Three Atlantic threat areas may develop; a record fire season for the U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:43 PM GMT on August 20, 2012

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A large tropical wave (Invest 94L) located about 1100 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands is headed west at 20 - 25 mph, and is showing increasing organization today. The storm is under light wind shear of 5 - 10 knots, and is over waters of 27°C. A large area of dry air lies just to the north of 94L, as seen on the latest Saharan Air Layer (SAL) analysis and water vapor satellite loops. This dry air is interfering with development, and this morning's visible satellite loop shows that 94L's heavy thunderstorm activity is sparse. However, the satellite loops do show that 94L has now separated from the clumps of heavy thunderstorms to its south, and a pretty well-defined surface circulation has developed. Heavy thunderstorms are now attempting to fire up around this circulation center, but are being hampered by dry air. The center of 94L was about 80 miles to the north of buoy 41041 at 10 am Monday morning, and the buoy recorded SW winds of 10 mph, confirming that 94L probably does have a closed surface circulation. The disturbance will have to build and maintain more heavy thunderstorms than it has now to be considered a tropical depression, though. The first hurricane hunter mission into 94L is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Invest 94L.

Forecast for 94L
The latest 8 am EDT run of the SHIPS model predicts that wind shear will be low, 5 - 10 knots, for the next five days. Ocean temperatures will warm from 27°C this morning to 28.5°C by Wednesday morning, and the total heat content of the ocean will increase sharply during that period, as well. The main impediment to development will be dry air to the north, and the SHIPS model predicts the amount of dry air will change little over the next five days. I expect that 94L will continue to struggle with dry air through Wednesday, when it will probably have had enough time to moisten the surrounding atmosphere and protect itself against the dry air. The models have shown increasing unity in taking 94L through the Lesser Antilles on Wednesday, and I expect the storm will be a tropical depression or weak tropical storm with 40 - 50 mph winds at that time. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 94L a 80% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday morning. None of the reliable models predict that 94L will reach hurricane strength over the next five days, and it is unlikely that 94L will be able to organize quickly enough to become anything stronger than a 60 mph tropical storm before reaching the Lesser Antilles, given the storm's current struggles with dry air, and the lack of model support for intensification. However, once 94L enters the Eastern Caribbean, wind shear will be low, oceanic heat content high, and the storm should have had enough time to moisten the atmosphere to allow steady strengthening to occur. The main factor that might prevent intensification into a hurricane late this week would be a close pass by the island of Hispaniola. Our top models for long-range 4 - 5 days forecasts all show a path for 94L very close to the island.

Will 94L hit the U.S. mainland?
This storm is a long-range threat to the U.S., as historically, 16% of storms in 94L's location have gone on to hit the U.S., with North Carolina the preferred target (10% chance.) A trough of low pressure capable of pulling 94L to the north enters Western Canada Thursday night, and the exact timing and amplitude of this trough will determine the ultimate landfall location of 94L. The long range 7 - 14 day runs of the GFS model over the past three day have all predicted an eventual landfall for 94L in the U.S., though these long-range runs are notoriously unreliable. The predicted landfall locations have ranged from New England to Texas--which isn't much help. The past three runs beginning on Sunday afternoon have all taken 94L over Florida during the August 27 - 29 time frame, which I'm sure is making organizers of the Republican National Convention uncomfortable, since the convention is in Tampa August 27 - 30. However, 94L could miss Florida completely, as the average error in model forecasts going out 7 days is in excess of 500 miles. We can't rule out a North Carolina landfall, but the pattern we've seen so far this year is for landfalls in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, so a more southwards path for 94L into the Yucatan is definitely a possibility. Also, we have that huge drought region in the Midwest, which tends to create its own high pressure bubble, which reduces the odds of storms making the turn and hitting the Central or Western Gulf Coast. If 94L makes it to the Western Caribbean, I see the two most likely options as a landfall in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (and then westwards into Mexico south of the Texas border), or recurvature into the Florida Gulf Coast.


