Isaac lashing the Lesser Antilles; TD 10 forms

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:06 PM GMT on August 22, 2012

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Tropical Storm Isaac is lashing the entire Lesser Antilles chain of islands with heavy rains this morning, and the winds will be on the increase this afternoon as the storm heads west at 19 mph. Isaac is still a weak and disorganized tropical storm, but that is changing. The Hurricane Hunters are in the storm, and have thus far found no increase in the storm's top surface winds, which remain near 45 mph. In their 7:44 am EDT center fix, an Air Force Reserve aircraft measured a rather unimpressive center pressure of 1007 mb, and top winds at their 1000 foot flight altitude of 56 mph. The plane did not observe an eyewall trying to form, and recent microwave satellite images also show no signs of an eyewall forming. A large area of dry air to the north of the storm, as seen on water vapor satellite loops, continues to interfere with development, and it is unlikely Isaac will become a hurricane today. Satellite loops, however, show that Isaac has developed a Central Dense Overcast (CDO) of high cirrus clouds, the hallmark of a developing storm. These clouds have very cold cloud tops, indicating that the updrafts creating them are quite strong. An analysis of upper level winds from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS shows that upper-level outflow is becoming well-established to the southwest and northwest, but outflow is restricted on the southeast side. A large clump of heavy thunderstorms several hundred miles southeast of the center continues to compete for moisture, and is interfering with the low level inflow and upper level outflow of the storm. The intensification rate of Isaac will increase if the storm is able to integrate this clump of heavy thunderstorms into its circulation, which satellite loops this morning suggest is now beginning to happen. Radar imagery from Barbados and Martinique show plenty of heavy rain showers, mostly on the south side of Isaac where it is moister, but little spiral banding. Hurricane hunter missions are scheduled for Isaac every six hours, and a NOAA hurricane hunter research aircraft will also be in the storm, with missions scheduled every 12 hours. The NOAA jet is first scheduled to fly into the storm on Thursday afternoon, to do a large-scale dropsonde mission to aid model forecasts.


Figure 1. Morning radar image of Isaac taken from the Barbados radar at 10:15 am EDT. Image credit: Barbados Weather Service.

Intensity forecast for Isaac
The latest 8 am EDT run of the SHIPS model shows that wind shear is moderate, 10 - 15 knots, but is expected to relax by this evening to a low 5 - 10 knots. Ocean temperatures have increased to a very warm 29°C, and the storm is now over waters with a high total heat content. The lowering wind shear and warm waters should allow the storm to wall off the dry air that has been interfering with development, and also allow the storm to integrate the thunderstorm clump on its southeast side that has been interfering with low level inflow and upper level outflow. It will take some time for the increase in organization to result in an increase in Isaac's winds, and I still expect top winds of 45 - 60 mph in the Lesser Antilles Islands this evening when the core of the storm moves through. On Thursday, when Isaac will be in the Eastern Caribbean, conditions should be favorable enough to allow steady strengthening to a Category 1 hurricane. The 11 am EDT wind probability forecast from NHC predicted a 47% chance that Isaac will become a hurricane by Friday morning, and a 16% chance it will be a Category 2 or stronger hurricane then. This is a reduction in the odds given in the 5 am advisory.

Impact of Isaac on the Islands
The entire Lesser Antilles Islands chain will have a three-day period of heavy weather Wednesday through Friday. Sustained tropical storm-force winds extend out about 50 miles to the north of the center and 30 miles to the south, so an 80-mile wide swath of the Lesser Antilles will potentially see tropical storm-force winds of 45 - 60 mph this Wednesday evening. Guadaloupe, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Montserrat, and St. Kitts and Nevis at highest risk of these winds.

Winds in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands will likely rise above tropical storm force on Thursday morning, and the south coast of Puerto Rico should see tropical storm-force winds by Thursday afternoon. The San Juan airport may be able to stay open Thursday afternoon and evening, but I think it is more likely they will be forced to shut down.

On Thursday night, heavy rains and tropical storm-force winds should arrive on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, and all airports in the D.R. will probably be closed on Friday. Rainfall amounts of 8 - 12 inches will likely affect the Dominican Republic Thursday through Saturday, creating dangerous flash floods and mudslides.

