Isaac lashing the Keys; an eyewall is building

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:48 PM GMT on August 26, 2012

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Tropical Storm Isaac is steadily organizing as it lashes the Florida Keys with heavy rain and tropical storm-force winds. Sustained winds of 44 mph and 41 mph have been observed at Molasses Reef and Sombrero Key, respectively, this morning. Radar out of Key West shows an increase in spiral banding, and the beginnings of an eyewall. An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft completed its first pass through the center of Isaac near 11:30 am EDT, and did not find the pressure had fallen, or that the peak winds had increased. Infrared and visible satellite loops show that Isaac is a large and increasingly well-organized storm. An analysis of upper level winds from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS shows that upper-level outflow is quite good and increasing to the north, but is lacking elsewhere. Moderate wind shear and dry air to the south are interfering with heavy thunderstorm development on Isaac's south side. Heavy rains from Isaac are lingering over Haiti and the Dominican Republic; flash floods in Haiti from Isaac's torrential rains killed at least four people.


Figure 1. Morning reflectivity image from the Radar out of Key West radar shows the northwest section of an eyewall beginning to form to the southeast of the city.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 0Z and 06Z (8 pm and 2 am EDT) model runs have diverged significantly, and we can no longer be confident we know where Isaac will make landfall on the Gulf Coast. One camp of models, the UKMET and ECMWF, predict that a trough of low pressure moving across the Southeast U.S. will be strong enough to turn Isaac north to a landfall in the Florida Panhandle. The other set of models, the GFDL, GFS, and HWRF, predict the trough will bypass Isaac, and a ridge of high pressure will build in and force Isaac to a landfall over Louisiana. The official NHC forecast averages out these two extremes, calling for a landfall midway between the two solutions. Odds are, one of the two model solutions will turn out to be the correct one, and the NHC will be forced to make a substantial adjustment in their forecast track to the east or the west. Isaac has the potential to drop torrential rains capable of causing serious flooding and drought relief over the South. The latest 8-day precipitation forecast from the GFS model calls for 10 - 20 inches of rain over Southeast Louisiana, where it predicts Isaac will make landfall. The ECMWF model, however, these heavy rains will fall more over the Florida Panhandle, Alabama, and Georgia.


Figure 2. A hurricane forecaster's dilemma: which set of models is correct? The latest set of 0Z and 06Z (8 pm and 2 am EDT) model runs have diverged significantly. Our two top models--the GFS and ECMWF--have 72-hour forecasts that are about 350 miles apart. The ECMWF forecast is not shown here, but lies just to the west of the UKMET forecast (white line.)

Intensity forecast for Isaac
Isaac survived passage over Hispaniola and Cuba relatively intact. It's large size aided this. Isaac is over very warm waters of 31°C (88°F) with high total heat content in the Florida Straits, but is encountering moderate wind shear of 10 - 15 knots due to upper-level winds out of the southwest. This shear is predicted to relax to the light range tonight as an upper-level anticyclone becomes established over the storm. This should allow for more substantial intensification after Isaac passes the Florida Keys. However, the total heat content of the ocean decreases for Isaac Monday morning as it encounters a relatively cool ocean eddy in the Southeast Gulf of Mexico. If Isaac takes a more westerly track, passing due south of the Central Louisiana coast, the storm will encounter a modest warm eddy, which would aid intensification. The intensify forecasts from the various models are very divergent. The latest 06Z (2 am EDT) run of the GFDL model keeps Isaac as a strong tropical storm until landfall in Louisiana. Isaac will undergo rapid intensification into a Category 3 hurricane as it hits New Orleans, says the latest 06Z (2 am EDT) run of the HWRF model. The ECMWF model has Isaac as a strong Category 2 storm with a central pressure near 950 mb as it hits near the Alabama/Florida border.

