Harvey drenching Belize; 97L a threat to the Caribbean and U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:16 PM GMT on August 20, 2011

Tropical Storm Harvey is closing in towards a landfall this afternoon in Belize, and is dumping very heavy rains on northern Honduras, northern Guatemala, and Belize as it steadily moves west near 12 mph. A personal weather station on Roatan Island on the north coast of Honduras has received 6.68" of rain as of 10am EDT this morning from Harvey, and had a peak wind gust of 42 mph. The Roatan airport has received 3.55", and had a peak wind gust of 40 mph. The first significant spiral band from Harvey moved over Belize City at 7am local time, dropping nearly an inch of rain on the city. Belize National Meteorological Service radar shows that Harvey has appeared to close off an eyewall as of 11:30am EDT, which may allow the storm to intensify another 10 - 15 mph before landfall. The 11am NHC wind probability forecast gave Harvey a 3% chance of making it to hurricane strength, but the discussion noted that it wouldn't be that hard for Harvey to gain another 10 - 15 mph before landfall. I estimate there is a 30% chance that the winds along a 10-mile stretch of Belize coast where the eyewall makes landfall will reach hurricane force.


Figure 1. Radar image of Harvey taken at 11:30am EDT on Saturday, August 20, 2011, a few hours before landfall in Belize. A small closed eye is visible just south of the offshore islands of Belize. Image credit: Belize National Meteorological Service.


Figure 2. True-color MODIS image of Tropical Storm Harvey taken at 12:25pm EDT on Friday, August 19, 2011. An hour after this picture was taken, Harvey became a tropical storm with 40 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

An exceptionally active early part of hurricane season
It's been a strangely hyperactive season for weak storms in the Atlantic so far this year. Tropical Storm Harvey is the 8th named storm this year, and its formation date of August 19 marks the 4th earliest date on record for the Atlantic's 8th storm. Only 2005, 1933, and 1936 had the 8th storm of the season form earlier. All eight storms this year have stayed below hurricane strength, making 2011 the first hurricane season since record keeping began in 1851 to have more than six consecutive tropical storms that did not reach hurricane strength. As I discussed in yesterday's post, a major reason for this is the lack of vertical instability over the tropical Atlantic so far this year. We've had a large amount of dry, sinking air over the tropical Atlantic, and the usual amount of dry, dusty air from the Sahara, both helping to keep the atmosphere stable and stop this year's storms from intensifying into hurricanes. Hurricane activity typically ramps up big-time by August 20, with more than 80% of all the hurricanes and 65% of all the tropical storms occurring after that date. With 97L looking like it will become a named storm in the next few days, at our current pace, 2011 will become the second busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, with 24 - 27 named storms. There are only 21 names in the list of names for a hurricane season, so we may have to break out the Greek alphabet again in late October this year, as occurred in 2005. Ironically, we are using the 2005 list of names this year, so 16 of this year's 21 names are repeats of 2005. I'm not too happy about seeing a hurricane season challenge the Hurricane Season of 2005 in any way, and let's hope we don't retire another five names this year, like occurred in 2005! With vertical instability much lower this year than in 2005, and that year having already seen one storm (Dennis) retired by this point in the season, I doubt that will happen, though.


Figure 3. The annual cycle of average hurricane frequency in the Atlantic. Historically, about 35% of all the tropical storms and 15% of all the hurricanes will have occurred by August 20.

Invest 97L likely to become a tropical storm by Tuesday, could threaten the U.S.
A tropical wave near 14°N 56°W, about 450 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands, is moving west to west-northwest at 15 - 20 mph. This wave, designated Invest 97L, has built a respectable amount of heavy thunderstorm activity over the past day, but remains disorganized. Dry air to the north and west is slowing development, as well as moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots, as analyzed by the University of Wisconsin CIMSS group. An impressive amount of large-scale spin is obvious in visible satellite loops, but there is no sign of a well-defined surface circulation. An ASCAT pass at 9:04am EDT this morning showed a strong wind shift, but no closed circulation. Ocean temperatures are about 28.5°C, about 2°C above the threshold needed to support a tropical storm. A hurricane hunter aircraft will investigate 97L this afternoon.


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of the tropical disturbance Invest 97L.

