Rare March tornado rips Michigan; record March heat wave sets more records

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:43 PM GMT on March 16, 2012

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As I stepped out of my front door into the pre-dawn darkness from my home near Ann Arbor, Michigan yesterday morning, I braced myself for the cold shock of a mid-March morning. It didn't come. A warm, murky atmosphere, with temperatures in the upper fifties--30 degrees above normal--greeted me instead. Continuous flashes of heat lightning lit up the horizon, as the atmosphere crackled with the energy of distant thunderstorms. Beware the Ides of March, the air seemed to be saying. I looked up at the hazy stars above me, flashing in and out of sight as lightning lit up the sky, and thought, this is not the atmosphere I grew up with.


Video 1. Video taped at Hudson Mills Metro Park in Dexter about 5:30PM on March 15, 2012, by Matthew Altruda from Tree Town Sound, http://www.treetownsound.com. Caution: foul language.

That afternoon, as the Detroit temperature soared to 77°F, the second warmest on record so early in the year, going back to 1871, I watched as late afternoon thunderstorms built with remarkable speed. Though NOAA's Storm Prediction Center had placed Southeast Michigan in their "Slight Risk" area for severe weather, I wasn't too concerned about tornadoes. We don't get many tornadoes in Michigan this early in the year, and certainly not strong ones. Prior to yesterday, there were only sixteen tornadoes on record in Michigan that occurred before March 16, going back to 1950. Though the air was remarkably unstable for this time of year, the upper level winds were not strong enough to generate much shearing action on the air, meaning that tornadoes would have a tough time getting spinning. But the atmosphere had other ideas. In a remarkably short half-hour period, a severe thunderstorm sprang up west of Ann Arbor, began spinning, and dropped a strong tornado down on the unfortunate town of Dexter, Michigan. The tornado skipped along a ten-mile path, damaging or destroying 128 buildings, but fortunately not causing any deaths or injuries. While most of the damage was light to moderate, thirteen homes were demolished, and preliminary damage estimates from the National Weather Service put the twister at the boundary between EF-2 and EF-3 strength, with winds of 135 mph. If confirmed as an EF-3, this would be the earliest EF-3 or stronger tornado in Michigan history, going back to 1950, according to data from The Tornado History Project. The previous earliest appearance of an F-3 tornado in Michigan was on March 20, 1976. At least two other tornadoes touched down in Michigan yesterday, making it the second largest tornado outbreak in state history so early in the year. The record outbreak for so early in the year was the eight tornadoes that touched down on March 12, 1976.



Figure 1. Radar reflectivity image (top) and Doppler velocity image (bottom) of the March 15, 2012 Dexter, Michigan tornado.


Video 2. This video report by AnnArbor.com's Nathan Bomey shows tornado damage in the Dexter, Michigan, about 90 minutes after the tornado came through on Thursday, March 15, 2012.

I talked to a friend in Dexter who relayed the story of her friend who was driving through town, saw the tornado, and pulled over into the Dexter car wash to take shelter. Some strangers living next door to the car wash yelled at him to come shelter in their basement, since the car wash didn't have a basement. He joined them, and was glad he did, because his car and the car wash were heavily damaged by a tree that was flung into it (see damage to the car wash in the video above.)

Hail, Hail, to Michigan
The Dexter storms also brought golfball to baseball-sized hail and a deluge of 4 - 5 inches of rain that caused street flooding in Ann Arbor. My Ph.D. advisor and co-founder of Weather Underground, Dr. Perry Samson, related this story to me: "I was traveling home by bus to go chase, but the bus came to a stand still at Michigan Stadium as cars were sunk up to their windows in water on Main Street. I told the driver I had to chase this storm, and came up with a story about what I do. He gunned the bus and drove through the flood to get me home. So I didn't actually commandeer a bus to chase the tornado, but it was darn close!"

Record Midwest March heat wave topples more records
For the second consecutive day, large portions of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, including the cities of Chicago, Madison, and Dubuque, recorded their all-time warmest temperatures for so early in the year. Perhaps the most extraordinary record occurred in Madison, Wisconsin, which hit 82°F--a temperature 39°F above average. It was the hottest temperature ever recorded in March, and three degrees warmer than any day so early in the year, going back to 1869. Not as many all-time hottest temperature records for so early in the year were set in Michigan and other surrounding states, due to plentiful moisture that generated afternoon cloud cover. The records will continue to fall across the Midwest for another week, as the ridge of high pressure responsible stays locked in place.

