1-in-100 year rains cause extreme flooding in NY, PA; Nate, Maria, and Katia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:37 PM GMT on September 08, 2011

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An extreme rainfall event unprecedented in recorded history has hit the Binghamton, New York area, where 7.49" fell yesterday. This is the second year in a row Binghamton has recorded a 1-in-100 year rain event; their previous all-time record was set last September, when 4.68" fell on Sep 30 - Oct. 1, 2010. Records go back to 1890 in the city. The skies have now cleared in Binghamton, with this morning's rain bringing the city's total rainfall for the 40-hour event to 9.02". However, another large region of rain lies just to the south in Pennsylvania, and all of the rivers in the surrounding region are in major or record flood. The Susquehanna River at Binghamton is at 25.18', its highest level since records began in 1847, and is expected to overtop the flood walls protecting the city this afternoon. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, Swatara Creek is 18' over flood stage, and more than 8' above its record flood crest. Widespread flash flooding is occurring across the entire area, and over 125,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.


Figure 1. Radar-observed rainfall from the Binghamton, NY radar.


Figure 2. The Susquehanna River at Binghamton is at its highest flood height on record this morning (25 feet.) Records at this gauge go back to 1847. Image credit: NOAA/AHPS.


Figure 3. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, Swatara Creek is 18' over flood stage, and more than 8' above its record flood crest. Records at this gage go back to 1930. Image credit: NOAA/AHPS.

The extreme rains are due the the remains of Tropical Storm Lee interacting with a stationary front draped along the Eastern U.S. Adding to the potent moisture mix last night was a stream of tropical moisture associated with Hurricane Katia that collided with the stationary front. You don't often see a major city break its all-time 24-hour precipitation record by a 60% margin, according to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, and he can't recall ever seeing it happen before. It's worth noting that the Susquehanna River Binghamton stream gage, which has been in operation since 1847, is due to be shut off in 3 weeks due to budget cuts. Here's the note at the USGS web site:

NOTICE (03/23/2011)--Data collection at this streamgage may be discontinued after October 1, 2011 due to funding reductions from partner agencies. Although historic data will remain accessible, no new data will be collected unless one or more new funding partners are found. Users who are willing to contribute funding to continue operation of this streamgage should contact Rob Breault or Ward Freeman of the USGS New York Water Science Center at 518-285-5658 or dc_ny@usgs.gov.

Tropical Storm Nate
Tropical Storm Nate formed in the southern Gulf of Mexico yesterday afternoon after the Hurricane Hunters found a well-defined surface circulation and 45 mph surface winds. Nate is the 14th named storm this year, and comes three days before the climatological half-way point of the Atlantic hurricane season, September 10. A typical hurricane season has just 10 - 11 named storms, so we've already had 35% more than a whole season's worth of storms before reaching the season's half-way point. At this rate, 2011 will see 28 named storms, equaling the all-time record set in 2005. Nate's formation date of September 7 puts 2011 in 2nd place for earliest date of arrival of the season's 14th storm. Only 2005 had an earlier formation date of the season's 14th named storm (September 6, when Hurricane Nate got named.) Third place is now held jointly by 1936 and 1933, which got their 14th storm of the season on September 10.

Latest visible satellite loops show that Nate's low-level center is exposed to view, due to northeasterly upper-level winds that are creating a moderate 10 knots of wind shear. This shear is keeping all of Nate's heavy thunderstorms pushed to the south side of the center. Sustained winds at Buoy 42055, about 100 miles to the northwest of the suspected center of Nate, were north at 31 mph at 6:50 am CDT this morning. We haven't had a hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm since yesterday afternoon, and the next plane is due to arrive near 2 pm this afternoon. Water vapor satellite loops show that here is a large area of very dry air from Texas to the north of Nate, and this dry air is probably interfering with the storm's development.

