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 kmanislander:


Good morning. It certainly looks that way to me as well. Tricky situation developing with this TD


well us three agree with the location

Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12710
3880. LargoFl
Quoting yonzabam:


Lol! So, looking more like a Nova Scotia storm, now!
im sure these tracks will change many times, but if i lived on the whole east coast of the us i'd be checking my preps this week for use
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41634
3879. Grothar
Quoting hahaguy:

Thanks for the video. Great info.


It's a great video. He really explained this one well and what we can expect. Glad you enjoyed it.
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Quoting reedzone:


Not a dream, study the pattern and you'll see a stronger system gets pulled more by the weakness.. Might as well say Levis dreaming a storm for Florida to..


Reed, leave Levi out of your arguments...
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3877. Thrawst
Doesn't look good for me 8-(
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3876. MahFL
Quoting stormpetrol:
Good Morning, I have the center at approximately 14.7N/52.4W. The center is now definitely below 15N.imo


The slight NE shear is confusing you.
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Quoting MahFL:


Take off is 10:30 am EDT. Time on station is 12:30 EDT, ie a 2 hour flight to the storm, leaving the storm at 5:30 pm EDT. Then another plane takes over.
So they must already be in St. Croix...

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22682
3874. GetReal
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3873. txwcc
Quoting rmbjoe1954:
This morning my four dogs altered their behavior patterns. They were not interested in eating their morning meal. Outside frogs were hopping out of the swale. The sandhill cranes were not seen this morning.

No sight of ants though.

Something is coming. I'm in Port Saint Lucie, East Central Coastal. Florida.


Very interesting! Thanks for the update. Keep us posted with any more usually behaviors...especially the ants!!
Member Since: August 17, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 208
why do people keep saying its a florida storm.it can go up the east coast or all the way to texas.models dont have a clue this far out.
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Quoting seminolesfan:
AAANNDDD; the european ensembles are further west in the Gulf. Spread from near Houston to Bahama Islands with the ENS MEAN in the east side of the GOM...

Don't cherry pick runs to support your DREAMS of a E FL Major cane!


Not a dream, study the pattern and you'll see a stronger system gets pulled more by the weakness.. Might as well say Levis dreaming a storm for Florida to..
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3870. hahaguy
Quoting Grothar:
Good video from 28Storms



Thanks for the video. Great info.
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Quoting LargoFl:


Lol! So, looking more like a Nova Scotia storm, now!
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3868. WxLogic
Quoting stormpetrol:
Good Morning, I have the center at approximately 14.7N/52.4W. The center is now definitely below 15N.imo


I do agree...
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Quoting ChaseyChasinStorms:


Now that looks like a cool movie! Good morning by the way :)


Rise and shine Chase
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3866. ryang
Seems there's an upper trough west of 96L that will cause it to move to the NW pretty soon.
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3865. LargoFl
GFS..please be wrong in 6 days
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41634
Yeesh..the GFS Ensemble members are like windshield wipers...mostly east of FL, splitting FL, mostly west of FL, now back east of FL. That just tells you how much of a difference the timing and angle of the anticipated turn can make.
Member Since: September 1, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 447
Quoting reedzone:


Bingo, even the GFDL and HWRF switched eastward.. Makes sense for a stronger storm to feel the weakness more and move to the right.
AAANNDDD; the european ensembles are further west in the Gulf. Spread from near Houston to Bahama Islands with the ENS MEAN in the east side of the GOM...

Don't cherry pick runs to support your DREAMS of a E FL Major cane!
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3862. MahFL
Quoting wunderkidcayman:

11am=about 2-3 hours from now


Take off is 10:30 am EDT. Time on station is 12:30 EDT, ie a 2 hour flight to the storm, leaving the storm at 5:30 pm EDT. Then another plane takes over.
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Don't take your eye off of the ball. Im talking about 96L. Shes four days behind Isaac, and she looks like she means business.

Get with the Pros....96L...The Storm's Storm!!!
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This Buoy 41040 is JUST south of the center currently...

Buoy is at 14.5N 53W and saw west winds indicating the CoC is passing to it's north. The lowest pressure so far is 29.83" or 1010mb, or a bit higher than the 1007mb NHC 8am update (as one would expect away from the center).

Member Since: June 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 291
Quoting zoomiami:


They keep trying to send it your way.
I'm glad I invested in that prayer chain I was telling Grothar about yesterday...

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22682
Quoting stormpetrol:
Good Morning, I have the center at approximately 14.7N/52.4W. The center is now definitely below 15N.imo


Good morning. It certainly looks that way to me as well. Tricky situation developing with this TD
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3857. ryang
Quoting GetReal:



Put me down for TD9 or Isaac passing between St Lucia and Martinique.


Hey GR! Well i think you know I live in Barbados so I'll be watching this.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History



September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devestating personal tragedy.

Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature


Now that looks like a cool movie! Good morning by the way :)
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This morning my four dogs altered their behavior patterns. They were not interested in eating their morning meal. Outside frogs were hopping out of the swale. The sandhill cranes were not seen this morning.