Major airports that set all-time heat records yesterday
For the second consecutive day, Chicago, Illinois hit 81°F; the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1872, and 35°F above average. This ties the record set on March 12, 1990.

For the second consecutive day, Springfield, Illinois hit 83°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1879, and 32°F above average. This ties the record of 83°F on March 13, 1918.

Rockford, Illinois hit 82°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1893, and 36°F above average. Previous record: 79°F set the previous day.

Moline, Illinois hit 81°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1874, and 33°F above average. Previous record: 80°F on March 12, 1990.

Dubuque, Iowa hit 78°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1874, and 34°F above average. Previous record: 75°F set the previous day, and also on March 12, 1990.

Waterloo, Iowa hit 79°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1895, and 34°F above average. This ties the record set on March 7, 2000.

Madison, Wisconsin hit 82°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1869, and 39°F above average. This is also the warmest temperature ever recorded in March (tied with March 29th, 1986 and March 31, 1981), as is also (by two weeks) the earliest 80° reading ever measured there. The previous record for a temperature so hot this early in the year was 79°F set the previous day, on March 14, 2012.

Data for the previous records was taken from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

I'll have a new post on Saturday.

Jeff Masters

Sterm has Passed (nickwuaa)
Lightning to the east courtesy of my daughter. This was a violent storm that produced a tornado west of us and plenty of hail and thunder.
Sterm has Passed
Looks like Snow (KSMc)
The hail was more than an inch deep.
Looks like Snow
Yikes (Susie77)
Eeks! NWS just issued us a severe thunderstorm warning. Very cool mammatus clouds!
Yikes
Three Strikes at Sunset (CecileWNC)
Three Strikes at Sunset

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ktymisty had to put ya on the ignore list blog is messed up by your post
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53308
497 AussieStorm "I am watching The Weather Channel Australia here, They mentioned the waters off the NW Western Australian coast was between 34C and 36C. I have since found out by doing my own investigations that that was incorrect."

Hadda do some checking&correcting myself. My contribution to the exchange now reads
437 AussieStorm "She went from a Cat 3 to a Cat 4 and will cross the coast as a Cat 4. The waters there are boiling hot. 34C-36C."
443 KoritheMan "36C? [Expletive]"
494 aspectre "And a TropicalCyclone well worth expletiving about. Its minimum surface pressure has gotta be ~56millibars to make water boil at 35degreesCelsius(95degreesFahrenheit)"

Just found KoritheMan's reaction to a reported 34C-36C SST to be amusingly over-the-top.
(The only time I've heard those words used as an expletive on broadcast television was within an amateur video shot live as the second jet crashed into the TwinTowers}
Then thought t' m'self, what would truly be worthy of that kind of over-the-topness? And came up with asuperultrahypercane that made water literally (rather than figuratively) boil at 35C
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Latest update from Weatherzone has Lua travelling at a fair clip 23km/h
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oops, that post down there went wrong...
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Quoting OracleDeAtlantis:
The western desert of Australia is about to spring to life.





Action:
Quote
| Ignore User


Member Since: August 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 779





It's been a great year for OZ really...lots of rain ( yes flooding but it's worth it ) all over the country, filling dams, rivers, inland lakes, and the aquifer in the long run.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

If anything, the eyewall is getting better defined. So much for weakening.


I was watching the sat loop and thought it took a deep breath. It shrank and puffed up like a marshmallow :)
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The western desert of Australia is about to spring to life.



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Quoting ktymisty:
Eye just about to cross you can see the eye very clearly right now
If anything, the eyewall is getting better defined. So much for weakening.
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Pardoo is getting pounded
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Eye just about to cross you can see the eye very clearly right now
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Assuming they are affiliated with TWCUS in any way, your first mistake was to treat them as credible. :P

I don't think they are affiliated in anyway except in name only.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

I am watching The Weather Channel Australia here, They mentioned the waters off the NW Western Australian coast was between 34C and 36C. I have since found out by doing my own investigations that that was incorrect.

Assuming they are affiliated with TWCUS in any way, your first mistake was to treat them as credible. :P
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Quoting aspectre:
437 AussieStorm "She went from a Cat 3 to a Cat 4 and will cross the coast as a Cat 4. The waters there are boiling hot. 34C-36c."
443 KoritheMan "36C? [Expletive]"

And well worth expletiving about.
Minimum pressure has gotta be ~64millibars for water to boil at 35degreesCelsius(95degreesFahrenheit)

I am watching The Weather Channel Australia here, They mentioned the waters off the NW Western Australian coast was between 34C and 36C. I have since found out by doing my own investigations that that was incorrect.

