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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Quoting nigel20:

It's nice that sections of Texas will likely see some improvement, but there will be a large area of persistent drought conditions


ya. i see persistence over me:/
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4487
Quoting Neapolitan:
I'd say the same about religion. ;-)
The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.

- Cicero :)


Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21488
181 aspectre "Even if you were sitting on a barstool up to your chest in seawater at your favorite (former)beachfront bar..."
273 Jedkins01 "My house is roughly 3 ft above sea level, is it ok if I psychologically bet you $100,000 that there will not be sufficient sea level rise due to GW by 2050 to flood my house? Because I really do laugh at the ridiculous predictions of sea level rise.

"...if you were..." grammatically designates the following phases as a hypothetical, but does not assign a probability to that hypothetical becoming true. eg If you were to win $100million in the lottery, you wouldn't care much about your house getting flooded.
Though not impossible, a 3foot sea-level rise by 2050 exceeds the highest estimate by the most ardent(qualified)proponent of AnthropogenicGlobalWarming.

But depending on how close you are to the coast and how well protected by local geography, it doesn't take a 3foot-rise to produce groundfloor flooding in a house located 3feet above sea-level. Close enough to the coast or within a topological feature that funnels waves traveling inland to greater heights, even a 1foot sea-level rise could cause what-were-harmless storm waves to heighten and penetrate much farther and higher inland.
eg A 1foot sea-level rise on a beach that slopes gently to the current low-tide mark then drops more more steeply afterwards would cause each incoming wave to pile up higher on itself to create a higher breaker. Deeper penetration over land by that breaker wave would allow the following wave to travel farther landward before becoming a breaker, etc...
...next thing you know, what with roadway&building-induced funneling, you've got an inland pile-up exceeding 3feet higher than what the breakers would have produced before that 1foot sea-level rise.
Note that I am talking about regular storm waves, not waves piled on top of storm surges.
No need for new bets, you are already making a "psychological bet of" (probably far) more than "$100,000 that there will not be sufficient sea level rise due to GW by 2050 to flood my house."
Before FEMA and the flood insurance&reinsurance associated with FEMA were created in the early '60s, riverfront/beachfront and floodplain properties weren't worth much. Two types of people bought property and/or lived there: those who were too poor to afford living in a safer area, and those who were wealthy enough to self-finance construction and self-insure against total damage.
When the Feds came in to back flood insurance, suddenly mortgages became available to those who weren't independently wealthy. And land prices skyrocketed.
Which is why you see property values going UP in the aftermath of disasterous floods and catastrophic hurricanes. The longtime-locals get kicked off of their properties either because:
banks&FEMA won't create mortgage packages that are affordable to those poorer than upper-half of middle-class;
and/or the building codes have been upgraded past the point of affordability by even those who could get prime-interest-rate mortgages. Not necessarily survivability improvements either. The 1bedroom, 1bath, kitchen, and living room with carport cottage might hafta be replaced with the minimum of a 3bedroom, family-room/den , 2&1/2bath, kitchen, dining room, and living room with a 2car-garage house.

With "them no-account thems" kicked outta their own neighborhoods, vulture capitalists and developers have no qualms about buying properties at bargain basement prices and reselling them dear.
And if the disasters don't arrive in a "reasonable" amount of time, the US SupremeCourt has ruled that local governments can steal po' folks property at "fair market value" -- ie the low prices that the properties can be sold for because they've been redlined by lenders for being in an "economicly distressed area" -- to resell to speculators who'll make huge profits on the deal.
Even for those who haven't been directly affected by a natural disaster, all it takes is for the Feds to pull out of the insurance-of-last-resort business that they should have never gotten into, and new mortgages will cease to be available to the overwhelming supermajority of people interested in buying houses in flood-prone/hurricane-prone areas. In turn, that lack of new mortgages will lower land values to pastureland prices for properties in areas other than those in the various "millionaires row"s.
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Quoting nigel20:

It's nice that sections of Texas will likely see some improvement, but there will be a large area of persistent drought conditions
This is true. It appears that rain will fall heavy over parts of Texas again tho, and current conditions are far better in a lot of areas then they were two and a half months ago.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21488
Quoting SPLbeater:

It's nice that sections of Texas will likely see some improvement, but there will be a large area of persistent drought conditions
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
Quoting nigel20:

Agreed!
This will find its way in and cause flooding problems.jmo
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21488
Quoting Jedkins01:



My house is roughly 3 ft above sea level, is it ok if I psychologically bet you $100,000 that there will not be sufficient sea level rise due to GW by 2050 to flood my house? Because I really do laugh at the ridiculous predictions of sea level rise. There could be a lot of bad things that happen between now and then, but I don't think Tampa Bay coastlines flooding from sea level rise will be one of them...


Ridiculous predictions of sea level rise?


