Isaac pounding Haiti and the Dominican Republic with torrential rains

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:24 PM GMT on August 25, 2012

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Tropical Storm Isaac is pounding Haiti and the Dominican Republic with torrential rains that are causing extremely dangerous flooding and landslides. Isaac's center passed over Haiti's southwest peninsula early this morning, tracking about 50 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince. As the center pulled away to the northwest, Isaac's heaviest thunderstorms moved ashore over Hispaniola near sunrise, and are now dumping heavy rains with rainfall rates approaching one inch per hour, according to recent microwave satellite estimates. Barahona on the south coast of the Dominican Republic had received 5.14" of rain as of 8 am EDT this morning, and it is probable that some mountainous areas in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have already received up to 10" of rain from Isaac. These rains will continue though much of the day, and have the potential to cause high loss of life in Hispaniola.


Figure 1. A river north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti in flood due to rains from Isaac. Image from Amélie Baron via Twitter.

Latest observations
Isaac built a partial eyewall last night as the storm approached Haiti, but passage over the rough mountains of Haiti has destroyed the inner core, and the surface center of the storm is now fully exposed to view on satellite images. Radar out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba shows no sign of an organized center, but does reveal some very intense thunderstorms affecting Eastern Cuba, Western Haiti, and nearby islands. Latest data from the Air Force Hurricane Hunters confirm that Isaac has weakened; during their penetration to obtain their 7:08 am EDT center fix, the aircraft reported top surface winds of 55 mph with their SFMR instrument, top flight-level winds at 5,000 feet of 68 mph, and a pressure rise of 3 mb, to 998 mb. Infrared and visible satellite loops show that Isaac remains a large and well-organized storm, though it lacks an inner core. An analysis of upper level winds from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS shows that upper-level outflow is still good to the north, but is lacking elsewhere. An impressive large multi-day satellite animation of Isaac is available from the Navy Research Lab.


Figure 2. Rainfall rates estimated by the NOAA F-17 polar orbiting satellite at 6:21 am EDT August 25, 2012. Rainfall rates of 1 inch per hour (orange colors) were occurring in a large area to the south of Hispaniola, and these heavy rains have now moved onshore. Image credit: Navy Research Laboratory.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 0Z and 06Z (8 pm and 2 am EDT) model runs are similar in spread to the previous set of runs. Our two best models, the GFS and ECMWF, are virtually on top of each other, with a landfall location in the Florida Panhandle between Fort Walton Beach and Panama City. It is likely that the trough of low pressure pulling Isaac to the north will not be strong enough to pull Isaac all the way to the northeast and out to sea, and Isaac has the potential to drop torrential rains capable of causing serious flooding over the Southeast U.S. The latest 8-day precipitation forecast from the GFS model (Figure 3) calls for 10 - 15 inches of rain over portions of Georgia and South Carolina from Isaac. The ECMWF model, however, predicts that a ridge of high pressure will build in and force Isaac to the west after landfall, resulting in a slow motion across the Tennessee Valley into Arkansas by Friday. Arkansas is experiencing its worst drought in over 50 years, so the rains would be welcome there.


Figure 3. Predicted precipitation for the 8-day period from 2 am Saturday August 25 to 2 am Sunday September 2, from the 2 am EDT August 25 run of the GFS model. This model is predicting a wide swath of 5 - 10 inches of rain (orange colors) will affect portions of Cuba, Florida, the Bahamas, and the Southeast U.S. Image credit: NOAA/NCEP.

