Wildfire smoke shrouds Denver; climate change expected to increase Western fires

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:16 PM GMT on June 13, 2012

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Colorado's third largest fire in recorded history, the High Park Fire, shrouded Denver and Fort Collins in acrid smoke Tuesday, causing an increase in emergency room visits related to smoke inhalation. The fire, currently burning fifteen miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado, covered over 43,000 acres (68 square miles) as of Tuesday. Firefighters reported that it was only 10% contained, and was exhibiting "extreme" behavior. A lightning strike triggered the fire on Saturday. While fire fighters try to control the southern edge of the fire, the northern perimeter is burning out of control. Six hundred eighty people and 100 fire engines are working on the ground to contain the blaze, along with air support from air tankers and helicopters. The fire has killed one person, burned 100 structures, and cost $1.6 million to fight so far. An air pollution action day has been declared for Wednesday all along the Front Range of the Rockies, from Denver to Fort Collins, due to smoke from the fire. Air pollution levels from smoke will be unhealthy for sensitive groups.


Figure 1. Fire burns in trees behind homes in the High Park wildfire near Fort Collins, Colorado, on Monday, June 11, 2012. (AP Photo)

Beetles, climate change, and Colorado fires
According to the Denver Post, the High Park Fire is burning in an area where 70% of the trees that have been killed by mountain pine beetles; the insects have devastated forests in western North America in recent years. As our climate change blogger, Dr. Ricky Rood explains, the pine beetle is killed (controlled) by temperatures less than -40°F. This is at the edge of the coldest temperatures normally seen in the U.S., and these cold extremes have largely disappeared since 1990. In Colorado, the lack of -40°F temperatures in winter has allowed the beetles to produce two broods of young per year, instead of one. The beetles are also attacking the pine trees up to a month earlier than the historic norm.


Figure 2. The historical mountain pine beetle (MPB) univoltine life cycle (above calendar arrows and linked by black arrows) and the observed MPB bivoltine life cycle (below calendar arrows and linked by red arrows). Univoltine means one brood per year, and bivoltine means two broods per year. Calendar arrow colors represent monthly temperature regimes: blue for less than 0°C, yellow for 0°-4.99°C, orange for 5°-9.99°C, and red for 10°C and higher. From Mitton and Ferrenberg, "Mountain Pine Beetle Develops an Unprecedented Summer Generation in Response to Climate Warming". This figure appeared in Dr. Ricky Rood's blog, "A Hot Day's Night: The Beetles".

A letter from the field in Colorado
Our climate change blogger, Dr. Ricky Rood, is in Boulder, Colorado this summer, and had this report on the fire Tuesday:

Saturday morning Iz and I were driving along 95th Street to Longmont to the Fairgrounds. We saw the initial plume; Iz said, "Looks like a volcano." At that time it was Colorado clear, with blue skies. The plume got to the top of its ascent and kicked off a little convection that looked like cauliflower. For the next few hours you could see the fire grow by the trunk of the plume getting thicker. It mostly blew to the east, with an occasional white cloud topping. It seemed to double in size every couple of hours.

By Sunday, the smoke was spreading all over the state. We had a couple of cool days with a northerly component in the wind. It filled up the sky, here, with haze - most of the day could not see Long's Peak. Part of the day couldn't see the foothills, say Flagstaff Mountain, which is about 8 miles away. Even with the wind moving around to the south, it's remained hazy. Today it has smelt of campfire-like smoke most of the day. Woke up sneezing. There is fine dust drawn to my computer screen and key board, which is at this point simply dirty. The dogs seem a little crazy.

It's not as acrid as the much closer Fourmile Fire a couple of years ago, but for some reason, it's the most dramatic fire I have experienced, perhaps because of the explosive nature of it. Tankers and helicopters fly over all day; they must stage from somewhere south of here. The tanks on them look hopelessly small compared with the fire, but they say, today, they finally made progress. The drought or drought potential is currently stunning, and we expect a lot of fire this year. Water only flowed in our irrigation ditch for four days before we lost priority.

There is a very nice figure in a local magazine, YS, that shows the percentage of snow pack compared with normal. We are South Platte - mid-May at 19 % normal, and not the worst in the state. Really, a nice little article in YS about how to predict a drought. Last year was nearly record wet. Right now this is setting up to be worse than the 2002 drought, which the article says was a 300 year drought. If true, then we had two 300 year droughts 10 years apart--some of our readers should be able to work on that as an attribution problem. The largest fire in Colorado history, the Hayman, was during the 2002 drought.