Comparing Isaac with Ike of 2008
The current situation with Isaac is similar in some ways to that of Hurricane Ike of 2008. Ike spent considerable time over Cuba, weakening from a Category 4 to a Category 1 storm. The storm couldn't put its energy into building a strong inner core, but it was able to build up its outer rainbands that were over very warm waters. This resulted in a major expansion of its wind field, with tropical storm-force winds extending out 275 miles from the center at one point. Ike was able to intensify into a Category 2 storm on its path towards Texas, and had an unusually low pressure for a Cat 2 storm with 100 mph winds--944 mb. That's a central pressure more typical of a Category 3 storm, but Ike could only manage Category 2 winds, since it had such a large chunk of the atmosphere to keep spinning. With Isaac's TS winds already extending out to 205 miles, maybe we'll see another Ike-type situation as it intensifies--the storm will have an unusually low pressure in order to keep a huge wind field spinning, but never make it above Category 2, since it will take so long to spin up such a large wind field.

Storm surge forecast for Isaac
Isaac is a very large storm, with tropical storm-force winds that extend out 205 miles from the center. For comparison, Hurricane Katrina at landfall had tropical storm-force winds that extended out 230 miles from its center. Isaac's large size will enable it to set a large area of the ocean into motion, which will generate a large storm surge once the storm approaches land on the Gulf Coast. The latest 3:30 am EDT Integrated Kinetic Energy analysis from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division put the destructive potential of Isaac's winds near 0 on a scale of 1 to 6, but the destructive potential of Isaacs's storm surge was 2.1 on a scale of 1 to 6. A 2008 paper by Irish et al., The influence of storm size on hurricane surge, found that large storms like Isaac are capable to delivering a 30% larger storm surge to the coast than a smaller storm with the same maximum wind speeds. The angle with which the storm hit the coast is important, too--a storm moving due north or slightly east of north will deliver a storm surge about 10% greater than a storm moving NNW or NW. Consult our Storm Surge pages for detailed information on what the risk is for the coast. I expect that Isaac's storm surge will be about 30% higher than the typical surge one would expect based on the maximum wind speeds.

Invest 97L off the coast of Africa
A tropical wave (Invest 97L) is located about 650 miles west 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 50% chance of developing by Tuesday morning. 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 late this week, and potentially take a more westward track towards the Lesser Antilles, arriving around September 2.

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. I'm in Atlanta to help out The Weather Channel with their on-air hurricane coverage, and will be on either in the afternoon or evening on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Jeff Masters

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2226. aspectre
12:13 AM GMT on August 28, 2012
test deleted
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
2225. HarleyStormDude52
12:48 PM GMT on August 27, 2012
How reliable is the GFDL model?
Member Since: July 8, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 345
2224. A4Guy
2:25 AM GMT on August 27, 2012
East-Central Broward...bad squall just moved through. One of the heaviest winds of the day.

New said we had 53 mph sustained winds near where I live..with gusts to 70. No tree branches down, though power has flickered a few times. PLEASE no power outage!!!!!!
Member Since: June 23, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 668
2223. wxmobilejim
1:28 AM GMT on August 27, 2012
Looks like Isaac is stalling. The HH are going back toward the last center fix. I wonder how this will affect the models tonight?
Member Since: May 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 231
2222. Hhunter
12:50 AM GMT on August 27, 2012
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2973
2221. Hhunter
12:48 AM GMT on August 27, 2012
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2973
2220. Hhunter
12:45 AM GMT on August 27, 2012
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2973
2219. Hhunter
12:43 AM GMT on August 27, 2012
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2973
2218. Miamigal
12:35 AM GMT on August 27, 2012
We are getting the backside lots of rain but not much wind, hope that the interaction with us weaken him a bit I have family right across from mandaville LA and in Katrina we drove all thr way there not knowing if they were alive or dead. have a lot of friends Slidell, and NOLA. I would HATE for a repeat. Those folks really can't take that.

Member Since: September 28, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5
2217. SFLWeatherman
11:23 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Bad in WPB all day!!!
Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4957
2216. SFLWeatherman
11:18 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
And seven years ago ...almost to the day ...we were looking at this ...let's hope history does not repeat itself!!!
Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4957
2215. StormHype
10:57 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting Clearwater1:
Two bad things about the latest 18z gfs run.

1st nola hit and then it stalls Isaac for almost a day over the city.

2nd, 180 hrs out, another storm, over PR. Curves just before FL, but we all know that can change, one way or the other.

