Army Corps blows up levee to help fight unprecedented Mississippi River flood

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:47 PM GMT on May 03, 2011

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A brilliant string of explosions rippled across a two-mile length of the Mississippi River levee at Birds Point, Missouri at 10pm last night. As the levee disintegrated, a massive cascade of muddy brown water from the Father of Waters gushed into the crevasse, thundering with the flow of eight Niagara Falls. The waters quickly spread out over 133,000 acres of rich farmland, rushing southwards along the 35-mile long Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway. The levee that was destroyed--called a plug fuse levee--was designed to be destroyed in the event of a record flood. In a marathon 20-hour operation, 150 engineers from the Army Corps of Engineers packed 22 wells in the levee with explosives on Sunday and Monday. A raging thunderstorm with dangerous lightning halted the work for a time on Sunday night, as the engineers were pulled off the levee due to concerns about lightning. Final approval for the demolition occurred after a series of failed court challenges, brought by the Attorney General of Missouri, ended at the Supreme Court on Monday. Damage to the farmland and structures along the the Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway is estimated to cost $317 million due to the intentional breach of the levee. The fact that the Army Corps is intentionally causing 1/3 of billion dollars in damage is stark evidence of just how serious this flood is. The Birds Point levee has been demolished only once before, during the historic 1937 flood.


Figure 1. Still frame from an Army Corps of Engineers video of last night's demolition of the Birds Point levee on the Mississippi River.


Figure 2. The gauge on the Ohio River at Cairo was at record highs over the past few days, but the river level is now falling, thanks to the demolition of the Birds Point levee.

Unprecedented flooding on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers
Snow melt from this winter's record snow pack across the Upper Mississippi River has formed a pulse of flood waters that is moving downstream on the Mississippi. This pulse of flood waters passed St. Louis on Saturday, where the river is now falling. The snow melt pulse arrived on Monday at Thebes, Illinois, about 20 miles upstream from the Mississippi/Ohio River junction at Cairo. The Mississippi River crested yesterday at Thebes at 45.52', which beats 1993 as the 2nd highest Mississippi River flood of all-time at Thebes. This floodwater pulse is headed south to Cairo, Illinois, and will join with the record water flow coming out of the Ohio River to create the highest flood heights ever recorded on a long stretch of the Mississippi, according to the latest forecasts from the National Weather Service. Along a 400-mile stretch of the Mississippi, from Cairo to Natchez, Mississippi the Mississippi is expected to experience the highest flood heights since records began over a century ago at 5 of the 10 gauges on the river. Areas that are not protected by levees can expect extensive damage from the flooding, but the mainline levees on the Lower Mississippi are high enough so that the flood waters are predicted to stay at least 3 feet below the tops of the levees.

The Mississippi River at New Madrid, MO, about 40 miles downstream of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, crested at 46.54' this morning, the 2nd highest flood in history. The river is now falling, thanks to the blowing of the Birds Point levee. Rains of up to ten inches over the past three days in the region have now ended, but this water will enter the river system over the next few days, increasing heights on the river once again. The Mississippi is predicted to rise to 50 feet late this week, two feet above the all-time record height of 48 feet. The NWS warns that at this height, "Large amounts of property damage can be expected. Evacuation of many homes and businesses becomes necessary." Previous record heights at this location:

(1) 48.00 ft on 02/03/1937
(2) 46+ ft on 05/03/2011
(2) 44.60 ft on 04/09/1913
(3) 43.60 ft on 04/04/1975
(4) 43.50 ft on 02/16/1950
(5) 42.94 ft on 03/17/1997


Figure 3. Radar-estimated rainfall near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers totaled 4 - 10 inches over a wide area during the past three days.


Figure 3. Flooding on the Mississippi in Missouri at the end of April. Image credit: USACE.

The "Project Flood"
The levees on the Lower Mississippi River are meant to withstand a "Project Flood"--the type of flood the Army Corps of Engineers believes is the maximum flood that could occur on the river, equivalent to a 1-in-500 year flood. The Project Flood was conceived in the wake of the greatest natural disaster in American history, the great 1927 Mississippi River flood. Since the great 1927 flood, there has never been a Project Flood on the Lower Mississippi, downstream from the confluence with the Ohio River (there was a 500-year flood on the Upper Mississippi in 1993, though.) On Sunday, Major General Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers, President of the Mississippi Valley Commission, the organization entrusted to make flood control decisions on the Mississippi, stated: "The Project Flood is upon us. This is the flood that engineers envisioned following the 1927 flood. It is testing the system like never before."