Figure 2. MODIS satellite image of Hurricane Gordon taken on Sunday August 19, 2012, at 11:55 am EDT. At the time, Gordon was a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Gordon hits the Azores
The eye of Hurricane Gordon passed over Santa Maria Island in the eastern Azores Islands near 1:30 am EDT this morning. Gordon was a Category 1 hurricane with 75 - 80 mph winds at landfall. Winds at the Santa Maria airport reached a sustained 49 mph at 3 am EDT, but the airport did not report winds during passage of the eyewall at 1:30 am. Reuters reported that Gordon caused only minor flooding and power outages. The hurricane is being sheared apart by strong upper-level winds, and the extratropical remnants of Gordon will not bring any strong winds or significant rain to Europe.

Disturbance 95L in the Gulf near the Texas/Mexico border
A region of disturbed weather (Invest 95L) has developed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast, just northeast of Tampico, Mexico. The disturbance is due to a trough of low pressure and its associated cold front which moved off the coast over the weekend, but has been fortified via moisture from Tropical Storm Helene, which made landfall Saturday near Tampico. If 95L were to develop into a tropical storm, it would receive a new name. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 95L a 30% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone by Wednesday morning. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate 95L this afternoon. Winds at Tampico this morning were light out of the northeast, which implies that no surface circulation is forming at this time. Radar out of Altamira, Mexico does show some banding to the precipitation echoes, though, which may be indicative of something trying to spin up. The computer models show that 95L should move little over the next few days.


Figure 3. Radar out of Altamira, Mexico at 9:45 am EDT August 20, 2012, shows some banding to the precipitation echoes in association with 95L.

Disturbance 96L off the coast of Africa
The tropical Atlantic is very busy this third week of August, and this is the week of the year that we typically see a major ramp-up of tropical storm activity in the Atlantic. A new tropical wave that emerged from the coast of Africa Sunday (Invest 96L) is headed west at 15 - 20 mph. This disturbance has a modest amount of spin and heavy thunderstorm activity, and is under a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 96L a 20% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone by Wednesday morning. This disturbance does not have much model support for development.


Figure 4. The new Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (S-NPP) carries an instrument so sensitive to low light levels that it can detect wildfires in the middle of the night. On August 17, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi-NPP acquired this image of the wildfires blazing in Idaho. The images were created with data from the instrument’s "day-night band," which sensed the fire in the visible portion of the spectrum. The Halstead Fire, centered about 18 miles northwest of Stanley, was sparked by lightning on July 27, and is burning in an area with large numbers of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle. As of Sunday afternoon, the fire had burned 92,000 acres was only 5% contained, according to InciWeb. The fire prompted the evacuation of the town of Featherville on Saturday night. Red flag warnings for adverse fire weather were posted in the region yesterday, and temperatures reached the low 90s with 16% humidity and winds of 10 mph. Image credit: NASA.

A record fire season in the U.S.
Massive fires continue to burn in Nevada, Idaho and California, and fires that are currently active in the Western U.S. have consumed over 1.3 million acres of land--an area approximately the size of Delaware. Thanks to widespread drought and unusually high temperatures over the past month, 3 million acres have gone up in flames since mid-July, and the fire season of 2012 now ranks in first place for the most acreage burned at this point in the year. According to the Interagency Fire Center, 6.8 million acres have burned as of August 19 this year, beating the previous record set just last year (6.5 million acres for the year-to-date period.) The Interagency Fire Center shows year-to-date records just for the past ten years. The 2012 fire season is well ahead of the pace of 2006, which was the worst fire year in the U.S. for total acreage burned in a year (records began in 1960). In 2006, 9.9 million acres burned, and 6.4 million acres had burned by August 19. With drought conditions far more widespread this year compared to 2006, and the latest forecasts calling for little drought relief over the coming two months, 2012 is likely to surpass 2006 as the worst fire year in U.S. history before the end of the year.


Figure 5. Comparison of drought conditions between the previous record fire year in the contiguous U.S. (2006) with 2012. Drought is much more widespread in 2012 compared to 2006, and 2012 will likely finish ahead of 2006 for the most acreage burned since record keeping began in 1960. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.