Up until last night's 8 pm EDT runs of the computer models, the models were in general agreement that Nate would meander in the Bay of Campeche for several days, until a ridge of high pressure built in to the north of the storm, forcing it westwards to a landfall in Mexico. However, the latest 2 am EDT run by the GFS model predicts that Nate may gain enough latitude to escape being forced westwards by the ridge, and instead move northwards to make a landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The GFDL, which uses the GFS for its initial conditions, is also on board with this idea, as is the HWRF model, to a lesser degree. The 2 am EDT run of the NOGAPS model did not go along with this idea, though. We will have to wait until the NOAA jet makes its first mission to sample the steering currents in the Gulf of Mexico to get a better idea on how probable this northern path might be; their first flight will be tonight, and the data will make it into the 8 pm models runs that will be available first thing Friday morning. As far as intensity goes, the very dry air to Nate's north should begin being less of a problem for it by Friday, when the upper level winds shift more to blow from the southeast, and the shear drops to the low range, 5 - 10 knots. Since the storm is moving very slowly, it will upwell cooler waters from the depths that will slow intensification, though. The earliest Nate would become a hurricane is probably on Saturday.


Figure 2. GOES-13 image of Hurricane Katia, Tropical Storm Maria, and Tropical Storm Nate taken at 8 am EDT September 8, 2011. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Tropical Storm Maria
Tropical Storm Maria is midway between the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands the coast of Africa, and due to arrive in the Northern Lesser Antilles late Friday night or Saturday morning. Satellite loops show that Maria has been ripped up pretty badly by the 10 - 20 knots of wind shear affecting it, with the low-level center exposed to view, and a few disorganized clumps of heavy thunderstorms lying to the west and northeast of the center. Water vapor satellite images show that Maria is embedded in a very moist environment. Ocean temperatures are near 28.5°C, which is 2°C above the 26.5°C threshold usually needed to sustain a tropical storm. Maria passed just south of Buoy 41041 this morning, and top sustained winds during passage were 42 mph, gusting to 56 mph. Maria will pass close to buoy 41040 near 8pm EDT tonight.

With wind shear predicted to continue in the moderate range for the next five days, and the storm struggling to maintain its circulation, strengthening of Maria to a hurricane before it reaches the Lesser Antilles seems unlikely at this time. None of the intensity models are calling for Maria to reach hurricane strength until well after the storm passes Puerto Rico. However, Mike Ventrice, a meteorology Ph.D. student at the University of Albany, pointed out to me yesterday that a atmospheric disturbance known as a Convectively-Coupled Kelvin Wave (CCKW) is passing through the Lesser Antilles Islands today, and is headed eastwards towards Maria at 25 mph. Maria will encounter this CCKW Thursday night or Friday morning. There is a great deal of upward-moving air in the vicinity of a CCKW, and will help strengthen the updrafts in Maria's thunderstorms, potentially intensifying the storm. None of our models are detailed enough to "see" CCKWs", so we may see more intensification of the storm than the models are calling for. Given the disorganized state Maria is currently in, though, the extra boost in upward motion provided by the CCKW may not make of a difference to the storm.

The track forecasts for Maria from the various models agree that the storm will affect the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. After it passes the Lesser Antilles, Maria has the usual amount of high uncertainty in its 5 - 7 day track forecast. The models are split on how strong the steering influence a trough of low pressure along the U.S. East Coast will have. The UKMET model prefers a more southerly track for Maria through the Turk and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas towards the U.S. East Coast, while the other models predict a more northwesterly track, with a potential threat to Bermuda. Climatology favors a track that would miss the U.S., with Dr. Bob Hart's track history pages suggesting that Maria has a 14% chance of hitting Canada, 5% chance of hitting Bermuda, and an 18% chance of hitting North Carolina.

Hurricane Katia
Hurricane Katia has brought a few rain showers and some gusty winds of 20 - 30 mph to Bermuda last night and this morning, but is not going to bring hazardous weather to the island as the storm makes it swing around Bermuda today and tomorrow. Latest satellite loops show that Katia is a shadow of its former Category 4 self, as dry air has eaten into the southwest side of the storm into the eye. Katia's outer rainbands should remain just offshore from North Carolina, New England, and the Canadian Maritime provinces at the point of closest approach. The main impact of Katia will be a multi-day period of high surf leading to beach erosion and dangerous rip currents.