Your house will not be flooded by climate-change-induced sea level rise. Your house will be flooded by a extratropical/tropical storm surge that has been exacerbated by climate-change-induced sea level rise.
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Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4487
Port Hedland
Australia Radar

Base Reflectivity 0.50° Elevation
Range 259.1 NMI



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128865
Quoting SPLbeater:
i wish i had a dollar for every comment that has to do with 'what to do about gw' and 'how its happening'

if you guys spent the time you did worying about a myth on something else, we would have less stress. :)

jus sayin
I'd say the same about religion. ;-)
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128865
Sun's Angry Red Spot
(nice solar pics)

Discover Magazine Link

I don't brake for trolls !

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First vis.
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1286
The Dexter tornado has been rated an EF3 with 135-140mph winds. This is the earliest strong tornado in Michigan history. That cell also spawned the EF0 tornado in Ida Townshiph with 85mph winds.
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Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4487
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:

2012?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
i wish i had a dollar for every comment that has to do with 'what to do about gw' and 'how its happening'

if you guys spent the time you did worying about a myth on something else, we would have less stress. :)

jus sayin
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4487
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54616
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
Its not the long term slow and steady rise..that worries me.

It's those rapid 17ft-30Ft rise's in a period of Hours ..that does the deed.

Saw Lake Pontchartrain Rise 17 Ft during K and well, dat is a Big Lake.


Coast Guard Station and Breach, Bucktown,


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128865
After watching the tornado video by Matthew and his friends, is it just me, or are they all drunk, stupid, or both? That was a classic case of taping a tornado coming right at them. It looks like their "shelter" was some kind of fishing shack. I assume they got out of it OK but they were very lucky. I guess it's time for another beer. :(
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Quoting BobWallace:
The Tampa, Florida area has a 14% chance of a significant storm-produced flood. Expected sea level rise increases that probability to 20% by 2030.

http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/maps/flood-ris k-florida

If it goes up 6% in about eight years then the odds are going to greatly increase over the next 20 years.

There's no reason to believe that sea level rise will be linear. We're almost certain to see amplifying forces come into play as we, for example, melt the permafrost.

It's not just sea level rise in itself that going to hurt low-lying areas. It's the rise in storm surge.


We are also approaching 400ppm co2, a level which may caused the atmosphere to become unstable and possibly cause accelerated global warming
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
The Tampa, Florida area has a 14% chance of a significant storm-produced flood. Expected sea level rise increases that probability to 20% by 2030.

http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/maps/flood-ris k-florida

If it goes up 6% in about eight years then the odds are going to greatly increase over the next 20 years.

There's no reason to believe that sea level rise will be linear. We're almost certain to see amplifying forces come into play as we, for example, melt the permafrost.

It's not just sea level rise in itself that going to hurt low-lying areas. It's the rise in storm surge.

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Quoting hydrus:
And there is more to fuel it. I would say some of this will be picked up.

Agreed!
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
Quoting nigel20:

High level of moisture associated with this system
And there is more to fuel it. I would say some of this will be picked up.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21488
Quoting PlazaRed:

Their cell structure may also have a kind of built in gyroscope. so however confused the localised situation gets they will always be able to identify their required and true direction.
One of the reasons that large sea mammals have been beaching without explanation may be that vibrations from ships engines is upsetting the creatures giro navigation systems.
Nea had an interesting blog on that. One thing worthy of note is that whales have mysteriously been beaching themselves before ships had engines, so there must be some other entity at work that causes them to beach. I would bet that the noise humans produce in the oceans is responsible for some of them.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21488
Quoting nigel20:


Very nice!

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Quoting hydrus:
The beginning..

High level of moisture associated with this system
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
Quoting hydrus:
The beginning..

Quoting Patrap:


Jupiter the less brighter one to the left, and Venus the Bright one..

Also,..Red Mercury is out the frame overhead..

All can be seen tonight as well.




Very nice!
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
Quoting Patrap:
Cyclone Lua's Core or Eye Wall is approaching the Coastline fast.

Enhanced Infrared (IR) Imagery (4 km Mercator)






There must be high flood risk associated with TC Lua
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
Quoting Patrap:


Jupiter the less brighter one to the left, and Venus the Bright one..

Also,..Red Mercury is out the frame overhead..

All can be seen tonight as well.





What a beautiful photo !
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Quoting hydrus:
What have we Pat..Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.?


Jupiter the less brighter one to the left, and Venus the Bright one..

Also,..Red Mercury is out the frame overhead..

All can be seen tonight as well.



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128865
Quoting SPLbeater:


i notn't know you is in jamaica.

Yeah, but I like to follow what's going on in the US. Weather in the US is pretty intense when compared to most countries
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
Quoting hydrus:
Bird and whale migrations using the Earth,s magnetic field intrigues me. Whales and birds have existed during many pole reversals. I wonder what other force was guiding them during the reversal phase. Sonification is the most likely answer with the cetaceans. Birds may have used certain landmarks, but some species migrate entirely over the ocean waters. Makes me wonder.