The computer models have shifted southwards since yesterday, and now take 97L south of Puerto Rico on Monday, and along the south shore of the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. On Wednesday, 97L should pass near or over southern Haiti, Eastern Cuba, and Jamaica. On Wednesday and Thursday, the models agree that a trough of low pressure will dip down over the Eastern U.S., which is likely to turn 97L to the north. The exact timing and strength of this trough varies considerably from model to model, and will be critical in determining where and when 97L will turn to the north. We can expect that 97L will impact Central Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Florida Keys on Thursday, but it is uncertain whether 97L's turn to the north will take the storm into the Gulf of Mexico or not.

The computer models continue to enthusiastically develop 97L, and all the ingredients seem to be in place for a tropical storm to form by Monday or Tuesday as 97L crosses the Northeast Caribbean. The atmosphere is expected to be moister over the Caribbean, wind shear will remain a low 5 - 10 knots, and sea surface temperatures will increase to near 29°C. The main impediment for development will likely be two-fold: too much dry, stable air, and proximity to land.

There has been an unusual amount of dry, stable air in the Atlantic this year, due to a combination of dry air from Africa, and upper-atmosphere dynamics creating large areas of sinking air that dry as they warm and approach the surface. This stable air has been largely responsible for the fact that none of our seven tropical storms so far this year has made it to hurricane strength, despite the presence of sea surface temperatures that are the 3rd warmest on record across the tropical Atlantic. Tropical Storm Emily in early August encountered problems with dry air when it crossed the Northeast Caribbean, and 97L may have similar difficulties. There will be some moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots to the north of 97L over the next week, and this shear may work in concert with the dry air to slow development.

Given 97L's current disorganization and problems with dry air, I believe it is unlikely the storm will be stronger than a 55 mph tropical storm on Tuesday morning, when it will be close enough to the mountainous island of Hispaniola that a good portion of its circulation will be over the island, disrupting the storm. 97L may also make a direct hit on the Dominican Republic or Haiti sometime Tuesday or Wednesday morning, which could even destroy the storm, like happened to Tropical Storm Emily in early August. However, there is at least a 30% chance that 97L will miss Hispaniola, and slide through the waters between Jamaica and Eastern Cuba, allowing the storm to intensify into a hurricane south of Cuba. At this point, it appears there are too many hurdles for 97L to negotiate for it to arrive in the Florida Straits as a hurricane, since the storm has to cross Cuba and/or Hispaniola, plus contend with dry air and wind shear. However, 97L hasn't even developed a well-defined circulation yet, making it difficult for the models to zero in on a solution for where the storm might go. The average error for an official 5-day forecast from NHC for a developed storm is 200 - 250 miles; the error will be much higher for a 6 to 7-day forecast of an Invest that hasn't developed yet. Given the uncertainties, this weekend would be a good time to go over your hurricane preparedness if you live anywhere in the Caribbean, Bahamas, or Florida, since 97L could well be paying you a visit as a tropical storm or hurricane sometime in the next week.


Figure 5. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms during 2010. OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET=United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; TVCN=one of the consensus models that lends together all (or most) of the above models. Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2010 verification report.

Which model should you trust?
Wunderground provides a web page with computer model forecasts for many of the best-performing models used to predict hurricane tracks. So which is the best? Well, the best forecasts are made by combining the forecasts from three or more models into a "consensus" forecast. Over the past decade, NHC has greatly improved their forecasts by relying on consensus forecast models made using various combinations of the GFS, GFDL, NOGAPS, UKMET, HWRF, and ECMWF models. If you average together the track forecasts from these models, the NHC official forecast will rarely depart much from it, and the NHC forecast has been hard to beat over the past few years. The single best-performing model over the past two years has been the ECMWF (European Center model). This model out-performed the official NHC forecast in 2010 for 1-day, 2-day, 3-day and 4-day forecasts, and in 2009 for 4-day and 5-day forecasts. You can view ECMWF forecasts on our wundermap with the model layer turned on. The European Center does not permit public display of tropical storm positions from their hurricane tracking module of their model, so we are unable to put ECMWF forecasts on our computer model forecast page that plots positions from the other major models. As seen in Figure 5, over the past two years, the GFS and GFDL model have been the next best models, with the UKMET model not far behind. Last year, the NOGAPS model did very poorly, forcing NHC to come up with some new consensus models this year, the TCOA and TVCA, that do not include the NOGAPS model. For those interested in learning more about the models, NOAA has a great training video (updated for 2011.)

