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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Gonna get some work done. Everyone have a great day.
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Quoting kshipre1:
I wonder if that could be because of el nino forming quicker? who knows.....strange season for sure.



Maybe oh nos?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
I wonder if that could be because of el nino forming quicker? who knows.....strange season for sure.
Quoting Tazmanian:



The last time I check the MJO forecast is not forecast too be has strong in fac we may not see the MJO at all
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1233. icmoore
The subject of this particular blog makes me nervous, kind of like a reality check. We moved from a home inland that was not in any flood zone to a cottage across the street from the Gulf on a barrier island and would be first to be told to evacuate. I don't even like to think about evacuating. I'm hoping Debby is all we see for a long time so I'm loving all the dry air so far this season!
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Bastardi is still forecasting potential trouble for the Southeast.
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And I think hurricane season is at its end



Will see I huh?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Quoting BahaHurican:
He may not be up yet... what do u think of the chances for the proposed GoM cyclone event?


I there were two possibilities folks have been talking about lately; a lower system in the Bay of Campeche (from remnant's of TD7?) and possible development of frontal remnants over the weekend in the Gulf of Mexico as suggested by Dr. M. I have not looked a model runs yet today but the TD7 scenario is off the table. Looking at the East Coast WV loop this morning (below) that frontal boundry appears to be flattening out so I do not know whether this one will get south enough to leave a significant remnant in the Gulf over the weekend. Sheer is certainly low enough and SST's are high but I am not thinking is will pan out...............Just my opinion.

WV loop:

Link
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Good morning to all... we are now experiencing the heat of August... our low is forecasted to drop only to 81 today... best part of all this is that there are still light easterlies keeping it from becoming a total sweat pot... but it's better to do "whatever" before 11 a.m...

On the matter of the CVs, I don't knnow that I ever expected large numbers of them to form. My recollection of a lot of the pre-season discussion was that a lot of development in the western 1/2 of the basin was expected, since conditions in the eastern and central parts of the MDR were expected to be fairly hostile towards tropical development. What I keep looking at is how well these Twaves have been holding on to their structure even when facing these challenging circumstances. Sure, 93L didn't form immediately off the coast of Africa, but at any time in the last few days its MLC could be located. This meant that even a modest improvemment in circumstances could lead to the tropical development we are seeing today.

I don't doubt we will continue to see tropical development this season. I am not expecting large CVs to be the norm, though. I'm a lot more concerned about the potential for storms forming west of 55W and taking advantage of improved dynamics quite close to home, where recurves are more likely to result in landfall somewhere....
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Quoting Grothar:


How dare you poof my blob! :)

The MJO is expected to go into an upward phase soon. That, and the expected cool weather coming down the central US has climatologically been favored for increased activity in the Atlantic basin. I do not expect much in the way of very strong CV systems, but all indications are there should be increased activity in the next few weeks.



The last time I check the MJO forecast is not forecast too be has strong in fac we may not see the MJO at all
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Hmm. SHIPS forecasts weakening after 72 hours. (Max winds 73 kts, as of 12UTC)
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
I know that Levi has posted in the past on conditions in the Sahel Desert that he has monitored from time to time over the years for an idea of when the ongoing wave activity would pick up or, diminish.

If Levi is out there, his opinion would be appreciated.
He may not be up yet... what do u think of the chances for the proposed GoM cyclone event?
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1225. Grothar
Quoting Tazmanian:



the wave will likey go poof


How dare you poof my blob! :)

The MJO is expected to go into an upward phase soon. That, and the expected cool weather coming down the central US has climatologically been favored for increased activity in the Atlantic basin. I do not expect much in the way of very strong CV systems, but all indications are there should be increased activity in the next few weeks.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting SFLWeatherman:
[lookss at sat image of soon-to-be TD08]
That trough better grab this thing...
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Quoting Neapolitan:
93L's winds are up to 30 knots, but the pressure is still pretty high:

AL, 93, 2012081512, , BEST, 0, 276N, 545W, 30, 1013, LO, 34, NEQ, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1017, 150, 35, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, INVEST, M

Looks like it will be one of those high pressure hurricanes if it does indeed become one like the hurricane models are showing.
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I know that Levi has posted in the past on conditions in the Sahel Desert that he has monitored from time to time over the years for an idea of when the ongoing wave activity would pick up or, diminish.