At Cairo, the project flood is estimated at 2.36 million cubic feet per second (cfs). The current prediction for the flow rate at New Madrid, the Mississippi River gauge just downstream from Cairo, is 1.89 million cfs on May 7, so this flood is not expected to be a 1-in-500 year Project Flood. In theory, the levee system is designed to withstand this flood. But the Army Corps is in for the flood fight of its life, and it will be a long a difficult few weeks. Here's how Major General Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers described his decision yesterday to blow up the Birds Point levee:

"Everyone I have talked with--from boat operators, to labors, scientist and engineers, and truck drivers have all said the same thing--I never thought I would see the day that the river would reach these levels.

We have exceeded the record stage already at Cairo. We are on a course to break records at many points as the crest moves through the system. Sometimes people celebrate with "records"--but not this time. Making this decision is not easy or hard--it's simply grave-- because the decision leads to loss of property and livelihood--either in a floodway--or in an area that was not designed to flood. The state of Missouri has done a superb job of helping people escape the ravages of water in the floodway. But other places--not designed to flood have had no warning if their areas succumb to the pressures of this historic chocolate tide.

I spent last night on the river...lashed to an anchor barge in the current near the top of the floodway. The rains continued to pound the deck of the Motor Vessel. The cold winds moved us around--and the current and water levels kept increasing as the rain storms continue to grow over the Ar/Miss/Ohio/TN Watershed.

So, with the tool that has withstood many tests: the test of operation in 1937; decades of challenges that resulted in the 1986 Operation Plan; reviews and numerous unsuccessful court challenges--I have to use this tool. I have to activate this floodway to help capture a significant percentage of the flow.

I don't have to like it but we must use everything we have in our possession, in the system to prevent a more catastrophic event. So, today, I give the order to operate the Floodway."



Jeff Masters

Wappapello Spillway (KittenGotClaws)
Water going over the emergency spillway. A temp berm was built hoping to hold back the water but the extra rains we got pushed it over the edge.
Wappapello Spillway

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100. IKE
Here's some good news....

City of Tuscaloosa lowers number of missing persons to 80
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
dammn cold in slidell la rite now ;(!~~~
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Climate oscillated
And dangerous
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Quoting traumaboyy:


Good Read Thanks Tkeith!!


The information I asked for the other day -- thanks!
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Quoting TomTaylor:
???

This makes no sense even if you aren't kidding. No single weather event indicates global warming. No single weather event refutes global warming.


So true!

Not everyone here thinks like a scientist, or at times anything like one, remember that :) lol
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Quoting RastaSteve:
NWS of Tampa and melbourne are going to bomb Friday's forecast if they don't add atleast a 40 to 50 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms.


The computers models seem to agree with NWS also, so I'm not sure what you're looking at, there's no reason to believe we will have a high coverage of storms on Friday based on current understanding.
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Quoting MrMixon:
I do understand the concern about flooding 130,000 acres of farmland, but I think there are two important points to remember about the flooding of this land:

1) The reason this farmland is "prime" is due to it's location along the Mississippi River. This land has flooded regularly for thousands of years, and flooding brings in more soil and nutrients (pollution too, but I'm nearly certain that the net gain from the additional nutrients is more than enough to balance the net loss from the highly diluted pollution brought in by these flood waters).

2) It sounds like a lot of land, but the state of Missouri alone has something like 29,000,000 acres of farmland. So 130,000 acres is less than a half a percent (0.4%) of all the farmland in Missouri.

It's a difficult situation for the farmers and homeowners who live in the "floodway", but as a nation we won't see so much as a tiny blip in our food prices due to these floods...


I don't know why the state fought the demolition of that levee. The people who built in that plain should have known it was an "emergency flood plain" and it's their own fault for being in a threatening area for flooding.
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80 LS1redline "Be sure to scroll to the lower right of the link I posted to see the
satellite images of before and after the Birds Point levee being blown too
."