Intensity forecast for Isaac
Isaac survived passage over Hispaniola relatively intact. It's large size aided this, and this will also help it survive passage over Cuba today and Sunday. By the time Isaac pops off the coast of Cuba into the Florida Straits on Sunday, it will likely be a 50 mph tropical storm with a large, intact circulation. Isaac will be over very warm waters of 31°C (88°F) in the Florida Straits, wind shear will be light to moderate, and the upper-level wind pattern will feature an upper-level anticyclone over the storm, aiding its upper-level outflow. As I discussed in my previous post, Crossing Hispaniola and Cuba: a history, there have been five storms since 1900 with an intensity similar to Isaac, which crossed over both Haiti and Cuba, then emerged into the Florida Straits. These five storms strengthened by 5 - 20 mph in their first 24 hours after coming off the coast of Cuba. Given the relatively intact structure of Isaac so far, and the favorable conditions for intensification, I expect Isaac will intensify by 15 - 20 mph in 24 hours once the center moves off of the north coast of Cuba. If Isaac spends a full two days over water after passing the Florida Keys, it is possible that it will have enough time to develop a full eyewall and undergo rapid intensification into a Category 2 or 3 hurricane. The latest 06Z (2 am EDT) run of the GFDL model is calling for Isaac to intensify to Category 2 strength, then weaken to Category 1 at landfall in Mississippi on Tuesday. The 06Z HWRF run is calling for landfall in the Florida Panhandle near Fort Walton Beach as a borderline Category 2 or 3 hurricane. The 5 am EDT NHC wind probability forecast gave Isaac a 19% chance of becoming a Category 2 or stronger hurricane in the Gulf. I expect these odds are too low, and that Isaac has a 40% chance of becoming a Category 2 or stronger hurricane in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. I doubt the storm has much of a chance of hitting Category 4 or 5 status, though. While the surface waters in the Gulf of Mexico are very warm, near 30 - 31°C, the total heat content of these waters is unusually low for this time of year. We got lucky with the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current this summer, as it did not shed a big warm eddy during the height of hurricane season, like happened in 2005 (I discuss this in my Gulf of Mexico Loop Current Tutorial.) Without the type of super-high heat energy we had in 2005 in the Gulf of Mexico, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012 will have difficulty forming.

Invest 97L off the coast of Africa
A tropical wave (Invest 97L) is located about 350 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. The storm has a modest amount of spin and heavy thunderstorms, and is under moderate wind shear. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 97L a 30% chance of developing by Monday morning. The 8 am EDT SHIPS model forecast predicts moderate shear for the next 5 days over 97L, so some development is possible if 97L can fend off the dry air to its north. None of the reliable models foresee that 97L will be a threat to the Lesser Antilles Islands. However, both the GFS and ECMWF models predict that a tropical wave that has not yet emerged from the coast of Africa may develop next week, and potentially take a more westward track towards the Lesser Antilles.

The Weather Channel's hurricane expert, Brian Norcross, is now writing a blog on wunderground.com. For those of you unfamiliar with his background, here's an excerpt from his first post, from last night:

"This evening 20 years ago the sun set on the horrendous first day after Hurricane Andrew. I was in downtown Miami at the studios of the NBC station. We knew that there was "total" destruction in South Dade County, but even that didn't describe it. Here's to the people that went through it... and held their families together in a situation that most people can't imagine."

Angela Fritz will have a new post here by 6 pm EDT. For the next few days, I plan to do the morning blog post, and Angela will be doing the late afternoon post.

Jeff Masters

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Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31884
Quoting RTSplayer:
The surface low near Grand Cayman is about 3/4ths closed still, but convection there is intensifying on funktop.

There's a piece of ULL centered a couple hundred miles SSW of there which may be enhancing it.

Further, it looks like there may be a mid-level circulation forming as well.

Why isn't this showing up on any of the models except the NAM?!?


NAM: Natcho' Average Model
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Afternoon everybody.

Looking at the big picture... what are the odds Isaac can pull that moisture towards him it as it heads NW?

This is a whopper of asystem...
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2318. breald
Good afternoon everyone. Things are starting to get interesting for Florida. I say Isaac will shift to the east. But that is my uneducated guess.
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2316. GBguy88
Quoting Hurricanes305:


Impossible 97 degree SST OMG thats cant be possible.


Surely meant 87...
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Quoting Seflhurricane:
Isaac is pulling into the NW part of the circulation all the convection near andros island looks like its getting cranked up. also looked at the water temps near the north coast of cuba water is between 84-97 degree water so very high fuel


Impossible 97 degree SST OMG thats cant be possible.
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Faster Isaac goes the quicker it gets away from Cuba, forecasted to slow down some as well once in the Gulf.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23887
Quoting Cruiser29:


Or could be more in it, you know they are using the Euro and it has wide swings, not very reliable anymore
I'm only going by what most experts on here are saying. And if it goes to PCB-East then Mobile will get some rain only. We can use that but there will be lil to no wind that far away.
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you guys sould be thank full we got some in too track last year where where tracking nothing but weak TS this year we are doing marh better
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114927
Looks like the 5pm advisory has kept virtually the same track, but slowed the storm down a lot.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Becoming better organized. Outflow to the NW is becoming much, much better established than this morning. Convection increasing over the CoC.