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Lua's drawing in even hotter air from near Indonesia, very powerful bands by the looks of them
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437 AussieStorm "She went from a Cat 3 to a Cat 4 and will cross the coast as a Cat 4. The waters there are boiling hot. 34C-36c."
443 KoritheMan "36C? [Expletive]"

And a TropicalCyclone well worth expletiving about. Its minimum surface pressure has gotta be
~56millibars to make water boil at 35degreesCelsius(95degreesFahrenheit)
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting hydrus:
Is it me Aussie, or has that area been getting nailed repeatedly with cyclones?

It's the most active coast in the southern hemisphere. They get hit a few times every year. Hence the people that live there are well versed in cyclone preparedness.





TOP PRIORITY FOR IMMEDIATE BROADCAST

TROPICAL CYCLONE ADVICE NUMBER 24
Issued at 11:44 am WST on Saturday 17 March 2012

A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Cape Leveque to Dampier,
including Port Hedland, Karratha, Dampier and Broome, as well as inland parts
of the east Pilbara and far west Kimberley, including Telfer, Newman and
Jigalong, the eastern Gascoyne, far northern Goldfields and the far western
Interior including Three Rivers and Wiluna.
A Cyclone WATCH is current for parts of the eastern Gascoyne and the northern
Goldfields including Meekatharra and Leinster.

At 11:00 am WST Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua, Category 4 was estimated to be
185 kilometres northeast of Port Hedland
285 kilometres west southwest of Broome
moving south southeast at 23 kilometres per hour.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua is approaching the east Pilbara coast, with an
expected crossing in the vicinity of Pardoo Station around 2-3pm this
afternoon.

Gales are occurring in coastal areas between Port Hedland and Bidyadanga and
will extend to adjacent inland areas later today, possibly north to Cape
Leveque including Broome and west to Dampier.

Destructive winds to 150 kilometres per hour are possible between Port Hedland
and Bidyadanga extending to the inland eastern Pilbara later in the day. Very
Destructive winds to 250 kilometres per hour are forecast near the cyclone
centre as it crosses the coast.

As the cyclone moves further inland, gales should reach the eastern Gascoyne
areas, adjacent Interior and far northern Goldfields on Sunday morning.

Heavy rainfall is expected in coastal and inland parts of the east Pilbara,
west Kimberley extending into the eastern Gascoyne, western Interior and
northern Goldfields later today and during Sunday.

Residents of the east Pilbara and 80 Mile Beach area, east of but NOT including
Port Hedland, are specifically warned of the very dangerous storm tide expected
this afternoon. Tides are likely to rise significantly above the normal high
tide mark with damaging waves and very dangerous flooding.

Heavy surf conditions are also expected along the west Kimberley coast.

FESA-State Emergency Service advises of the following community alerts:

RED ALERT: People in coastal communities between Bidyadanga and Port Hedland,
including Wallal, 80 Mile Beach, Sandfire, Pardoo, Port Hedland, South Hedland,
Warralong, Yandeyarra and surrounding Pastoral and Mining leases need to go to
shelter immediately.

YELLOW ALERT: People in remaining communities between Broome and Whim Creek
including the Town of Broome, Marble Bar, Telfer, Nullagine, Woodie Woodie, and
adjacent pastoral and mining leases need to take action and get ready to
shelter from a cyclone.

BLUE ALERT: People in coastal communities between Whim Creek and Dampier
including Karratha, Dampier, Roebourne, Wickham and Point Samson as well as
inland communities including Newman and Jigalong and surrounding pastoral and
mining leases need to prepare for cyclonic weather and organise an emergency
kit including first aid kit, torch, portable radio, spare batteries, food and
water.

Remaining communities between Broome and Cape Leveque and in the inland eastern
Pilbara, east Gascoyne and western Interior should listen for the next advice.


