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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Quoting Slamguitar:


Michigan, Huron, or Erie would be the best bets. They were warmer a little while ago.

8/3:


Latest:

It could happen and it would be interesting up here.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7928
Quoting Grothar:


This was a storm that formed over Lake Huron in 1996 that had subtropical-like features.







This is one of the events I've experienced that really inspired me to be a meteorologist.

Good read
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Leslie is almost 1 degree south of the next forecast point.
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Leslie is looking pretty good but Kirk, not so much.

Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7928
Quoting DrMickey:

From IMDb: "The Enterprise is answering a medical emergency of an archaeological expedition. Kirk is confronted with the deep hatred of an old love, Janice Lester, who is severely ill from celebium radiation. As payment for jilting her, Dr Lester arranges for an alien machine to swap the consciousness of Kirk and herself in order for her to take command of the Enterprise. On board the Enterprise, Kirk (in Lester's body) tries to convince Spock that he is trapped in Janice's body. As a result, Janice (in Kirk's body) conducts a court-marshal with the intent of executing Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Kirk (in Janice's body) to keep her secret. The crew realizing something is wrong with their captain does not cooperate. "
Ad nauseum. Dang now I can't remember the correct spelling.
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Quoting kwgirl:
Wasn't the waters of the Great Lakes heating up this summer? Wouldn't it be weird if this storm regenerated in Lake Superior? What are the odds?


Michigan, Huron, or Erie would be the best bets. They were warmer a little while ago.

8/3:


Latest:
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Quoting TomballTXPride:

I see.

From IMDb: "The Enterprise is answering a medical emergency of an archaeological expedition. Kirk is confronted with the deep hatred of an old love, Janice Lester, who is severely ill from celebium radiation. As payment for jilting her, Dr Lester arranges for an alien machine to swap the consciousness of Kirk and herself in order for her to take command of the Enterprise. On board the Enterprise, Kirk (in Lester's body) tries to convince Spock that he is trapped in Janice's body. As a result, Janice (in Kirk's body) conducts a court-marshal with the intent of executing Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Kirk (in Janice's body) to keep her secret. The crew realizing something is wrong with their captain does not cooperate. "
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Quoting DrMickey:

Although googling it reveals that the quote is "I'm a doctor...", though I could swear he called himself a surgeon in that quote.
Sigh...memory!


The line was used many different ways. At some time or other all our memories fail us. At one time I could recite "War and Peace" now, anything after Chapter 44 is a little fuzzy.
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Quoting Grothar:


This was a storm that formed over Lake Huron in 1996 that had subtropical-like features.





I'm sitting here trying to think why I did not hear of this storm. Then I kinda remember....those were my drinking days! If it didn't affect me I didn't pay attention. I went on vacation right before Georges hit and told my daughter I wouldn't return until the lights were on and the bars open. The day I drove into town, the bars opened.:)
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Grothar I've got to come back for this. Photogenic face? why that's a lovely avatar, I can see why the misses get's upset with you posting that.
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Quoting TomballTXPride:

Who the hell is that?

James Tiberius himself, whose brain was once forced into the body of...
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Quoting kwgirl:
No


This was a storm that formed over Lake Huron in 1996 that had subtropical-like features.





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I'm out, but this is the best blog, even though I haven't been on many. You ask a question you get an answer like it or leave it.
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Ever heard of the Huroncane? Quoting kwgirl:
No

Well, pull up a chair, getcha a cold beer.
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Quoting Grothar:


Yes, that was episode 26.

Although googling it reveals that the quote is "I'm a doctor...", though I could swear he called himself a surgeon in that quote.
Sigh...memory!
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Quoting gordydunnot:
Grothar, you are either like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory,. or use have a great search engine. Or I need to tighten up.