I'm a GFS believer, in final day tracks and early storm prediction. But that just me


But, one storm at a time. Good luck North gulf coast states.


Models over 120 hours shouldn't be considered more than a *possibility*. Of course, everyone seems to forget that between the last storm and the next storm. lol
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1208
2214. Clearwater1
10:45 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Two bad things about the latest 18z gfs run.

1st nola hit and then it stalls Isaac for almost a day over the city.

2nd, 180 hrs out, another storm, over PR. Curves just before FL, but we all know that can change, one way or the other.

I'm a GFS believer, in final day tracks and early storm prediction. But that just me


But, one storm at a time. Good luck North gulf coast states.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1548
2213. A4Guy
10:36 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting odinslightning:
i thought conditions were suppose to be more conducive to R.I. once it entered the gulf? and what the f**k is this dry air doing? how in the hell can there be this much dry air for this duration of time....you would think that Isaac would have moistened the air in the GoM/Caribbean over the past week.....??? does this have to do with the texas high that is causing all of the drought problems?



sounds like you're disappointed. If you are seriously looking for RI or improving conditions, you clearly have not been through a hurricane.
Member Since: June 23, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 668
2212. hurricanehunter27
10:26 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting Dakster:
That Texas high and drought has caused a forming or weak tropical storm to go *poof* as soon as it gets near it.

Key word in this is forming Tropical Storm. If Isaac makes landfall in Texas (I doubt it) that will not affect him.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3851
2211. lopaka001
10:14 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
There is a new blog everyone refresh your connection..
Member Since: February 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 239
2210. ChillinInTheKeys
10:13 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Old center gone, new one forming South and West of Key West.
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 695
2209. alcassel
10:11 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting violet312s:
Brawley CA another 5.4 quake a few mins ago.


A 5.4 quake in California is not, by itself, be really big news, although it might cause some minor damage locally and scare some people.

Since the LA Times is reporting that this is part of a "very active swarm" of earthquakes at the southern edge of the San Andreas fault, it might be worth putting this report into perspective for just a moment before rejoining the discussion of Isaac.

Swarms of earthquakes have occurred in or near Brawley in recent years, and the director of the USC-based Southern California Earthquake Center said that the significant seismic activity means that there is a "higher probability of having more seismic activity." What, exactly, does this mean?

If you want something really hard to predict and pin down, this is it. Everyone in Southern California knows that they are long overdue for "the big one," and this may (or may not, or perhaps could, or maybe couldn't, who knows?) be an indication that the San Andreas fault is finally becoming unstuck down there. And the "big one" may possibly (or not) occur during the landfall of Isaac.

Or maybe this last earthquake is on a fault completely unrelated to the San Andreas and means absolutely nothing.

Although it will happen sometime, I think it is unlikely that a large earthquake is going to happen in Southern California in the next few weeks, because the section of the San Andreas fault from the Salton Sea to San Bernardino hasn't ruptured since 1690.

So let's stay calm for now and concentrate on the more imminent dangers lurking in and near the Gulf of Mexico.
Member Since: October 9, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
2208. lopaka001
10:09 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting Dakster:
Now all eyes fall on the Gulf Coast as Isaac pulls away from the Florida Peninsula.

May he stumble on some shear and cold water to keep his intensity at bay.



Define cold?
;=)

Member Since: February 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 239
2207. ChillinInTheKeys
10:09 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Things here in the Lower Keys fortunately have been pretty much as forecast and hopefully it'll stay that way. Hurricane warnings are down but School closings have been extended through Tuesday.
Probably 35 gusting to 45 right now with light rain.
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 695
2206. StormPro
10:08 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting odinslightning:
i thought conditions were suppose to be more conducive to R.I. once it entered the gulf? and what the f**k is this dry air doing? how in the hell can there be this much dry air for this duration of time....you would think that Isaac would have moistened the air in the GoM/Caribbean over the past week.....??? does this have to do with the texas high that is causing all of the drought problems?