I'll have an update this afternoon.

Jeff Masters

Bryn Athyn, PA (HighRdGeo)
Fetters Mill 9-8-11 morning
Bryn Athyn, PA

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EARLY MORNING VISIBLE SATELLITE IMAGES SHOW A MORE ORGANIZED
TROPICAL CYCLONE THAN WAS SEEN LATE YESTERDAY AFTERNOON. NATE HAS
THE APPEARANCE OF A SHEARED TROPICAL CYCLONE WITH THE CENTER
LOCATED NEAR THE NORTHEASTERN TIP OF THE MAIN CONVECTIVE MASS.


Where is the northeasterly shear? It's dry air, not shear.

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Quoting wxobsvps:
CYA from NHC...



Eactly!!!
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IMO - I think Maria moves closer to FL than what most are comfortable. I think she keeps TS status north of the Leeward islands and though the Caicos islands. That's a short term forecast -again IMO.

Long term seems problematic. Two scenarios and I feel both scenarios call for a CONUS landfall.

Scenario 1..from the Caicos islands - that point it seems likely Maria becomes a strong TS / Hurricane 1 making a SC/NC landfall exiting N or North Carolina turning back out to sea. Possible that the storm affects the northern portion of Bermuda.

Scenario 2 a decent TS brushes the eastern FL coast before moving north into the Savannah area.

I base the scenarios on that given Maria's position, strength, and the position/strength of the front coming off the US coast - that Maria may not feel or see that opening till she makes more northern latitude. There is a case for the L front not being as big a factor which is throwing the longer range forecast models into a quandary similar to Irene. The difference I feel with Irene and Maria is that Maria is coming a little more south than Irene and of course intensity.


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New cone may get some Texans a bit excited... yet think it is going to continue to shift to the right over the next few days... I am no meteorologist... just sayin' :-D peace... long way from landfall anywhere at this point anyways...

Link
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Quoting Levi32:
Good morning.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Thursday, September 8th, with Video


Awesome tidbit Levi, glad you notice the cutoff low from Lee too. I saw that backing up on Water Vapor this morning and had a feeling Nate's track could change. Still I give it a 50/50 chance of either hitting Mexico or going up towards LA and FL Panhandle. Hopefully by later today or tomorrow we'll have a better idea of exactly where it's going.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 3074
Quoting MississippiWx:
Fairly large track shift with Nate:



If that track veirfies (iffy at this point) we can always hope he will throw out an area of rain as large as Alex did. Iffy as well, but Alex certainly gave us some very nice rains.
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Quoting ScottLincoln:


Same story down here in the south central CONUS. Several gauges in the LMRFC area are in danger of being cut soon due to cuts by both the US Army Corps of Engineers and the USGS. Many of these gauges have limited partner funding by local entities because they are in less-well-off areas. Not sure of deadlines on these gauges yet, however. Word is that they will remain functioning as stage-only gauges until they break or need adjustments... at which point they become non-functioning indefinitely.


Out of curiosity, what is the average yearly operating cost for such stream gauges? Would it be something that, theoretically, a community can come together to fund or are we talking thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars?
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CYA from NHC...



Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 644
E46...thats an old pic it was a cheyenne...currently on a ng for a canadian airline...commuting...no surprise these days
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Mria makes me laugh. it is looking that a new centre is trying to form south of the convection that is ahead of the current llc
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Nate is choking on dry air. I never understood why the NHC said the dry air wasn't affecting his circulation, as it clearly was yesterday and still is today. Convection is confined to southwest of the center right now, with a low-level cloud-deck elsewhere.
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Pretty tightly Clustered actually!
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Quoting Jeff Masters:
NOTICE (03/23/2011)--Data collection at this streamgage may be discontinued after October 1, 2011 due to funding reductions from partner agencies. Although historic data will remain accessible, no new data will be collected unless one or more new funding partners are found.


