Powerful Category 3 Irene enters the Bahamas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:49 PM GMT on August 24, 2011

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Powerful Category 3 Hurricane Irene stormed through the Turks and Caicos Islands overnight, bringing hurricane-force winds, torrential rains, and storm surge flooding. On Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where half of the population of these islands live, winds reached a sustained 65 mph at a personal weather station at Pine Cay, and the pressure bottomed out at 989 mb. The eyewall of Irene missed the island, with the center of the storm passing about 60 miles to the southwest. The center of Irene passed about 60 miles to the northwest of Grand Inagua Island, and Category 1 hurricane conditions were probably experienced on that island. Damage in the Turks and Caicos is likely to be much less than the $50 - $200 million wrought by Category 4 Hurricane Ike of 2008, since Irene's eyewall missed populated islands.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Irene.

Monday, Irene hit Puerto Rico as a tropical storm with 70 mph winds, but reached hurricane strength as it emerged into the Atlantic northwest of the capital of San Juan. One drowning death is being reported from the island, and the storm dumped up to 20 inches of rain in some areas. About 11% of the island was still without power this morning, and numerous roads were closed due to flooding and landslides. Irene did an estimated $17 million in damage to agriculture and $2 million to ports in Puerto Rico. Satellite estimates suggest that Irene has brought only 1 - 2 inches of rain to Haiti. With Irene now pulling away from Hispaniola, Haiti can expect only another 1 - 2 inches from the hurricane, and appears to have dodged a major bullet. Heavy rains of 3 - 6 inches were common across the Dominican Republic, where moderate flooding but no deaths occurred.


Track forecast for Irene
Continuing dropsonde missions by the NOAA jet have helped to significantly narrow the uncertainty in the 1 - 3 day forecasts from the computer models. Irene will track through the central Bahamas today, the northwestern Bahamas on Thursday, and approach the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Friday. However, the models still diverge considerably on their 4 - 5 days forecasts, and we don't know if Irene will plow up the mid-Atlantic coast into New Jersey, as the GFDL model is predicting, hit New England between Long Island, NY and Massachusetts, as the ECMWF, GFS, and HWRF models are predicting, or miss the U.S. and hit Canada, as the NOGAPS model is predicting.

Intensity forecast for Irene
Latest data from the Hurricane Hunters shows that Irene has paused in its intensification cycle. A gap has opened in the eyewall, and the central pressure has remained constant at 956 - 957 mb over the past few hours. However, the hurricane is embedded in a large envelope of moisture, and wind shear is expected to remain low to moderate, 5 - 20 knots, for the next three days. With water temperatures very warm, 28 - 30°C, these conditions should allow for intensification to a Category 4 storm sometime in the next two days. Satellite loops show that Irene is well-organized, with excellent upper-level outflow, and impressive spiral banding.

Irene's impact on the Bahama Islands
Irene is making a direct hit on Crooked Island (population 350) in the Bahamas, and will continue west-northwest and hit Rum Cay (population 80) and Cat Island (population 1700) late tonight. These unfortunate islands will bear the full brunt of Irene's 115+ mph winds and 8 - 13 foot storm surge, and suffer major damage that will take months to recover from. Major damage is also likely on Long Island (population 3000) and San Salvador Island (population 1000.) Shortly after midnight tonight, winds at the capital of Nassau, home to 70% of the population of the Bahamas, will rise above tropical storm force, and increase through the night. By late morning on Thursday, sustained winds will peak on Nassau at just below hurricane force, 60 - 70 mph. Nassau will miss the brunt of the storm, and I expect the airport should be able to re-open on Friday. Winds on Grand Bahama Island in Freeport will rise above tropical storm force late Thursday morning, and increase to a peak of 45 - 60 mph late Thursday afternoon. Grand Bahama will also miss the brunt of the storm, but Abaco Island to its east will likely experience Category 2 hurricane conditions Thursday afternoon. However, Abaco will probably miss the right front eyewall of Irene with the strongest winds and highest storm surge.


Figure 2. Wind distibution around Irene as of 1330 UTC (9:30am EDT) August 24, 2011. Irene was a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds at the time. Hurricane force winds (yellow colors) extended over Crooked Island to the storm's northwest, and over Mayaguana Island to the east. Image credit: NOAA/AOML. Irene is a large storm, and its potential storm surge damage rated 3.9 on a scale of 0 to 6, with its wind damage potential rated at 2.5 on a scale of 0 to 6.