Wow...you seem disappointed we here on the northern gulf coast aren't going to meet sure death...thanks
Member Since: August 4, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 606
2205. SSideBrac
10:03 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting stormpetrol:


They say History repeats itself, though 7 years sames a bit too soon history wise. WE had Paloma in 2008 hit Cayman Brac 76 years to the date after it was devastated by the 1932 Hurricane( strange, weird and makes one wonder)


Shhhhh with that Paloma word
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 314
2204. hurricanehanna
9:59 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
I'm back. Car gassed, gas for generator and water is starting to fly off the shelves here in Lafayette. People are really taking notice - I was worried since it is a Sunday that they would be preoccupied with other things.
Member Since: September 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3488
2203. dipchip
9:57 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
If Isaac were to steer a course of 300 from its 5 PM EST position at 15 knots it would be in Humble Texas in 52 hours or Tue 9 PM local time. Currently on course 295 / 15
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 73
2202. Dakster
9:50 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
That Texas high and drought has caused a forming or weak tropical storm to go *poof* as soon as it gets near it.

Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10572
2200. Chicklit
9:44 PM GMT on August 26, 2012

Isaac is sprawled out.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11390
2199. Chicklit
9:42 PM GMT on August 26, 2012




CIMSS finally updated to 12 p.m.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11390
2198. Dakster
9:40 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting BahaHurican:
Why do they always wait until the last week in August? That's like automatic hurricane season... Same thing happened in '08.


I don't think anyone ever accused politicians of being smart or compassionate...
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10572
2197. TallyWeather15
9:39 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting GTcooliebai:
There looks like a couple mini vortices spinning around a mean center, didn't the NHC say the center is broad?
Is it possibe that one of these other vortex could consolidate into the main center, thus affecting the track?
Member Since: June 26, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 39
2196. Dakster
9:38 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Now all eyes fall on the Gulf Coast as Isaac pulls away from the Florida Peninsula.

May he stumble on some shear and cold water to keep his intensity at bay.

Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10572
2195. BahaHurican
9:36 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting brywalker:


Maybe, but the rest of the RNC will go on as scheduled while people are suffering or dying because of Isaac
Why do they always wait until the last week in August? That's like automatic hurricane season... Same thing happened in '08.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22580
2194. UWalkTheMall
9:36 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting redwagon:

Oh, we can quit anytime.

Blah, ha, ha, ha!
Member Since: October 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 83
2193. Jedkins01
9:35 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting Hurricanes101:


What do you expect for us in St Pete/Tampa based on the most recent track?


It's hard to say, we won't get that much if we don't get more heating. Unless Isaac get's closer, we are too far away from Isaac for the storm to produce significant lift over the stabilized landmass. We may not get much at all until tomorrow when we get more heating in combination with deep tropical moisture. I think stronger thunderstorms will be possible near the coast with 45 to 55 mph gusts in heavy cells possible and maybe a spin-up tornado or two.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7834
2192. redwagon
9:31 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting ITCZ:
Weather station at Key West, FL is reporting sustained winds of 63 mph. http://bit.ly/MUr9zT

.....this blog is kind of addictive isn't it?

Oh, we can quit anytime.
Member Since: August 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3278
2191. charlottefl
9:30 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Something is going on inner core wise. Isaac was looking much healthier earlier, and now the COC is looking ragged, and the feeders off to the NE are shrinking in size....
Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2687
2190. amd
9:29 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting GTcooliebai:
There looks like a couple mini vortices spinning around a mean center, didn't the NHC say the center is broad?


Between the last two recon vortex messages, Isaac has traveled 0.30 degrees west, and actually lost -0.0167 degrees of latitude.

