The odds of a hurricane spoiling the Republican National Convention in Tampa

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:48 PM GMT on August 14, 2012

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On September 25, 1848, the Great Gale of 1848, the most violent hurricane in Tampa's history, roared ashore as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane with 115 - 135 mph winds. Major R. D. S. Wade weathered the storm in Fort Brooke, in what is now downtown Tampa. Here is what he wrote this to his commanding officer in Washington D.C.: "The waters rose to an unprecedented height, and the waves swept away the wharves and all the buildings that were near the Bay or river." A 15-foot storm surge was observed at Fort Brooke, and the peninsula where St. Petersburg lies in Pinellas County was inundated "at the waist" and "the bays met," making St. Petersburg an island. After the hurricane, "Tampa was a scene of devastation. Magnificent old oaks were toppled by the hurricane's winds. At Fort Brooke the barracks, horse shed, and other structures were gone. The pine forest north of the garrison was filled with wreckage and debris. The hurricane's powerful surge had shifted sand all along the coast and reshaped many of the keys near Tampa Bay. Navigation routes were filled in and closed, making charts of the area produced before 1848 almost useless after the hurricane. In terms of intensity and destruction, the 1848 storm remains perhaps the greatest in Tampa's history" (Barnes, 1999.)


Figure 1. Pencil sketch of the Captains' Quarters, drawn by one of the officers stationed at Fort Brooke in 1845. Fort Brooke was one of the largest military establishments in the United States at the time. Image Credit: The Tampa Bay History Center.

Fort Brooke today
Fort Brooke is the current site of the Tampa Bay Convention Center, which hosts the Republican National Convention on August 27 - 30 this year. The convention center is in Evacuation Zone A, which is evacuated for Category 1 hurricanes. The Tampa Bay Times Forum and two major convention hotels--the Tampa Marriott Waterside and the Embassy Suites--are in Evacuation Zone B, which is evacuated for Category 2 hurricanes. In a worst-case Category 4 hurricane, the Convention Center could be immersed in 20 feet of water. Clearly, even a Category 1 hurricane would be enough to spoil the convention. So, what are the odds of a mass evacuation order being issued for Tampa Bay during the convention?


Figure 2. Predicted height above ground of the water from a worst-case Category 4 hurricane in the Tampa Bay region, as computed using NOAA's SLOSH storm surge model. The Tampa Bay convention center would go under 20 feet of water, and St. Petersburg would become an island, as occurred during the 1848 hurricane.


Figure 3. Perhaps the most spectacular hurricane image ever captured: view of Hurricane Elena on September 1, 1985, as seen from the Space Shuttle Discovery. At the time, Elena was a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, located just 80 miles offshore from Tampa Bay, Florida. The hurricane prompted the largest mass evacuation in Tampa Bay history.

Two mass evacuations in Tampa in the past 25 years
Two hurricanes have prompted mass evacuations of more than 300,000 people from the Tampa Bay area over the past 25 years. The first was Hurricane Elena of 1985, a Category 3 hurricane that stalled 80 miles offshore for two days on Labor Day weekend, bringing a 6 - 7 foot storm surge, wind gusts of 80 mph, and torrential rains. On August 13, 2004, another mass evacuation was ordered for Hurricane Charley. Thanks to a late track shift, Charley missed Tampa Bay, and instead hit well to the south in Port Charlotte as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds. More limited evacuations of low-lying areas and mobile homes in the 4-county Tampa Bay region were ordered for three other hurricanes in the past fifteen years--Hurricane Georges of 1998, Hurricane Frances of 2004, and Hurricane Jeanne of 2004. Other historical storms which would likely trigger mass evacuations were they occur today include:

The 1921 hurricane. One of only two major hurricanes to hit Tampa, this Category 3 storm brought a storm tide of 10.5 feet.

Hurricane Easy of 1950. The hurricane parked itself over the west coast of Florida, drenching residents with record-breaking rains, and brought a 6.5 ft storm surge to Tampa Bay.


Figure 4. Damage to Bayshore Boulevard after the 1921 Tampa Bay hurricane. The road leads to the Tampa Bay Convention Center from the south.


Figure 5. Track of the Tampa Bay Hurricane of 1921, one of only two major hurricanes ever to hit the city. This Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds brought a storm tide of 10.5 feet to Tampa Bay.