Isaac is potentially a very dangerous storm for Haiti, where 400,000 people still live outside underneath tarps in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. Heavy rains from Isaac will begin on Friday morning in Haiti, and last through Sunday. Rainfall amounts of 8 - 12 inches are possible, which will be capable of causing extreme flooding on the vegetation-denuded slopes of Haiti. It will be a major challenge to keep those Haitians living outside safe, if rainfall amounts of 5 - 10 inches occur.

Impact on Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas
Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas are all at high risk of receiving hurricane conditions from Isaac. The latest set of 06Z (2 am EDT) model runs for Isaac are fairly unified for the coming three days, showing a westward track to a point on the south coast of Hispaniola. All of the models then predict a more west-northwest track across the island and into eastern Cuba, as Isaac responds to a trough of low pressure over the Southeast U.S. Most of the models then predict a path for Isaac along the spine of Cuba, then into the Florida Straits off the coast of Miami by five days from now. A notable exception is our best-performing model, the ECMWF, which keeps Isaac just south of Cuba, and takes the storm more to the west between Jamaica and Cuba on Saturday, then into the Yucatan Channel between Mexico and Cuba by Monday. However, this model is keeping Isaac weaker than the other models, and thus predicts the storm will have a weaker response to the trough of low pressure over the Southeast U.S. If the official NHC intensity forecast is right and Isaac becomes a hurricane on Thursday, the more southerly track of the ECMWF is not going to verify, and Isaac will spend considerable time over Cuba on Saturday and Sunday. Where Isaac pops off the coast of Cuba will be critical in determining its future path and intensity. Some models predict a more easterly exit point, allowing Isaac to move up the east coast of Florida, and potentially make landfall in the Southeast U.S. The latest 06Z GFS model run predicts a more westerly track, which would potentially allow Isaac to move up the west coast of Florida towards Tampa. Keep in mind that the average error in a 5-day forecast is 260 miles. The two most recent runs of the GFS model, at 00Z and 06Z (8 pm and 2 am EDT), gave positions for Isaac that were about 250 miles apart--the earlier run putting the center near West Palm Beach, and the more recent run giving a location between Key West and Havana, Cuba. While passage over the high mountains of Hispaniola and then Cuba will substantially disrupt Isaac and probably reduce it below hurricane strength, the storm is quite large, and should be able to re-intensify once it emerges over the Florida Straits. Waters will be very warm, near 30°C, wind shear is predicted to be light, and forecasts of the upper-level winds show the possibility of an upper-level outflow pattern very favorable for intensification. If Isaac spends a day over water, that should be enough time for it to intensify into a Category 1 hurricane, and if the storm takes a longer 2-day track over water up either the east or west coast of Florida, a Category 2 or stronger storm is possible.

Isaac is a threat to affect Tampa during the Republican National Convention, August 27 - 30, and the official NHC forecast now has Tampa in the 5-day cone of uncertainly. The latest 11 am EDT wind probability forecast from NHC gives Tampa a 9% chance of receiving tropical storm-force winds for the 24-hour period ending on the morning of first day of the convention (Monday). I blogged about the climatological chances of a hurricane causing an evacuation of Tampa during the convention in a post last week, putting the odds at 0.2%. I put the odds of an evacuation occurring during the convention in the current situation at 3%.


Figure 2. Morning satellite image of Tropical Depression Ten.

Tropical Depression Ten forms in the Eastern Atlantic
The large tropical wave in the Central Atlantic, midway between Africa and the Lesser Antilles Islands, has become Tropical Depression Ten. The depression has an impressive amount of spin and heavy thunderstorm activity, as seen on visible satellite loops, and should be Tropical Storm Joyce by Thursday. None of the models show that TD 10 will be a threat to the Lesser Antilles Islands.