Global warming expected to increase fire activity in the Western U.S.
As I blogged about in June, the severe fire seasons of 2012 and 2011 fit the pattern of what we expect to see more of with global warming. Hotter heat waves dry out vegetation more readily, resulting in increased probability of more acreage burned. A study published in the Journal Ecosphere in June 2012 used fire models driven by the output from sixteen climate models used in the 2007 IPCC report and found that while 8% of the planet should see decreases in fire activity over the next 30 years, 38% should see increases. By the end of the century, 20% of the globe should see decreased fire activity, and 62% increased fire activity. 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.

Jeff Masters

hugh blanket of smoke (got2dogs)
blew in about an hr after my last upload here - I thought I was done for the nite, but this smoke was incredible! made for some awesome light - sooooo eerie!
hugh blanket of smoke
Smoke! What smoke ?? (saltydawgg)
12th Ave road South looking north. Nampa Idaho full of smoke from 7 fires at last count with more dry lightning on the way.
Smoke! What smoke ??
Temecula Fire (photoandy)
This is just two hours after ignition! It quickly became a PYROCUMULUS...
Temecula Fire

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Quoting wunderkidcayman:


true buts strongs storm also sometimes move more E-Wward rather than poleward



it's not going much westward..if you say so because of 95L...forget it...that storm might not catch it to go into GOM...it will be strong enough to keep its current path into east FL
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3580. SLU
...INITIAL CONDITIONS...

LATCUR = 15.1N LONCUR = 52.0W DIRCUR = 265DEG SPDCUR = 17KT

LATM12 = 15.3N LONM12 = 48.5W DIRM12 = 266DEG SPDM12 = 17KT

LATM24 = 15.5N LONM24 = 44.8W

WNDCUR = 30KT RMAXWD = 35NM WNDM12 = 30KT

CENPRS = 1007MB OUTPRS = 1013MB OUTRAD = 250NM SDEPTH = M

RD34NE = 0NM RD34SE = 0NM RD34SW = 0NM RD34NW = 0NM



$$

NNNN

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3579. kwgirl
Good morning all. Well, we have TD9 and a threat to Florida and especially the Keys. No surprise there!
Only one good thing about this is it might cancel my jury duty on Monday. Glad I mowed my lawn and cut back my trees on Sunday. When I first saw that storm exit the African coast I felt it would be a problem. Here we gooooooooo! Take care and stay safe and remember, listen to NHC only for official forecasts. South Florida, start your preparations now.
Member Since: March 28, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1532
Quoting Maineweatherguy20023:

We have a storm on our hands...!! Any chance of a gulf storm??


ECMWF says yes at 240hrs.

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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Could this be 04 all over again Gro?





starting too look that way
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I know we're focused on 09L, but please remember to watch 96L. It may also be a great to the East Coast.
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3575. WxLogic
Quoting ncstorm:
NHC Plan of the Day..

000
NOUS42 KNHC 201445
REPRPD
WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS
CARCAH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, MIAMI, FL.
1045 AM EDT MON 20 AUGUST 2012
SUBJECT: TROPICAL CYCLONE PLAN OF THE DAY (TCPOD)
VALID 21/1100Z TO 22/1100Z AUGUST 2012
TCPOD NUMBER.....12-093

I. ATLANTIC REQUIREMENTS
1. SUSPECT AREA (GULF OF MEXICO)
FLIGHT ONE --TEAL 70--
A. 21/1600Z
B. AFXXX 02BBA INVEST
C. 21/1315Z
D. 24.5N 97.0W
E. 21/1530Z TO 21/1900Z
F. SFC TO 10,000FT

2. SUSPECT AREA (APPROACHING LESSER ANTILLES)
FLIGHT ONE --TEAL 71-- FLIGHT TWO --TEAL 72--
A. 21/1800Z A. 22/0600Z, 1200Z
B. AFXXX 01DDA INVEST B. AFXXX 0209A CYCLONE
C. 21/1530Z C. 22/0400Z
D. 16.2N 54.5W D. 16.4N 58.3W
E. 21/1730Z TO 21/2200Z E. 22/0530 TO 22/1200Z
F. SFC TO 10,000 FT F. SFC TO 10,000 FT

3. SUCCEEDING DAY OUTLOOK:
A. NEGATIVE IN THE GULF OF MEXICO.
B. CONTINUE 6-HRLY FIXES ON SYSTEM ENTERING CARIBBEAN.



HH should be out by 11:30AM ET.
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past couple of years, storms have always shown to make a beeline to Florida; however, as Jim Cantore said last night, he has never seen such unanimous model agreeemnt this early going into Florida.