Invest 98L near the Cape Verde Islands
A tropical wave near Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, Invest 98L, is spreading heavy rains and strong gusty winds to those islands today. So far this morning, top sustained winds measured in the Cape Verde Islands were 23 mph at Mindelo. Water temperatures are warm, near 27 - 28°C, and wind shear is low, 5 - 10 knots, so 98L should continue to organize today before running into more hostile conditions on Sunday. NHC gave the storm a 40% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Monday morning in their 8am advisory. Once 98L passes to the east of the Lesser Antilles, it has a long stretch of ocean to cross before it could affect any other land areas. Approximately 70 - 80% of all tropical cyclones that pass this close to the Cape Verde Islands end up curving out to sea and not affecting any other land areas, according to Dr. Bob Hart's excellent historical probability of landfall charts. The latest set of long-range model runs go along with this idea, and I'd be surprised if 98L threatens any land areas.

Dismal Swamp fire creating dangerous air pollution in Virginia
Lightning from a thunderstorm on August 4 sparked a fire in Southeast Virginia's Dismal Swamp, which continues to burn out of control. Yesterday, air quality alerts for Code Purple pollution--the worst category of air pollution--were posted for Suffolk, Virginia and continue today. The region, including the cities of Norfolk and Hampton Roads, have seen an increase in hospital admissions for people with breathing problems, plus an increase in traffic accidents due to low visibility conditions on area roads. The fire has burned 6100 acres and is 15% contained. Given that it is burning more than 1 foot underground, it will be difficult to put out unless heavy rains raise the water table. The region is under "Abnormally dry" drought conditions, the lowest category of drought on the five-category drought scale.

Jeff Masters

Tropical Storm Harvey (mchavez)
Raining @ Roatan Bay Islands
Tropical Storm Harvey

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1986. JLPR2
So the HHs found west winds? I'm confused here. :\

If so, that and the blowup of convection during D-min could mean 97L is steadily organizing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting islander101010:
rare to get a major near the big bend area


It has not happened in years but we get a mean storm surge as they pass us on the way to the Panhandle and wash out State Road 98 along the coast every time. Closet to the Big Bend in recent years was Kate in Nov of 85 which made landfall well west of us on Mexico Beach closer to the Panama City side but you are correct. (we are in a protected corner as to land fall but not as to storm surge).
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
by far the hwrf has been the most accurate with this system so far...
Member Since: July 31, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 910
Quoting Ameister12:
Good evening. What's 97L up to?





60mph storm close low thats whats up lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5100 Comments: 117338
Quoting Hurricanes101:


why with another plane?

this one is making another pass right now


If its a 50-65 mph system now, it would be nice to know when it actually does form a well-defined circulation.
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oduct: Air Force Tropical RECCO Message (URNT11 KNHC)
Transmitted: 20th day of the month at 21:56Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 300)
Mission Purpose: Investigate sixth suspect area (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 1
Observation Number: 09

Mandatory Data...

Observation Time: Saturday, 21:51Z
Radar Capability: Yes
Aircraft Altitude: Below 10,000 meters
Coordinates: 15.4N 58.0W
Location: 193 miles (310 km) between the NNE and NE (34°) from Bridgetown, Barbados.
Turbulence: None
Conditions Along Flight Route: In the clear
Pressure Altitude: 450 meters
Flight Level Wind: From 90° at 22 knots (From the E at ~ 25.3 mph)
- The above is a spot wind.
- Winds were obtained using doppler radar or inertial systems.
Flight Level Temperature: 22°C
Flight Level Dew Point: 8°C
Weather (within 30 nautical miles): Thunderstorm(s)
Mean Sea Level Pressure (MSLP): 1007 mb (extrapolated)

Optional Data...

Estimated Surface Wind: From 90° at 25 knots (From the E at ~ 28.7 mph)

Remarks Section - Remarks That Were Decoded...

Surface Wind Speed (likely by SFMR): 24 knots (~ 27.6mph)

Remarks Section - Additional Remarks...

N outbound
Member Since: July 31, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 910
Good evening. What's 97L up to?
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1979. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137186
Quoting StormJunkie:
The south side is having a hard time....But the north side of the system continues to produce heavier convection.



North side is closer to the upper anticyclone and area of best divergence aloft.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting scott39:
I think its going to be how far S it is at 80W, to how far E or W it goes in the GOM.