29April

3May
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NWS of Tampa and melbourne are going to bomb Friday's forecast if they don't add atleast a 40 to 50 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms.
Member Since: March 21, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 885
Quoting CothranRoss:


that a great idea! I wouldn't be surprised if it pays for itself from averted floods/droughts in 50 years!
Yeah, great idea, but who's going to build a pipe with the same capacity as the mississippi river??
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Quoting lickitysplit:
unprecidented flooding? unprecidented tornados?

CLEARLY a sign AGW is BS.
???

This makes no sense even if you aren't kidding. No single weather event indicates global warming. No single weather event refutes global warming.
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Ohio and Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center
7:45PM CDT Tue May 3 2011


Mississppi River at Vicksburg
Flood Stage: 43'
Current Stage: 46.4'
Crest Forecast: 05/20 at 57.5'
Historical Crest: 56.2' in 1927

Mississippi River at Natchez
Flood Stage: 48'
Current Stage: 51.6'
Crest Forecast: 05/22 at 65'
Historical Crest: 58.04' in 1937

Mississippi River at Red River Landing
Flood Stage: 48.2'
Current Stage: 52.8'
Crest Forecast: 05/23 at 65.5'
Historical Crest: 62.3' in 1997
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unprecidented flooding? unprecidented tornados?

CLEARLY a sign AGW is BS.
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This article is a bit long, but has some interesting info

Fukushima marks a 'nuclear ice age'
By Kosuke Takahashi
Link

The last little bit from the linked article.

Takashi Hirose, a well-noted Japanese writer on nuclear problems, has pointed out there are about 3,000 tons of highly radioactive used nuclear fuel stored in Rokkasho that could overheat and catch fire if the cooling systems fail. This amount could spread nuclear fallout or "ashes of death" to the whole world, he said.
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Quoting OrchidGrower:
Sure is nice to see all that moisture approaching in the C. Atlantic and E. Caribbean. Now we just need it to work its way north a few hundred miles. Here in S. Florida we could sure use the showers that would bring! Any bets on when the daily t-shower cycle will start??


Based on past La Nina weakening to neutral summers, we could have some increase in southerly flow during parts of the rainy season, which could translate to wetter than normal conditions across sfl.
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URGENT: Seabed radiation 100-1,000 times normal level off Fukushima plant

Radiation readings have risen to 100-1,000 times the normal level on the Pacific seabed near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the operator said Tuesday.

The high levels of radioactive materials were detected from samples taken from the seabed at points 20-30 meters deep, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Kyodo News Article...

Wait--didn't they tell us they stopped the leaks weeks ago? if so, the radiation can't be new. But didn't they also tell us that the radiation that leaked weeks ago would dilute, dissipate , and disappear within a few days? If so, the radiation can't be old.

Hmmm...methinks there's either confusion or hanky panky going on.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13729
Memphis Minnie and Joe Mccoys original..."When the Levee Break's"


by Memphis Minnie
recording of 1929
from, copyright notice

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay

Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And all these people have no place to stay

Now look here mama what am I to do
Now look here mama what am I to do
I ain't got nobody to tell my troubles to

I works on the levee mama both night and day
I works on the levee mama both night and day
I ain't got nobody, keep the water away

Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to lose

I works on the levee, mama both night and day
I works on the levee, mama both night and day
I works so hard, to keep the water away

I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I'm goin' back to my used to be

I's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan
I's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan
Gonna leave my baby, and my happy home
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Quoting PcolaDan:


page not found error 404


Eliminate the spaces in the link

change (/v iew to /view)
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Quoting LS1redline:
Interesting satellite comparison of the Ohio & Mississippi river basins vs. last year:

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/v iew.php?id=50397&src=eorss-nh


page not found error 404
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river is rising pretty quick here in baton rouge
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Be sure to scroll to the lower right of the link I posted to see the satellite image of before and after the birds point levee being blown too.
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Interesting satellite comparison of the Ohio & Mississippi river basins vs. last year:

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/v iew.php?id=50397&src=eorss-nh
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Looks like our best chance of a little rain is Wednesday; other than that, more of the same:
Regional Forecast for Coastal Volusia County
Tuesday, 85 | 67 F Chance of Precipitation 0%
Wednesday, 81 | 63 F Chance of Precipitation 20%
Thursday, 81 | 61 F Chance of Precipitation 0%
Friday, 681 | 63 F Chance of Precipitation 10%
Saturday, 83 | 65 F Chance of Precipitation 10%
Sunday, 85 | 65 F Chance of Precipitation 10%
Monday, 86 | 67 F Chance of Precipitation 10%
Tuesday, 86 | NA Chance of Precipitation 10%
Source: NWS at 3:09 PM EDT on May 3, 2011
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How do u post a video on here?
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Quoting caribbeantracker01:


look closely at the low entering the eastern pacific!!!!!! any takes on it? and how are the states in america with all the flooding and tornado issues?


Convection is part of the ongoing flooding in Northern Colombia.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
full basin view



Something that the GFS is lacking this year.
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Quoting NICycloneChaser:
Looks like the GFS is trying to close off a low in the western carribean at 384 hours. It's a long way out, but could hint at our first system in late May.
sure does, the 12z shows it, on the 16th to 18th, but there's not much support~ the 18z doesn't show it...
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Quoting KennyNebraska:
The U.S. should develop a Water Interstate System that would be capable of pumping flood waters, at high speed, from states suffering under flood conditions, to states suffering from drought conditions.

Since the continental U.S. is so large and since climatology is always in flux, there are always areas where there is too much water and areas where there is too little.

Practically every state has either reservoirs or rivers that flood from winter runoff or heavy rains, or fall to low levels due to drought. Seasonal climatology, which is somewhat predictable with ENSO, can help to prepare operators to schedule water deliveries from areas with too much to areas that have too little.

Purposely blowing up levees to intentionally flood vast areas of productive farmland in order to save cities or other sensitive areas is both crude and destructive.

Imagine being able to high speed all that Mississippi flood water to West Texas and South Florida.

Here in Australia there was the same thought a few years ago when we were in the depths of a 10 year long drought. Build a pipeline from NW Western Australia down to Perth and another pipeline from the Northern Territory/Queensland boarder region down to NSW to feed into the Murry/Darling/Daly river system. Two things stopped these projects for happening. Cost and Environmental impacts. It was estimated to cost about AU$100 Billion (A desalination plant costs AU$2billion to build) Sydney got a desal plant Perth has a desal plant. Then 2 years after the Sydney desal plant was opened, the weather cycle changed and NSW got record rains. NSW went from 99% of the state in drought to now 5% in drought. Perth is the driest city in Australia, and will always be.
Other water projects can be found here.

Environmentally, Rivers need certain levels of water during wet seasons to flush out debris and to help naturally irrigate flood plains. If those flood waters were diverted into pipelines and the rivers didn't reach flood levels then the whole eco-system will change. Rivers will be come clogged with silt and debris. Rivers in Northern Australia have tide changes of meters not centimeters.

Some parts of our countries are meant to be in drought, it's a natural process. Some parts are also to have floods due to natural processes. We as humans have to learn to live with these processes. Not try to alter them.
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CybrTeddy ? ..image accweather
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News Release

Date: May 3, 2011

Contact: MSU Paducah

(314) 603-5966
Coast Guard crews rescue 22 people, 2 dogs in Midwest during historic floods

PADUCAH, Ky. -- Coast Guard Disaster Area Response Teams have rescued 22 people and two dogs from flood waters in the Midwest as of Monday.

In the latest rescue, Livingston County Emergency Management requested Coast Guard assistance with three persons trapped in their home by rising water. A Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin Helicopter and crew launched from Barkley Regional Airport. Once on scene, the pilot determined that the safest evacuation option would be by a shallow water rescue boat.

Marine Safety Detachment Nashville DART rescued the three from the porch of their house which had water at the doorstep. Two of the people suffered from Parkinson's Disease. The DART delivered them to local emergency services.