This is looking Humongous. Wow possible RI also noticing its staying farther right of the official track and also the models are overdoing that HIGH which is frightening. Stay Tuned!!!
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Isaac is pulling into the NW part of the circulation all the convection near andros island looks like its getting cranked up. also looked at the water temps near the north coast of cuba water is between 84-87 degree water so very high fuel


sorry just corrected the 97
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000
WTNT44 KNHC 252102
TCDAT4

TROPICAL STORM ISAAC DISCUSSION NUMBER 19
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092012
500 PM EDT SAT AUG 25 2012

THE CENTER OF ISAAC IS CURRENTLY MOVING ALONG THE NORTH COAST OF
EASTERN CUBA. THE SATELLITE APPEARANCE IS SOMEWHAT DISORGANIZED...
WITH THE MAIN CONVECTIVE MASS 50 N MI OR MORE EAST OF THE LOW-LEVEL
CENTER. AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT HAS
REPORTED 850 MB FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS OF 56 KT TO THE NORTHEAST OF THE
CENTER...WITH RELIABLE-LOOKING SFMR SURFACE WIND DATA NEAR 50 KT.
BASED ON THIS...THE INITIAL INTENSITY REMAINS 50 KT. THE CENTRAL
PRESSURE OF 997 MB IS BASED ON A COMBINATION OF AIRCRAFT DATA AND
CUBAN SURFACE OBSERVATIONS.

THE INITIAL MOTION IS NOW 310/18. ISAAC IS CURRENTLY PART OF A
LARGE LOW/MID-LEVEL LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM COVERING THE NORTHWESTERN
CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE ADJACENT LAND AND OCEAN AREAS. THIS LOW
PRESSURE AREA HAS A SECOND VORTICITY CENTER BETWEEN JAMAICA AND THE
CAYMAN ISLANDS...AND FOR THE NEXT 24-36 HR ISAAC AND THIS CENTER
WILL LIKELY ROTATE AROUND EACH OTHER. BASED ON THIS EXPECTATION...
THE FORECAST TRACK SHOWS ISAAC MOVING NORTHWESTWARD FOR 12 HR OR
SO...FOLLOWED BY A TURN TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST. IT IS POSSIBLE
THE STORM COULD MAKE A SHARPER TURN THAN FORECAST...AS THE UKMET IS
SHOWING AN ALMOST DUE WEST MOTION BETWEEN THE FLORIDA KEYS AND CUBA
NEAR THE 36 HR POINT. THE EARLY PART OF THE FORECAST TRACK IS
SHIFTED A LITTLE TO THE LEFT OF THE PREVIOUS FORECAST...BUT STILL
LIES TO THE RIGHT OF THE CONSENSUS MODELS AND THE BULK OF THE
DYNAMICAL MODELS. AFTER 36 HR...ISAAC SHOULD BREAK FREE OF OR
ABSORB THE REST OF THE LOW...WITH THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE TO THE EAST
BECOMING THE DOMINANT STEERING INFLUENCE. THIS SHOULD ALLOW THE
STORM TO GRADUALLY TURN TOWARD THE NORTHWEST AND NORTH OVER THE
EASTERN AND NORTHERN GULF OF MEXICO...WITH AN EVENTUAL LANDFALL
ALONG THE NORTHERN GULF COAST IN 72-96 HR. WHERE THIS MIGHT OCCUR
IS STILL RATHER UNCERTAIN...WITH THE TRACK GUIDANCE SPREAD BETWEEN
SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA AND THE CENTRAL FLORIDA PANHANDLE. THIS PART
OF THE TRACK FORECAST LIES IN THE CENTER OF THE GUIDANCE ENVELOPE
NEAR THE CONSENSUS MODELS AND IS SIMILAR TO THE PREVIOUS FORECAST.

