Irene hits North Carolina

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:37 PM GMT on August 27, 2011

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Hurricane Irene roared ashore over Cape Lookout, North Carolina at 7:30 am this morning. The Cedar Island Ferry Terminal measured sustained winds of 90 mph, gusting to 110 mph at 7:19am, and a trained spotter on Atlantic Beach measured sustained winds of 85 mph, gusting to 101 mph at 10:35 am. The Hurricane Hunters measured 80 mph winds over water at the time of landfall. Winds at the Cape Lookout, North Carolina buoy, which the eye passed directly over, peaked at 67 mph as Irene made landfall. At 10am EDT, top winds observed at Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina were 53 mph, gusting to 73 mph. Winds are rising now along the coast of Virginia, with sustained winds of 56 mph, gusting to 62 mph observed at 10 am EDT at Chesapeake Bay Light. Satellite loops show a large but deteriorating storm with dry air intruding to the southwest. The radar presentation of Irene visible on the Norfolk, VA radar is very impressive--Irene is dropping torrential rains over a huge area.


Figure 1. Radar-estimated precipitation from Irene as of 12:18 pm EDT August 27, 2011. An expanding region of rains in excess of ten inches (pick colors) was observed north of where the center made landfall.

Storm surge damage from Irene
The storm surge and wave action from Irene is likely to cause the greatest damage, and this will be a historic coastal flooding event for many regions of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. A storm surge of 8.5 feet was reported this morning in North Harlow, NC, and three feet in New Bern, NC. Significant wave heights (the average height of the largest 1/3 of the waves) reached 27 feet at Onslow Bay, NC this morning, and wave heights along the New Jersey shore Sunday morning during the time of high tide are expected to be 15 - 20 feet, according to the NOAA Wavewatch III model (Figure 2.) A storm surge of 3 - 6 feet is expected near Atlantic City, NJ Sunday morning, during the time of high tide. With 15 - 20 foot waves expected on top of this storm surge, there will be tremendous damage to the coast and low-lying structures. Storm surge is also a major concern for New York City. The latest NWS forecast is calling for a 5 - 8 foot storm surge in New York Harbor, which would easily top the flood walls protecting the south end of Manhattan if the storm surge occurs at high tide. High tide is near 8 am Sunday morning. A research storm surge model run by SUNY Stonybrook predicts that water levels at The Battery at the south end of Manhattan will peak at 2.2 meters above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) at high tide Sunday morning, which would be about six inches below the top of the flood wall (which is 5 feet above mean sea level.) Waves on top of the surge would likely spill over the top of the floodwall in this scenario, and cause some flooding in southern Manhattan. Andy Revkin's Dot Earth blog has links to a storm surge animation for New York City done by the SUNY Stonybrook group. Climate Central has a nice satellite image showing which parts of New York Harbor are below five feet in elevation. Storm surge heights of up to eight feet are predicted in Western Long Island Sound, and 3 - 6 feet along much of the New England coast from New York to Massachusetts. This is going to be a damaging coastal flooding event for this stretch of coast, though perhaps not as damaging as the one New Jersey will experience.


Figure 2. Predicted wave heights along the U.S. coast from NOAA's Wavewatch III model for 8am EDT Sunday, August 28, 2011. This is the time of high tide, and this model is suggesting that the coast of New Jersey will be subject to battering waves 15 - 20 feet high at the time of high tide.

Inland flooding damage from Irene
Inland flash flooding and river flooding from torrential rains are a major concern. Latest radar-estimated rainfall amounts in North Carolina already exceed ten inches in some locations. Cedar Island, NC has reported 7.21" as of 11am EDT, and a 100 mile-wide swath of 8+ inches of rain will likely fall from Eastern North Carolina northwards along the coast, through New York City, and into Vermont and New Hampshire during the next two days. Destructive river flooding will be a significant danger from New Jersey northwards to Southeast New York, where soils are saturated and run-off will be the greatest.


Figure 3. Distribution of Irene's wind field at 9:30 am EDT Saturday August 27, 2011, as observed by the Hurricane Hunters, land stations, and buoys. The right front quadrant of the hurricane had all of the storm's hurricane-force winds (yellow and warmer colors, bounded by the heavy black line between the "50" and "60" knot thin black lines.) Tropical storm-force winds (heavy black like bounding the light blue area) extended out 260 miles from the center of Irene. Irene's storm surge damage potential has dropped to 4.3 on a scale of 0 to 6, down from a high of 5.1 yesterday. Image credit: NOAA/AOML/HRD.

