Unanswered questions concerning Hurricane Isaac

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:35 PM GMT on August 31, 2012

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The top winds of Tropical Depression Isaac have fallen to 25 mph, but the storm continues to be a potent rain-maker as it heads north-northwest at 11 mph into Missouri. Isaac has spawned up to 20 suspected tornadoes, brought storm surges as high as 13.6' to the coast (in Lake Borgne, LA), and dumped 20" of rain at one station in New Orleans. The 13.27" of rain that fell at Hattiesburg, MS broke the record for wettest August in the city's history (previous record: 13.03" in 1987.) Major flooding is occurring on seven rivers in Louisiana and Mississippi. Isaac is being blamed for at least four deaths in the U.S., 24 in Haiti, and five in the Dominican Republic.

A few notable rainfall totals from Isaac, through 11 am EDT on Friday:

20.08" New Orleans, LA
15.02" Marion, MS
13.99" Pascagoula, MS
13.27" Hattiesburg, MS
10.85" Gulfport, MS
10.39" Slidell, LA
10.17" Biloxi, MS
9.85" Mobile, AL
7.38" Pine Bluff, AR
5.95" Baton Rouge, LA

A major reason for Isaac's heavy rainfall totals has been its very slow motion. This slow speed was due to the fact Isaac has been bumping into a ridge of high pressure that is unusually strong, due to the intense drought over the center of the U.S.; strong drought-amplified high pressure areas are very resistant to allowing any low pressure areas to intrude into their domain. The high pressure area was strong enough this week to allow several all-time records for heat this late in the year to be set:

112° on August 29 at Winner, SD
108° on August 29 at Valentine, NE
107° on August 29 at Corpus Christi, TX
97° on August 29 at Denver, CO (2nd highest so late in the year)


Figure 1. Nighttime view of Hurricane Isaac taken at 1:57 am CDT August 29, 2012, by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi-NPP satellite. The VIIRS day-night band detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared, and uses light intensification to enable the detection of dim signals. In this case, the clouds of Isaac were lit by moonlight. Image credit: NASA.

Isaac's beneficial rains falling in drought-stricken regions
Hurricanes get a lot of attention because of the billions in damage they cost, and the lives they disrupt. AIR Worldwide estimated today that insured damage from Isaac would cost up to $2 billion. This does not include damage to infrastructure or uninsured damage, so the final price tag of Isaac's rampage will be more like $3 - $5 billion. However, Isaac is now dumping beneficial rains over Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky--regions stricken by the worst drought since the 1950s or 1930s, depending upon the exact location. These regions need 9 - 18 inches of rain to pull them out of drought. Isaac's 3 - 6 inches of rain will not end the drought, but will put a pretty good dent in it. I expect that 3 - 6 inches of rain for a wide swath of prime agricultural land in extreme drought is probably worth at least $5 billion, when you consider that a recent estimate by a Purdue economist put the cost of the great drought of 2012 at more than $77 billion. Only Hurricane Katrina ($146 billion) and the drought of 1988 ($78 billion) have been more expensive disasters, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. Unfortunately, Isaac's arrival is poorly timed, as the storm is arriving during harvest season. The strong winds associated with the storm will flatten many crops, making it more difficult to harvest them, and Isaac's winds may cost farmers several hundred million dollars due to unharvestable crops. Still, the rains from Isaac will be highly beneficial for the success of the upcoming winter wheat season, and for next year's growing season.


Figure 2. Predicted precipitation for the five-day period ending on Tuesday evening shows that Isaac is expected to bring a large region of 3 - 6 inches of rain (red, orange, and brown colors) to Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.


Figure 3. The great drought of 2012 has brought so little rain to the Midwest that some areas require over 15" of rain (dark purple colors) to end the drought. Image credit: NOAA/CPC.