Figure 6. A near miss: just a slight deviation in the path of Hurricane Charley of 2004 would have brought the Category 4 hurricane into Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay's vulnerability to hurricanes
Tampa Bay doesn't get hit very often by hurricanes. The last time it suffered a direct hit by any hurricane was 1946, when a Category 1 storm came up through the bay. The Tampa Bay Hurricane of October 25, 1921 was a the last major hurricane to make landfall in the Tampa Bay Region. At that time, there were 160,000 residents in the 4-county region, most of whom lived in communities on high ground. Today there are 2.75 million residents in the region, most of whom live along the coast and low-lying areas or in manufactured housing. About 1/3 of the 4-county Tampa Bay region lies within a flood plain. Over 800,000 people live in evacuation zones for a Category 1 hurricane, and 2 million people live in evacuation zones for a Category 5 hurricane, according to the 2010 Statewide Regional Evacuation Study for the Tampa Bay Region. Given that only 46% of the people in the evacuation zones for a Category 1 hurricane evacuated when Category 4 Hurricane Charley threatened the region, the potential for hundreds or thousands of people to die when the next major hurricane hits the region is high. In the long run, I expect a multi-billion dollar sea wall will be built to protect Tampa Bay from storm surges, since sea level rise will make storm surge damages increasingly problematic. A 2007 study by Tufts University titled, Florida and Climate Change, found that a 2.25 foot increase in sea level--which many sea level rise scientists expect will happen by the end of the century--would put 152,000 people in Pinellas County (where St. Petersburg is located) at risk of inundation.

The hurricane forecast for the Republican National Convention
Given that there have been two mass evacuations of Tampa during the past 25 years during the peak three-month period of hurricane season--August, September, and October--history suggests that the odds of a mass evacuation order being given during the 4-day period that the Republican National Convention is in town are probably around 0.2%. Any tropical waves which might develop into hurricanes that could hit Tampa during the convention would have to come off the coast of Africa next week. Looking at the latest 16-day forecast from the GFS, all of the tropical waves coming off of Africa next week are predicted to exit too far north to make the long crossing of the Atlantic and threaten the Gulf Coast. While something could develop in the Gulf of Mexico from the remains of an old cold front, it is rare for such storms to grow strong enough to deserve mass evacuations. So far, early signs point to a hurricane-free Republican National Convention at the end of August.

References
Barnes, J., 1999, Florida’s Hurricane History. The University of North Carolina Press.

Weisberg, R.H, and L. Zheng, 2006, "Hurricane storm surge simulations for Tampa Bay", Estuaries and Coasts Vol 29, No. 6A, pp 899-913.

History of Pasco County: The 1921 Hurricane

The 2010 Statewide Regional Evacuation Study for the Tampa Bay Region

The Tampa Bay Catastrophic Plan for a Category 5 $250 billion hurricane

Jeff Masters

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Just want to remind all on the blog that politics is a very emotive topic, and when it gets out of hand it can be very divisive. I have strong political views, but I have learned to avoid political discussion at work or church. I have to work with pple regardless of their politics, so I don't let it get in my way. Church is for God, not politics; I keep politics out of it.

The other thing is, if you follow wx, expecially the potentially disastrous tropical cyclones as we do here, politics has to be a real sideline to our conversation. To put it another way, I don't give a flying ... dropsonde which side the different Portlight volunteers and contributors are. When the storm is coming my way, I'm checking on my neighbours on my street and on my cousins round the corner. I really don't care that my neighbours have been on the opposite side of the political divide from me for literally decades. In the final analysis, adversity is the great leveler, and tragedy puts us all on common ground.

A dead Republican is no less dead than a dead Democrat, no matter how much money either had. A political viewpoint is one thing. It is not necessarily the most important thing.

Written by a recovering politics addict...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22563
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:




What a croc. Lock, stock and barrel.



Definitely a crock of horse manure
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As the closest person on this blog to a communist (as far as I know), here is my opinion on the democrat vs. republican debate.