A COMBINATION OF LIGHT WESTERLY VERTICAL WIND SHEAR AND LAND
INTERACTION SHOULD AT LEAST SLOW INTENSIFICATION FOR THE NEXT 12
HR. AFTER THAT...THE SHEAR SHOULD DIMINISH WHILE THE CYCLONE
REACHES OPEN WATER. THIS SHOULD ALLOW ISAAC TO GRADUALLY STRENGTHEN
INTO A HURRICANE NEAR THE FLORIDA KEYS OR OVER THE SOUTHEASTERN
GULF OF MEXICO. THE NEW INTENSITY FORECAST IS SIMILAR TO THE
PREVIOUS FORECAST AND IS NEAR OR A LITTLE ABOVE THE INTENSITY
CONSENSUS. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE GLOBAL MODELS ARE
FORECASTING A VERY FAVORABLE PATTERN OF UPPER-LEVEL WINDS OVER THE
NORTHERN GULF OF MEXICO BY 72 HR. SHOULD THIS VERIFY AND SHOULD
ISAAC ESTABLISH AN INNER CORE...THE CYCLONE COULD BE SIGNIFICANTLY
STRONGER THAN CURRENTLY FORECAST.

IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO FOCUS ON THE EXACT TRACK OF ISAAC DUE TO THE
UNCERTAINTIES IN THE FORECAST AND THE FACT THAT ISAAC HAS A LARGE
AREA OF TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS ASSOCIATED WITH IT.


FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 25/2100Z 21.3N 76.0W 50 KT 60 MPH
12H 26/0600Z 22.6N 78.0W 55 KT 65 MPH
24H 26/1800Z 24.1N 80.6W 60 KT 70 MPH
36H 27/0600Z 25.2N 82.7W 65 KT 75 MPH
48H 27/1800Z 26.5N 84.3W 75 KT 85 MPH
72H 28/1800Z 29.0N 86.0W 85 KT 100 MPH
96H 29/1800Z 31.5N 86.0W 55 KT 65 MPH...INLAND
120H 30/1800Z 33.5N 85.5W 25 KT 30 MPH...INLAND

$$
FORECASTER BEVEN
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The NHC just stated everyone from Southeastern LA to central FL Panhandle is still in the cone of uncertainty so there you go..everyone keep eyes peeled
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2306. pottery
Thundering here at 11n61w.
The south is all black and morbid looking.
And I have to go out in a while.....

Sucks, that.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24236
isaac is such a rebel, doesnt listen to his mother (nature) at all! hold to your hat hattie! were goin roun' tha bend.
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The surface low near Grand Cayman is about 3/4ths closed still, but convection there is intensifying on funktop.

There's a piece of ULL centered a couple hundred miles SSW of there which may be enhancing it.

Further, it looks like there may be a mid-level circulation forming as well.

Why isn't this showing up on any of the models except the NAM?!?
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I am not trying to scare anyone but just thought this was interesting.

Track over Florida for Katrina 2005
Link

Track of Isaac (Current) 2012
Link

My point is that if you are in the cone be ALERT and ready. NOAA has forecasted track but only a slight change makes a huge difference. 2005 also showed a CAT 2 Katrina hurricane in the panhandle. So don't underestimate this storm. If you are told to get out then leave! You never know what is going to happen.
I wish everyone the best.
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2301. WxLogic
HH about to punch through the center shortly.
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 4965
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2298. CJ5
Quoting TomballTXPride:
Moving at 21 MPH. Wow. That's really moving.


Yes, that is pretty fast, could be a detrement to improving.
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2297. pottery
Quoting weatherh98:


You may have made wkc a very happy camper:)


:):))
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24236
2296. milo617
Meanwhile in the pacific....



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Quoting clickBOOM:
Long time lurker here (2005), I see Isaac is doing what most storms do after reaching a certain proximity.....what he/she wants.
From another lurker..."Mother Nature makes the rules, she doesn't follow them". Good luck to all on the northern Gulf Coast (LA, AL, MS, FL).
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2294. pottery
Quoting seflagamma:


Sir Pott, so true!!!

I must really goooooo bye for now.. play nice..

That would be boring. Impossible, too!
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24236
2293. Michfan
Quoting SykKid:


if thats the case why is the % so low? they dont seem like they believe it will happen


Because its a guess more than anything and the NHC does not like to overhype storms. They tend to stay conservative.
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Quoting SykKid:


if thats the case why is the % so low? they dont seem like they believe it will happen

NHC probabilities are always very low.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31884
Quoting Hurricanes101:


no they werent marked as suspect
Notice the flight-level winds.