Wind damage
Irene is slowly deteriorating, but the storm is too large to weaken quickly. The latest wind distribution map from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division (Figure 3) shows that all of Irene's hurricane-force winds are on the storm's east side, so only North Carolina's Outer Banks will get winds of 75 - 80 mph. The coast from Virginia northwards through New Jersey will see tropical storm-force winds of 50 - 70 mph from Irene. These strong winds, when combined with the torrential rains that are falling, will cause widespread tree damage and power failures that will affect millions of people. When Irene makes its 2nd landfall on Long Island, NY on Sunday, coastal locations to the right of the eye will likely experience top sustained winds of 60 -70 mph.

Lady Liberty not in danger from Irene
The Statue of Liberty is not vulnerable to a storm surge, since the good lady stands atop a 65-foot high foundation and 89-foot high granite pedestal. However, the 305' height of the lady's torch above the foundation means the statue will experience winds a full Saffir-Simpson category higher than winds at the surface. The statue is rated to survive a wind load of 58 psf, which is roughly equivalent to 120 mph winds (Category 3 hurricane). However, a mid-strength Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds will be able to generate 120 mph winds at a height of 300 feet, and would theoretically be capable of toppling the Statue of Liberty. Winds from Irene should stay below 80 mph at 300 feet, and not pose a threat to the Statue of Liberty.

Tornadoes
Two tornadoes were reported in coastal North Carolina last night. One tornado destroyed 2 homes and damaged 6 others in Columbia, with several minor injuries, and the other hit Belhaven, damaging multiple trailers. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center is calling for a slight risk of severe weather along coast Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware today. We might see five or ten tornadoes from Irene over the next two days, but the atmosphere is not unstable enough for Irene to generate as many tornadoes as we're used to seeing from a landfalling hurricane. A tornado watch is posted for coastal areas from Eastern North Carolina northwards to Southern New Jersey.

Insurance company AIR-Worldwide is estimating that insured damages from Irene in the U.S. will be $1.5 - $6 billion. They estimate losses in the Caribbean at $0.5 - $1.1 billion from Irene, 60% in the Bahamas.

Typhoon Nanmadol
Over in the Western Pacific, Typhoon Nanmadol has weakened to a Category 3 storm after battering the Philippines as a Category 4 super typhoon with 155 mph winds. At least two people have been killed in the heavy flooding there. Nanmadol is a threat to Taiwan, and Wunderground meteorologist Elaine Yang (who hails from Taiwan), has the details in her blog.

Links
Our Weather Historian, Christopher C. Burt, has an excellent post on Historic Hurricanes from New Jersey to New England.

Joe Romm at climateprogress.org has a thoughtful piece called, How Does Global Warming Make Hurricanes Like Irene More Destructive?

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.

The National Hurricane Center's Interactive Storm Surge RIsk Map, which allows one to pick a particular Category hurricane and zoom in, is a good source of storm surge risk information.

Jeff Masters

Aftremath of Hurricane Irene in Nassau, Bahamas (ktbahamas)
Downed street light broken by strong gusts of Irene.
Aftremath of Hurricane Irene in Nassau, Bahamas
Battery Park, the night before Irene... (line)
Battery Park, the night before Irene...

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hyped up storm after a couple more this yr this will be routine
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Quoting galvestonhurricane:


CAN WE TURN CAPS LOCK OFF NOW???
Umm, that was a copy from the NWS, I think.
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Quoting Methurricanes:
Mostly because if the very high proporty values in the North, for example if a house gets destroyed in teh south its $200,000 the same house in the Boston or New York area would be 450,000ish.


very insifgtful
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281. Gorty
Here in western Mass, a store today was packed with people buying batteries and flashlights and they were already out of it.

I know we wont get hurricane sustained winds, but looking at how wide the TS winds are, we will get slapped here from that with damaging gusts probably up to hurricane force.