IMO, tracks could likely shift little east or west but it really seems like Florida could be in for it because that high pressure above is so strong and it may weaken a bit. Problem is if the turn to the NW and north happens later in the period around west cuba, then Florida is in SUPER big trouble
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3573. Grothar
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 25958
It appears that Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, and Guadeloupe will be the first to receive the brunt of the tropical storm force winds from this storm. Afterwards Puerto Rico is in line to receive tropical storm force winds.





TD 9 should pass by buoy 41101 later today.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:


wow


yeah...
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3569. ncstorm




Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15049
Quoting StormTracker2K:
GFS next Monday. Right over Orlando.



Woosh.
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Quoting Grothar:


Could this be 04 all over again Gro?

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting AussieStorm:


That's the 3rd time this season they have done that. Maybe there is a newbie and they let him do it but he presses enter instead of save and it updates.

Remember this one.....
and this one.....






yep
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
TWC have it on me!!!
Then not to worry.
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3564. JNCali
Folks in FL have no excuse not to be ready to button up the house and have a plan to head out of the area. If you know anyone who has moved there from out of state and may need some info on prep, please let them know today... Here's a good online resource from the Sun-SentinelLink
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Quoting txwcc:


BEAUTIFUL graphic, Tr! I agree with your intensity, but not necessarily with that track. Why do you have him taking such a sharp turn north? The weakness won't be that pronounced to do so. Also there won't be a strong enough trough to really pull him poleward...


now I really doubt it's gonna go far into the GOM...maybe into the east side close to FL...but I take it northward and there is a higher chance for an FL/East coast impact than GOM

here is what I mean.. as an example

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Quoting Bluestorm5:
strong storms trends to go poleward.


true buts strongs storm also sometimes move more E-Wward rather than poleward

Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11666
Quoting Tazmanian:




yep but they fixed it now


That's the 3rd time this season they have done that. Maybe there is a newbie and they let him do it but he presses enter instead of save and it updates.

Remember this one.....


and this one.....


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3560. CapnK
@Gramma1948 - Of course you should have some concern about tropical storms, but there is no need to *worry* about them. I went thru Hugo in Myrtle Beach back in '89 (along with every other 'cane and TD from '72 til now), and can tell you that the locals there have enough experience that they will be able to help you figure out what to do if or when the time comes for some proactive response to a possible storm landfall. :)
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looks like the E coast will have round two with 96L
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GFS next Monday. Right over Orlando.

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
3557. Grothar
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 25958
3556. gugi182
Why is it shifting South west when will it start to shift West North West
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Bye I am leaving to school see you later.
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3554. WxLogic
TD#9 approaching an ULAC in a couple hours. Should help it greatly improve its outflow and subsequently its inflow too:



Moisture wise... P14L has been assisting TD#9 these past days on that end:

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Quoting intampa:
lots and lots of HUGE TENTS in downtown tampa set up for the convention next week. i mean big tents... wonder what will happen with all that.
I saw on some news clip that some of them got blown down with the winds from yesterday...

Just hope they get things sorted out by Sunday re the storm, one way or the other...

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21864
3552. ncstorm
NHC Plan of the Day..

000
NOUS42 KNHC 201445
REPRPD
WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS
CARCAH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, MIAMI, FL.
1045 AM EDT MON 20 AUGUST 2012
SUBJECT: TROPICAL CYCLONE PLAN OF THE DAY (TCPOD)
VALID 21/1100Z TO 22/1100Z AUGUST 2012
TCPOD NUMBER.....12-093

I. ATLANTIC REQUIREMENTS
1. SUSPECT AREA (GULF OF MEXICO)
FLIGHT ONE --TEAL 70--
A. 21/1600Z
B. AFXXX 02BBA INVEST
C. 21/1315Z
D. 24.5N 97.0W
E. 21/1530Z TO 21/1900Z
F. SFC TO 10,000FT