Let me put it this way, I have a photogenic face and a photograhic mind. I just remember stupid things. If I can go to a search engine and post in less than 5 seconds I must be better than TropicalAnalyst with his little F5 button posting the NHC reports.
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Quoting Grothar:


Yes, that was episode 26.
Ya'll are like my brothers. They can recite every episode. I used to like Star Trek, but this is ridiculous. You must see them over and over ad naseum to remember all this.
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Quoting VR46L:


I get my kirks kurts and kyles mixed up ...Sorry btw its 46 not 36 lol .... I know my motorbike racers lol

When I think of Kirk then the names of Kurt and Kyle Bush come to my head.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7928
Quoting CybrTeddy:



T3.0/3.5 LESLIE

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.4 / 997.3mb/ 53.0kt

Though RAW T has jumped up to 3.7 again.
Notice where the center is initialized; if you look at visible satellite imagery, inflow channels constitute towards a position southwest of those coordinates.
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Quoting floridaboy14:
a good analouge storm for leslie is felix of 1995


I remember Felix well. If I recall , he did almost a "figure8" off the SE coast.
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Quoting DrMickey:

With the Horta, it was "I'm a surgeon, not a brick-layer!"


Yes, that was episode 26.
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Quoting Grothar:


Ever heard of the Huroncane?
No
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Grothar, you are either like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory,. or use have a great search engine. Or I need to tighten up.
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Quoting kwgirl:
Wasn't the waters of the Great Lakes heating up this summer? Wouldn't it be weird if this storm regenerated in Lake Superior? What are the odds?


Ever heard of the Huroncane?
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a good analouge storm for leslie is felix of 1995
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I'd put the odds of Tropical Storm Leslie eventually making landfall on the United States under 5%.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31510
Quoting Grothar:



Poor things, the Horta, turned out to be nice little creatures, too, just like the tribbles.

It was used many times. In episode 43 he said, "I'm a doctor, not a mind reader" In episode 64 he said, "I'm a doctor not an engineer".

With the Horta, it was "I'm a surgeon, not a brick-layer!"
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Quoting kwgirl:
Doesn't the Navy have assets in just about every part of our coast line including the Great Lakes? They need to keep on top of it to advise their bases.


The Navy has them world wide, but the Coast Guard has most of the responsibility on the Great Lakes. Although one of the largest Naval training stations and base is on the Great Lakes.
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Quoting kwgirl:
It's real hard to save people from themselves. As a scienist pointed out, you need something measurable. The ratings describe the highest winds. The speeds are tested to see what a certain speed will do to certain construction materials. We all know what the sudden stop of a speeding car can do to people. People hunker down in buildings during a storm. So the ratings should give you an idea if you are hunkering down in a house of straw or a house of brick. People just don't want to leave their possessions and the only "safe" place they have. Their den. I think it needs to be studied physcologically. Even after I went through Wilma, I would be hard pressed to leave. Yes, I left my mobile home for a neighbors house during Isaac, but the minute they declared all over on TV, I went home. And the winds were still as strong if not more so after Isaac passed as it was approaching. And there were tornado warnings. Maybe I am just certifiable, as my father used to say. LOL



Haha. You raise some good points. And I understand that people want to protect their property from looters. Kudos to you for living through the mother of all Atlantic storms (Wilma) and maintaining a sense of humor.
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281 I won't say I know where you are coming from. But I promise you the loudest thing I ever heard, no one else heard. So it is most certainty a matter of prospective as I'm am sure Grothar was speaking in the physical world with exaggeration.
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Anybody in the area?

Tornado Watch

TORNADO WATCH OUTLINE UPDATE FOR WT 600
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
155 PM CDT FRI AUG 31 2012

TORNADO WATCH 600 IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1000 PM CDT FOR THE
FOLLOWING LOCATIONS

MOC017-023-031-035-055-069-071-073-093-099-113-12 3-133-139-143-
155-157-179-181-183-186-187-189-201-207-219-221-2 23-510-
010300-
/O.NEW.KWNS.TO.A.0600.120831T1855Z-120901T0300Z/

MO
. MISSOURI COUNTIES INCLUDED ARE

BOLLINGER BUTLER CAPE GIRARDEAU
CARTER CRAWFORD DUNKLIN
FRANKLIN GASCONADE IRON
JEFFERSON LINCOLN MADISON
MISSISSIPPI MONTGOMERY NEW MADRID
PEMISCOT PERRY REYNOLDS
RIPLEY SCOTT ST. CHARLES
ST. FRANCOIS ST. LOUIS STE. GENEVIEVE
STODDARD WARREN WASHINGTON
WAYNE


MISSOURI INDEPENDENT CITIES INCLUDED ARE

ST. LOUIS CITY
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Quoting Grothar:


It is a strange one Mike. It doesn't seem to want to lose its shape. It is holding up pretty good.