And to make matters worse, on top of the damaging winds, I could see big time flooding.
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
RADAR FIX EYE 35 DEG 20 MIN N 76 DEG 30 MIN W; RAGGED EYEWALL PRESENTATION CIRCULAR 8NM DIAMETER

Pinhole eye?!
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279. TXEER
Has there ever been a tornado that has not hit a trailer park?
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Quoting Seastep:


No kidding. There will be flooding, I am sure, but it's not going to be Bolivar or NOLA.

She's going to be mainly a $$$ damage storm, aside from idiots.

Will be interesting to see how high that figure goes after all is said and done.

Have a feeling it is going to be a much higher figure than people realize.
Mostly because if the very high proporty values in the North, for example if a house gets destroyed in teh south its $200,000 the same house in the Boston or New York area would be 450,000ish.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 701
Quoting lottotexas:

ON THE OTHER HAND THE GFS IS WEAKER WITH THE UPPER
LOW AND THEN RETROGRADES THE MID LVL RIDGE FASTER AND THUS NOT
LEADING TO ANY SFC LOW.


CAN WE TURN CAPS LOCK OFF NOW???
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Quoting HurricaneKing:
Notice that the media keeps avioding Pamlico County NC. I've been getting reports from family down there of water being 1-3 feet HIGHER than Isabel from 2003. They have been hit and hit very hard. Worse that was expected. Right now im in Raleigh and the power is blinking so I'll try to update as people call in.


This is accurate. My friends are reporting very bad flooding. 9.5' surge in oriental
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RADAR FIX EYE 35 DEG 20 MIN N 76 DEG 30 MIN W; RAGGED EYEWALL PRESENTATION CIRCULAR 8NM DIAMETER
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Quoting TexasHurricane:
2:00 PM EDT Sat Aug 27
Location: 35.5°N 76.3°W
Max sustained: 85 mph
Moving: NNE at 13 mph
Min pressure: 950 mb


See also - comment 257
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The outermost rain bands are already over New England. Jeez this storm is ginormous.

There seems to be a front-like feature east of Irene, she might be starting her extratropical transition.
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Quoting Grothar:
As has been mentioned many times, the Category does not matter much at this point. Of course if the category were higher, there would be greater structural damage which would be disasterous. The flooding potential and storm surge with this system has been the focus all along. Storms behave much diffently in the North than in the Caribbean. Even our most devastingly killer hurricanes have brought terrible destruction to smaller areas. This is going to affect a region of the country with the highest population in the US. The structure of the coastline has been discussed a number of times. It forms almost a right angle from New England & NYC down the coast. When surges of this magnitude hit is could affect millions of people. Do not concentrate on the Category. It is moot at his point.


That's right. Just remember our devastating European windstorms. They reach very low pressures (last one, Xynthia, in 2010 was down to 967 mb). And they sometimes look like hurricanes (though they are not) from above.
Wiki: Xynthia
Wiki: European windstorms

And - hello to everyone. I like to track Irene very much, unusual storm indeed. But stay safe!
Member Since: October 25, 2008 Posts: 64 Comments: 6724
Quoting louisianaweatherguy:
discussion for New Orleans from NWS...

FRI AND INTO NEXT WEEKEND...THE MDLS ARE STRUGGLING IN HOW THEY
HANDLE THE RIDGE AND A POSSIBLE WEAK UPPER LOW OVER TX/WRN GULF. THE
ECMWF AND CANADIAN ARE A LITTLE FURTHER NORTH WITH THE RIDGE AND
STRONGER WITH THE UPPER LOW AND THEN PUSH IT EAST INTO THE GULF.
THIS COULD LEAD TO A WEAK SFC LOW TO DEVELOP IN THE GULF AND COULD
BARE WATCHING.

ON THE OTHER HAND THE GFS IS WEAKER WITH THE UPPER
LOW AND THEN RETROGRADES THE MID LVL RIDGE FASTER AND THUS NOT
LEADING TO ANY SFC LOW.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2:00 PM EDT Sat Aug 27
Location: 35.5°N 76.3°W
Max sustained: 85 mph
Moving: NNE at 13 mph
Min pressure: 950 mb
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Methurricanes:
I dont think the east side is that dry anymore, the radar is just being disrupted by the west side.
Beam blocking?