2. SUSPECT AREA (APPROACHING LESSER ANTILLES)
FLIGHT ONE --TEAL 71-- FLIGHT TWO --TEAL 72--
A. 21/1800Z A. 22/0600Z, 1200Z
B. AFXXX 01DDA INVEST B. AFXXX 0209A CYCLONE
C. 21/1530Z C. 22/0400Z
D. 16.2N 54.5W D. 16.4N 58.3W
E. 21/1730Z TO 21/2200Z E. 22/0530 TO 22/1200Z
F. SFC TO 10,000 FT F. SFC TO 10,000 FT

3. SUCCEEDING DAY OUTLOOK:
A. NEGATIVE IN THE GULF OF MEXICO.
B. CONTINUE 6-HRLY FIXES ON SYSTEM ENTERING CARIBBEAN.

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15049
poor jfv i bet he haveing a party right now looking at the nhc track
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Quoting txwcc:


BEAUTIFUL graphic, Tr! I agree with your intensity, but not necessarily with that track. Why do you have him taking such a sharp turn north? The weakness won't be that pronounced to do so. Also there won't be a strong enough trough to really pull him poleward...
strong storms trends to go poleward.
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3547. Grothar
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 25958
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Thanks, but I didn't make it. My friends at NWS Raleigh did :)


You got some cool connections.
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
TD 9 FORECAST...

I bring it to major hurricane...nearly cat 4... IF it does not impact Hispaniola...


wow
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11666
Quoting KeyWestwx:
Bluestorm... you win the gold medal for the best graphics posted on this blog!
Thanks, but I didn't make it. My friends at NWS Raleigh did :)
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3542. SLU
21/1200 UTC 9.5N 29.3W T1.0/1.0 96L
21/1145 UTC 24.0N 97.2W TOO WEAK 95L
21/1145 UTC 15.1N 51.7W T2.0/2.0 09L
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Yeah... freaky experience to get into the greater Orlando area a day or two after Charley and find the entire area in almost complete darkness, especially when you really are supposed to be in S Florida a couple hundred miles away...

And then Orlando got Frances AND Jeanne....


Never seen anything like it. Also flying into orlando all you saw was a sea of blue from all the blue tarps on what seemed like almost every roof on the eastside of orlando.

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
3540. cg2916
NHC forecasts a Cat 3... I'm guessing this isn't an Ernesto repeat...
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Quoting aspiring2012:


Well, each Hurricane is different, but that is eyeopening, you don't have to be by the coast to get slammed.
Irene was little smaller and weaker. I only had 40 mph from it. This is interesting...
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3538. Grothar
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 25958
Quoting Bluestorm5:
My forecast from two night ago that I thought I threw away, is right with NHC... weird.

Bluestorm... you win the gold medal for the best graphics posted on this blog!
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TD 9 FORECAST...

I bring it to major hurricane...nearly cat 4... IF it does not impact Hispaniola...
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Quoting HondosGirl:
Thanks for your response Atmos. Sounds like Orlando experiences similar conditions to what we experience here, north of I-10 in the Panhandle (but with a lot more people in the mix!) This gives me a better idea of how to get her prepared


No problem at all! Tell her to keep up to date with the progress of TD 9 along with yourself, and if in a couple of days Florida is looking more ans more likely to be impacted by the storm, then make sure she goes to the stores ASAP. That is important around here because when there is a tropical system threatening people absolutely flock to buy their supplies QUICKLY and it becomes extremely difficult to get all necessary items.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Just found this from Hurricane Fran of 1996... guess I'm not as far inland as I thought I would be. I'll be screwed if a Category 4-5 ever hit directly in Myrtle Beach in future.



Well, each Hurricane is different, but that is eyeopening, you don't have to be by the coast to get slammed.
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The NHC have it at 110MPH so may go up a Cat 3
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
MAJOR?
Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4447
Quoting txwcc:


I would keep up with each update with the NHC, at 5AM, 11AM, 5PM, and 11PM respectively.

If you begin to get within the cone or very close to it, then I would begin getting concerned. I would make preparations then.



Go earlier... less crowds more goods. besides you should get your kit together early...
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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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