I find both parties to be stupid, although I agree with the democrats mostly and would vote for them. I find the entire political system in the US to be stupid overall. 2 parties do not represent the majority, you need many. Can't say it's any better here in Canada but at least we have 4 parties in the house of commons.
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380. yoboi
Quoting Tazmanian:





i no and saw it


still seems to be a tad bit early to see how strong it will be...
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Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9874
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:




post and run iam at work


Wow - look slike TX is headed for a little wet fun.
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Quoting sabres:
Figures, rain is just west of I-95 in Brevard and still is not moving east. Looks like the westerly flow wasn't quite strong enough to hold off the sea-breeze yet again. Just clouds are blowing off from these storms - no rain again. Looks like there will be a nice collision around Orlando early this evening ...
sabres.... Same thing here in Palm Beach county.... Storms hung out around turnpike today.... Hardly any movement. Now seems to be diminishing
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375. yoboi
taz the elnino forcast came out yesterday...
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Quoting mcluvincane:
Anyone a Communist on this blog?


Is there any money in it?

Think about that for awhile...lol
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Quoting caneswatch:


I am (sarcasm).

Actually I voted today in FL's primaries. First time I voted.


I'm hoping you made a wise decision on your vote. I'm a Democrat voting Republican this year. Obama has taken our party and jumped off a cliff. I'm a small business owner and getting crushed by his policies
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There is the recent 12z run that has a system in the middle of the Atlantic on hour 384, day 16, not seeming to curve like the others. But that's too far out in time and I'm sure everything will be fine for the convention.
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Quoting mcluvincane:
Anyone a Communist on this blog?


Maybe some Chinese spies spying on our weather systems & whether or not their ultra-secret HAARP attacks are working to induce weather trama to wreck our sacred political mudslinging season??
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Quoting mcluvincane:
Anyone a Communist on this blog?


At your service!

Ok not a true communist, but I associate myself as a true socialist.
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Quoting mcluvincane:
Anyone a Communist on this blog?


I am (sarcasm).

Actually I voted today in FL's primaries. First time I voted.
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What are the chances that 93L could take a dive under that system to its W rather than being swept up & NE?
Any chance of that scenario?

Also, E GOM looks unstable prior to approach of Ex TD7. Will either one add to or pull away from the potential of the other? Thoughts?
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*Crickets*

OK, perhaps some severe weather will calm down the grumps in here today...

Watch this space for development:



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I think we all need to hug it out.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Afternoon all... I see the Doc brought politics in the blog... lol

I've been meaning to ask when the RNC is due in Tampa... and it would be VERY ironic if Tampa got hit by a hurricane while the convention is on... lol... of course the Democrats aren't out of the woods there in Charlotte the following week [or is it two weeks]... as N Carolinans know all too well...


hello baha

here's the stick poke at it some more i will be back at 5


lol
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Figures, rain is just west of I-95 in Brevard and still is not moving east. Looks like the westerly flow wasn't quite strong enough to hold off the sea-breeze yet again. Just clouds are blowing off from these storms - no rain again. Looks like there will be a nice collision around Orlando early this evening ...
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361. yoboi
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:




post and run iam at work


thanks
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


lol

I was not joking this is no laughing matter


Quoting Grothar:
The think the models are too Consevative on the track and too liberal on the intensity.





in what way please explain

Quoting Tazmanian:



a little to late you all ready said the words and a lot of blogers and even me you been re ported so i would this step a way for the day and come back wed and go on from there


hmm I'll take you thoughts in deep consideration

Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
XX/XX/XX


nice




right guys I will be going now and umm I may be back later depending if I have become so chilled and calm that I became a frozen block if not I'll be back in the morning
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Quoting Tazmanian:



a little to late you all ready said the words and a lot of blogers and even me you been re ported so i would this step a way for the day and come back wed and go on from there


Well he apologized Taz, I think it's best to accept the apology and move on.
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93L better turn I don't want to hear A word. The mslp field on the Floater in motion looks a little troubling.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


I'm not sure where exactly. This is the HPC's take. If it helps. :)





post and run iam at work
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Quoting Jedkins01:


Dang, yeah I've only had 1.7 for August and the average should be over 4 by now as the August average here is 8.7 inches.

And wow only 4.48 for July? We at had 11.8 in July and 14 in June here. It's very weird to have that much in those months and so little in August. It sounds to me though like you were the drier spot in July because most of Central and South Florida had at least 8 inches for July and some regions had much more.