Details of Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua at 11:00 am WST:
.Centre located near...... 19.1 degrees South 119.8 degrees East
.Location accuracy........ within 20 kilometres
.Recent movement.......... towards the south southeast at 23 kilometres per hour
.Wind gusts near centre... 250 kilometres per hour and INTENSIFYING
.Severity category........ 4
.Central pressure......... 932 hectoPascals

The next advice will be issued by 1:00 pm WST Saturday 17 March.
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Quoting hydrus:
lol..I have seen Kori vent here a few times, abrasively humorous was about the worst I ever saw. The worst meltdown I ever witnessed here was Gator23. That dude was seriously pissed.
Nah, it doesn't show through my posts here. When I'm angry, I'm not the most pleasant sight to behold. ;)
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Quoting AussieStorm:
The Eye of Lua now visable on RADAR.




Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua

A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Cape Leveque to Dampier, including Port Hedland, Karratha, Dampier and Broome, as well as inland parts of the east Pilbara and far west Kimberley, including Telfer, Newman and Jigalong, the eastern Gascoyne, far northern Goldfields and the far western Interior including Three Rivers and Wiluna.

A Cyclone WATCH is current for parts of the eastern Gascoyne and the northern Goldfields including Meekatharra and Leinster.

At 11am WST Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua, Category 4 was estimated to be 185 km northeast of Port Hedland, 285 km west southwest of Broome, moving south southeast at 23 km/h.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua is approaching the east Pilbara coast, with an expected crossing in the vicinity of Pardoo Station around 2-3pm this afternoon,90mins-2.5hrs time. Destructive winds to 250 km/h are forecast near the cyclone centre as it crosses the coast.
Is it me Aussie, or has that area been getting nailed repeatedly with cyclones?
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20546
490. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Perth Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Advice #24
SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE LUA, CATEGORY FOUR (16U)
11:00 AM WST March 17 2012
===========================

At 11:00 AM WST, Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua, Category Four (932 hPa) located at 19.1S 119.8E or 185 km northeast of Port Hedland 285 km west southwest of Broome has 10 minute sustained winds of 95 knots with gusts of 135 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving south southeast at 13 knots.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua is approaching the east Pilbara coast, with an expected crossing in the vicinity of Pardoo Station around 2-3pm this afternoon.

Gales are occurring in coastal areas between Port Hedland and Bidyadanga and will extend to adjacent inland areas later today, possibly north to Cape Leveque including Broome and west to Dampier.

Destructive winds to 150 kilometres per hour are possible between Port Hedland and Bidyadanga extending to the inland eastern Pilbara later in the day. Very Destructive winds to 250 kilometres per hour are forecast near the cyclone centre as it crosses the coast.

As the cyclone moves further inland, gales should reach the eastern Gascoyne areas, adjacent Interior and far northern Goldfields on Sunday morning.

Heavy rainfall is expected in coastal and inland parts of the east Pilbara, west Kimberley extending into the eastern Gascoyne, western Interior and northern Goldfields later today and during Sunday.

Residents of the east Pilbara and 80 Mile Beach area, east of but NOT including Port Hedland, are specifically warned of the very dangerous storm tide expected this afternoon. Tides are likely to rise significantly above the normal high tide mark with damaging waves and very dangerous flooding.

Heavy surf conditions are also expected along the west Kimberley coast.

FESA-State Emergency Service advises of the following community alerts:

RED ALERT: People in coastal communities between Bidyadanga and Port Hedland, including Wallal, 80 Mile Beach, Sandfire, Pardoo, Port Hedland, South Hedland, Warralong, Yandeyarra and surrounding Pastoral and Mining leases need to go to shelter immediately.

YELLOW ALERT: People in remaining communities between Broome and Whim Creek including the Town of Broome, Marble Bar, Telfer, Nullagine, Woodie Woodie, and adjacent pastoral and mining leases need to take action and get ready to shelter from a cyclone.

BLUE ALERT: People in coastal communities between Whim Creek and Dampier including Karratha, Dampier, Roebourne, Wickham and Point Samson as well as inland communities including Newman and Jigalong and surrounding pastoral and mining leases need to prepare for cyclonic weather and organise an emergency kit including first aid kit, torch, portable radio, spare batteries, food and water.

Remaining communities between Broome and Cape Leveque and in the inland eastern Pilbara, east Gascoyne and western Interior should listen for the next advice.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
=================================

A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Cape Leveque to Dampier, including Port Hedland, Karratha, Dampier and Broome, as well as inland parts of the east Pilbara and far west Kimberley, including Telfer, Newman and Jigalong, the eastern Gascoyne, far northern Goldfields and the far western Interior including Three Rivers and Wiluna.