The Coast Guard has staged the DARTs in support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the midwestern states to save lives and minimize damage to property from historic flood levels. The Coast Guard crews are also standing by to assist with environmental hazards that may be caused by the flooding. There are presently 6 DARTs deployed or on standby: Marine Safety Unit Paducah staged in Golconda, Ill.; MSD Cincinnati and MSD Nashville are standing by in Paducah; Sector Upper Mississippi River staged in New Madrid, Mo.; SUMR staged in Dexter, Mo.; and Sector Ohio Valley staged in Fulton & Obion Counties, Ky.

There are also two HH-65 Dolphin Helicopters from Air Station New Orleans on scene.

DARTs consist of six crewmembers that are capable of conducting operations in shallow water and urban environments. Each DART team is outfitted with three 16-foot shallow water boats, various rescue and communications equipment and supplies.

DART crewmembers in conjunction with state and local first responders are also assessing flood levels in various communities to render assistance to residents before evacuation is necessary.

The Coast Guard urges residents to heed the warnings of local officials and not venture into unsafe conditions.

"With more rain expected, the Coast Guard is ready and eager to send our teams to help residents in the impacted communities of Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois and Tennessee," said Cmdr. Claudia Gelzer, commanding officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Paducah.
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From the ground
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Aerial footage of Birds point New Madrid Floodway activation breech #2 taken from National Guard helicopter
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Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
342 PM CDT Tuesday may 3 2011






Short term...
from near record highs to near record lows. Yesterday btr tied a
record high and many other locations were close to theirs. The
complete opposite is expected tonight.

Cold front is steadily moving
eastward across coastal waters with fall type Post frontal precipitation
lags behind. Rain should be finishing off overnight...mostly by
midnight. After a decent drop in temperatures Post frontal...a gradual fall
all day has been consistent. Expecting temperatures to continue to
fall through the night...bottoming out in the low 40s along and
north of I-12 and around 50 south of there. Based on general area
record lows...a few could be reached or surpassed. Highs will
increase significantly Wednesday from today with middle 70s area wide. This is
still only a few degrees or so below climatology norms which are still
just below 80.

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GFS at a completely unreliable 372 hours. 1005 mb low in the BOC, 1006 mb low in the Caribbean.

EDIT - why can't we link images from raleighwx?
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cherish the slowness
the chaos begins in:
28 days 7 hours and 50 minutes pst
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Where are all the people? Slowest blog in a long time!
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and seems that the eastern pacific may also get an early start having a lil trouble posting the link for the exact map and model so i will jjust inform u just ask levi32! so to be exact am rfering to the lowering of sshear and if one was too look at the mj forecast they will agree
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look closely at the low entering the eastern pacific!!!!!! any takes on it? and how are the states in america with all the flooding and tornado issues?
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Quoting KennyNebraska:
The U.S. should develop a Water Interstate System that would be capable of pumping flood waters, at high speed, from states suffering under flood conditions, to states suffering from drought conditions.

Since the continental U.S. is so large and since climatology is always in flux, there are always areas where there is too much water and areas where there is too little.

Practically every state has either reservoirs or rivers that flood from winter runoff or heavy rains, or fall to low levels due to drought. Seasonal climatology, which is somewhat predictable with ENSO, can help to prepare operators to schedule water deliveries from areas with too much to areas that have too little.

Purposely blowing up levees to intentionally flood vast areas of productive farmland in order to save cities or other sensitive areas is both crude and destructive.

Imagine being able to high speed all that Mississippi flood water to West Texas and South Florida.


that a great idea! I wouldn't be surprised if it pays for itself from averted floods/droughts in 50 years!
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east pacific season starts in 11 days
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Sure is nice to see all that moisture approaching in the C. Atlantic and E. Caribbean. Now we just need it to work its way north a few hundred miles. Here in S. Florida we could sure use the showers that would bring! Any bets on when the daily t-shower cycle will start??
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Quoting belizeit:
Its finally raining.
things are starting to get that spin too them

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Quoting NICycloneChaser:
Looks like the GFS is trying to close off a low in the western carribean at 384 hours. It's a long way out, but could hint at our first system in late May.
I believe there is a decent chance of a late May or early June system..This year reminds me of 1995.
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Its finally raining.
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full basin view

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Looks like the GFS is trying to close off a low in the western carribean at 384 hours. It's a long way out, but could hint at our first system in late May.
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warming up
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About

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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