Irene's impact on the Southeast U.S.
Long-period ocean swells from Irene will reach the coast from Florida to North Carolina tonight, and continue to build as the storm approaches. The outermost rainbands of the hurricane will reach South Florida by Thursday morning, and spread over much of the eastern coastal portion of Florida during the day Thursday. If Irene follows the official NHC forecast through the Bahama Islands, the storm's expected radius of tropical storm-force winds of 130 - 170 miles will keep tropical storm conditions just off the east coast of Florida. Sustained winds of 20 - 30 mph can be expected along the coast of Florida during Irene's point of closest approach, and rainfall amounts of 1 - 2" will be common along the coast. Georgia, which could use the rain, will get very little. It is unlikely any airport in Florida or Georgia will need to close for Irene.

Late Friday night or early Saturday morning, Irene's outer spiral bands will move over the southern coast of North Carolina and the northeastern portion of South Carolina, and tropical storm-force winds of 39+ mph will arrive. Winds will steadily increase to hurricane force on the Outer Banks by Saturday night. The main damage from Irene in North Carolina will come from the storm's flooding rains of 4 - 12" that will fall in coastal areas. Fortunately, this region is under moderate to severe drought, so the damage will not be as severe as that experienced during Hurricane Floyd of 1999. Significant wind damage can be expected in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and considerable storm surge damage may occur along the shores of Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. If Irene's eye misses making landfall in North Carolina, total damage from the storm should be less than $200 million, and could be considerably less than that.


Figure 3. Sea surface temperatures for August 24, 2011. Temperatures of 26°C (79°F) are typically needed for a hurricane to maintain its strength (black line). This boundary lies just off the southern coast of New Jersey this year, which is much farther north than usual.


Figure 4. Predicted 5-day rainfall for the period ending Monday morning, August 29, at 8am EDT. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.

Irene's impact on the mid-Atlantic and New England
The impact of Irene on the mid-Atlantic and New England is highly uncertain at this point, because we don't know if the core of the storm will miss the coast or not. In general, the heaviest rains will fall along a 100-mile swath just to the west of where the center tracks, and the worst wind and storm surge damage will occur to the east. If the core of Irene stays offshore, the mid-Atlantic and New England may escape with a few hundred million dollars in damage from flooding due to heavy rains and storm surge. If Irene hits Long Island or Southeast Massachusetts, the storm has the potential to be a $10 billion disaster. Irene is one of those rare storms that has the potential to make landfall in New England as a Category 2 or stronger hurricane. It is difficult for a major Category 3 or stronger hurricane crossing north of North Carolina to maintain that intensity, because wind shear rapidly increases and ocean temperatures plunge below the 26°C (79°F) level that can support a hurricane. We do expect wind shear to rapidly increase to a high 30 - 50 knots once Irene pushes north of Delaware, which should knock the storm down by at least 15 - 30 mph before it reaches New England. However, this year sea surface temperatures 1 - 3°F warmer than average extend along the East Coast from North Carolina to New York. Waters of at least 26°C extend all the way to Southern New Jersey, which will make it easier for Irene to maintain its strength much farther to the north than a hurricane usually can. During the month of July, ocean temperature off the mid-Atlantic coast (35°N - 40°N, 75°W - 70°W) averaged 2.6°F (1.45°C) above average, the second highest July ocean temperatures since record keeping began over a century ago (the record was 3.8°F above average, set in 2010.) These warm ocean temperatures will also make Irene a much wetter hurricane than is typical, since much more water vapor can evaporate into the air from record-warm ocean surfaces. The latest precipitation forecast from NOAA's Hydrological prediction center shows that Irene could dump over 8 inches of rain over coastal New England.


Figure 5. Soil moisture profiles from yesterday show that a region of very moist soils ranking in the top 1% in recorded history (dark green colors) lie over northern New Jersey, Southeast New York, and Northeast Pennsylvania. Image credit: NOAA/CPC.

Tropical storm-force winds and heavy rains will move into Eastern Virginia Saturday afternoon, and push northwards to Delaware and coastal Maryland by late Saturday night. Tropical moisture through a deep layer of the atmosphere will also stream well ahead of Irene into New England on Saturday afternoon and evening, bringing what is called a "Predecessor Rain Event" (PRE). The Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia airports will be right at the edge of the heavy rain and high wind area, and it currently appears they will not have to close for an extended period. The Philadelphia and New York City airports may not be as lucky, and it is possible they will suffer extended closures Sunday morning and afternoon. By late Sunday night, Irene's rains will move north of New York City, allowing the airports to re-open. The highest potential for damaging fresh-water flooding is in northern New Jersey, Southeast New York, and Northeast Pennsylvania, where soil moisture is near record high levels, and there is nowhere for the rain to go (Figure 5.) Heavy rains of 4 - 12" are likely across all of coastal New England if Irene passes within 100 miles of shore.