If Levi is out there, his opinion would be appreciated.
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Quoting Wunderwood:
Largo, why do you continue to post your local weather information? If we want to see it, then we can go to the local weather at the top of the page.
I actually like this aspect of the blog... and considering the RNC is going there soon, there may be some others out there who also like it.

Quoting bohonkweatherman:
Persistent high pressure over the Desert SW will back off enough to allow this front to sink a far south as our area, we believe, before stalling out Saturday to Sunday. Odds for rain have improved to 30-40% over the weekend. And that's not all: a wealth of moisture in Mexico will probably combine with a tropical wave nearing the West Gulf, and it could all amount to several rounds of seabreeze type rain sweeping into our area from the coast early next week.

Best Weather News in over a month here, goodbye to 100 degree temps for several days due to clouds and chances of much needed rain for South Central Texas.
Looks like u finally get some rain, bo.... hope it's just that, with no attendant wind...

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Quoting VR46L:
This day last week people were suggesting that 93L would be a TD or TS as soon as it departed Africa ... Guess thats why we watch weather the uncertainty of it all . Who knows If that wave coming off africa shortly will develop or will get choked in the mid altantic ?

no.go...93.is.going.to.take.the.energy.away.from. the.tw.
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93L's winds are up to 30 knots, but the pressure is still ungainly:

AL, 93, 2012081512, , BEST, 0, 276N, 545W, 30, 1013, LO, 34, NEQ, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1017, 150, 35, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, INVEST, M,
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1218. VR46L
This day last week people were suggesting that 93L would be a TD or TS as soon as it departed Africa ... Guess thats why we watch weather the uncertainty of it all . Who knows If that wave coming off africa shortly will develop or will get choked in the mid altantic ?

Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6997
Quoting weatherh98:

Didn't mean to quote u
Quoting weatherh98:

Didn't mean to quote u

Why the double quotes?
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Quoting Altestic2012:

PDO's aren't a year-to-year thing like ENSO. PDO's last about 30-40 years. 2005 might have been the transitional year, it's tough to say because we headed right into an El Nino the year after. In that case it is reasonable to assume that 1933 (not coincidentally the last hyperactive hurricane season before 2005) was the last year we began the transition into the last cold PDO.

As the PDOs continue to be cool, El Ninos will be less frequent, Al Gore's theory will die and people will go back to complaining that we're causing global freezing and bringing us back into an ige age. :-)
I'm no AGW hawk, but even I know this is wrongful attribution... Saying this is Gore's theory is like agreeing he invented the internet....

Quoting JLPR2:
Was reading the comments of one of Dr. Masters entries in 2009 of 94L (PRE-Felix) and dang, I was a complete orthography eyesore. Bad punctuation, no commas, no capital letters and writing ridiculously obvious things...

Now I'm angry at myself. XD
's OK... learning curve. At least u r improving.... some are going the other way... lol...

Quoting Jelloboy:
People that evacuated in the Tampa Bay area for Charley mostly went to Orlando -- where they were treated to a direct hit and 100mph winds and massive traffic jams as they tried to leave the hurricane struck area for their untouched homes. Anyone, and I mean anyone, that could read a basic weather map knew by late the night before the storm that it wasn't coming to Tampa and it hit well south of Tampa, that and the fact Charley was a really tiny hurricane meant much of the Tampa area had a few sprinkles. Good job hurricane forecasters, after many many years of bad evacuation orders it will come as no surprise when people don't leave in the future.
This is really cool... lambaste the guys who don't even work for NHC anymore... A lot of NHCs track improvement has come post 2005. Besides, you are assuming that most of the evacuees were still in Tampa the night before...
Hindsight can see everything so clearly.
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Quoting Grothar:






the wave will likey go poof
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
1214. VR46L
Quoting Chicklit:

The WGOM has a substantial pocket of dry air but if moisture from TD7 streams north as TX13 mentions, then that will be lessened.