Wasn't the waters of the Great Lakes heating up this summer? Wouldn't it be weird if this storm regenerated in Lake Superior? What are the odds?
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Knowing that you have never heard my ex-wife, I can forgive this comment. 30 years removed from her and I still hear her to this day. We may not be able to travel through time, but I still hear the past last and clear. .... sigh


LOL
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Quoting slavicthunder:
When are the academics going to convene and develop a tropical cyclone classification system that is practical for human beings and not just structures?? It troubles me that people get deceived by this "Cat 1, Cat 2" stuff and underestimate the true destructive power of these weather systems. The S.S. Scale does nothing for the safety of storm victims....except for lulling them into a false sense of security.
It's real hard to save people from themselves. As a scientist pointed out, you need something measurable. The ratings describe the highest winds. The speeds are tested to see what a certain speed will do to certain construction materials. We all know what the sudden stop of a speeding car can do to people. People hunker down in buildings during a storm. So the ratings should give you an idea if you are hunkering down in a house of straw or a house of brick. People just don't want to leave their possessions and the only "safe" place they have. Their den. I think it needs to be studied physcologically. Even after I went through Wilma, I would be hard pressed to leave. Yes, I left my mobile home for a neighbors house during Isaac, but the minute they declared all over on TV, I went home. And the winds were still as strong if not more so after Isaac passed as it was approaching. And there were tornado warnings. Maybe I am just certifiable, as my father used to say. LOL
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Quoting gordydunnot:
I actually forgot Grothar, was that the only time. I specifically remember that line when they where dealing with the rock creatures. The Horta? Spook was in sever pain from mind melts. But I think it was used more than once.



Poor things, the Horta, turned out to be nice little creatures, too, just like the tribbles.

It was used many times. In episode 43 he said, "I'm a doctor, not a mind reader" In episode 64 he said, "I'm a doctor not an engineer".
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Quoting Grothar:


Were they parrots or parakeets? We have a lot of Wild parrots around here that always fly in flocks. Loudest things you ever heard.


Knowing that you have never heard my ex-wife, I can forgive this comment. 30 years removed from her and I still hear her to this day. We may not be able to travel through time, but I still hear the past loud and clear. .... sigh
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Expecting the first hints of swell from Leslie to start showing up late monday. The big ?? in our area will be the local winds. They can turn an otherwise epic swell into utter poop.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:



T3.0/3.5 LESLIE

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.4 / 997.3mb/ 53.0kt

Though RAW T has jumped up to 3.7 again.

Yeah. This thing isn't a hurricane quite yet.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31510
I actually forgot Grothar, was that the only time. I specifically remember that line when they where dealing with the rock creatures. The Horta? Spook was in sever pain from mind melts. But I think it was used more than once.
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Eastcoast surfers are getting stoked up ! Leslie may bring some hefty swells by Monday!
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Based on satellite imagery, Leslie has acquired a sufficient amount of organization convectively to be considered a hurricane. I disagree wholeheartedly with the ATCF decision to keep it at 55kts.



T3.0/3.5 LESLIE

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.4 / 997.3mb/ 53.0kt

Though RAW T has jumped up to 3.7 again.
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Quoting Minnemike:
been watching and wondering.. will Isaac be visiting me??
tracks had it curving east early enough to miss MN, but i'm not so sure about that. i know we'll see some upper level outflow, but will that gulf moisture make it up with some precip... hmm


It is a strange one Mike. It doesn't seem to want to lose its shape. It is holding up pretty good.

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When are the academics going to convene and develop a tropical cyclone classification system that is practical for human beings and not just structures?? It troubles me that people get deceived by this "Cat 1, Cat 2" stuff and underestimate the true destructive power of these weather systems. The S.S. Scale does nothing for the safety of storm victims....except for lulling them into a false sense of security.
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Oops how quickly 10 yrs. slip by. If you know what I mean.
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Quoting gordydunnot:
Dammit Bones!!! do something. Jim I'm a doctor not a Fill in the----------------.


Magician.
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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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