Which model should you trust?
Wunderground provides a web page with computer model forecasts for many of the best-performing models used to predict hurricane tracks. So which is the best? Well, the best forecasts are made by combining the forecasts from three or more models into a "consensus" forecast. Over the past decade, NHC has greatly improved their forecasts by relying on consensus forecast models made using various combinations of the GFS, GFDL, NOGAPS, UKMET, HWRF, and ECMWF models. If you average together the track forecasts from these models, the NHC official forecast will rarely depart much from it, and the NHC forecast has been hard to beat over the past few years. The single best-performing model over the past two years has been the ECMWF (European Center model). The GFS model has been a close second. You can view 7-day ECMWF and 16-day GFS forecasts on our wundermap with the model layer turned on. Ten-day ECMWF forecasts are available from the ECMWF web site. The European Center does not permit public display of tropical storm positions from their hurricane tracking module of their model, so we are unable to put ECMWF forecasts on our computer model forecast page that plots positions from the other major models. As seen in Figure 3, the HWRF and GFDL were well behind the ECMWF and GFS in forecast accuracy in 2011, but were still respectable. The BAMM model did very well at 4 and 5-day forecasts. The UKMET, NOGAPS, and CMC models did quite poorly compared to the ECMWF, GFS, GFDL, and HWRF. For those interested in learning more about the models, NOAA has a great training video (updated for 2011.)


Figure 3. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms 2011, compared to a "no skill" model called "CLIPER5" that uses just climatology and persistence to make a hurricane track forecast (persistence=a storm will tend to keep going in the direction it's current going.) OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET=United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; TVCA=one of the consensus models that lends together several of the above models; CMC=Canadian Meteorological Center (GEM) model; BAMM=Beta Advection Model (Medium depth.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2011 verification report.

I'll have a new post this afternoon.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting clwstmchasr:


Two runs in a row up the west coast. Getting interesting for Tampa.


Actually the last 4 Days GFS has pinged Tampa.

So it bears scrutiny ,,but the end lines and such on the Forecast ensembles will be affected West, if the trend West continues.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
Quoting prweatherwatcher:



Its going to the Caymans Islands!!
Don't say that loud, there is a Kidcayman there, that might faint of joy...
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341. CJ5
Quoting interpreter:
Update:

Isaac struggling. The system is still moving on a general due west path at a quick pace of about 20mph which is forecast to continue until it approaches the northern coast of Honduras or Belize in the Yucatan Peninsula as previously forecast. It is being hampered by NE shear which will continue in keeping the system weak and induce it to maintain this westward motion. Also there is SW shear ahead from an ULL that is forecast to move SW that will disrupt the system at about 75 west. This may induce a temporary WNW path then bend back west once again with an increased threat to the Yucatan north of the Belize border. The predicted strength by landfall should not exceed strong tropical storm force.

If the system survives crossing the Yucatan and gets into the GOM steering currents are predicted to weaken and the storm could go stationary but this is too far into the future to predict it's eventual motion and potential second landfall.

Another update tomorrow about this time.


Interesting take, especially considering not a single model in the ensemble tracks him in this direction. Could you provide more insight into this outlier forecast?
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Sorry, I don't like the ECMWF model, that would put it around the first kick off for LSU. Sorry to say but Florida can have this one!
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Quoting Jwd41190:


Sorry, I am fairly new here and just trying to learn...but thanks for telling me where to look.


Welcome aboard. Here's the link to recon info...They should be wheels up in about an hour. If I have this right, it is line E that shows the time frame of the flight. 17:30 - 00z for the next flight.

If you're also looking for decoded recon data, forecast models, buoy data, imagery, and wind data...You can find the most used sites on the Quick Links page.
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Quoting jeffs713:

On what do you base this? Visible/IR satellite presentation only? (as opposed to the people flying a plane through it at low altitude, dropping dropsondes that measure wind speed until impact with the water)


That was my thought too. We have paid experts that not only fly planes through these storms, with millions of dollars of equipment, we also have specialist to interpret the data they collect. That may be a tad better than checking out the satellite. But we will get eye witness accounts soon, as it passing over the Antilles as I type. Maybe someone will call in an update on wind speed.
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337. A4Guy
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Center should be right around here, under the heart-shaped mini-burst.

Nice burst just to the east of it.


Thanks man! Great eye (on you...not Isaac :) ). I always forget about using the zoom.
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Good Afternoon Everyone!

Yesterday, the inner structure of Isaac was fairly decent, but was lacking convection with the exception of occasional bursts that would get sheared to the southwest.

Today, the banding structures and convection are much more impressive, but the inner core is gone...


In a TS/HU, the inner core acts like a straw sucking mass out of the center of the storm at the surface and sending it out the top of the storm.

It is this mass removal and associate pressure drop at the center of the storm that causes strong gradients in pressure. This tight pressure difference over a small distance drives the intense winds seen in hurricanes.