And the Caribbean is full of moisture at least for now.

Neither Ernesto nor TD-7 were deep enough to cause much upwellng in the Basin.


I was talking about the central atlantic .. but both the east and west has good conditions .
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6997
Yup, I was driving through some of that ST2K. Could hardly see out the front window for a while a couple of times.
Have a great day everyone.
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Quoting Chicklit:

Don't you consider that monster about to emerge a significant wave? And its precursors have moistened the path. I see the SAL to its south, but don't think that will do much.


It does look impressive, and that may be the one to get the ball rolling again.

Link
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Quoting JrWeathermanFL:

Post 1176
Quoting JrWeathermanFL:

Post 1176

Didn't mean to quote u
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Parts of C FL got absolutely BLASTED yesterday.

This is from Cape Canaveral yesterday.


This is from Downtown Orlando just as the storms rolled in.


Lightning pic from Edgwater
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Any substaintial rain by you lately as it looks like Volusia County has been hit hard lately by strong storms over the last week or so. My Beach house is in Bethune Beach I and I just want some assurance that plants have been watered well by mother nature?

They're pretty well watered.
We've been getting sun during the day and then afternoon showers about nearly every day for a while. Drove over to Orlando area last evening through some very hard rain so not sure how much we had over here yesterday.
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1207. Grothar
Quoting Chicklit:

Don't you consider that monster about to emerge a significant wave? And its precursors have moistened the path. I see the SAL to its south, but don't think that will do much.



Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
1206. pottery
Quoting Grothar:


Thank you.

Anytime !

It's started to drizzle.
I have to have some more coffee.
Just in case.........
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Quoting pottery:
Your Glob is looking good, Grothar !

second that
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Quoting Chicklit:

Don't you consider that monster about to emerge a significant wave? And its precursors have moistened the path. I see the SAL to its south, but don't think that will do much.


Any substaintial rain by you lately as it looks like Volusia County has been hit hard lately by strong storms over the last week or so? My Beach house is in Bethune Beach I and I just want some assurance that plants have been watered well by mother nature.
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1203. Grothar
Quoting pottery:
Your Glob is looking good, Grothar !


Thank you.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting weathermanwannabe:


Not off the coast of Africa which makes the lack of any significant ITCZ in that area all the more perplexing. Only thing I can think of is that the last three systems to emerge (including that wave that spawned Ernesto) were an early cluster and we are going through a lull at the moment. Either we will get another cluster between now and the end of September, which will moisten up the ITCZ again, or we won't and it will be harder for another CV storm to spin up. We another need shot of moisture from a few strong waves out there to set up that component to go along with the low sheer and sst's.

Don't you consider that monster about to emerge a significant wave? And its precursors have moistened the path. I see the SAL to its south, but don't think that will do much.
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1201. pottery
Your Glob is looking good, Grothar !
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1200. Msdrown
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

From what I've seen, Postel knows his stuff.

As for development in the BOC, none of the hurricane models show Hector hooking back towards the coast. The more likely scenario is that moisture from ex-TD Seven combines with moisture from a strong front across the Gulf in a few days.

The wave train will begin soon.



Yea, I noticed the 2am tracks still had Hector going W but then the TWC said when the typical 40-60 moisture/Tstorms in Central would join it and move NE contradicting the models. Just thought I'd ask you guys what you thought.
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Quoting VR46L:


Yep its pretty dry out there


The WGOM has a substantial pocket of dry air but if moisture from TD7 streams north as TX13 mentions, then that will be lessened.