We had a nice June with 12.59". East central Florida (Brevard, Indian River, Osceola, Martin counties) just hasn't been getting the rain.
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Quoting Jedkins01:


Dang, yeah I've only had 1.7 for August and the average should be over 4 by now as the August average here is 8.7 inches.

And wow only 4.48 for July? We at had 11.8 in July and 14 in June here. It's very weird to have that much in those months and so little in August. It sounds to me though like you were the drier spot in July because most of Central and South Florida had at least 8 inches for July and some regions had much more.


AUGUST: 5.54"

JULY: 10.46"

JUNE 4.16"

Everything is pretty much average, except July was a little high..
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Quoting hurrtracker1994:


Code orange is the color of the circle I just looked up NHC it has it at 50% now. THanks for the info.


Ah, sorry, I forgot about the bump to 50%. Still, 93L looks to be headed either for death or merging with an existing low pressure system and giving Ireland and the British Isles fits.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Oh I know, y'all have some bad floods in your time. Although that kind of rain would flood anybody just about.


I'm on the back side of a hill, where lowlands meet some hills, but elsewhere it can be more of a problem.
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Afternoon all... I see the Doc brought politics in the blog... lol

I've been meaning to ask when the RNC is due in Tampa... and it would be VERY ironic if Tampa got hit by a hurricane while the convention is on... lol... of course the Democrats aren't out of the woods there in Charlotte the following week [or is it two weeks]... as N Carolinans know all too well...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22563
350. yoboi
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


I'm not sure where exactly. This is the HPC's take. If it helps. :)



looks like fri nt/ sat time frame....frontal stall hard to predict just exactly where...
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SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY AREA - RUSKIN FL
349 PM EDT TUE AUG 14 2012

FLC057-105-142000-
/O.CON.KTBW.SV.W.0056.000000T0000Z-120814T2000Z/
POLK FL-HILLSBOROUGH FL-
349 PM EDT TUE AUG 14 2012

...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 400 PM EDT
FOR NORTHEASTERN HILLSBOROUGH AND WESTERN POLK COUNTIES...

AT 342 PM EDT...DOPPLER RADAR CONTINUED TO INDICATE A SEVERE
THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH.
THIS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR PLANT CITY...MOVING EAST AT 5 MPH.

LAT...LON 2819 8204 2796 8190 2789 8218 2801 8225
TIME...MOT...LOC 1950Z 269DEG 5KT 2797 8209

$$
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Quoting sluggosteve:



Only 0.78" of rain for southern Osceola county for August and only 4.48" for July. We are missing out on the rain too.


Dang, yeah I've only had 1.7 for August and the average should be over 4 by now as the August average here is 8.7 inches.

And wow only 4.48 for July? We at had 11.8 in July and 14 in June here. It's very weird to have that much in those months and so little in August. It sounds to me though like you were the drier spot in July because most of Central and South Florida had at least 8 inches for July and some regions had much more.
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Quoting yoboi:


where is the front suppose to stall in the GOM??? la/tx line??? i see 70% chance rain fri for setx/swla..


I'm not sure where exactly. This is the HPC's take. If it helps. :)

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wow alot of bad storms out there today..be careful folks.................BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
341 PM EDT TUE AUG 14 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
NORTHERN HAMPSHIRE COUNTY IN EASTERN WEST VIRGINIA...
ALLEGANY COUNTY IN WESTERN MARYLAND...
NORTHEASTERN MINERAL COUNTY IN EASTERN WEST VIRGINIA...

* UNTIL 430 PM EDT

* AT 338 PM EDT...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WAS DETECTED NEAR KEYSER...
AND WAS MOVING NORTHEAST AT 15 MPH. THIS STORM IS CAPABLE OF
PRODUCING HAIL UP TO THE SIZE OF QUARTERS AND DAMAGING WINDS IN
EXCESS OF 60 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
FORT ASHBY...
RIDGELEY...
CUMBERLAND...
LA VALE...

THIS IS A DANGEROUS STORM. IF YOU ARE IN ITS PATH...MOVE INDOORS TO A
STURDY BUILDING AND STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS. WHEN IT IS SAFE TO DO
SO...REPORT SEVERE WEATHER TO LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OR TO THE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE.

LAT...LON 3963 7839 3962 7841 3962 7843 3961 7843
3935 7889 3947 7907 3973 7882 3973 7865
TIME...MOT...LOC 1942Z 222DEG 13KT 3948 7890



BJL
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XX/XX/XX
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Quoting Grothar:


I've studied blobs most of my life. Thanks.


