you assign to whom is up to you.
:)

Same old questions, though... Where and when will the cap break and what will be the aftermath?

Have a good day, folks.
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 154 Comments: 18760
Quoting jeffs713:
Congress is the only one that can decide payment. The President has no power to decide if federal workers get paid.
Good morning Jeff...I do not know if you have this link in your arsenal. But is useful for forecasting rain events. It is a radar formatted forecast model for the U.S. It has numerous settings to help narrow down rain events for certain areas....Link
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


We are all DOOM!
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This is weird, a Tsunami Station is in event mode in the Caribbean SSW of PR. Must be a malfunction. The one closest to it is normal.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
Quoting jeffs713:
Congress is the only one that can decide payment. The President has no power to decide if federal workers get paid.


Those pesky facts...
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A frequent question is how this compares to the last government shutdown in 1995-1996. There were two shutdowns at that time, one of five days, from November 13 through November 19, 1995, and one of 21 days, from
December 15, 1995 through January 5, 1996. The first shutdown was not long enough to affect pay checks, and DOD was not affected by the second because defense appropriations were enacted on December 1, so funding was available. This is why they got paid. I don't know of any DOD appropriations have been enacted this time to allow them not to defer payroll for DOD.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
Quoting aquak9:
I swear, he'd argue with the devil himself.

There goes Arkansas again. Man I hope it's letting off steam, and reducing tension in that area.


Not necessarily a bad trait, arguing with the devil.
:)

As you may know, there is some question whether or not the increased activity in AR is due to injection wells operated by two companies engaged in natural gas fracking. The injection wells have been shut down since March 4. The two companies involved have agreed this shutdown will continue till the AR Oil and Gas Commission can listen to science on both sides of the question at a hearing scheduled for April 26. Earthquake activity has slowed since Mar 4, but, as you have noted, it does continue. Here's a recent news article summary . Also a 2.4 aftershock(?) at 10:36. Looks like 22 quakes in past 2 1/2 days. USGS link

The big quake(s) in Japan might make the human vs. natural cause of Arkansas swarms harder to evaluate.
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 154 Comments: 18760
Congress is the only one that can decide payment. The President has no power to decide if federal workers get paid.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54405
The puns are almost painful. but highly amusing!
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601. Skyepony (Mod)
Situation Update No. 1
On 08.04.2011 at 03:04 GMT 2

It's been almost a year since the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and scientists are finding an increased number of dolphins and sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of those deaths are being connected to the BP oil spill. Since last April's oil spill, nearly 300 dolphins have been found "stranded" - either dead in the Gulf or dying on its beaches. That's according to an update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA scientist Blair Mase says that's an unusually high number. But since many were found decomposed, it's hard to determine what killed them. Mase says 15 dolphins have been confirmed dead from oil poisoning, with eight being directly connected to the BP spill. "Here, almost a year after the oil spill, we're still seeing evidence of dolphins washing ashore with oil in them," she says. Mase says most of the deaths have been in Louisiana, but one dolphin was found washed ashore on Florida's panhandle. As for the turtles, most of the ones found washed ashore are Kemps-Ridley, an endangered species.


MrMixon~ Your welcome.. My bookmark into WUnderground is to my local radar. Fires, bugs, birds, chaff & rain..it's like a third eye.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38198
...it may reach the threshold for "potential development",,sooner than later seems
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Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
temps are obviously "rising"
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 168 Comments: 26066
..emphasis on da "potential"
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Its in a "erect" state of TCHP seems.
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Quoting Patrap:
TCHP







The GOM looks...errr, uhm..."excited"
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 168 Comments: 26066
I just wanted to thank Skye and Jeff for pointing out the "bird risings" on the Florida radars this morning. The day is still young, but I'm betting that will be the coolest thing I've seen all day...

We've got a decent bird population in Colorado, but I'm guessing their numbers never get large enough to be noticeable on radar except for maybe during the annual crane migration through the San Luis Valley. But there's not a radar in the Valley and the Sangre de Cristo mountains stand between the Valley and the nearest radar in Pueblo, so I imagine it would be rare to see them on radar.