Unanswered questions about Hurricane Isaac

1. Did the passage of Hurricane Isaac stir up oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? Isaac was the first hurricane to pass over the site of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We know that large hurricanes are capable of creating currents in deep water at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico; Hurricane Ivan caused upwelling currents of 0.5 cm/s at a depth of about 500 meters. In an August 28 article in the Huffington Post, Nick Shay, professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the University of Miami, said: "Winds will push water away from the center of a storm, which causes an upwelling as the ocean tries to adjust. It brings whatever is near the bottom up higher in the water column and currents can then push it towards the coast." Up to 1 million barrels of oil from the spill are estimated to still be present in the deep water sediment, on beaches, and in the marshes of Louisiana, and it is possible some of this oil will wash up on the Gulf Coast in coming months. The storm surge of Isaac also likely flushed out oil lodged in the coastal marshes of Louisiana, but it is unknown how much of a concern this might be.

2. What's the deal with these super-sized Category 1 and 2 hurricanes that have been hitting the U.S.? The past three landfalling hurricanes in the U.S.--Isaac (2012), Irene (2011), and Ike (2008)--have all been exceptionally large, among the top ten on record for horizontal extent of tropical storm-force winds. Each of these storms had an unusually low pressure characteristic of a storm one full Saffir-Simpson category stronger. Is this the new normal for U.S. hurricanes?

3. Did the new $14.5 billion upgrade to the New Orleans levee system cause worse flooding elsewhere? Whenever a new levee or flood control structure is created, you make someone else's flood problem worse, since the water has to go somewhere. Where did the water was stopped by the new $1.1 billion, 1.8 mile-long Lake Borgne flood barrier on the east side of New Orleans go? Did it flow south and contribute to the overtopping of the levees near Braithwaite? Or did it go north and contribute to the 36 hours of storm surge in excess of 5' observed along the Mississippi coast at Waveland? I posed this question to NHC's storm surge expert Jaime Rhome, and he said it was impossible to know without doing detailed storm surge modeling studies.

4. Can only hurricanes beginning with the letter "I" hit the U.S. now? Isaac (2012), Irene (2011), and Ike (2008) are the last three hurricanes to hit the U.S. It turns out that hurricanes that begin with the letter "I" and "C" have more names on the list of retired hurricanes than any other letter (nine each.) I'm thinking Isaac will get its name retired, letting storms beginning with "I" take over sole possession of first place on the retired storms list.

Hurricane Kirk in the Central Atlantic
Hurricane Kirk intensified into a 105 mph Category 2 hurricane this morning, becoming the 2nd strongest hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Gordon was the only stronger storm; Gordon hit sustained winds of 110 mph just before reaching the Azores Islands on August 18. Kirk has probably peaked in intensity, and is about to move over colder waters and gradually decay. Kirk is not a threat to any land areas.


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of Tropical Storm Leslie.

Tropical Storm Leslie a long-range threat to Bermuda, Canada, and the U.S. East Coast
Tropical Storm Leslie formed on Thursday in the Central Atlantic. Leslie's formation date of August 30 puts 2012 in 2nd place for earliest formation date of the season's 12th tropical storm. Only 1995 had an earlier formation date of the season's 12th storm. With records dating back to 1851, this year is only the second time 8 total storms have formed in August. The other year was 2004, when the first storm of the season formed on August 1 (Alex), and the 8th storm (Hermine) formed on August 29th. Satellite loops show that Leslie has a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity, and respectable low-level spiral bands and upper-level outflow. Conditions appear ripe to allow Leslie to intensify into a Category 2 hurricane by Sunday. Fortunately, Hurricane Kirk is weakening the ridge of high pressure to the north of Leslie, and Leslie is expected to turn to the northwest and miss the Lesser Antilles Islands. However, steering currents for Leslie are expected to collapse early next week, as Leslie gets stuck between two upper level lows. The storm will then slowly meander over the open ocean for many days, potentially threatening Bermuda. Leslie will stay stuck until a strong trough of low pressure approaches the U.S. East Coast around September 8. This trough should be strong enough to pull Leslie to the north and then northeast by September 9. At that time, Leslie may be close enough to the coast that the storm will make landfall in New England, Canada, or the Mid-Atlantic states. Leslie could also miss land entirely; this all depends upon the timing and strength of the September 8 trough of low pressure. Regardless, Leslie is expected to bring an extended period of high waves to the U.S. coast. According to NOAA's Wavewatch III model, large swells from Leslie will reach Bermuda by Monday, and arrive along the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday. These waves will be capable of creating dangerous rip currents and beach erosion.