What a difference one letter makes...

Can anyone tell me if 93L is a threat to the Mars Science Lab/Curiosity Rover? (see the bluish area in the image below for approximate location of the rover at the moment).




This color-enhanced Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image was released by NASA today and shows the landing site of the Mars Science Lab/Curiosity Rover. The bluish halo around the landing site was caused as retro-rockets on the "sky crane" scoured away the surface material. Note - in true color the blue area would appear more grey. Click the image for larger view and additional details.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Geez, what a typical comment from Libertarians. :-)


HEY! :P
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BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
FLASH FLOOD WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MOUNT HOLLY NJ
346 PM EDT TUE AUG 14 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOUNT HOLLY NJ HAS ISSUED A

* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN BURLINGTON COUNTY...
EAST CENTRAL ATLANTIC COUNTY...
SOUTH CENTRAL OCEAN COUNTY...

* UNTIL 645 PM EDT...

* AT 342 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
VERY HEAVY RAIN FROM A THUNDERSTORM OVER EAST CENTRAL ATLANTIC...
EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN BURLINGTON AND SOUTH CENTRAL OCEAN COUNTIES.

* LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO RURAL AREAS
OF EAST CENTRAL ATLANTIC...EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN BURLINGTON AND
SOUTH CENTRAL OCEAN COUNTIES.

TWO TO FOUR INCHES OF RAIN HAVE ALREADY FALLEN ACROSS PORTIONS OF
THE WARNED AREA. ADDITIONAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF ONE TO TWO INCHES
ARE POSSIBLE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A FLASH FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR OCCURRING.
IF YOU ARE IN THE WARNING AREA MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY.
RESIDENTS LIVING ALONG STREAMS AND CREEKS SHOULD TAKE IMMEDIATE
PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY. NEVER ATTEMPT TO CROSS
SWIFTLY FLOWING WATERS OR WATERS OF UNKNOWN DEPTH BY FOOT OR IN AN
AUTOMOBILE. TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN!

PLEASE REPORT FLOODING...HAIL OR WIND DAMAGE TO THE NATIONAL WEATHER
SERVICE BY CALLING TOLL FREE...1-877-633-6772.



LAT...LON 3959 7429 3959 7431 3957 7431 3953 7435
3953 7440 3949 7439 3941 7447 3945 7458
3968 7440 3962 7427
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Quoting Grothar:
The think the models are too Consevative on the track and too liberal on the intensity.





Geez, what a typical comment from Libertarians. :-)
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448
WUUS52 KFFC 141942
SVRFFC
GAC021-079-193-225-269-142030-
/O.NEW.KFFC.SV.W.0336.120814T1942Z-120814T2030Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PEACHTREE CITY GA
342 PM EDT TUE AUG 14 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PEACHTREE CITY HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
SOUTHWESTERN BIBB COUNTY IN CENTRAL GEORGIA
CRAWFORD COUNTY IN CENTRAL GEORGIA
PEACH COUNTY IN CENTRAL GEORGIA
NORTH CENTRAL MACON COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA
EAST CENTRAL TAYLOR COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA

* UNTIL 430 PM EDT

* AT 341 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING QUARTER SIZED HAIL...AND
DAMAGING WINDS UP TO 60 MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR
REYNOLDS...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 15 MPH.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
ROBERTA...FORT VALLEY AND BYRON.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

IF YOU SEE WIND DAMAGE...HAIL OR FLOODING...WAIT UNTIL THE STORM HAS
PASSED...AND THEN CALL THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TOLL FREE AT 1 8
6 6 7 6 3 4 4 6 6. YOU CAN ALSO TWEET YOUR REPORT USING HASHTAG GAWX.



LAT...LON 3285 8376 3254 8373 3244 8413 3267 8420
TIME...MOT...LOC 1942Z 247DEG 15KT 3259 8408
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339. yoboi
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Yep. Especially those in south TX and MX. I hope it helps them out. :)


where is the front suppose to stall in the GOM??? la/tx line??? i see 70% chance rain fri for setx/swla..
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The think the models are too Consevative on the track and too liberal on the intensity.



Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26825
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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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