204500 2056N 07440W 8428 01518 0041 +160 +160 174028 029 053 013 05
204530 2057N 07442W 8429 01517 0039 +160 +160 180035 037 058 011 01
204600 2058N 07444W 8432 01512 0034 +160 +160 183037 038 059 009 01
204630 2100N 07445W 8430 01515 0036 +160 +160 182038 039 060 008 05
204700 2101N 07447W 8429 01516 0037 +160 +160 184036 038 059 009 01
204730 2102N 07448W 8433 01508 0035 +160 +160 180030 035 058 010 05
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21113
2290. Drakoen
Quoting Hurricanes101:


Drak, do you think a stronger Isaac would tend to be further east in track?


possibly
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2289. hydrus
Quoting seflagamma:



I agree, this is getting too close for comfort.
Believe me, been thru a few "eyes" and they are bad... been thru a lot of "outter bands" and that can get bad...


It is all measured by clean up "eyes" mean your entire yard is gone aka Wilma...

flooding and clean up... 1999 Irene...

Katrina, Rita, Jeanne, Francis, all one day of yard clean up...


We will get some nasty but the upper Gulf Coast will some really bad nasty.
Where are you located Gamma?
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Good afternoon...

I did yet another blog post 12 hours ago...and it looks like my first 12 hrs of forecast verified spot-on with track and intensity (my first 12 hrs had a rightward bias...and said he'd have 60 mph max winds)....

But now...the center has veered to the left earlier than I though...I am going to check to see if the synoptic flow makes sense for a leftward bend...or if this is a wobble...hmmm....

As usual...my blog update also covers the rest of the Atlantic tropics....
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IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE GLOBAL MODELS ARE
FORECASTING A VERY FAVORABLE PATTERN OF UPPER-LEVEL WINDS OVER THE
NORTHERN GULF OF MEXICO BY 72 HR. SHOULD THIS VERIFY AND SHOULD
ISAAC ESTABLISH AN INNER CORE...THE CYCLONE COULD BE SIGNIFICANTLY
STRONGER THAN CURRENTLY FORECAST.
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Non-contaminated SFMR.

59 knots
(~ 67.8 mph)


Flight level winds don't support it however.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23887
Quoting pottery:
It's all as clear as mud.......

but the centre is offshore Cuba.
The wind field is 200 or so MILES
The rainfall will be real heavy, within a radius of over 400 MILES from wherever the centre is passing.

Relax!
Everyone will get something......


AMEN to all that!
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Quoting pottery:
It's all as clear as mud.......

but the centre is offshore Cuba.
The wind field is 200 or so MILES
The rainfall will be real heavy, within a radius of over 400 MILES from wherever the centre is passing.

Relax!
Everyone will get something......


You may have made wkc a very happy camper:)
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Quoting pottery:
It's all as clear as mud.......

but the centre is offshore Cuba.
The wind field is 200 or so MILES
The rainfall will be real heavy, within a radius of over 400 MILES from wherever the centre is passing.

Relax!
Everyone will get something......


Sir Pott, so true!!!

I must really goooooo bye for now.. play nice..
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 298 Comments: 40891
This is what the NHC is talking about. This could be one of the bigger reasons there is spread in the guidance.

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What I like about the model runs is by tomorrows runs all of AL will be out of the cone. Or could be anyway.
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RGB:

Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
Quoting Dakster:


Levi talked about that in his tidbit...
I didn't see his tidbit today.However if Isaac takes the NHC track then perhaps a cat 2 or 3.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16792
2277. Grothar
Moving much faster than earlier.
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Seriously, you all have had me hooked here most of the day... I must shut this off and get some end of the week reports done before I can leave work!

I will check back in an hour.
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 298 Comments: 40891
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Suspect.

I don't think so, they weren't flagged and rain rates were low.
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2274. pottery
It's all as clear as mud.......

but the centre is offshore Cuba.
The wind field is 200 or so MILES
The rainfall will be real heavy, within a radius of over 400 MILES from wherever the centre is passing.

Relax!
Everyone will get something......
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24236
2273. wn1995
IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE GLOBAL MODELS ARE
FORECASTING A VERY FAVORABLE PATTERN OF UPPER-LEVEL WINDS OVER THE
NORTHERN GULF OF MEXICO BY 72 HR. SHOULD THIS VERIFY AND SHOULD
ISAAC ESTABLISH AN INNER CORE...THE CYCLONE COULD BE SIGNIFICANTLY
STRONGER THAN CURRENTLY FORECAST.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Suspect.


no they werent marked as suspect
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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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