No, I think it really is wrapping dry air and losing nearly all convective precip on the east.


Loop: http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/ramsdis/online/lo op_640.asp?product=tropical_ge_4km_ir4_floater_2
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1st Band Going pastmy area north of Boston. Heavy Rain and some wind.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 701
Stupid VA people.
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Quoting wunderweatherman123:
so if a storm formed in the carribean it wouldnt be a harvey or arlene where they go into mexico right?


Right.
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Quoting Beachfoxx:
Thanks, I got an email last night - haven't heard from him since. Knew he was prepared, but still worry.... If you hear anything from him call or shoot me an email.



will do
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Quoting atmoaggie:
?
That's a it much unless they are literally on the beach.


No kidding. There will be flooding, I am sure, but it's not going to be Bolivar or NOLA.

She's going to be mainly a $$$ damage storm, aside from idiots.

Will be interesting to see how high that figure goes after all is said and done.

Have a feeling it is going to be a much higher figure than people realize.
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12"+ so far south of Franklin, Va. Anyone know how that area handles flooding?

Link
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Quoting ElConando:
A random thought. A friend of mine at FSU studying meteorology said it would probably be better to use "Post Tropical" to describe any system that is no longer tropical then "Extra Tropical". His reasoning was that extra tropical might imply something greater than it actually is by those who do not know the terminology, as well as non native english speakers being confused by the use of the word extra in the phrase. Though I believe the NHC uses post tropical, but I was just wondering your opinions on this?


spot on
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
over land have something to do with that?


Yup. We almost always see that right after hurricanes make landfall.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Thanks, I got an email last night - haven't heard from him since. Knew he was prepared, but still worry.... If you hear anything from him call or shoot me an email.

Quoting presslord:
last night...he was goin to sleep...expected to be powerless a few days...spoke with im yesterday....he's gonna be OK...well prepared
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 29385
2:00 PM EDT Sat Aug 27
Location: 35.5°N 76.3°W
Max sustained: 85 mph
Moving: NNE at 13 mph
Min pressure: 950 mb
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Irene's ACE as of now stands at 18.6.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
The Euro is back to opening the Gulf in 8-10 day period.

Euro/GFS 500mb 8-10 day comparison:

so if a storm formed in the carribean it wouldnt be a harvey or arlene where they go into mexico right?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
A random thought. A friend of mine at FSU studying meteorology said it would probably be better to use "Post Tropical" to describe any system that is no longer tropical then "Extra Tropical". His reasoning was that extra tropical might imply something greater than it actually is by those who do not know the terminology, as well as non native english speakers being confused by the use of the word extra in the phrase. Though I believe the NHC uses post tropical, but I was just wondering your opinions on this?
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3784
Quoting Beachfoxx:
Press,

Have you heard from our mutual friend in Wilmington?
last night...he was goin to sleep...expected to be powerless a few days...spoke with im yesterday....he's gonna be OK...well prepared
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I dont think the east side is that dry anymore, the radar is just being disrupted by the west side.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 701
The Euro is back to opening the Gulf in 8-10 day period.

Euro/GFS 500mb 8-10 day comparison:

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Quoting Jedkins01:


Bill O' Reilly is full of himself and thinks he knows way more than he does. A big vocabulary does not mean you have the knowledge to judge whether a hurricane is hype or not, silly Bill, lol.


I like Bill, but he was wrong. Ike had an IKE of 5.6 (out of 6), higher than the IKEs of Katrina and Wilma.
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Quoting Dakster:


That would make TWC the #1 network on TV...


She's just the worst thing that channel has to offer. I can't stand to watch when she's on. She really thinks she's funny..annoying is more like it.
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Quoting Levi32:


That's true too. Thunderstorm tops have fallen a bit in the past 2 hours.
over land have something to do with that?
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Notice that the media keeps avioding Pamlico County NC. I've been getting reports from family down there of water being 1-3 feet HIGHER than Isabel from 2003. They have been hit and hit very hard. Worse that was expected. Right now im in Raleigh and the power is blinking so I'll try to update as people call in.
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I have not been on in a long time, years. Used to chat with Indianriverguy, prior to Katrina, about my experience with Camille and his with other storms. Just other day was wondering if he and Fl pandhandle fellow "Ike" were still around. Since then have seen comments by both. Glad they're still around. Will need them come a GOM event. I was "eyetoothtom" without the "1" back then, but couldn't continue with that handle I guess since have different computer and email. Not computer savy enough to check back in with old registration. Following along right now to keep up with ole Navy buddy from '60's who lives in Jaxville, NC.
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Press,

Have you heard from our mutual friend in Wilmington?
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 29385
Quoting CybrTeddy:


September 13th, 2008. Hurricane Ike was 'all hype' too.
Bill O'Reilly, September 2008 claimed this.
Link

Of course, its just O'Reilly but people do actually listen - and believe - him.