New Mexico's massive Whitewater Baldy Complex fire continues
The largest wildfire in New Mexico recorded history, the Whitewater Baldy Complex, continues to burn in the Gila National Forest. The lightning-sparked fire began nearly a month ago on May 15th, is 37% contained, and has devoured almost 280,000 acres (438 square miles.) Though fire weather advisories are not in effect in the region, the humidity is extremely low--humidity values of 6% were reported yesterday afternoon in Reserve, New Mexico, inside the burned area. Afternoon winds are expected to remain moderately strong, around 15 mph, over the next few days, as firefighters focus on keeping the southern edge of the fire from spreading. The fire has cost $22.6 million to fight so far.


Figure 3. The Whitewater Baldy Complex fire seen on our wundermap with the fire layer turned on. The red region outlined in yellow is the active fire perimeter.


Western U.S. wildfires expected to increase due to climate change
Expect a large increase in fires over much of the globe late this century due to climate change, says research published this month in the Journal Ecosphere. Using fire models driven by output from sixteen climate models used in the 2007 IPCC report, the researchers, led by Max Moritz of UC Berkeley, found that 38% of the planet should see increases in fire activity over the next 30 years. This figure increases to 62% by the end of the century. However, in many regions where precipitation is expected to increase--particularly in the tropics--there should be decreased fire activity. The scientists predicted that 8% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability over the next 30 years, and 20% will see decreases by the end of the century. The models do not agree on how fire danger will change for a large portion of the planet--54% for the period 2010 - 2039, and 18% for the period 2070 - 2099. Six key factors were found to control fire probabilities in the models. Most important was how much vegetation there was (NPP, Net Primary Productivity). Three other factors, about half as important, were precipitation of driest month, mean temperature of warmest month, and the difference between summer and winter temperature. Two other minor factors were mean temperature of wettest month, and annual precipitation. The authors found that future fire occurrence appears to primarily be a function of available moisture in many areas, and that the expected global increase in temperature of 3.5°C used in the models will not become the single dominant control on global wildfire. In the U.S., the regions most at risk of increased fires are the tundra regions of northern Alaska, and the West, with Arizona and Colorado at particularly high risk.


Figure 4. Predicted fractional change in fire probability for the period 2010 - 2039 (top) and 2070 - 2099 (bottom) for the average of sixteen climate models used for the 2007 IPCC report. For the 2010 - 2039 period, the models agree that 8% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability, 38% will see increases, and the models are too uncertain to tell for the other 54%. For the 2070 - 2099 period, the models agree that 20% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability, 62% will see increases, and the models are too uncertain to tell for the other 18%. Image credit: Climate change and disruptions to global fire activity, Moritz et al., 2012, from the journal Ecosphere.

Rare tornado hits Venice, Italy
A tornado hit Sant'Erasmo island in the lagoon surrounding Venice on Tuesday, ripping the roofs off of at least 12 buildings. No injuries were reported. The Capital Weather Gang has more videos and information on the event. Tornadoes are not unheard of in Venice; a strong one hit the city in 1970, killing 30 people.


Video 1. A waterspout/tornado in the Venice Lagoon on June 12, 2012.

The Atlantic is quiet
There are no threat areas to discuss in the Atlantic today. The NOGAPS and GFS models are predicting formation of a broad area of low pressure in the Western Caribbean early next week, and we will have to watch this area for development. The waters offshore of North Carolina may be another region to watch, over the next few days, along the edge of a cold front that has moved off the U.S. East Coast.

I'll have a new post Thursday or Friday.

Jeff Masters and Angela Fritz

Smokin' Hot Sun (BisonDoc)
Evening sky above the High Park Fire
Smokin' Hot Sun
Fire on the Mountain (BisonDoc)
This is the High Park Fire in Larimer County, Colorado on Day 2. The fire, first reported Saturday morning, June 9th, grew to 20,000 acres by late Sunday. More than 2,600 evacuation orders have been issued. View is looking west across Fort Collins toward the foothills above Horsetooth Reservoir.
Fire on the Mountain
Smokey Monday Sunset (MikePic)
The smoke has been nasty all along the front range, but made for a nice sunset.
Smokey Monday Sunset
High Park Wildfire (apphotos)
Fire burns through trees on the High Park wildfire near Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, June 11, 2012. The wildfire is burning out of control in northern Colorado, while an unchecked blaze choked a small community in southern New Mexico as authorities in both regions battled fires Monday. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
High Park Wildfire

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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PedleyCA:


I was 20 miles to the East of this one. A nice little snap to it.
it was a shallow quake thats why hopefully not a foreshock
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
This Wave height forecast is good for detecting low areas

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Quoting 19N81W:
thanks cybr......still kinda high for anything to worry about....well at least down here...in the GOM perhaps not.....