However, I will start looking out for starling "clouds" this summer...

:)
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TCHP





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Inregard to Japan's March 11th disaster and its aftermath:
...12,787 people have been confirmed dead and 14,991 are listed as missing, bringing the total to 27,778. The figure includes [2] deaths reported after a major aftershock...Thursday evening.
In worst-hit Miyagi prefecture, 7,818 deaths have been confirmed, followed by 3,728 in neighboring Iwate Prefecture and 1,179 in Fukushima Prefecture.
About 83 percent of the recovered bodies have been identified and are being handed over to the victims' families.
The number of victims is expected to rise because officials in some coastal areas devastated by the tsunami still cannot calculate the exact number of missing people.
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Nice in Florida today...
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This is from last year's Andrew anniversary:

Hurricane Andrew - Path Of Terror
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Welcome to The National Weather Service Wilmington NC Hurricane Products Page. This page gives a description and examples of hurricane products The National Weather Service issues. To see other products...visit the flooding products page. You can also see a description of marine products...miscellaneous products...and winter products.


Inland Hurricane Wind Watch
An Inland Hurricane Wind Watch is issued by the local National Weather Service office and is issued for a 50 percent or greater chance of having hurricane or tropical storm force winds associated with a tropical storm or hurricane inland within 24 hours.


Inland Hurricane Wind Warning

An Inland Hurricane Wind Warning is issued by the local National Weather Service for hurricane force wind speeds occurring in association with a hurricane. This product is normally issued from the current hour out to 12 hours.
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Quoting RastaSteve:


Yeah, this year is looking very wet here in FL. I suspect we will see the rainy season kick in over the next several weeks.


Agreed, the weather pattern appears more like May to me, which means the wet season may come in May, that may not happen, but at the very least this year should be more active than last year. Heck I would think it has to be more active, last year was by far the lowest amount of lightning, the lowest amount of severe storms, and one of the driest years Ive seen since living here.
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Since we're on hurricanes, here's the reason why extreme wind warnings are now issued when hurricanes make landfall:

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MELBOURNE FL
858 PM EDT SAT SEP 25 2004

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MELBOURNE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
MARTIN COUNTY
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
IN EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA

* UNTIL 1000 PM EDT

* AT 855 PM EDT...THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS ISSUED A TORNADO
WARNING FOR MARTIN AND ST LUCIE COUNTIES MAINLY FOR THE ONSET OF
EXTREME HURRICANE WINDS AND EMBEDDED TORNADOES ASSOCIATED WITH THE
INNER CORE OF HURRICANE JEANNE AS THE CENTER NEARS THE COAST. WINDS
TO 100 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 120 MPH ARE EXPECTED...ALONG WITH
TORNADOES.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE INDIAN RIVER ESTATES...SAINT
LUCIE VILLAGE...JUPITER ISLAND...LAKEWOOD PARK...NORTH RIVER
SHORES...QUEENS COVE...PORT SALERNO...PORT SAINT LUCIE RIVER
PARK...SAINT LUCIE AIRPORT...SAINT LUCIE WEST...NETTLES ISLAND AND
ROCKY POINT

THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE DURING A LANDFALLING MAJOR HURRICANE WITH
EMBEDDED TORNADOES IS IN A STRONG BUILDING ON THE LOWEST FLOOR IN AN
INTERIOR ROOM AWAY FROM WINDOWS. GET UNDER A WORKBENCH OR OTHER
PIECE OF STURDY FURNITURE. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS TO COVER YOUR
HEAD AND BODY.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
They need to be doing physical soundings, relying on Corpus and Lake Charles is reason why they can't get an excellent handle on where tropical systems are going I think.

Preachin' to the choir there. I have a feeling the restriction is due to the proximity of all the airports (not just IAH and Hobby - also all the smaller airports like Sugar Land Executive, West Houston, Hooks, and Scholes Field).

I know Sugar Land, West Houston, and Hooks all run jets with some frequency. (I live about 2 miles from Hooks)
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I swear, he'd argue with the devil himself.

There goes Arkansas again. Man I hope it's letting off steam, and reducing tension in that area.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 168 Comments: 26066

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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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