Isaac reorganizing as it blows through the Lesser Antilles

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:34 PM GMT on August 22, 2012

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Tropical Storm Isaac continues to maintain top winds of just 45 mph as its center prepares to move through the Lesser Antilles islands late this afternoon and early this evening. The entire Lesser Antilles chain of islands is receiving heavy rains from Isaac, with Martinique picking up 1.46" of rain as of 2 pm EDT, and St. Lucia receiving 1.49". However, Isaac is not yet generating much in the way of tropical storm-force winds, and none of the islands had received winds in excess of 30 mph as of 4 pm EDT. During their storm penetration to obtain their 2 pm EDT center fix, an Air Force Reserve aircraft measured top surface winds of just 40 mph, and a central pressure of 1004 mb. Top winds at their 5000 foot flight altitude were 49 mph. Isaac is undergoing significant changes to its structure. The plane found the center had become a broad, elongated oval that extended 40 miles from NW to SE. The old center, fixed at 2 pm near 16.1°N, and closer to the dry air to Isaac's north, is being challenged for dominance by a new center that is attempting to form near a burst of heavy thunderstorms at 15.5°N. The Hurricane Hunters' latest fix at 3:50 pm EDT put the center near 15.9°N, a southwards shift of about 17 miles. The resulting battle between centers is giving Isaac a rather odd spiral rectangular shape, as seen on visible satellite loops. The Hurricane Hunters 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 Isaac will not be able to begin strengthening until it resolves the battle between it two competing centers, and casts out the dry air infiltrating it. This is going to take at least a day, since Isaac is a very large storm, and it takes more time to spin up a big chunk of the atmosphere. Radar imagery from Barbados and Martinique show plenty of heavy rain showers, mostly on the south side of Isaac where it is moister. There has been a modest increase in spiral banding since this morning.


Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image of Isaac, showing its odd spiral rectangle shape.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 12Z (8 am EDT) model runs are very similar to the previous set of runs, which I discussed in detail in this morning's post. The models show a westward track to a point on the south coast of Hispaniola. Isaac's center shift to the south may require some modest adjustments to the south and west for the models. This would result in the storm spending a few hours less time over Hispaniola, and more time over or just south of Cuba. This would slightly decrease the risk to the Dominican Republic, the east coast of Florida, and the Bahamas, but increase the risk to the west coast of Florida. The ECMWF--our best performing model over the past two years--continues to be an outlier among the models. It predicts that Isaac will track just south of Cuba, cross the western tip of Cuba on Monday, then head north towards an eventual landfall in Louisiana. 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, and at this point, we don't know it its more likely that Isaac will go up the east coast of Florida, the west coast, or straight up the peninsula over land. At this point, I'd put the odds at:

40% chance of a track through the Gulf of Mexico, west of Florida
25% chance of a landfall in South Florida, and a track mostly over the Florida Peninsula
35% chance of a track along the east coast of Florida

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? 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 2, 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 2. 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 in the morning.

Jeff Masters

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Anyone else notice the new circle on the map? This is what the ECMWF/GFS are developing.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24550
Quoting flhurricanesurvivor:
When I look at Isaac it reminds me of this:

The longer term fate of Ike is highly uncertain. The ECMWF model forecasts that Hanna will be strong enough to create a weakness in the ridge of high pressure steering Ike to the west. Ike will then follow Hanna's path, recurving northwards off the Florida coast, with a pass very close to North Carolina and New England. The NOGAPS model thinks Hanna will not influence Ike as much, and Ike will hit South Florida. The GFS model is no help, it dissipates Ike in the Bahamas. A track across Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico or the Western Caribbean is also a strong possibility. We'll have to see how strong Hanna gets before the future path of Ike will be apparent.


All that and it ended up in Galveston
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1049. Levi32
Rising pressures north of the Caribbean, if they all occur north of 25N, are a good thing for tropical cyclones in the Caribbean, as it increases the pressure gradient to the north and thus the convergence of air towards the Caribbean, forcing upward motion.

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Quoting CybrTeddy:


The Carolinas.. :)

I was debating whether I should post this or not. Looks like I didn't have to. :P
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good afternoon

Pressure of 999 mbs at 16.1 and 61

What a confusing situation especially with winds nowhere near what you would expect with that kind of pressure

NOAA's P-3 is flying at different height (higher) than the HH RECON C-130
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Quoting palmasdelrio:

I've never heard of the town Waneko anywhere in Puerto Rico.


me neither LOL
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Quoting HoustonTxGal:


DISLIKE!!