Anytime! I agree too, you can tell that anything coming into the Caribbean is being blasted by 40kt shear so your eyes defiantly aren't deceiving you on the satellite loop, development chances are slim until anything reaches the much more favorable, and warm, Gulf.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23484
thanks cybr......still kinda high for anything to worry about....well at least down here...in the GOM perhaps not.....
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Quoting 19N81W:
wunderkid....not what the shear image showed me today?...and not what the visible shows...post the latest...perhaps I was wrong...

maybe but there is still a good amount of shear in the N caribbean and E caribbean (30-50kt) however in the W caribbean and SW caribbean shear is dropping with an upper level anticyclone near to the area of low pressure is (5-20kt)
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



I was 20 miles to the East of this one. A nice little snap to it.
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I don't see anything that doesn't indicate abnormally high shear for mid-June.


And also, check out this anti-cyclone over the extreme SW Caribbean. I'm willing to bet as the system we see on the models begins to ramp up, that anticyclone will aid in the intensification process as portrayed on the models.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23484
Quoting owenowen:
LOL, he managed to try "tie in" climate change with a fire. Interesting he doesn't use global warming anymore. Oh what the heck, now he can play both sides to attempt to scare people. These little blog snippets are getting way past embarrassing.


I hear there is some high end beach front property that u may be interested in up in north caroliner

have a look around get something right on the shoreline so you can get that great view of the rolling wave action
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
wunderkid....not what the shear image showed me today?...and not what the visible shows...post the latest...perhaps I was wrong...
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Three-E is becoming a very tiny storm. We definitely need to watch out for rapid intensification as the National Hurricane Center stated.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 112 Comments: 31314
Quoting 19N81W:
the Caribbean is being sheared to death.....nothing going to happen anywhere near here until its backs off.....every quiet season since I was a kid is the same...high shear no fear....be lucky to get some good rain over the next few months...


That's kind of the norm for June, but it is running just about average.


Also, this system doesn't even look like it will develop fully in the Caribbean - but the Gulf. And also, when it does get going it appears that there will be an anticyclone over the system protecting it from the typical hostile June setup.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23484
Quoting odinslightning:
anyone have any news about hail storms tonight in the Metroplex (DFW)? I was just possibly placed on standby to go work property claims.....curious to know if any of you know on the ground info?


Where it hit, it was pretty bad, I think.

Here's Dallas getting pummeled

Hail breaks loose in Dallas; Arboretum sculpture and NorthPark skylights smashed; chickens frightened
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
I wonder if the terrain over that part of Mexico is flat enough to allow the circulation to survive the passage and emerge back over the BOC?
Depends on exactly where it might go. The Isthmus of Tehaunapec is mountainous , but not high enough to completely wipe out a fairly large system.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:

I think the low will start doing something by about sat/sun timeframe and kick off by mon/tue

It's possible, just a lot of uncertainty within models that are kinda blinding me from making a forecast that in my mind, wouldn't seem like a hail Mary and "out there" forecast.
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LOL, he managed to try "tie in" climate change with a fire. Interesting he doesn't use global warming anymore. Oh what the heck, now he can play both sides to attempt to scare people. These little blog snippets are getting way past embarrassing.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
Quoting 19N81W:
the Caribbean is being sheared to death.....nothing going to happen anywhere near here until its backs off.....every quiet season since I was a kid is the same...high shear no fear....be lucky to get some good rain over the next few months...

I have no clue what you are on about

shear over the W carib low is at 10-20kt and shear is dropping at about 5-10kt and should continue so don't thinks so
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
766. MTWX
Quoting OCF:
Just felt an earthquake. Magnitude 4, about 30 miles away from me. Probably a non-event in terms of damage, but just another little reminder that Southern California is a restless place.