1st recon message:

A. Time of Center Fix: 26th day of the month at 18:46:40Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 24°01'N 81°43'W (24.0167N 81.7167W)

2nd recon message:

A. Time of Center Fix: 26th day of the month at 20:24:50Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 24°00'N 82°01'W (24.N 82.0167W)

To put it simply, I am not getting why people think that this storm is moving to the north.
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1024
2189. NortheastGuy
9:29 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting stormchaser19:
Richard Pasch


He think Isaac will be a weak Cat.2
He looks like the Hambergler from Mcdonald's...lol.
Member Since: August 26, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 87
2188. Clearwater1
9:27 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting ITCZ:


I'm not ready to admit my prob--hey wait,WUa? Are you one of the operators standing by to "help"? :)
LOL, no, way beyond help.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1548
2187. Clearwater1
9:26 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Looks like 98L on its way.
Yes, we may be going through this same thing at the beginning of Sept. I hope it turns out to sea RE 98L
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1548
2186. alcassel
9:25 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting sar2401:


See what the 5 pm update brings. Remember, there's still a 1 in 3 chance the storm could at least affect you if you are outside the cone.


No, that's not quite true, otherwise there would be people in Seattle worried about a one-third probability of Isaac affecting them.

More precisely, there is, I believe, one chance in three of the circulation center or eye passing somewhere outside the cone. That's different from there being one chance in three of the storm affecting someone outside of the cone. The actual probability that someone outside of the cone being affected by the storm depends upon, among other things, (1) the definition of what "affecting" means, (2) the overall size of the storm, (3) the distance the person is outside of the cone, and (don't laugh) (3) the size of the earth -- in other words, it is related to the area of the earth outside of the two-thirds probability cone, the area covered by the storm itself, and whether you consider being able to look at impressive cirrus clouds as being "affected" by the storm.

The fact is, for smaller storms having paths that are hard to predict, there is probably less than one chance out of three that you would be affected by the storm even if you are inside the cone, even if the storm actually remained in the cone during its entire journey. Consider, hypothetically, the next storm headed this way from Africa, for example. At this point in time, the whole east coast of the United States from West Quoddy Head, Maine to Port Isabel, Texas might lie within the cone. But far fewer than two-thirds of the people within that cone would be affected, if anyone is at all.
Member Since: October 9, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
2185. GTcooliebai
9:25 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting gator23:


I have been posting this for n hour now. The COC has stalled or is drifting north.

There looks like a couple mini vortices spinning around a mean center, didn't the NHC say the center is broad?
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
2184. ITCZ
9:24 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting Clearwater1:
It's very addictive. Wait until you find yourself up until 1 or 2 am, staring at the 00z model runs. Or maybe you are there already. If so dial 1 800 WUa ddict and admit your problem.


I'm not ready to admit my prob--hey wait,WUa? Are you one of the operators standing by to "help"? :)
Member Since: September 5, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 47
2183. bluehaze27
9:24 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
It will be an interesting week coming up with Isaac threatening Louisiana and a possible Leslie to keep an eye on here in Homestead. My shutters are staying up.

Link
Member Since: March 26, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 813
2182. wildbillstikihut
9:24 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
I am in Key West. This storm so far has not been as bad as some of the cold fronts we get in the winter. I would like to compare it to a thunderstorm, but there has been no thunder, and only an average amount of rain. It is kind of strange to be so close to the center, but so far from Miami where it seems to be much worse.
Member Since: September 25, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
2181. GTcooliebai
9:23 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting hurricanes20120:
nice tropical wave!!!
Looks like 98L on its way.
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
2180. Clearwater1
9:22 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting ITCZ:
Weather station at Key West, FL is reporting sustained winds of 63 mph. http://bit.ly/MUr9zT

.....this blog is kind of addictive isn't it?
It's very addictive. Wait until you find yourself up until 1 or 2 am, staring at the 00z model runs. Or maybe you are there already. If so dial 1 800 WUa ddict and admit your problem.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1548
2179. fredric1979
9:22 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
So with no watches west of New Orleans is the NHC discounting the GPS Ensemble runs past New Orleans? I know the Europeans models were back over Mobile. I am fearing a Mississipi landfall just west of Mobile just east of NHC.
Member Since: August 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 98
2178. Levi32
9:21 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
New blog is up by Angela.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26684
2177. teammc
9:21 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Can someone post the surface maps show the subtropical ridge and trough. Thank you
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 106
2176. TropicalAnalystwx13
9:21 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Quoting bappit:

So now that we have the knee jerk HUH? out of the way, what might account for the intensity forecast?

Nothing. There is no reason it's so low.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32528

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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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