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 Bluestorm5:
Look, folks... Levi is not the only one making forecast. I made these two forecasts and I didn't get bashed for them. Why is Levi being bashed for more educated forecast and not me for posting such a stupid forecast?



..folks let it go
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42261
Quoting Chiggy:

My point here was that it's very hard to get storms hit the Tampa area!
but we can easily be scraped by storms and get high winds. Most folks that come on here said Donna was the last storm that brought sustained hurricane force winds to the area, I actually had a wind gust of 81 mph here in Largo during Jeanne. Here is a link of Tampa's history with Tropical Systems. Link
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
929. yoboi
Quoting RitaEvac:


I've had northerly winds all day here


north winds in swla today......
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Northerly flow

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Just like I said two days, right over Hispaniola. Oh, I'm not supposed to say that.

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Okay, would you please take the Levi-stuff to WUmail? The kid's got an ego the size of Alaska.
And of course the strength of his convictions, which is commendable.
Anyway, he doesn't need nor appreciate all your back and forth over this. Give it a rest or go to tropics chat lol.
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Quoting Chiggy:

My point here was that it's very hard to get storms hit the Tampa area!
yes it sure is....looked at the data of storms etc..and it says we are 2.2 years overdue..go figure lol
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42261
With all due respect, Levi requested earlier that we refocus our talk off of him and on topic. I agree.
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May get a bump up to 90% at 8 pm EDT.

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Quoting sar2401:


That's not the front. The actual front is stalled to the north and spinning off shortwave troughs. It's been doing this for three days. The only difference is that some ennergy from 95L appears to be joining the parade. BTW, looking at the frontal map, what's that big low off South Carolina doing there?



I just noticed that also - what is that low pressue sitting off the coast???????
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Quoting sar2401:


That's not the front. The actual front is stalled to the north and spinning off shortwave troughs. It's been doing this for three days. The only difference is that some ennergy from 95L appears to be joining the parade. BTW, looking at the frontal map, what's that big low off South Carolina doing there?

..note NHC has a purple watch out for that area off the coast
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42261
Quoting aussiecold:
827. LargoFl 7:28 PM GMT on August 20, 2012 +0
Quoting aussiecold:
753. Chiggy 7:11 PM GMT on August 20, 2012 0
Quoting StormTracker2K:
Tampa say hi to Issac.


Well, if it is showing hitting close to Tampa this far out then we ALL know that's not going to happen - when was the last time Tampa had a direct hit...?
Action: Quote | Ignore User



1946!actually the 1924 storm came closest, and that went in at tarpon springs to our north
Action: Quote | Ignore User
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 8763

he did ask for last direct hit in tampa area ,no for the closest one .....1851,1924,1946,,,and then 120 miles south Charley in 2005

My point here was that it's very hard to get storms hit the Tampa area!
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Quoting NICycloneChaser:
I'd also point out that comments asking about Levi-hating vastly outnumber the actual Levi-hating comments. .


I was thinking the same thing but I believe thats because most of the "hater" comments have been removed. Either way, I agree with you that the focus should be on the systems, and I am pretty sure Levi does too. He certainly did not ask for haters (or defenders).
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Quoting sar2401:


That's not the front. The actual front is stalled to the north and spinning off shortwave troughs. It's been doing this for three days. The only difference is that some ennergy from 95L appears to be joining the parade. BTW, looking at the frontal map, what's that big low off South Carolina doing there?



I've had northerly winds all day here
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well, I saw one NNE reading on the data...winds sure aren't strong through
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Look, folks... Levi is not the only one making forecast. I made these two forecasts and I didn't get bashed for them. Why is Levi being bashed for more educated forecast and not me for posting such a stupid forecast?



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Quoting sar2401:


That's not the front. The actual front is stalled to the north and spinning off shortwave troughs. It;s been doing this for three days. The only difference is that some ennergy from 95L appears to be joining the parade. BTW, looking at the frontal map, what's that big low off South Carolina doing there?



Chucktown...What's that little swirlyque thingy off our coast?!
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Quoting HoustonTxGal:


Compare those temps to the GOM ridght before Katrina.. they are very similar.