Also, I'd like to point out a lot of people called Ike hype too on this very same blog. 30 billion in damages Ike caused in the end.

For all we know, it might be 'all hype' but Irene has more places in target than just NC.

NYC is on an island, very prone to storm surge. Irene is generating a healthy amount of storm surge, and packs quite a punch.

Better to be safe than sorry.


Bill O' Reilly is full of himself and thinks he knows way more than he does. A big vocabulary does not mean you have the knowledge to judge whether a hurricane is hype or not, silly Bill, lol.
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Quoting presslord:
this made me the of some of the characters her:

"Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit...wisdom is not putting one in a fruit salad."


Have to remember that one, I like.
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Not sure if Irene will still be a hurricane by the time it makes its second landfall. A dangerous storm, but when all is said and done I think it will be a tough call to decide whether to retire it or not. If it really does landfall in NYC as a hurricane then it's a safe bet we won't be seeing the name Irene on 2017's list.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237

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Quoting STLweatherjunkie:


with respect to what? rain, wind, surge? sources? no doubt it will be a significant storm in all respects but just throwing numbers out there like that probably isnt the best idea.


Hurricane Irene WILL be a once in 500 to 1000 year event. Considering that the name will be retired and not used again and there will not be another storm named Irene, this is a one and only event.

Otherwise, the storm surge and winds are definitely NOT a 500-1000 year event. The rain may cause a 500-year flooding situation, but we'll see. The over-hype needs to stop.

Regarding the weather channel... that guy probably helped their ratings. It's sweeps week for the weather channel.
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Quoting aislinnpaps:
Gov O'Malley of Maryland just said they asked those not following the mandatory evacuation to give them their next of kin information for notifications.
?
That's a bit much unless they are literally on the beach.
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Quoting presslord:
this made me the of some of the characters her:

"Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit...wisdom is not putting one in a fruit salad."


I LOVE that quote... Awesome... Plan on using that at work.
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Quoting cheetaking:


This Link has it in much better quality! Enjoy!


LOL, I spit up a bit.

"I just can't understand how many people are around, and I don't even want to report it"
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Quoting louisianaweatherguy:
discussion for New Orleans from NWS...

FRI AND INTO NEXT WEEKEND...THE MDLS ARE STRUGGLING IN HOW THEY
HANDLE THE RIDGE AND A POSSIBLE WEAK UPPER LOW OVER TX/WRN GULF. THE
ECMWF AND CANADIAN ARE A LITTLE FURTHER NORTH WITH THE RIDGE AND
STRONGER WITH THE UPPER LOW AND THEN PUSH IT EAST INTO THE GULF.
THIS COULD LEAD TO A WEAK SFC LOW TO DEVELOP IN THE GULF AND COULD
BARE WATCHING.
Interesting. Days ago, GFS kept developing a monsoon low and bringing it up to us and points west...prolly unrelated.
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Quoting louisianaweatherguy:
discussion for New Orleans from NWS...

FRI AND INTO NEXT WEEKEND...THE MDLS ARE STRUGGLING IN HOW THEY
HANDLE THE RIDGE AND A POSSIBLE WEAK UPPER LOW OVER TX/WRN GULF. THE
ECMWF AND CANADIAN ARE A LITTLE FURTHER NORTH WITH THE RIDGE AND
STRONGER WITH THE UPPER LOW AND THEN PUSH IT EAST INTO THE GULF.
THIS COULD LEAD TO A WEAK SFC LOW TO DEVELOP IN THE GULF AND COULD
BARE WATCHING.


Houston said they might, possibly get some rain out of that before it goes bye bye, maybe.
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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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