The Southern California question regarding the original topic: for how much longer will there be mixed pine/oak forests at the resort levels (4500-7500 feet elevation) of the San Bernardino Mountains? What I'm afraid of is that it could all burn off at any moment, and once it burns off it may never grow back in quite the same way - that it may all become chaparral or live oak scrub forest, like the lower elevations of the same mountains.


Was a shallow one too!

MAG UTC DATE-TIME y/m/d h:m:s LAT deg LON deg

4.1 2012/06/14 03:17:16 33.912 -117.784

DEPTH km Region
5.9 GREATER LOS ANGELES AREA, CALIFORNIA
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Thank you for the greetings, but unfortunately I'm only here for a second. I've been way too busy to blog recently and I'm currently on the verge of falling asleep in this chair. Hope to get some time to resume publishing new blog entries and interacting with you fine people more often. If we get the GOM storm next week, I'll be making time. Hehe. Goodnight.

Well nice to see you anyway.... :)
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Quoting MTWX:


Hey MSWX. How are things down your way?


Was a strange day in Hburg today. The MCV that started in TX last night moved through today and settled over Mobile for most of the day. We had off and on tropical-like showers, no lightening or thunder to speak of. It made for a cooler time while mowing the front and back yards this afternoon. Still muggy. Still sweated down my shirt from top to bottom. All in all, it was a nice South MS day!
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Relax man, the low ain't doing nothing until next week.
Nice to see you MSWX. Let the night shift, begin!


Thank you for the greetings, but unfortunately I'm only here for a second. I've been way too busy to blog recently and I'm currently on the verge of falling asleep in this chair. Hope to get some time to resume publishing new blog entries and interacting with you fine people more often. If we get the GOM storm next week, I'll be making time. Hehe. Goodnight.
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the Caribbean is being sheared to death.....nothing going to happen anywhere near here until its backs off.....every quiet season since I was a kid is the same...high shear no fear....be lucky to get some good rain over the next few months...
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761. MTWX
Quoting MississippiWx:
Looks like it's safe to enter the blog tonight. Yesterday was uh...interesting. I don't show my face too much when that happens. Btw, hello to you all.


Hey MSWX. How are things down your way?
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Relax man, the low ain't doing nothing until next week.
Nice to see you MSWX. Let the night shift, begin!

I think the low will start doing something by about sat/sun timeframe and kick off by mon/tue
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Quoting OCF:
Just felt an earthquake. Magnitude 4, about 30 miles away from me. Probably a non-event in terms of damage, but just another little reminder that Southern California is a restless place.

The Southern California question regarding the original topic: for how much longer will there be mixed pine/oak forests at the resort levels (4500-7500 feet elevation) of the San Bernardino Mountains? What I'm afraid of is that it could all burn off at any moment, and once it burns off it may never grow back in quite the same way - that it may all become chaparral or live oak scrub forest, like the lower elevations of the same mountains.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
758. MTWX
Quoting odinslightning:
anyone have any news about hail storms tonight in the Metroplex (DFW)? I was just possibly placed on standby to go work property claims.....curious to know if any of you know on the ground info?


I'll let the reports speak for themselves....

Link

Generally speaking you are looking at widespread hail in the 2-3" range across the Metroplex...
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Whats up with that big swirling low in the Atlantic that has been there for ever?

Link
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey guys also to note on 00Z surface map shows the Low pressure E of Nicaragua is strenghtening now pressure now down to 1008mb located around 13N 81W sattelite shows also an increased convection with it

Relax man, the low ain't doing nothing until next week.


Quoting MississippiWx:
Looks like it's safe to enter the blog tonight. Yesterday was uh...interesting. I don't show my face too much when that happens. Btw, hello to you all.

Nice to see you MSWX. Let the night shift, begin!
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Some bizarre reflectivity on the Eureka, CA radar this eve. Likely AP (anomalous propagation) due to thermal stratification offshore...or that "Battleship" thing...

Link
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I care. I read them every time you make one.