Same story down here in the south central CONUS. Several gauges in the LMRFC area are in danger of being cut soon due to cuts by both the US Army Corps of Engineers and the USGS. Many of these gauges have limited partner funding by local entities because they are in less-well-off areas. Not sure of deadlines on these gauges yet, however. Word is that they will remain functioning as stage-only gauges until they break or need adjustments... at which point they become non-functioning indefinitely.
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Thanks Levi. I trust your forecasts so much more than the local Mets around here. I've got a feeling it's going to be another wet weekend here in South La.
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Boston Big Picture Hurricane Irene Photos
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Seasonal ACE to-date. Note that as of 11AM, Katia has taken over first place:

KATIA: 20.9725
IRENE: 20.3425
BRET: 2.9450
ARLENE: 1.9875
EMILY: 1.9875
CINDY: 1.8800
LEE: 1.7050
DON: 1.7000
GERT: 1.6025
HARVEY: 1.2350
MARIA: 0.9700
NATE: 0.6825
JOSE: 0.5275
FRANKLIN: 0.4050
-----------------
TOTAL: 58.9425
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If it stays as a TS and pass over us in the Leewards then I could accept I was in mistake in my own my forecast. BUT if it arrives as a tropical wave hence, the game is over. ( I do not forecast tropical waves). Please, this is just my opinion. I am a person that takes his risks (in forecasting) and naturally attempt to LEARN from the other bloggers!!!!!
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Quoting TropicalWeatherGrl88:


Can you explain why? Thank you


To put it as simply as possible. If Nate develops and makes it to the C GOM and moves NE/ENE then Nate's circulation could help reinforce the subtropical ridge over Maria and keep her on a more W/WNW displacement and therefore a further W shift in the NHC cone.

Unfortunately for the Carib. and CONUS... having a weak Maria like we have now doesn't help any since she won't be able to gain enough latitude to avoid land interaction.
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Maria's only hope is to slow down - she still has a vigorous LLC surface center. She's suppose to start slowing down tomorrow but by then, may not be nothing left.
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Quoting wxobsvps:
the upcoming 12Z GFS will be very interesting to see if it maintains the Northerly solution for Nate.

Yup. And then if the ensuing model runs follow suit.
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NATE

Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery

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No MARIA isn't a fish storm, hopefully she builds more more more thunderstorms and bring rain to everyone who need it.
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6408
64. P451
Quoting TampaSpin:
Keep in mind NATE is tiny.......he can get strong very fast once the Shear drops some. Morning again!


IF the shear drops. I don't believe there is any certainty with Nate right now.

This morning is a good example why CIMSS analysis are not to be trusted. Nate is undergoing moderate NE shear. CIMSS analyzes weak lowering shear from the NW turning SW which is clearly incorrect given Nate's satellite signature.

So right now we don't know what is going on down there and what to expect in the short term.



Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
Maria looks most likely to recurve east of the United States, but given how far away that is, it definitely does not mean that the U.S. should not watch her, as she will probably make a close enough pass that some people may be uneasy on the eastern seaboard. Definitely keep tabs on her progress. Of course, first stop is the northeastern Caribbean islands and they will be impacted first.
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the upcoming 12Z GFS will be very interesting to see if it maintains the Northerly solution for Nate.
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 644
Quoting Klolly23:

Any chance Maria remains poorly organized and slips south of northern Antilles brushing up along the south coast of PR and Hispaniola, possibly crossing somewhere over eastern or central Cuba?


It appears to me that Maria might even move south of Puerto Rico now with her weak status.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
Maria wont be a fish, anyone who says that is either ignorant op trying to get a rise out of others


Point: troll.
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 644
Maria is tracking a bit south of the Forecast points......NOt unexpected with a weak system.
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Quoting 7544:
morning everyone hmm cone shift left again getting interesting if the models shift west again today so fla could be in the next 5 day cone imo what you think a trend is about to begin ?

Any chance Maria remains poorly organized and slips south of northern Antilles brushing up along the south coast of PR and Hispaniola, possibly crossing somewhere over eastern or central Cuba?
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Quoting AvidWeatherHound:
Would someone give me some insight on Maria and how it could affect NC? And advise me on what I should be looking for in the updates and model runs. TIA


Im in NC. Its a wait and see game. No need to get nervous this far out.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
Maria wont be a fish, anyone who says that is either ignorant op trying to get a rise out of others

Yeah, jumped the gun on her track. She sure shifted south. If she impacts the inlands, that's no fish.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
Impressive records set. Records are meant to be broke, though we sure have seen numerous ones not only broke, but smashed.