And the Caribbean is full of moisture at least for now.

Neither Ernesto nor TD-7 were deep enough to cause much upwellng in the Basin.
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1198. pottery
Quoting weathermanwannabe:


Not off the coast of Africa which makes the lack of any significant ITCZ in that area all the more perplexing. Only thing I can think of is that the last three systems to emerge (including that wave that spawned Ernesto) were an early cluster and we are going through a lull at the moment. Either we will get another cluster between now and the end of September, which will moisten up the ITCZ again, or we won't and it will be harder for another CV storm to spin up. We another need shot of moisture from a few strong waves out there to set up thast component to go along with the low sheer and sst's.

In the meantime, there be thunder rumbling just south of me.
Quite surprising to me. I was sure we would have a couple of dry days.
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Quoting Chicklit:


yikes not much SAL in the EATL


Not off the coast of Africa which makes the lack of any significant ITCZ in that area all the more perplexing. Only thing I can think of is that the last three systems to emerge (including that wave that spawned Ernesto) were an early cluster and we are going through a lull at the moment. Either we will get another cluster between now and the end of September, which will moisten up the ITCZ again, or we won't and it will be harder for another CV storm to spin up. We need another shot of moisture from a few strong waves out there to set up that component to go along with the low sheer and sst's.
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Looks like 93L got it's European Visa stamped last night. Poor fellow just missed the closing ceremonies and they were worried about security over there. Top notch I tell ya.
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1195. Grothar
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
1194. VR46L
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Good Morning. Except for the low shear and warm sst's, the Central Atlantic still looks like a dry desert with lots of SAL and a non-existent ITCZ. Looks more like October than mid-August. Only exception is the wave in the Northern part on the verge of TD status.


Yep its pretty dry out there

Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6997
1193. Msdrown
Quoting Neapolitan:
He's legitimate, AFAIK.



I like this guys attitude and thinking. It is sort of why I started following this web blog in the first place.
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Quoting Msdrown:
Good Morning all, a few questions. The TWC just mentioned a new weather expert named Dr. Postel. Does anybody know this guy pro or con???

TWC says Hernesto/Ernie may be headed NE back across MEX and into the BOC. Thats as far as they went. Any thoughts?

The local NOLA mets said the blob in MEX/GOM w may send some moisture there way but nothing else. Thoughts??

I noticed the dry air from the Sahara is shrinking. Can we expect our normal Aug/Sep wave train to pic up with REAL developing storms now???

From what I've seen, Postel knows his stuff.

As for development in the BOC, none of the hurricane models show Hector hooking back towards the coast. The more likely scenario is that moisture from ex-TD Seven combines with moisture from a strong front across the Gulf in a few days.

The wave train will begin soon.
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Quoting weatherh98:


I don't think so...

Post 1176
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yikes not much SAL in the EATL



and no dry air for a change
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Which is why he gave it a 0.2% chance of occurring, right?

Give us a break..


No rest for the weary
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Quoting LargoFl:
......................................good morning folks...another hot and normal florida day shaping up here..yes the morning few storms along the coast..moving inland in the afternoon..the normal stuff and the rain we can always use huh....have a wonderful day everyone

Thanks for that info Largo. I was hoping to get at least 9 holes of golf in on the east coast later this afternoon and this looks like I may be able to play 18 for a change!
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Quoting JrWeathermanFL:
Looks like we might have a hurricane later this week according to some models. And it could hit the Azores.
Quoting westernmob:
Methinks Dr. Masters is wishful thinking on a hurricane hit in Tampa, given his political leanings.


I don't think so...
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Good Morning. Except for the low shear and warm sst's, the Central Atlantic still looks like a dry desert with lots of SAL and a non-existent ITCZ. Looks more like October than mid-August. Only exception is the wave in the Northern part on the verge of TD status.
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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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