Portlight disaster relief charity responds to Isaac
The Portlight.org disaster relief charity, founded and staffed by members of the wunderground community, are in Mississippi, helping out with Isaac relief efforts. You can check out their progress or donate to Portlight's disaster relief fund at the portlight.org website.

I'm planning on taking Saturday off, but will have a new post for you on Sunday. Have a great holiday weekend, everyone!

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Isaac Louisiana (apphotos)
People play in the storm surge from Hurricane Isaac, on Lakeshore Drive along Lake Pontchartrain, as the storm nears land, in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Hurricane Isaac Louisiana
Portlight volunteers at Biloxi shelter (Portlight)
Portlight volunteers at Biloxi shelter
Hurricane Isaac Louisiana (apphotos)
Research students from the the University of Alabama measure wind speeds as Hurricane Isaac makes landfall, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, in New Orleans, La. Isaac was packing 80 mph winds, making it a Category 1 hurricane. It came ashore early Tuesday near the mouth of the Mississippi River, driving a wall of water nearly 11 feet high inland and soaking a neck of land that stretches into the Gulf. The storm stalled for several hours before resuming a slow trek inland, and forecasters said that was
Hurricane Isaac Louisiana
TS Isaac (Raine911)
Between the rain bands
TS Isaac

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1122. flcanes
Quoting leftlink:


I have updated the blog page for a "modified saffir simpson scale"

LINK

Basically, the concept is coming into focus and I would love more comments. The first part of the idea is to add some additional categories (strong tropical storm, and category 6):



The second part of the idea is to allow a large wind field or super-fast flight level winds to "override" a measure of the storm by wind alone. I am thinking that it would just bump up the storm's intensity by one level. So there would be a rule requiring Isaac to be reported as a category 2 -- mainly because of its large wind field.

It also seems to me that if there are 140kt flight level winds over water but only 90kts have come down to the surface (is this possible?), the category scale should anticipate that the flight level winds will eventually reach the surface when a landfall occurs so this would also warrant a "bump-up" -- in this case from a Cat 2 to a Cat 3.

Feel free to comment here or add detailed information HERE

yes
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It almost appears like Leslie is comprised of two different COC's.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

I added a few thoughts for ya.


I have updated the blog page for a "modified saffir simpson scale"

LINK

Basically, the concept is coming into focus and I would love more comments. The first part of the idea is to add some additional categories (strong tropical storm, and category 6):



The second part of the idea is to require that a large wind field or super-fast flight level winds to "override" a measure of the storm by wind alone. I am thinking that it would just bump up the storm's intensity by one level. So there would be a rule requiring Isaac to be reported as a category 2 -- mainly because of its large wind field.

It also seems to me that if there are 140kt flight level winds over water but only 90kts have come down to the surface (is this possible?), the category scale should anticipate that the flight level winds will eventually reach the surface when a landfall occurs so this would also warrant a "bump-up" -- in this case from a Cat 2 to a Cat 3.