In a system structured like Isaac is currently, the "straw" is nonexistent. The only removal of mass possible is by the convection surrounding the system, which means that it is focused over a MUCH larger area, and is not nearly as efficient. Only very slow drops in pressure can occur in the current structure.
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Quoting serialteg:


imagine here in PR


The action's picking up over here in St. Thomas too!
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That "squished" appearance on the NE quadrant, and the infusion of dry air, is also due to the ULL at around 50W-23N (WV loop below) which keeps diving to the SW in tandem with Issac and driving in sinking air (hence the outflow problem in that quadrant)...........He needs some separation from that feature to fully blossom.

Link
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Are there any historical storms that would be an analog to those models showing a hurricane basically strafing the entire W coast of Florida?
Having Ft Myers, Naples, AND the Tampa area all under the front-right quadrant gun seems pretty close to a doomsday scenario--if it pans out (plenty of time for other things to happen)...
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IMO this is a telling look at the current status and organization of Isaac... Link hit 400km loop.

Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8874
330. CJ5
In looking at the models here Link

It seems they all initialize Isaac further north that he is currently tracking. It appears to me that if there is to be any strike on Haiti/DR he will have to be pulled North pretty strongly in the next 24/36 hours.
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12Z GFS is slower than the 6Z run initially, which causes it to not get as far west before being turned NW, so all in all the run is just slightly east of the previous run, which would mean a weaker storm in this scenario.

What's really going to be interesting is the 12z ECMWF. It sure is being stubborn, and when the ECMWF shows consistency it's hard to rule it out regardless of the rest of the models.
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38530
Quoting TreasureCoastGirl80:
I work at a landscaping company. One of our maintenance guys just came in and said Home Depot in Stuart is crazy right now! Lol...04/05 isn't as distant a memory as it is for some...


imagine here in PR
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I have to go clean these eye glasses off...
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8874
If he is going to weaken then he will continue to move further West than predicted.


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Quoting Tazmanian:



I hear ya, TAZ! Good deal. Me too. I have to get going as well. You set a good example! Take care. :)
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
this could get very ugly for the Tampa area
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38530
Just my take on everything, especially sitting here in Charleston, the trough just doesn't look very deep to me, it is NOT a full latitude trough that will completely turn the system out to sea. However, since Isaac is still struggling, it will continue to gain more longitude than latitude for at least the next 48 hours. This kind of motion could increase time over the islands and therefore keep Isaac from exploding and hence, a more westerly track. I'm still in the eastern Gulf camp, but any quick strengthening could alter the track east and quite significantly at that.
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Quoting TheMom:
So I know I know I'm such an UNfair weather friend.. Hey to the old timers that sorta kinda remember me and my gagillions of cherry questions. Nice to see some fresh eyes that are not just playing troll. So here we are again playing monkey in the middle of the East or West track sayers. Are we allowed to do the reverse fanatics thing and say that a hurricane hitting Tampa would be punishment for Republicans creating the tea-party? or would that get me in the time out chair even though we aren't in panic mood yet?
*runs around room and hugs all my old timer favs*

Hugs, but go straight to the time-out chair for politics.
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313. Thats not an update. It is copying and pasting from your bogus "forecast" yesterday.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
144hr final

Tampa Bay might finally get a full blown hurricane. 72 GFS.
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Quoting WPBHurricane05:
12Z GFS looks almost exactly the same as the 11 am advisory from the NHC.


Almost followed it to the T.
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 4972
Quoting 69Viking:


Nice Avatar!


thanks
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Quoting Levi32:
Good afternoon.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Wednesday, August 22nd, with Video


Excellent point on the larger degree of error on the south side of the cone. Good job, Levi.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Center should be right around here, under the heart-shaped mini-burst.

Nice burst just to the east of it.


nice wpr, thanks
im taking down a 50 foot tarp on the 5th floor of a hotel in downtown Ponce so
better than it flying off tomorrow
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12Z just a tad east on this run but when ya figure in the error not much difference
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Update:

Isaac struggling. The system is still moving on a general due west path at a quick pace of about 20mph which is forecast to continue until it approaches the northern coast of Honduras or Belize in the Yucatan Peninsula as previously forecast. It is being hampered by NE shear which will continue in keeping the system weak and induce it to maintain this westward motion. Also there is SW shear ahead from an ULL that is forecast to move SW that will disrupt the system at about 75 west. This may induce a temporary WNW path then bend back west once again with an increased threat to the Yucatan north of the Belize border. The predicted strength by landfall should not exceed strong tropical storm force.