Sorry for ranting, just, I guess I have a different expectation, than the realization of the blog. But anyhow, Back to weather! Goodnight.
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hey guys also to note on 00Z surface map shows the Low pressure E of Nicaragua is strenghtening now pressure now down to 1008mb located around 13N 81W sattelite shows also an increased convection with it
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Looks like it's safe to enter the blog tonight. Yesterday was uh...interesting. I don't show my face too much when that happens. Btw, hello to you all.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
anyone have any news about hail storms tonight in the Metroplex (DFW)? I was just possibly placed on standby to go work property claims.....curious to know if any of you know on the ground info?
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Do any o you care that I make blogs? Lol I think the only major blogs anyone pays attention to are Cody's, Kori's, Cybrted's, and the most popular-Levi's
Don't mean to offend anyone if you're name isn't mentioned but it's just my opinion.

I care. I read them every time you make one.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 112 Comments: 31314
Do any o you care that I make blogs? Lol I think the only major blogs anyone pays attention to are Cody's, Kori's, Cybrted's, and the most popular-Levi's
Don't mean to offend anyone if you're name isn't mentioned but it's just my opinion.
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Quoting ilovehurricanes12:
big rain storm at my house for two days!!


Awesome back yard!
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XX/XX/XXL
MARK
13.33N/82.33W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Some of them scare me NEIGHBOR! Lol. Like you said no telling where anything that does form will go. But it's definitely time to keep an eye out for sure.





Your 100% correct on that one!
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744. OCF
Just felt an earthquake. Magnitude 4, about 30 miles away from me. Probably a non-event in terms of damage, but just another little reminder that Southern California is a restless place.

The Southern California question regarding the original topic: for how much longer will there be mixed pine/oak forests at the resort levels (4500-7500 feet elevation) of the San Bernardino Mountains? What I'm afraid of is that it could all burn off at any moment, and once it burns off it may never grow back in quite the same way - that it may all become chaparral or live oak scrub forest, like the lower elevations of the same mountains.
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743. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services and Administration
Tropical Cyclone Bulletin #1
TROPICAL STORM BUTCHOY (GUCHOL)
11:00 AM PhST June 14 2012
================================================

The tropical storm over the Caroline Island has entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility and was named "BUTCHOY".

At 10:00 AM PhST, Tropical Storm Butchoy (Guchol) located at 11.0N 134.7E or 880 km east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar has 10 minute sustained winds of 45 knots with gusts of 55 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west northwest at 13 knots.

Additional Information
========================

Estimated rainfall amount is from 15-25 mm per hour (heavy) within the 300 km diameter of the tropical storm.

Fishing boats and other small sea crafts are advised not to venture out into the seaboards of Luzon, Visayas and northeastern Mindanao due to big waves generated by the effect of the southwest monsoon and Tropical Storm "Butchoy".

The public and the disaster coordinating councils concerned are advised to take appropriate actions and watch for the next bulletin to be issued at 11 PM today.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
New blog. As Kori says, appreciate it, insult it, do whatever you like.

Tropical Depression Three-E forms in the East Pacific, a serious threat to Mexico

How about, read it?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

What? No, seafood is disgusting.
picky nicky

I haven't tried any exotic seafood, but fish, shrimp, and lobster are all delicious.
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Man tropical cyclones sure do love the MJO pulse look at how big the EPac is blowing up right now. Wow!

Link
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New blog. As Kori says, appreciate it, insult it, do whatever you like.

Tropical Depression Three-E forms in the East Pacific, a serious threat to Mexico
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 112 Comments: 31314
Quoting hydrus:
Could be serious trouble for Mexico. Might even add to the system that should materialize in the gulf.


If it does it would be one more thing this might have in common with Allison that Levi talked about yesterday.

June 26-28th, 1989 (Allison): Allison formed from the remains of Pacific hurricane Cosme, which made landfall near Acapulco and accelerated northeast into the western Gulf. A new surface circulation formed in the western Gulf of Mexico and moved north-northeast, strengthening into a tropical depression and then a tropical storm offshore the Texas coastline. Winds gusted to 56 mph at Galveston on the 26th as Allison made landfall. One tornado touched down on the Bolivar peninsula and did minor damage (Lichter). Over 30 inches of rain led to severe flooding in extreme Southeast Texas...only ten years after the extreme flooding from Claudette. Eleven died during the storm. Damage from Allison totaled $500 million, putting it on the list of the United States’ most damaging storms.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 671
Does anyone have a graphic that shows the cities on the coast? I know that one of the most populated ones Acapulco is not far from the forecast track.
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Here. We. Go!
Just like that the tropics are active. I hope this isn't aimed at populated areas. Certain areas of Mexico are proned to flooding and mudslides.
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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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