A Cyclone WATCH is current for parts of the eastern Gascoyne and the northern Goldfields including Meekatharra and Leinster.

The next tropical cyclone bulletin on Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua from the Perth Tropical Cyclone Warning Center will be issued at 7:30 AM UTC..
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Quoting KoritheMan:

I do have an anger problem. ;)
lol..I have seen Kori vent here a few times, abrasively humorous was about the worst I ever saw. The worst meltdown I ever witnessed here was Gator23. That dude was seriously pissed.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20546
The Eye of Lua now visable on RADAR.




Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua

A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Cape Leveque to Dampier, including Port Hedland, Karratha, Dampier and Broome, as well as inland parts of the east Pilbara and far west Kimberley, including Telfer, Newman and Jigalong, the eastern Gascoyne, far northern Goldfields and the far western Interior including Three Rivers and Wiluna.

A Cyclone WATCH is current for parts of the eastern Gascoyne and the northern Goldfields including Meekatharra and Leinster.

At 11am WST Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua, Category 4 was estimated to be 185 km northeast of Port Hedland, 285 km west southwest of Broome, moving south southeast at 23 km/h.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua is approaching the east Pilbara coast, with an expected crossing in the vicinity of Pardoo Station around 2-3pm this afternoon,90mins-2.5hrs time. Destructive winds to 250 km/h are forecast near the cyclone centre as it crosses the coast.
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Quoting SPLbeater:
night guys.
g,nite SPL.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20546


Cyclone Watch for Tropical Low

TROPICAL CYCLONE ADVICE NUMBER 2
Issued at 11:02 am EST on Saturday 17 March 2012

A Cyclone WATCH has been declared for a developing tropical low for coastal areas from NT/Qld Border to Cape Keerweer, including Mornington and Sweers Islands.

At 10:00 am EST a Tropical Low was estimated to be 245 kilometres east of Mornington Island and 170 kilometres south of Kowanyama and
moving east southeast at 16 kilometres per hour and slowing.

The low may develop into a tropical cyclone in the next 24 to 48 hours.

GALES are expected to develop out to 170 kilometres out from the centre and are possible between the NT/Qld border and Cape Keerweer by Monday morning.

A separate Severe Weather Warning is current for Heavy Rainfall and Abnormally High Tides for parts of the Gulf Country and Peninsula districts.

Next advice due by 5pm EST.
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Latest map on Weatherzone has max winds of 250 km/h
Could reach Cat 4 before landfall, the water is still very hot, the land is flat and looks like strong cold tops getting more frequent
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finer detail
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53308
Before I go to sleep, check out Lua's central pressure:

Central Pressure: 932 hPa

(Getting this info from the BOM)
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night guys.
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4481
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Quoting nigel20:
good night guys


Nite Nige!
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
Section 8 has the answer.


Section 8 of this page I mean.


Thanks for the clarification. I got a little worried there for a minute.
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:


angry?


Keep going.
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Section 8 has the answer.


Section 8 of this page I mean.
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:


angry?
I do have an anger problem. ;)
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:



I named the last one 'Chairman Meow'.

Good or not so good?
It'll do.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Like hungry? What I am right now?


angry?
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good night guys
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7881
Quoting KoritheMan:

Story time!



I named the last one 'Chairman Meow'.

Good or not so good?
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Quoting Grothar:


You'd be better off finding 4 words in the English language that end in -gry.
Like hungry? What I am right now?
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Must think of a rhyme. Must think of a rhyme. Must think of a rhyme.


You'd be better off finding 4 words in the English language that end in -gry.
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Quoting Ameister12:
I like this rhyme. Oh! Look at the time. Time for bed. I'm a sleepy head.

Good night, all. :)
XD
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
This is as bad as the last time I named one of the stray cats that wandered on base.
Story time!
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I like this rhyme. Oh! Look at the time. Time for bed. I'm a sleepy head.

Good night, all. :)
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This is as bad as the last time I named one of the stray cats that wandered on base.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Must think of a rhyme. Must think of a rhyme. Must think of a rhyme.


So what's the story, Kori?
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Don't Worri be Kori.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

For, Kor?
Good one, but I wanted to be the author. :(
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the area is cooler than normal the waters get 3 or 6 degrees hotter

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53308
I'm thinking that maybe Lua could be approaching category 3 equivalent.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


do you see it now



Yeah. That looks about 29 C not 36 C.
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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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