My guess is its gonna be on south or north coast of cuba or over cuba at 79 or 80.
Member Since: August 22, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 652
Quoting weatherjr:
As the . Stormchaser2007 opinion, HH will need to reconfirm the data tonight with another plane... (this case I believe it is necessary)


why with another plane?

this one is making another pass right now
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 9011
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
If they are going to upgrade 97L to Irene, it's going to take a while to coordinate watches and warnings for all the islands.



Yes. However, they could first issue the advisory and then issue an "Update Statement" with watches/warnings. They did so with Harvey.
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rare to get a major near the big bend area
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As the . Stormchaser2007 opinion, HH will need to reconfirm the data tonight with another plane... (this case I believe it is necessary)
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1972. scott39
Quoting Levi32:


That's kind of a wild guess, but it's almost guaranteed to be east of the Mississippi River Delta, probably the west Florida panhandle somewhere, IF a gulf track occurs. We have a while yet before we will know whether that is a viable option or not.
Thanks for that answer.
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6995
1971. Levi32
One thing's for certain, the lady is already moving north of west. If she's doing that now, the weakness in the ridge in the Bahamas is only going to get stronger during the next 72 hours, and it will be pretty tough to avoid Hispaniola to the south.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26780
1970. Patrap


#1956

Maybe master the Ignore feature/

Works for me,, watch

Thanx
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137186
If they are going to upgrade 97L to Irene, it's going to take a while to coordinate watches and warnings for all the islands.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The south side is having a hard time....But the north side of the system continues to produce heavier convection.

Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 17144
Rainbow DOOOOOOOM

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1966. amd
looking at both Martinique radar and recon data, it looks like the vortex message closed off an eddy at the northeast most area of a more general area of lower winds.

For those that expect there to be relocation to the north, all of the strong easterly winds are north of 15 degrees north. If anything, 97L/Irene may shift more to the southwest where winds are much lighter and the pressure is currently flat. IMO.
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Quoting Dakster:


LOL... BTW, anyone who thinks that this is unique to just UM is very naive...


Agreed.

Back on track, now that we'll most likely see a TS, when is the next recon mission expected?
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Quoting IKE:
SYNOPSIS FOR CARIBBEAN SEA AND TROPICAL N ATLC FROM 07N TO 22N
BETWEEN 55W AND 65W
530 PM EDT SAT AUG 20 2011

.SYNOPSIS...
TROPICAL STORM HARVEY IS CENTERED JUST INLAND AT 17.2N 88.8W 998
MB AT 5 PM EDT MOVING W OR 285 DEG AT 10 KT. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED
WINDS ARE 45 KT WITH GUSTS TO 55 KT. HARVEY WILL WEAKEN TO A
TROPICAL DEPRESSION SUN MORNING. LOW PRES IS DEVELOPING ALONG A
TROPICAL WAVE NEAR 16N58W. THE LOW...POSSIBLY A TROPICAL
CYCLONE...WILL MOVE INTO THE E CARIBBEAN EARLY SUN...REACHING
NEAR THE WINDWARD PASSAGE WED.


16N 58W is where I can see the best turning
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1963. scott39
Quoting IKE:

Im not an expert. Looks like an eastern GOM threat to me...eventually. I could be wrong though. May go east of Defuniak Springs,FL....my location.

Haven't looked east of Irene(?). Maybe someone else knows.
I think its going to be how far S it is at 80W, to how far E or W it goes in the GOM.
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6995
Quoting IKE:

Im not an expert. Looks like an eastern GOM threat to me...eventually. I could be wrong though. May go east of Defuniak Springs,FL....my location.

Haven't looked east of Irene(?). Maybe someone else knows.


Thanks for wishing it to the Big Bend Ike.... :) I just put together a last minute am fishing trip out of St. Marks south of Tally cause I don't know what I will find next weekend along the coast when I get back from the NE coast on Friday.......
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Quoting Seflhurricane:
guys the nhc would not issue a vortex message if they did not find west winds remember how conservative they are
\
they did find west winds and a closed low...
Member Since: July 31, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 910
Quoting Seflhurricane:
guys the nhc would not issue a vortex message if they did not find west winds remember how conservative they are


Vortex messages aren't issued by the NHC, they are issued by the recon plane.
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im saying nhc cone got so. fl. right in the middle of it national guard mobilized?
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1958. FLdewey
I've never seen so much frothing at the mouth for an almost storm... but it has been more than 1000 days.