Their cell structure may also have a kind of built in gyroscope. so however confused the localised situation gets they will always be able to identify their required and true direction.
One of the reasons that large sea mammals have been beaching without explanation may be that vibrations from ships engines is upsetting the creatures giro navigation systems.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

That's a lot of water going into Australia!


Pretty much the entire country has had huge summer rains. Flooding in three states, dams full, lots of storms and stationary systems. And it's been a cold summer. The huge dry lakes in the middle of Australia are filling up. It's awesome :)
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Quoting Patrap:


Robert Hanelt

Image taken:

Mar. 13, 2012

Location:

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Details:

Last night's conjunction viewed while walking the dogs.

What have we Pat..Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.?
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21488
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The National Weather Service is facing a different kind of storm.

It's not a hurricane or tornado, but instead a proposed budget cut of $39 million dollars. The government agency that issues daily forecasts, in addition to severe weather warnings, could have their budget cut by as much as four percent.
...
This reduction in budget is being proposed for fiscal year 2013, which means National Weather Service offices could see cuts as early as this October.

http://www.abcnews4.com/story/17140790/national-w eather-service-facing-possible-budget-cut-storm
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The beginning..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21488


Robert Hanelt

Image taken:

Mar. 13, 2012

Location:

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Details:

Last night's conjunction viewed while walking the dogs.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128865
Quoting Patrap:
Cyclone Lua's Core or Eye Wall is approaching the Coastline fast.



That's a lot of water going into Australia!
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 83 Comments: 7844
Quoting PlazaRed:

I sit on my roof just after dawn and watch a 1000 starlings all change course at the same time, just like fish in shoal.
In order for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly it has to have all the components necessary inside the chrysalis when it goes into metamorphosis!
A mass of warm damp air can become a cat 5 hurricane? Or simply dissipate!
A lot of that deep thinking, inner self, mind over matter, at one, OM stuff, is based on being prepared for what you might just be able to comprehend, if you are lucky?
Humanity will continue in the main to decline into obesity and complacency, as there is not much incentive to evolve; after all we are supposed to be at the top of our tree about now? Ask any dolphin!
Bird and whale migrations using the Earth,s magnetic field intrigues me. Whales and birds have existed during many pole reversals. I wonder what other force was guiding them during the reversal phase. Sonification is the most likely answer with the cetaceans. Birds may have used certain landmarks, but some species migrate entirely over the ocean waters. Makes me wonder.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21488
Cyclone Lua's Core or Eye Wall is approaching the Coastline fast.

Enhanced Infrared (IR) Imagery (4 km Mercator)





Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128865
Quoting Neapolitan:
I doubt there'll be a 3-foot sea level rise by 2050, although that's certainly within the realm of knowledgeable predictions. Now, if you want to make that bet for, say, 2080, you're on. In fact, double it. Quadruple it.

I'd like to stick my neck out here.
I belive we all have a right to opinions based on intuitions!
Although I will probably not be around to observe it, I would dare to say that based on the present levels of atmospheric pollution input, 3-foot sea level rise, by 2050, might just be the minimum we will be looking at!
Having said that"! I also hope I am wrong!
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Lua has most likely peaked at this point as she is now being affected by land. Still very dangerous though.

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 83 Comments: 7844
Quoting nigel20:
We are still in the dry season, but it's raining almost everyday here in Jamaica


i notn't know you is in jamaica.
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4487
Quoting Patrap:


Broome, Western Australia

Broome is a pearling and tourist town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 2,200 km (1,400 mi) north of Perth. The permanent population is estimated at 14,436, growing to over 45,000 per month during the tourist season. Broome International Airport provides transport to several regional and domestic towns and cities.


Port Hedland population is around 14000 as well, a few towns of a few thousand and that's about it. True, it's still a lot of people affected but not like major cities being impacted.
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Quoting DavidHOUTX:
Quoting Neapolitan:
I doubt there'll be a 3-foot sea level rise by 2050, although that's certainly within the realm of knowledgeable predictions. Now, if you want to make that bet for, say, 2080, you're on. In fact, double it. Quadruple it.

I don't think 3 feet is too far-fetch by 2050
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223
Comet SWAN was a Kreutz sungrazer, a fragment of the same ancient comet that produced sungrazing Comet Lovejoy in Dec. 2011. Comet Lovejoy famously survived its brush with the sun and put on a flamboyant show after it emerged from the solar fire. While Comet SWAN was cut from the same cloth, it was a smaller fragment that has completely evaporated.


It was named SWAN after the instrument on board the SOHO Solar Spacecraft that found it so they went with it for the identifier.

Was kinda cool fer sure.
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We are still in the dry season, but it's raining almost everyday here in Jamaica
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Quoting Patrap:
Comet Swan



Pat,that is impressive to see.
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Quoting Patrap:


Broome, Western Australia

Broome is a pearling and tourist town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 2,200 km (1,400 mi) north of Perth. The permanent population is estimated at 14,436, growing to over 45,000 per month during the tourist season. Broome International Airport provides transport to several regional and domestic towns and cities.

Ok, thanks much appreciated
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8223

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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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