Feel free to comment here or add detailed information HERE
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Today looks to be another slow day on the blog, well slower than with Isaac. Anyway Isaac's remnants are still producing heavy rain, flooding, some wind, and tornadoes in the Midwest.
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MONTHLY TROPICAL WEATHER SUMMARY
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 AM EDT SAT SEP 01 2012

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

EIGHT TROPICAL STORMS FORMED IN THE ATLANTIC BASIN DURING THE MONTH
OF AUGUST. THIS TIES THE ALL-TIME RECORD FOR THE NUMBER OF NAMED
STORMS FORMING IN THE MONTH OF AUGUST...WHICH WAS SET IN 2004. FOUR
OF THE TROPICAL STORMS BECAME HURRICANES DURING THE MONTH. THESE
TOTALS WERE WELL ABOVE THE LONG-TERM AVERAGE (1981 TO 2010) OF
THREE NAMED STORMS...WITH ONE OR TWO HURRICANES. NO MAJOR
HURRICANES OCCURRED THIS AUGUST...WHILE A MAJOR HURRICANE TYPICALLY
OCCURS IN AUGUST ABOUT ONCE EVERY TWO YEARS.

IN TERMS OF ACCUMULATED CYCLONE ENERGY...WHICH MEASURES THE COMBINED
STRENGTH AND DURATION OF TROPICAL STORMS AND HURRICANES...TROPICAL
CYCLONE ACTIVITY SO FAR THIS YEAR IS ABOUT 50 PERCENT ABOVE THE
1981-2010 AVERAGE THROUGH THE END OF THE AUGUST IN THE ATLANTIC
BASIN.

REPORTS ON INDIVIDUAL CYCLONES...WHEN COMPLETED...ARE AT THE WEB
SITE OF THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER...USE LOWER-CASE LETTERS...
WWW.HURRICANES.GOV/2012ATLAN.SHTML

SUMMARY TABLE

NAME DATES MAX WIND (MPH)
------------------------------------------------- --
TS ALBERTO 19-22 MAY 60
TS BERYL 26-30 MAY 70
H CHRIS 19-22 JUN 75
TS DEBBY 23-27 JUN 60
H ERNESTO 1-10 AUG 85
TS FLORENCE 4-6 AUG 60
H GORDON 15-20 AUG 110
TS HELENE 9-18 AUG 45
H ISAAC 21 AUG- 80
TS JOYCE 22-24 AUG 40
H KIRK 28 AUG- 105
TS LESLIE 30 AUG- 70
------------------------------------------------- --

$$
HURRICANE SPECIALIST UNIT
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1116. sar2401
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Good morning. NHC is still not sure about the location or movement.

DESPITE THE UNCERTAINTY IN THE CENTER LOCATION...THE INITIAL MOTION
APPEARS TO BE A LITTLE SLOWER THAN BEFORE AND IS ESTIMATED TO BE
295/15 KT.
They really need HH out there.


I'm pretty sure that Isaac shot the HH gas budget for the year. :) Seriously, though, the NHC must have a high confidence level in their track, even with the center being uncertain. If there was any doubt, and there was even a minority belief among the forecasters that Leslie might make a run west, they would launch a mission.
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 21140
6.7" from the remnants of Isaac in Overland Park Kansas. More in 24 hours than in June, July and the first 30 days of August combined....
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1114. icmoore
Victims of Isaac.

Link
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1113. hydrus
Quoting ProgressivePulse:
Interested to see what the NHC does at 11am. The low clouds running SE to NW across the "Center" lead me to believe the center is somewhere else.

Leslie appears to be having some trouble this morning.Outflow seems good on the eastern side.
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12z Best Track.

AL, 12, 2012090112, , BEST, 0, 180N, 550W, 60, 996, TS
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My forecast, NOT OFFICIAL
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Well last post for this morning. Looking at all the satellite loops it appears the center is trying to relocate to the SW. But I'll be the first to admit until they get a true center this is a big guessing game. And the powers that be, have it right most of the time.
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New microwave shows LLC at 18N and MLC south of there.