You have less to worry about from this storm than you do with a trip on I-10, dear
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18z GFDL:

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1043. LargoFl
Quoting Torgen:


I just agreed to purchase a pinball machine in Davenport, supposed to drive from Tampa and pick it up Saturday. I wonder if that is even going to be possible?
this weekend by tampa should be just normal weather unless this storm speeds up, worst case might be an outer rain band come in..mon thru wens is the supposed Bad days
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41829
When I look at Isaac it reminds me of this:

The longer term fate of Ike is highly uncertain. The ECMWF model forecasts that Hanna will be strong enough to create a weakness in the ridge of high pressure steering Ike to the west. Ike will then follow Hanna's path, recurving northwards off the Florida coast, with a pass very close to North Carolina and New England. The NOGAPS model thinks Hanna will not influence Ike as much, and Ike will hit South Florida. The GFS model is no help, it dissipates Ike in the Bahamas. A track across Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico or the Western Caribbean is also a strong possibility. We'll have to see how strong Hanna gets before the future path of Ike will be apparent.
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Quoting presslord:
Have you brilliant minds determined where this thing is gonna hit yet?


The Carolinas.. :)
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24550
Quoting AussieStorm:


I'm in a good mood today, got the radio playing great rock. The back, well, been for MRI and it showed my back is 100% perfect for a man my age, but what has happened is the injury has left residual nerve damage which if medicated will allow me to get back to a normal life. In the next few weeks I'll be off to see a pain doctor for the magic pills.
I've not been working since October last year so I am fairly relaxed. How's your back going, still all good?


Spectacular, with the exception of the occasional bout of spasms...

As for the pain doctor, enjoy the magic pills, but continue to strive for a non-pharmaceutical solution; expereince speaking, those little fellows can become a habit
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1039. icmoore
Quoting Floodman:


The lovely icmoore! How are you hon?


The forever gentleman :) Well, we are good right now minus sleep oh and a few fingerenails have bitten :) the dust. How are you and your bride?
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1038. Torgen
Quoting LargoFl:
good idea..even IF it doesnt get that bad there..you did the right thing and was prepared, and by friday they should have a very good idea..where this is going


I just agreed to purchase a pinball machine in Davenport, supposed to drive from Tampa and pick it up Saturday. I wonder if that is even going to be possible?
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Quoting presslord:
Have you brilliant minds determined where this thing is gonna hit yet?


Stono River near Buzzards Roost Marina
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Isaac is the scariest 45 mph storm I've ever seen. Such a large wind field, I feel hispaniola couldn't kill it.
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Quoting Levi32:


My track from this morning is very close to the east coast of Florida.

East-caster... lol
How are ya Mr Levi. Alaska treating you kindly this summer?
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Quoting LargoFl:
yes, right now it sure looks like you folks will feel something from this storm, be careful down there and one good thing..your aware its coming, i asked my neighbor if he was going to board up his windows for the storm..he said..What storm..millions out there..just like him
yes. I was booking a rental for a guy in Naples and HE HAD NO CLUE! Channel 10 in Miami just showed center going over Marathon/Islamarada then hugging the Fl West coastline which is the nasty side of the storm. My house in Venice and it does not have storm shutters. I hope it fairs well.?
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Even my local NWS up here is giving Isaac a mention in their latest forecast.
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Have you brilliant minds determined where this thing is gonna hit yet?
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Quoting Floodman:


Not at all Aussie, not at all. If Isaac hits even the south peninsula as anything over a TS, it will be very very bad. Over a quarter miilion people still in tents after the earthquake and all this is going to do is reduce their numbers I'm afraid...

How have you been, mate? Long time (all my fault I'm afraid)...hows the back?


I'm in a good mood today, got the radio playing great rock. The back, well, been for MRI and it showed my back is 100% perfect for a man my age, but what has happened is the injury has left residual nerve damage which if medicated will allow me to get back to a normal life. In the next few weeks I'll be off to see a pain doctor for the magic pills.
I've not been working since October last year so I am fairly relaxed. How's your back going, still all good?
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Quoting kmanislander:


Vortex message shows winds of a TD. The Eastern Caribbean strikes again


Glad to see one of the finest minds in the Caribbean here...how are you friend? Prepared for the worst?
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Hmmmm....