Links
For those of you wanting to know your odds of receiving hurricane force or tropical storm force winds, I recommend the NHC wind probability product.

Wunderground has detailed storm surge maps for the U.S. coast.

Elsewhere in the tropics
A tropical wave far out in the eastern Atlantic about 200 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, Invest 90L, is showing signs of organization. NHC is giving this disturbance a 50% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Friday. Several of our models do develop 90L into a tropical storm by early next week, but long-range models are showing that this system will not be a threat to any land areas over the next seven days, and will probably move too far north to ever be a threat to land.

Internet radio show on Irene at 4:30pm EDT today
I'll be discussing Hurricane Irene on a special edition of our Internet radio show, the Daily Downpour, today (Wednesday) at 4:30pm EDT. Fellow wunderground meteorologists Shaun Tanner, Tim Roche, and Angela Fritz will also be there. Listeners can email in or call in questions. The email address to ask questions is broadcast@wunderground.com.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting MrstormX:
Irene is just barely, barely West of where it should be. These things happen, you can't just expect it to go down the center line...relax.


Yes, it's pretty unlikely to hit Florida, but I certainly wouldn't be relaxing if I were in Nassau.

I think it has shifted west enough that Nassau is reasonably in danger.
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Quoting presslord:
just got this message from a friend of CRS in TCI:

Beryl asked me to tell you he's OK, but no phone, internet, power, and to let everyone at Weatherunderground that he is OK. He says it's pretty bad, and according to some pics I've seen on pages of people who still have access - he's right. Sincerely,


if you can get a message back to him, tell him i'm glad he is ok...and i have been praying for everyone affected and that will be affected... <3
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Quoting Beachfoxx:
Hey Viking! Long time no see...
and Yes, we did see flooding, beach erosion & damage on the Emerald Coast from Katrina & Ike which was ever further away... so Floridians ignore the nay-sayers and stay alert. : )


Hey Beachfoxx great to see you on here, yes it's been a long time! Let's hope none of these get in the Gulf this year, I was reading 89 degree water at Crab Island last weekend!
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Quoting NYX:

Frankly, even though the wobbles have been somewhat severe, it's stayed pretty much on the forecast line.  Had it gone over or south of the island of Inagua, I would agree there is an issue with the forecast but so far it seems to be, over the long term, staying the course.


It's no fun if you just look at the long-term motion and compare it to previous forecasts. You have to look at only the last 4 frames on the loop, and speed them up, to convince yourself SHES GOING WEST!
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Quoting Hhunter:
Bastardi predicts 150mph storm at North Carolina and a 125mph storm at second land fall in New England states


Too many steroids! The guy has lost it. IS he ever right?
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Fortunately, this region is under moderate to severe drought, so the damage will not be as severe as that experienced during Hurricane Floyd of 1999.


Couldn't that mean, poorly-absorbent properties from very dry soils? I remember in africa after a prolonged drought the flash floods on dry soils caused a lot of flooding.
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Quoting Beachfoxx:
Not directly, but the impact from Katrina caused flooding & serious beach erosion along the FLORIDA PanHandle.

I think what he/she is trying to say is that Katrina did make landfall in Fort Lauderdale as a Cat1 before crossing the state and going into the GOM.
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Quoting hamla:
for those who think that irene will go to se fl just go to the cities/towns along the east coast and check the pressure.if you see a steep drop ie:30.00 down to 29.00 in a short period of time there could be concern.if the pressure is rising it aint gonna happen. a weakness in pressure shows that there is a possability of something is gonna happen,hurricanes follow the lowest trending pressure and they dont like high pressure.low pressure is weakness,high pressure is strength.this was the way they did it before modles,computures satalites


Thanks I'll keep an eye on my weather station. It's on Wundermap. Neighborhood is listed as Harlock. Station ID is KFLMELBO58. Current trend in pressure is down slightly over the last cpl of hours.
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I am getting really irritated with people saying us Floridians are wishcasters or westcasters. I don't know one person who would not take a Serious hurricane that is right off our shore seriously. Yes we are looking at EVERY wobble because every west wobble means closer to us. It is very concerning and I wish you people would back off. If this was right off your coast you would be doing the same.
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381. DVG
I was wondering about a couple things. First does the low east of Ga have to be demolished for the predicted effect of the troughs to take place?