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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
384HR
Michael and Nadine?
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Quoting TallyMike:

Reminds me of a place I used to work in Miami. The designated "safe" room was a second floor file room with non secured metal shelves more than 7 feet high filled with file folders and about 3 feet between the shelves.
When we had our one and only tornado warning I took as many people as I could convince down to the first floor under the stairwell. Funny thing was, the tornado was first seen forming and touching down across the street from the building and was 5 blocks away by the time we rounded everybody up. You may have seen pix of this storm as it went from land to Biscayne Bay where it formed an impressive but not powerful waterspout.


Where I work, AFTER a tornado warning was issued and over, our supervisor finally got back to us as to where to shelter in a tornado. Turns out in our model building, you run to the ladies room. (we knew that all along, right girls? Always the place to ride out a crisis). As for me, I have my eye on the culvert out front, as long as there's no flooding. My tiny assistant manager syas he will ride out the storm in our small safe, just like Indy in the atomic bomb test :) Thank goodness we don't have very many tornadoes!
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384HR
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1105. A4Guy
Quoting washingtonian115:
I've went around other weather websites and some people are stating that the high is being underestimated and it could build back in and send Leslie to the east coast.Once there a area of low pressure could yank her up north and force her to ride up the east coast.Sorta like Earl in 2012.I hope the NHC is right about the track :).


They usually are.

I love when storms do this - like the islands are staring down the barrel of a gun with a storm so close, but it just curves on by. This happened to us in SoFla last year with Irene. It was weird watching a big hurricane on satellite churning throught the Bahamas, aimed right at us, but curving away at the last moment. That's when you hope the forecasters and computer models didn't all miss something and the storm suddenly stats on a straight line.
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Quoting allancalderini:
Could Leslie be upgrade into the 6th hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season at 11am?
Only if they send a plane ,which they appear aren't going to do...I guess they are pretty sure isn't going to affect the island. To me they should , we are about to receive a pretty strong band of rain and wind, pretty soon.
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Quoting unknowncomic:
More CV Action coming?

Link
Gong Show?, Paper bag?
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1102. K8eCane
The NHC has it right considering the conditions . She will likely follow Kirk. IMO if she were to get within say 500 miles of the islands and still had not made the turn, they would consider sending HH aircraft. Has anyone heard from Patrap and the Pups?
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is it just me noticing or is Leslie moving way slow....could she be stalling from her weakness?
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Looked at GFS and Euro. Looks like some big time troughiness going to setup on the east coast of the US just in time for peak season. Putting up the "Gone Fishing" sign for a couple weeks.
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Looking at the various satellite loops it appears there still is a bit of tug a war going on between the mlc and the llc. Looking at Barbados radar, can see some of the bands getting closer and the surface wind is pretty much out of the due north. Leslie also appears to be trying to consolidate a little more, with out much overall appearance of movement.I say get a plane out there now. Other than that I don't know what I'm trying to say.Seriously hope everyone has a nice safe weekend. Hope things get better for Miss./La.
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Could Leslie be upgrade into the 6th hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season at 11am?
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1097. pcola57
Well off to read the newspaper (yes I still like it..more local stuff..beach reports..ect..)
It's a tangible exercise in relaxation.. :)
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Interested to see what the NHC does at 11am. The low clouds running SE to NW across the "Center" lead me to believe the center is somewhere else.

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Quoting pcola57:


I agree washingtonian115,
I notice that it happens quite a bit more often in the Pacific basin's however.. :)
Yes.Several examples have occured this year.Emilia comes to my head.
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1094. pottery
Quoting msphar:
Pottery, perhaps we should switch to seagulls.

Hmmm..
I think I'll call my Broker. Put my money in Seagull futures just in case.
Thanks for the Tip.
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I've went around other weather websites and some people are stating that the high is being underestimated and it could build back in and send Leslie to the east coast.Once there a area of low pressure could yank her up north and force her to ride up the east coast.Sorta like Earl in 2012.I hope the NHC is right about the track :).
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1092. msphar
Pottery, perhaps we should switch to seagulls.
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The center IMO is clearly at 16.6N/53.9W
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1090. pcola57
Quoting washingtonian115:
1083 agree.I haven't seen a storm go through a good RI since Gustav of 2008.Certainly hasn't happened this year in the Atlantic.