If the system survives crossing the Yucatan and gets into the GOM steering currents are predicted to weaken and the storm could go stationary but this is too far into the future to predict it's eventual motion and potential second landfall.

Another update tomorrow about this time.
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So I know I know I'm such an UNfair weather friend.. Hey to the old timers that sorta kinda remember me and my gagillions of cherry questions. Nice to see some fresh eyes that are not just playing troll. So here we are again playing monkey in the middle of the East or West track sayers. Are we allowed to do the reverse fanatics thing and say that a hurricane hitting Tampa would be punishment for Republicans creating the tea-party? or would that get me in the time out chair even though we aren't in panic mood yet?
*runs around room and hugs all my old timer favs*
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Quoting SCwannabe:
Does it look like they are shifting back to east a bit?




Nice Avatar!
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
144hr final


"Knock knock" says Isaac.
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Center should be right around here, under the heart-shaped mini-burst.

Nice burst just to the east of it.
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Another GFS run to florida GFS is breaking record in consistency XP
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Quoting Hurricane1956:
With all respect to the NHC,this is not a 45 miles per hour storm!!!,this system look very impressive in the satellite presentation,I would not be surprise if the system is aproaching Hurricane strenght!.
No more intensity forecasts for me this year until I have the Levi and Bob accredited seal of approval ;-)
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Quoting Elena85Vet:


Have you considered offering her a Tab?
Bad idea..The taste is absolutely horrid..Those 70,s drinks do go away easy, even if not tasty..HWRE rips Isaac up, but will likely regenerate into a hurricane.
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Gets very near Tampa and turns northwest!
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8874
144hr final

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Quoting A4Guy:
Is it just me...or is anyone else having a difficult time spotting the CoC? I can see a huge spin, and figure the center is in there, but that's not really where the NHC has it. Can't see it on RGB visible...or Dvorak.


Isaac appears to not a well defined center but a broad center of cirulation. The sat loop suggests that it is slowly gaining organization and has an increasing large cir size. Issac will cover alot of ground as it moves westward
Member Since: August 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 301
Huff Post

"For the moment, all we can say is that there is a small swirl in eastern tropical Atlantic ocean that models generally agree will track towards the northeast Caribbean over the next several days," CWG's Jason Samenow reported. "There’s no telling how strong it will get or where it will go beyond a few days."

Expert weather blogger Jeff Masters reported that big hurricanes have prompted mass evacuations from Tampa twice in 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," Masters wrote. "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."

Masters reported that the odds of a hurricane triggering a mass evacuation during the four-day period of the Republican National Convention next week are less than one percent.

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12Z GFS looks almost exactly the same as the 11 am advisory from the NHC.
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Quoting SCwannabe:
Appears it's still struggling with dry air to it's northeast...


Yep. The area to the NE is also where the outflow is the most inhibited, too. If it can get that rolling... bad news.
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Quoting moonlightcowboy:
Where is TAZ? He's supposed to spot these things! ;)

Pinehole eye?



Well Hello MLC, long time no see. Isaac seems like it's gonna be a hard one. Isn't it the more powerful he gets he will feel the trough and if he stays low in strength he can go further west? I forget.

sheri
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Quoting Levi32:
Good afternoon.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Wednesday, August 22nd, with Video
Thanks Levi.It is definately a lot of uncertainty in the forecast.Just depends on what it looks like when it crosses the islands.Hopefully for everyone it will just be the minimal tropical storm.Keep up the good work.
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Appears it's still struggling with dry air to it's northeast...

Quoting Patrap:
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Quoting Levi32:


The thunderstorms were just as impressive looking last night but the plane found the storm was not deepening. Do not forget Ernesto just a short while ago, which looked like a Cat 1 but had a 1008mb pressure.

Mornin, Levi
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Quoting Patrap:


Here's a good Hint. Look on the NHC Home page menu.

This isn't a drive thru for Info.

Scroll back down or whatever.

We roll info here, but we dont make it..


Sorry, I am fairly new here and just trying to learn...but thanks for telling me where to look.
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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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