No sight of ants though.

Something is coming. I'm in Port Saint Lucie, East Central Coastal. Florida.
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3854. LargoFl
Quoting LargoFl:
...notice on this run..none..in the gulf
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41634
I still think 96L deserves some recognition. TD9 has moistened the atmosphere in front of it, pushing the dry air out of the way.
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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.

From Dr. M's Blog from yesterday.........That was a pretty bold leap yesterday several days out. Looks like the Mexico/TX solution is off the table now.

Will be interesting to see where this storm ultimately storm ends up (to where the recurvature will bring it to)...........Bad solution either way with the current steering pattern.
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9372
3851. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41634
Good Morning, I have the center at approximately 14.7N/52.4W. The center is now definitely below 15N.imo
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Except for the islands just to the east of FL, for which it would be [ahem]... not so good.


They keep trying to send it your way.
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3848. JasonRE
I'm not wishing any of these storms on anyone, but I am a hurricane fanatic. I love the continuous following of storm paths, and the weather systems associated with them. Will Louisiana see any action this year? Every time we seem to be in the 'vicinity' for a storm path, it turns the opposite way.
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Quoting CarolinaHurricanes87:
Morning everyone,

Is there any reason why this storm will do better in the eastern caribbean than the last few we've had go through that region? Conditions seem much more favorable, but will trade winds and a quick forward speed not slow development as they have previous systems? If so, is that simply because of its structure being better going into the caribbean, because of better conditions in the region, or a combination of both?


Other than shear, Ernesto was forecasted by some models to be quite formidable.

I'm not sure about the trade winds, someone else with that data can provide you with that info. All the systems developing, or that were supposed to develope off the coast of Africa had SAL to deal with.

The structure of TD9 is the best I've seen at this phase of cyclogensis this year but it still has dry air to the north and in front of it. There's no guarentee this system will survive past TD9 status but it most likely will because of water temps and light shear.
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3846. LargoFl
Quoting Waltanater:
...and drive back for the 2nd evacuation! LOL
gas already went up a nickle here
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41634
Quoting LargoFl:
yes i agree..but..this is not david, this storm is huge in area..may be a lil different this time
I think it will come much closer than the east coast :p
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3844. Grothar
Good video from 28Storms


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Quoting RitaEvac:
Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History



Title is rather off... several more deadly storms in the basin, and quite a few more in places like Bangladesh... should say "American" history...

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22682
3842. GetReal



Put me down for TD9 or Isaac passing between St Lucia and Martinique.
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With the land interaction it will be tough for future Isaac to be more than a 2. Defrost the crow please.
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3840. LargoFl
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
Yep. When storms ride of the East coast we end up with a couple cloudy-dry days and the system usually draws in dry air from the north as it passes, decreasing rain chances for a couple days
yes i agree..but..this is not david, this storm is huge in area..may be a lil different this time
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41634
storm tracks that I think TD9 may follow are Charley 04, Gustav 08, and Fay 08.






Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12710
Quoting MahFL:
I wonder how the high price of gasoline will affect peoples willingness to evacuate, especially if they have to drive to AL or MS.
...and drive back for the 2nd evacuation! LOL
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Quoting waveRoller:
This is the SoFL storm we've been dodging for afew years now down here.
Could be a direct hit. And with the Straits of FL being so warm, hopefully Hispaniola weakens it before hitting that extreme warm water south of the Bahamas. If nothing gets in its way a cat. 2-3 might not be that far fetched.


Nothing is set in stone. We are 6 days away from any impact so anything can happen.
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Quoting clwstmchasr:


If it rides up the East Coast it would not be bad for us in Tampa at all. I remember David in '79. We got nothing more than a nice breeze.
Yep. When storms ride of the East coast we end up with a couple cloudy-dry days and the system usually draws in dry air from the north as it passes, decreasing rain chances for a couple days
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:

dry air still affecting the storm...not so pretty looking as some hours ago...
Yep. And dry air has been the theme for storms over the last 4 years as storm meander north or close to land. And my guess is that dry air is the reason most models don't have this storm projected to be stronger than 100 mph winds at this time.
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Quoting Grothar:
I really think you should all look at this link. The guy has been doing this for years. He is very good.
This just came out

Link

Thanks Grothar, very good information!!
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Quoting Grothar:
I really think you should all look at this link. The guy has been doing this for years. He is very good.
This just came out

Link


Yep. I follow him on Twitter
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this storm will be much forther WEST
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Quoting waveRoller:
This is the SoFL storm we've been dodging for afew years now down here.
Could be a direct hit. And with the Straits of FL being so warm, hopefully Hispaniola weakens it before hitting that extreme warm water south of the Bahamas. If nothing gets in its way a cat. 2-3 might not be that far fetched.
Sure looks that way right now from what Grothar posted on GFS scenario. Though maybe it is hanging out in the Straits because east Cuba cut it up. Either way, and stating the obvious, we have a potentially very serious situation out there, particularly for Haiti. And a whole lot of other places, too. boy oh boy. Does look like the real deal at this point, doesn't it.
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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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