I agree washingtonian115,
I notice that it happens quite a bit more often in the Pacific basin's however.. :)
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1089. pottery
Quoting stormpetrol:

Leslie is being sucked north in the slipstream of Kirk.
She sure is a pretty girl, isn't she ?
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1088. VR46L
Quoting wxchaser97:

First, welcome to WU. Second:
Rapid Intensification:
An increase in the maximum sustained winds of a tropical cyclone of at least 30 kt in a 24-h period.


and happens only occasionally .....
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Quoting kingcane:
I feel like RI (rapid Intensification) is thrown around like candy at holloween on this site.

As a newbee, can someone explain what acctually qualifies for RI? My guess would be 25+ mph increase in 6 hours or maybe a 15+ mlb drop in that same time frame.

Also, does anyone know the percent of storms (atlantic basin) that actually go through RI? My guess would be 10% ish.

Just Currious if anyone knows on this site. My guess is that 95% chance someone does.

First, welcome to WU. Second:
Rapid Intensification:
An increase in the maximum sustained winds of a tropical cyclone of at least 30 kt in a 24-h period.
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1083 agree.I haven't seen a storm go through a good RI since Gustav of 2008.Certainly hasn't happened this year in the Atlantic.
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.outcomes.not.decided.by.people
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I feel like RI (rapid Intensification) is thrown around like candy at holloween on this site.

As a newbee, can someone explain what acctually qualifies for RI? My guess would be 25+ mph increase in 6 hours or maybe a 15+ mlb drop in that same time frame.

Also, does anyone know the percent of storms (atlantic basin) that actually go through RI? My guess would be 10% ish.

Just Currious if anyone knows on this site. My guess is that 95% chance someone does.
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1082. pottery
Quoting msphar:
Looking forward to Leslie breaking the 20N line.

Yeah, me too.

But when that happens, there's going to be a big rush on Crow supplies (me too).

In fact, this season might result in Crows going extinct, the way we are consuming them around here.

Fantastic storm. Filled with Mystery and Suspense with Good Looks thrown in. Perfect for audience participation. A real Hit. etc etc....
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Interested to see where the NHC finds the center. Nonetheless, with the cirrus outflow appearance, the Nrly shear has abated.

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1080. pcola57
Leslie looks pretty healthy this AM..hope she makes that turn...I've had enough for one season already... :)



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1079. Relix
She's moving very slow though
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1078. msphar
Looking forward to Leslie breaking the 20N line.
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1077. VR46L
Quoting RTSplayer:
Blog phrase translator:

"I think it's going through RI," equals, "Some gradual strengthening possible."


LOL !!! Classic!!! Quote of the day IMO
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Quoting weathercat64:

nice outflow


Well, that is quite a looker!

Barring any last minute weirdness we may actually have a shot on seing our first major this year.
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Good morning everyone, Leslie is looking better. Outflow has increased and so has convection and it seems like she is starting to feel the weakness.
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Quoting sar2401:


LOL. Maybe they should make you the safety officer. You might want to show them the YouTube video of the tornado that hit downtown Salt Lake City if they think their safe because there's no "tree line". They really are in violation of at least federal OSHA standards, and may be in violation of local or MO standards as well. It's a little tricky to turn them in, because it sounds like you are the only one who would know enough to do it. :)

Reminds me of a place I used to work in Miami. The designated "safe" room was a second floor file room with non secured metal shelves more than 7 feet high filled with file folders and about 3 feet between the shelves.
When we had our one and only tornado warning I took as many people as I could convince down to the first floor under the stairwell. Funny thing was, the tornado was first seen forming and touching down across the street from the building and was 5 blocks away by the time we rounded everybody up. You may have seen pix of this storm as it went from land to Biscayne Bay where it formed an impressive but not powerful waterspout.
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More CV Action coming?

Link
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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