TWC conversation between Cantore and Greg Posell (sp)

Cantore: does the cone include Alabama, MS or LA at 11

Posell: probably not quite that far yet

Cantore: But that's where we're trending

Posell: But that's where we're heading

Then about five minutes later:

both talking again and Posell says about it moving west

"then, it may not happen at the eleven, but maybe shortly after"
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TWC just said not the 11pm model but maybe the next one will include La. and Ms. in the cone. Hmmmm!
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Quoting Stormchaser121:

Actually...the texas death ridge is expected to move away from us which would allow Isaac to go to the western gulf.


DISLIKE!!
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1025. LargoFl
Quoting Clearwater1:
Largo, how close to Ridge Road are you?

Ridge road is highest part of the county? Where I grew up.
..im closer to clwtr off east bay
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41829
1024. Torgen
Quoting bayoubug:
Hey it is a election year..Right blob republicans left blob democrats..The winner is.....


There are no winners. Meteorologicly or politically.
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1023. Levi32
Quoting weatherb0y:
Hey Levi, are you still forecasting Isaac to travel east of Florida or make landfall on the east coast?


My track from this morning is very close to the east coast of Florida.
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1022. LargoFl
Quoting spathy:


Hi Largo.
I am making the decision to board or not board on Friday. We have three houses to secure. And we are getting too old to do this if not needed.
good idea..even IF it doesnt get that bad there..you did the right thing and was prepared, and by friday they should have a very good idea..where this is going
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41829
1021. JLPR2
Next buoy in Isaac's way.
16.333N 63.5W
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Quoting LargoFl:
yes i remember that, tampa must watch as issac passes BY tampa, if he is close enough..tampa would be on its eastern side..the bad side and could push the bay waters..lots can happen come next week...heed the local warnings and stay safe
Largo, how close to Ridge Road are you?

Ridge road is highest part of the county? Where I grew up.
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Quoting icmoore:


Good to see your psychedelic face in here again :)


The lovely icmoore! How are you hon?
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Quoting Levi32:
This is the very first TS-force wind observed within 50 miles of the center since Isaac's birth:



Vortex message shows winds of a TD. The Eastern Caribbean strikes again
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From what I've heard on TWC, the NHC is having a hard time with getting an exact center fix on Isaac. Should know more by tomorrow evening, and possibly narrow down the track forecast a little better. We are still prepping and watching out here on my rig.
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Quoting Levi32:
I've only read one paper detailing the SREF's performance in forecasting tropical cyclone tracks near the United States, and that was only for the 2004 hurricane season, so I don't know how good their skill is now, but here's the SREF ensemble mean 87 hours out, showing Isaac over the northern Bahamas.

Hey Levi, are you still forecasting Isaac to travel east of Florida or make landfall on the east coast?
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Quoting Clearwater1:
Yes, thats about 1004 at the surface


Not exactly. 10,000 feet = 700mb which is close to what the "static air pressure" is (what is used as an altimeter on a plane). They reported an extrapolated pressure of 999mb I guess. That said, I noticed that Kermits readings have been consistently a couple mb lower than C-130's extrapolations were. So I would guess it correlates to about 1002 - 1003mb.

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Quoting kmanislander:
Good afternoon

Pressure of 999 mbs at 16.1 and 61

What a confusing situation especially with winds nowhere near what you would expect with that kind of pressure



I don't know who asked just yesterday, but THIS is one of those storms where we may see some confusing re-positions, because they just can't figure out what's going on even with the HH in there.