Second, watching the eastern US infrared 2 loop, I see something and was wondering as to whether it's related to the bermuda high. At about 72 long and 37 lat extending to 55 long, there is a dark, I don't know what to call it except is it an air mass?

So is this dark area moving north part of the blocking atlantic ridge?
Member Since: August 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 263
At 5AM Irene was at 21.6/72.9... at 12:45 she was at 22.5/74.1... that yeilds a course of 306... WNW... the next course should be 315 between the 2PM position and the 5PM position if she is going to maintain forecast... and yes, 50 miles can make a big diff in what you see from her...
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All you knuckleheads questioning me about Katrina and Florida I guess are missing the point where I'm talking about Katrina hitting New Orleans and us having coastal flooding in the PANHANDLE of Florida, pay attention to what you read and think before you post.
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just got this message from a friend of CRS in TCI:

Beryl asked me to tell you he's OK, but no phone, internet, power, and to let everyone at Weatherunderground that he is OK. He says it's pretty bad, and according to some pics I've seen on pages of people who still have access - he's right. Sincerely,
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I think we're about to see an EWRC. The eye is contracting, cloud tops are warming and a moat is beginning to form around the eyewall. Get ready for an expansion of the windfield and once the storm finishes the EWRC, then the winds will really pick up. This could be borderline Cat 4/5 by tomorrow.
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Just got back on after a late night last night. I see she is moving NW again, but after reading a little bit I must ask, is she moving west a little bit again?
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I'm in Wilmington (NC) and I'm pretty close to just saying I'm going to stay home and watch the wind go buy at this point. I'll watch the track for any changes. If it really does go by in the middle of the night, that's unnerving and sleep-stealing, so I may still go to the triangle for the night. That shifting track from Charley in 2004 means I'll never say it's over until it's over!
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Bastardi predicts 150mph storm at North Carolina and a 125mph storm at second land fall in New England states
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Been lurking for awhile...have a question...I live in North Myrtle Beach, SC and I am watching Irene. I think she will pass to our east, but it's the how far east that has me thinking about winds for my area. I should get TS winds right? TIA!
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Not directly, but the impact from Katrina caused flooding & serious beach erosion along the FLORIDA PanHandle.
Quoting CycloneBoy:


Ummm, Katrina hit Florida...
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Quoting rkay1:
That's because the FL caster crew is on right now.  Wait a few more hours and they will cycle out with another state.



For some reason the blog is reminding me of this song today...

Link
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Quoting Drakoen:
The western movement seen on satellite imagery maybe be due to the upper level confluence between Irene upper level anticyclone and the upper level trough whose axis is positively oriented across the Panhandle of FL.



And what does that mean in layman's terms! LOL
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364. NYX

Quoting TropicalXprt:


First off, 4 hours of heading due west is not a jog. Second, heading west is zero indication of a eye wall replacement cycle.
Frankly, even though the wobbles have been somewhat severe, it's stayed pretty much on the forecast line.  Had it gone over or south of the island of Inagua, I would agree there is an issue with the forecast but so far it seems to be, over the long term, staying the course.
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Quoting CaneHunter031472:


LOL, Will some greasy KFC chicken buckets work as bait?


If the bucket is full and you cast WEST you should feel a tug on the line.
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Quoting Grandpato4:
Our local weather folks seem to think we won't get more than a few gusty winds with the current forecast track. I am not letting my guard down, but I feel a bit silly sitting in a house with hurricane shutters up right now.


Better safe than sorry, Grandpato4 :)
You shouldn't ever feel silly for being well-prepared.
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It's barely even going West, and there is definitely still Northerly motion with Irene. Not sure why it is with every Hurricane/TS in this region, people have a fetish with them going West. Emily and Earl...prime examples of this.

Not trying to come off as mean, but lets give it more time before we jump to some far out conclusion.
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358. DFWjc
Quoting FLWaterFront:
This is actually a bit amusing, to be honest.

When Irene wobbles to the W, the WSW or the WNW, this means that Florida is doomed!

When Irene wobbles to the N or NNW, this means nothing.