Katia = Fish
Maria = Fish
Nate = Anywhere along the Mexican Coast could see action.


Maria and Nate must both be watched for potential impact to the U.S. In this very complicated situstion.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30601
Maria wont be a fish, anyone who says that is either ignorant op trying to get a rise out of others
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Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 644
Quoting junie1:

so maria is a fish and its going to impact the islands? there are so much idiots who visit this site


lol
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6408
Quoting P451:



Maria, Fish?
How so?
Regardless of what shape she will be in upon arrival, she is indeed headed for the islands.


Yeah, now that I'm looking at her track, she probably will pass over them. Then yes, no fish.
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Maria what's wrong with you!! Come on girl it's seaison's peak!! So you should be happy...
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6408
Quoting AvidWeatherHound:
Would someone give me some insight on Maria and how it could affect NC? And advise me on what I should be looking for in the updates and model runs. TIA


You should come back in 5 days. Then we'll have a better idea where she is going to go.
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Quoting WxLogic:
If Nate develops further and tracks NE/ENE then I would expect Maria's cone to shift further W.


Oh yes..Nate is the wild card here.
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Quoting basti11:




LETS say that does happen like you say NATE would not survive the DRY AIR and WINDSHEAR..it would destroy NATEthats why he cant come to the north unless he meanders around the boc for at least 5 days then the options increase a northward movement...


Water Vapor also shows the overall dry air across the Southern U.S. and the Gulf is shrinking. That matches up with our forecast which calls for a 0% chance of rain for the next two days and then bumps up to 30%-40% for later this weekend. We don't get 30%-40% chance of afternoon thunderstorms if their is dry in the GOM. The front that is over the Gulf MIGHT eventually move back North and push the dry air out of the Gulf, I've seen it happen before living along the Gulf coast for 20 years.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 3074
46. P451
Quoting cat5hurricane:
Impressive records set. Records are meant to be broke, though we sure have seen numerous ones very recently this year not only broke, but smashed. Literally.

Katia = Fish
Maria = Fish
Nate = Anywhere along the Mexican Coast could see action. Also not liking these latest runs (GFS, GFDL) hinting at the northern Gulf Coast...

We'll monitor this closely.



Maria, Fish?
How so?
Regardless of what shape she will be in upon arrival, she is indeed headed for the islands.

Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
Keep in mind NATE is tiny.......he can get strong very fast once the Shear drops some. Morning again!
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Quoting junie1:

so maria is a fish and its going to impact the islands? there are so much idiots who visit this site

She'll stay north of you.
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Nate starting to build convection on its NE side, it may get that LLC covered by this afternoon.
Member Since: June 27, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 179
Would someone give me some insight on Maria and how it could affect NC? And advise me on what I should be looking for in the updates and model runs. TIA
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Quoting WxLogic:
If Nate develops further and tracks NE/ENE then I would expect Maria's cone to shift further W.


Can you explain why? Thank you
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
Impressive records set. Records are meant to be broke, though we sure have seen numerous ones very recently this year not only broke, but smashed. Literally.

Katia = Fish

Maria = Fish

Nate = Anywhere along the Mexican Coast could see action. Also not liking these latest runs (GFS, GFDL) hinting at the northern Gulf Coast...

We'll monitor this closely.

How is Maria a fish? It goes right over the islands?
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Quoting 19N81W:
they still want her to turn so appears likely it will whatever is left of maria...


What equipment is that your flying there? Citation?
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:) posted.
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Good morning.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Thursday, September 8th, with Video
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
Impressive records set. Records are meant to be broke, though we sure have seen numerous ones not only broke, but smashed.

Katia = Fish
Maria = Fish
Nate = Anywhere along the Mexican Coast could see action.

so maria is a fish and its going to impact the islands? there are so much idiots who visit this site
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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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