Link
That's because we have the same kind of weather every year at this time.
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Quoting aussiecold:
..largo fl


well i found this...and the Last one to hit Tampa was 1846..flooded the city with storm surge..BUT..the very Lasy hurricane to hit tampa bay was..1921.............The last hurricane to hit Tampa Bay roared through in October 1921, causing widespread damage and a storm surge of 10.5 feet. The center of the storm came ashore in northern Pinellas County, near Tarpon Springs. In Tampa, water swept across DeSoto Park and over the seawall along Bayshore Boulevard. There were numerous reports of debris high in treetops the next day.
Action: Quote | Ignore User

Go to Dr Masters's blogs off two weeks and you will see ,i thought same than you just right before ,if your user id means to live in Largo ,i live in St Pete and for sure im older than you areso i do know about Tampa area very well .thanks


Aussie, here's Dr. Master's August 14th blog about Tampa hurricane history. Link
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Quoting aussiecold:
..largo fl


well i found this...and the Last one to hit Tampa was 1846..flooded the city with storm surge..BUT..the very Lasy hurricane to hit tampa bay was..1921.............The last hurricane to hit Tampa Bay roared through in October 1921, causing widespread damage and a storm surge of 10.5 feet. The center of the storm came ashore in northern Pinellas County, near Tarpon Springs. In Tampa, water swept across DeSoto Park and over the seawall along Bayshore Boulevard. There were numerous reports of debris high in treetops the next day.
Action: Quote | Ignore User

Go to Dr Masters's blogs off two weeks and you will see ,i thought same than you just right before ,if your user id means to live in Largo ,i live in St Pete and for sure im older than you areso i do know about Tampa area very well .thanks
ok and hello..we are very lucky here..hurricanes and tropical storms brush us but they dont seem to actually come IN here,I read one storm long ago..came In the mouth of tampa bay..and pushed the whole bay in front of it..pinellas back then was flooded...again that was LONG ago
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42261
Quoting pensacolastorm:


Enter 32507 my zipcode. Which ones missed?!
My eyes aren't that good anymore. Did you notice that placing your cursor on the named storm highlights it's track on the map? But I still can't tell where the keys are.Nice but ridiculous. Now if just the track showed and the others disappeared for a minute, then I think it would be useful.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
This is why you don't want fronts in the GOM during Cane season



That's not the front. The actual front is stalled to the north and spinning off shortwave troughs. It's been doing this for three days. The only difference is that some ennergy from 95L appears to be joining the parade. BTW, looking at the frontal map, what's that big low off South Carolina doing there?

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Can we seriously move away from Levi as a talking point? Haters, or almighty defenders, there's plenty of other bloggers here. I'd also point out that comments asking about Levi-hating vastly outnumber the actual Levi-hating comments. This is all getting very silly.

Nothing against Levi in this, btw. Great forecaster who I have learnt much from.
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LOL sigh it's not a hurricane season with a couple of "Levi Blog" days.
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Quoting Chucktown:


Nothing against Levi, and going out on a limb, but thats because he can go out on a limb and are no consequences if he is right or wrong, except to fellow bloggers. Credibility is the name of the game when you get to TV or NHC. This is why the NHC and most TV mets are conservative. You can't go out on a limb then realize something has drastically changed then back pedal only to have something flip back.


I respectfully disagree. The NHC did that with Debby... of course, Levi was on the same page as the NHC with that forecast and he got criticized for that, too. He gets criticized whether he goes exactly with the NHC or not. As someone said earlier, it really comes down to Levi being really good at what he does... if that weren't the case, he wouldn't receive as much attention (both positive AND negative).
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Definition of meteorologist, someone who specializes in the phenomonon of weather forecasting, and get to keep their job even though they are wrong 50% of the time. Wish I could have done the math.
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I'm revising my track after the latest model runs...


UNOFFICIAL

Shifted west, and brought intensity down due to land interaction on the circulation for a good part of it's journey.
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.
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Quoting Chucktown:


Nothing against Levi, and going out on a limb, but thats because he can go out on a limb and are no consequences if he is right or wrong, except to fellow bloggers. Credibility is the name of the game when you get to TV or NHC. This is why the NHC and most TV mets are conservative. You can't go out on a limb then realize something has drastically changed then back pedal only to have something flip back.