Nobody is doomed until it actually hits something, it's not a fish storm until it has already passed...people have fun and enjoy the unpredictability of this phenomenon...
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so whats goin on with this storm..3 days ago models had it in the gulf now ots
Member Since: August 4, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 50
Quoting 7544:


did u see the new run on the nam taking it to andros island now thats more west


NAM goes that far west ??? wonder what the others will do??
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Quoting 69Viking:


Not to mention Florida is going to see some pretty good Coastal Flooding as Irene passes by on her forecast track and is a Cat 3 or 4 when she goes by! Katrina hit New Orleans and we experienced coastal flooding in the Panhandle of Florida, I had water come up to the road by my house. Irene is forecast to get a lot closer to Florida than Katrina did so although Florida won't take a direct hit they are going to have some issues, this is a big and powerful storm.


Ummm, Katrina hit Florida...
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Quoting cloudburst2011:


Iagee our local met said that last night but he also said if something did develop the texas high would protect the gom and it would move into mexico...


Is possible, CFS is estimating a decent upward motion in the W/NW Carib by next week:



EWP and GFS show some small scale upward motion before we go into a negative MJO possibly by mid Sept or so... but doesn't mean anything can't develop.
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Adult property owners understand this:
1. Be prepared.
2. Watch the models and forecasts.
3. Assume there will be some error in the forecast track.
4. Neither panic nor think you 'know' exactly what will happen.
5. Have emergency plans in mind.
6. Keep your eye on the full width of the storm, not just the eye.
7. Breathe easy when it's past, because you did the right prep and planning for the storm you got, or you didn't get the storm and weren't affected at all.
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352. hamla
for those who think that irene will go to se fl just go to the cities/towns along the east coast and check the pressure.if you see a steep drop ie:30.00 down to 29.00 in a short period of time there could be concern.if the pressure is rising it aint gonna happen. a weakness in pressure shows that there is a possability of something is gonna happen,hurricanes follow the lowest trending pressure and they dont like high pressure.low pressure is weakness,high pressure is strength.this was the way they did it before modles,computures satalites
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351. yoboi
does anyone have an image they can post when irene exited africa??
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277 hahaguy "Surprised no one has compared Irene to Frances yet."

Other than being as slow as escargot, what's to compare?
Offhand I can't think of anything even vaguely close in resemblence that Irene hasn't been compared to, except maybe Ireland
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Quoting rkay1:
Tell her to join the blog, she would fit right in.



You got that right....

I don't think she could take the stress.
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In their discussion this morning the NHC said Irene has been wobbling west, then north. The overall motion is NW. Irene is still very much on track.
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Hey Viking! Long time no see...
and Yes, we did see flooding, beach erosion & damage on the Emerald Coast from Katrina & Ike which was ever further away... so Floridians ignore the nay-sayers and stay alert. : )
Quoting 69Viking:


Not to mention Florida is going to see some pretty good Coastal Flooding as Irene passes by on her forecast track and is a Cat 3 or 4 when she goes by! Katrina hit New Orleans and we experienced coastal flooding in the Panhandle of Florida, I had water come up to the road by my house. Irene is forecast to get a lot closer to Florida than Katrina did so although Florida won't take a direct hit they are going to have some issues, this is a big and powerful storm.
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This is actually a bit amusing, to be honest.

When Irene wobbles to the W, the WSW or the WNW, this means that Florida is doomed!

When Irene wobbles to the N or NNW, this means nothing.
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344. 7544
Quoting TropicalXprt:


First off, 4 hours of heading due west is not a jog. Second, heading west is zero indication of a eye wall replacement cycle.


did u see the new run on the nam taking it to andros island now thats more west
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Quoting SuperYooper:


*EVERYONE*

Trolls now respond to bait apparently. Please set your hook with a bag of Cheetos or a Slim Jim and we should be able to get rid of this invasive species in no time.


LOL, Will some greasy KFC chicken buckets work as bait?
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Quoting rkay1:
Mr.  Bastard has the same information you do.  It's his job to create drama and get people to watch.  Information-entertainment at its best.



Absoultly. What is he on Weather Bell now?? Was he fired from Accuweather? You have to pay to see his forcasts. I wouldn't bother.
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Quoting E46Pilot:
As the storm makes it's closest approach to SE FL tomorrow, the weather will be amazing, as it sucks all of the moisture out of the air, it will be sunny, dry, and breezy. Another day in paradise.

I hope your right.
But there is also the chance that we will get a spiral band or two that will train.
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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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