It has happened before.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
18z spaghetti loop
Member Since: July 14, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1163
1012. LargoFl
Quoting ejstrick:
The fear I have, living in South Tampa is the potential for Isaac to slow down as it approaches the big bend of Florida. Debbie, being a minimal tropical storm and considerably smaller than Isaac, caused Hillsborough Bay to overflow its bank and flood Baysore Blvd near downtown. A prolonged SW fetch from a stronger storm with this size, would flood downtown and south Tampa extensively.
yes i remember that, tampa must watch as issac passes BY tampa, if he is close enough..tampa would be on its eastern side..the bad side and could push the bay waters..lots can happen come next week...heed the local warnings and stay safe
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41829
Product: Air Force Vortex Message (URNT12 KNHC)
Transmitted: 22nd day of the month at 23:47Z
Corrected: This observation corrected a previous observation.
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 307)
Storm Number & Year: 09L in 2012
Storm Name: Isaac (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 3
Observation Number: 15
A. Time of Center Fix: 22nd day of the month at 23:07:20Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 15°46'N 61°58'W (15.7667N 61.9667W)
B. Center Fix Location: 23 miles (37 km) to the SW (225°) from Basse Terre, Guadeloupe (FRA).
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 1,464m (4,803ft) at 850mb
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 30kts (~ 34.5mph)
E. Location of the Estimated Maximum Surface Wind: 74 nautical miles (85 statute miles) to the SSW (211°) of center fix
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 43° at 11kts (From the NE at ~ 12.7mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 0 nautical miles (0 statute miles) to the E (90°) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 1004mb (29.65 inHg)
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 18°C (64°F) at a pressure alt. of 1,517m (4,977ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 18°C (64°F) at a pressure alt. of 1,524m (5,000ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): 18°C (64°F)
K. Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Not Available
M. Eye Shape: Not Available
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Wind, Pressure and Temperature
N. Fix Levels (sfc and flt lvl centers are within 5nm of each other): Surface and 850mb
O. Navigation Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 6 nautical miles
Remarks Section - Remarks That Were Decoded...
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 41kts (~ 47.2mph) in the northwest quadrant at 23:35:20Z
Remarks Section - Additional Remarks...
CORRECTED FOR MAX FL WIND. OUTBOUND WIND.
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
Quoting flowrida:
If the NHC projections follow suit when would Tampa start feeling the bad weather?


Just look at the NHC warning/cone map. Should give you a pretty good idea.
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Quoting floridaboy14:
almost impossible to get to the western gulf. the texas death ridge does not approve :)

Actually...the texas death ridge is expected to move away from us which would allow Isaac to go to the western gulf.
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Based on the data from the NOAA and Air Force reconnaissance planes, Isaac has a broad region of low pressure characterized by at least 2 low level vorticities rotating around the broad center of circulation. Also, I don't honestly see much in the way of flight level winds or SFMR that support the 40 kt current intensity estimate.
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Quoting floridaboy14:
i think i found its center. its the area lacking convection between the 2 blobs. around 15.5N and 62.4W moving off west at about 20mph


Look at this it you want to know where the COC is located. Its starting its intensification process as we speak

Issac's New COC location
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Hey it is a election year..Right blob republicans left blob democrats..The winner is.....
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Quoting PRweathercenter:
Tropical Storm Isaac To Pass Thourgh The Local Area Tommorrow
08/22/20120 Comments
 
Good evening,

The big story tonight continues to be tropical storm Isaac as it approaches the island of Guadalupe. Apparently this system has been reorganizing during the entire course of the day with the new low-level circulation forming right near the island of Guadalupe. We can notice this on the latest imagery from the martinique radar.


If we also noticed the infrared imagery of the system there's very cold cloudtops formming over the new center of circulation. It appears that now as this system enters the Caribbean has a chance to rapidly intensified as it passes very near Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands sometime tomorrow. We can expect very gusty winds in portions of Puerto Rico during the early morning hours Thursday with conditions deteriorating in the afternoon with hurricane conditions possible.


I would not rule out the idea of the system coming over the southwestern tip of Puerto Rico sometime Thursday evening near the towns of Waneka and Cabo Rojo. Regardless of whether the system directly touches Puerto Rico or not we can definitely expect to be on the worst side of the system, the north and eastern quadrant of the circulation. In this quadrant is where the heavyiest winds and rains are located also with possible tornadoes embedded in the system.If you have not made your current preparations please do so now as tomorrow will be too late! Please be safe and stay tuned to Puerto Rico weather center for all your local updates and warnings.

Dave Goodspeed



I've never heard of the town Waneko anywhere in Puerto Rico.
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1003. icmoore
Quoting Floodman:


I AM MIA...**smiles cryptically** "You don't know me, you never knew me...I was never here"


Good to see your psychedelic face in here again :)
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1002. Levi32
This is the very first TS-force wind observed within 50 miles of the center since Isaac's birth:

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Quoting AstroHurricane001:
Felix, 2007:



Isaac, 2012:



Hurricane Felix was one of the fastest intensifying hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the sixth named storm, second hurricane, and second Category 5 hurricane of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. Felix formed from a tropical wave on August 31, passing through the southern Windward Islands on September 1 before strengthening to attain hurricane status. A day later it rapidly strengthened into a major hurricane, and early on September 3 it was upgraded to Category 5 status Link
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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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