Well I do have a cone which is meant to illustrate the uncertainty that I have. However, you are right, and obviously the NHC doesn't even have to make a forecast until the system develops. Technically the NHC goes out on a limb every time they make a 5-day forecast though.
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Quoting Grothar:


I don't know, I think Southeast

I don't know, I think Southeast
Oh boy we are about to get hammered then.
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Quoting Grothar:


Looks like a lot or rain for somebody.
..GRO..no chance this turns into a Katrina like storm huh
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42261
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This developing storm (94L) is trending a possible Irene track. Way too early to call it but it is strange that Irene hit about a year ago to almost to the day. Also Virginia had an earthquake 3 days before the storm hit.
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Quoting aspiring2012:


That looks really threatening and ugly at once.


Looks like a lot or rain for somebody.
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..largo fl


well i found this...and the Last one to hit Tampa was 1846..flooded the city with storm surge..BUT..the very Lasy hurricane to hit tampa bay was..1921.............The last hurricane to hit Tampa Bay roared through in October 1921, causing widespread damage and a storm surge of 10.5 feet. The center of the storm came ashore in northern Pinellas County, near Tarpon Springs. In Tampa, water swept across DeSoto Park and over the seawall along Bayshore Boulevard. There were numerous reports of debris high in treetops the next day.
Action: Quote | Ignore User

Go to Dr Masters's blogs off two weeks and you will see ,i thought same than you just right before ,if your user id means to live in Largo ,i live in St Pete and for sure im older than you areso i do know about Tampa area very well .thanks
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Quoting Chucktown:


Nothing against Levi, and going out on a limb, but thats because he can go out on a limb and are no consequences if he is right or wrong, except to fellow bloggers. Credibility is the name of the game when you get to TV or NHC. This is why the NHC and most TV mets are conservative. You can't go out on a limb then realize something has drastically changed then back pedal only to have something flip back.


Oh please...Rob Fowler does it all the time...
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Quoting DaytonaBeachWatcher:
What is with all the Levi bashing?
Jealousy
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Click image for Levi's Recon page.

If some people want to complain about him posting links to his site, then I'll post them for him!
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Quoting VINNY04:
Is that headed south?


I don't know, I think Southeast

I don't know, I think Southeast
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Quoting gustaveye:
We need to leave Levi alone and let him do his thing on here. He is more knowledgeable and at least goes out on a limb to give us more information, which most meteorolgists won't do. Hurricane tracking is very unpredictable, so i don't know why people on this blog brag about being right or knocking people for being wrong. A lot of us on here are clueless but there are a lot of people on here that know a good bit. A lot of you sound like armchair QB's. So easy to do...but unless you are in the business you don't know what goes on behind the scenes. I think Levi and others bring that to the table for us. And a BIG thanks to Dr. Masters for his blogs!!


Nothing against Levi, and going out on a limb, but thats because he can go out on a limb and are no consequences if he is right or wrong, except to fellow bloggers. Credibility is the name of the game when you get to TV or NHC. This is why the NHC and most TV mets are conservative. You can't go out on a limb then realize something has drastically changed then back pedal only to have something flip back.
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Is this attack LEVI day? Jeez folks, and not everyone, acting like a bunch of stinking 2 year olds. Agree to disagree, you say this way, I say that way, big deal. 3 pages back now there have been personal attacks..let it go. That said, Levi, here's a uneducated guess, Issac will skirt south Fl, make his turn in GOM and final landfall around Mobile Al./ Pensacola Fl. I have eaten much crow in my lifetime, so if I'm wrong, I 'll take another helping.
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Quoting Chicklit:

I'm talking about during tropical hurricane season; besides, I don't think I ever saw anything quite that strong over that much area in the Gulf before, so no.


I agree this thing looks like a stretch blob instead of a stretch limo wanting to drive from one coast to the other!
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Republicans Prepare for Long-Shot hurricane at their 2012 convention.......................Link
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42261
94L Is expected to hit the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico way before it could get close to U.S.A. main land.
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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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