Commence to start!
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1957. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137186
Quoting Patrap:


Uh thanks? There's no activity in the GoM. Can we stop with the unnecessary image posting when the blog is going through some heavy usage?
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


Im not seeing that

I see WSW, NW, WNW, SW winds yeah, but to close off a circulation you need PURE WEST winds, and I only see one going back through the data


Go ask analyst. LOL
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1954. Gorty
To put things into perspective, when we get Irene, we will only be two storms away from 2005 by this time. Very active this year.
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guys the nhc would not issue a vortex message if they did not find west winds remember how conservative they are
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If they issue a Special TWO or Advisory, look for it around 6:30 PM EDT.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


Im not seeing that

I see WSW, NW, WNW, SW winds yeah, but to close off a circulation you need PURE WEST winds, and I only see one going back through the data
actually it doesn't have to be pure west it can be w, wnw, wsw, nw, and sw
Member Since: July 31, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 910
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Well, they did enter the circulation from the northeastern semicircle and found plenty of winds out of the WSW/SW if it gives any credence to the situation.


yes but to close off a circulation you need a due west wind and there was only one due west wind and it was weak

they may name this anyway considering the trend though and how close it is to the Islands
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 9011
Irene, now that's a classic hurricane name. I hope it's not destine for infamy . . . like Hazel, Donna, Diana, or Wilma; other classic names.
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1948. Dakster
Quoting UpperLevelLOL:


Only when talking about NCAA violations


LOL... BTW, anyone who thinks that this is unique to just UM is very naive...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Since 97L or soon-to-be Irene is so large, it will likely take a little longer for the system to consolidate. Once it consolidates and produces steady amount of convection, watch out!

Based on the size and likely strength of this system, I think an eastern Gulf of Mexico/west coast Florida hit is unlikely. Irene will likely feel the force of the trough/weakness and should pull her northward into South Florida. Just my opinion.

Since 97L is so large, might have a bigger impact. (Flooding, high surf/surge)
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""

vorticity also strengthened
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6541
any indication of an advisory package
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Quoting Levi32:


They found only northwest winds, but by issuing a vortex message, they believe the winds wrap all the way around. That is questionable though.


I have seen at times if they cant verify on the second pass they will hold off declaring closed circ. esp since they were quite light and primarily NW winds
Member Since: August 22, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 652
Quoting tropicfreak:


Recon found definitely more than 1.


Im not seeing that

I see WSW, NW, WNW, SW winds yeah, but to close off a circulation you need PURE WEST winds, and I only see one going back through the data
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 9011
1942. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137186
1941. Levi32
Quoting scott39:
What does your gut tell you Levi, if it gets in the GOM? Central GulfCoast N Gulfcoast or W/FL? I know your a wiz, but we all have a gut.


That's kind of a wild guess, but it's almost guaranteed to be east of the Mississippi River Delta, probably the west Florida panhandle somewhere, IF a gulf track occurs. We have a while yet before we will know whether that is a viable option or not.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26780
Quoting Hurricanes101:


I did find 1 lone reading of pure west winds

at a whopping 4.6mph

To me that is not a closed circulation
Well, they did enter the circulation from the northeastern semicircle and found plenty of winds out of the WSW/SW if it gives any credence to the situation.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


I did find 1 lone reading of pure west winds

at a whopping 4.6mph

To me that is not a closed circulation


Actually they found about 5 between 260 and 300 degrees...and by pure definition that is still a closed LLC. Not a strong/well defined one, but if all the TC formation requirements are met in any way shape or form then the system will be named.
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Quoting atmosweather:


00z runs will be the first set to incorporate the new 97L/Irene data. Ignore the 18z suite.


Will have to wait untill about 10:00 PM EDT to see what does or does not go into the 00Z.
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1937. IKE

Quoting plywoodstatenative:
Ike, you think you all over again or do you think that we are looking at a Florida track. given that its a ways out still

Also, what does this do for the environment surrounding the other system to the east of soon to be Irene?
Im not an expert. Looks like an eastern GOM threat to me...eventually. I could be wrong though. May go east of Defuniak Springs,FL....my location.

Haven't looked east of Irene(?). Maybe someone else knows.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
They might need another plane for later tonight.

Not sure if they'll schedule it though.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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