Tornado Scientist Tim Samaras and Team Killed in Friday's El Reno, OK Tornado

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:43 PM GMT on June 02, 2013

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Veteran tornado scientist Tim Samaras, his son, environmental photographer Paul Samaras, 24, and meteorologist Carl Young, 45, died while chasing Friday's EF-3 tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma. The tornado killed at least nine people, in total. "Thank you to everyone for the condolences. It truly is sad that we lost my great brother Tim and his great son, Paul," said the brother of Tim Samaras, Jim Samaras, on Tim's Facebook page. "They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they LOVED." Tim, his son Paul, and Carl Young were all featured chasers on the Discovery Channel’s series, Storm Chasers, and Tim was known throughout the chase community as a conscientious and safety-minded chaser. Carl Young, who holds a Masters degree in meteorology from the University of Nevada, joined Samaras in the field in 2003. According to his Discovery Channel biography, Young and Samaras chased over 125 tornadoes together: "Carl's finest moment came on June 11, 2004 near Storm Lake, Iowa. Working with Tim, they defied the odds and deployed their probes right in the path of a tornado. The six-camera video probe captured amazing footage from multiple angles while the sensor probe recorded data that revealed just how fast wind speeds are close to the ground."


Figure 1. TWC's Mike ‪Bettes‬ crew caught this image of the El Reno, Oklahoma tornado of May 31, 2013 before the tornado caught them and rolled their vehicle. The tornado killed tornado scientists/storm chasers Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young.


Figure 2. Storm chasers in North Dakota aligned themselves to spell out "T S" in honor of Tim Samaras today. Image credit: spotternetwork.org.

Tornado science loses a pioneer
Tim Samaras had been a tornado scientist for over 25 years. He was the founder of TWISTEX, the Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment, a 2011 field experiment designed to help learn more about tornadoes and increase lead time for warnings, which resulted in many peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations. One of Tim Samaras' most widely recognized contributions to tornado science is his placement of an aerodynamically-designed probe in the path of an EF-4 tornado near Manchester, South Dakota on June 24, 2003. The probe measured a world-record pressure fall of 100 mb over a 40 second period.

One of the publications from the TWISTEX program, "Near-Ground Pressure and Wind Measurements in Tornadoes" recounts this close call Tim had in a tornado in 2011: "As the storm approached, the crew noted that the supercell was moving more sharply to the right of its former course, placing them near the projected path of the low-level mesocyclone. The crew drove south on Highway 259, attempting to position south of the low-level mesocyclone before it crossed the highway. With considerable tree cover in this region hampering the visual observation of the storm's features, TWISTEX crews could not position south of the mesocyclone on Highway 259 before the mesocyclone reached this road. Thus, the two mobile mesonet stations, M2 and M3, had an unplanned tornado encounter with a developing tornadic circulation while the mesonet was traveling south on Highway 259."


Figure 3. One of Tim Samaras' most widely recognized contributions to tornado science is his placement of an aerodynamically-designed probe in the path of an EF-4 tornado near Manchester, South Dakota on June 24, 2003. The probe measured a world-record pressure fall of 100 mb over a 40 second period. See the NWS article and conference paper on the event. Thanks to wunderground member Scott Lincoln for this link.

A storm chasers' nightmare
Cars and tornadoes can prove a dangerous mix even for the world's most experienced storm chasers. Driving at high speeds though heavy rain, large hail, and high winds is hazardous. If one is lucky enough to chase down a tornado, even the most experienced chasers can find themselves in a serious life-threatening situation when unexpected events occur. The exact circumstances of the deaths of Tim Samaras and his team are not clear, but the El Reno tornado was an extremely dangerous one to chase. Tornadoes by their nature are unpredictable, and can change course unexpectedly, or pop up suddenly. It's particularly dangerous when a tornado is wrapped in rain, making it hard to see, or if a chaser is operating in a heavily populated area, where roads may suddenly become congested. All four of these conditions occurred Friday during the El Reno tornado. The El Reno tornado was wrapped in rain and difficult to see as it headed west towards Oklahoma City, and suddenly made a jog to the southeast as a Weather Channel team led by Mike Bettes was attempting to get in front of the storm, and the tornado lifted their vehicle off the ground, rolled it multiple times, and hurled it 200 yards into a nearby field. Austin Anderson was driving the Tornado Hunt vehicle, and suffered several broken bones and was hospitalized. Although Austin will have to undergo surgery in the next few days, doctors say he is expected to make a full recovery. StormChasingVideo.com storm chaser Brandon Sullivan and his chase partner Brett Wright got caught in the tornado northwest of Union City, OK and slammed with debris as the tornado hit a barn that exploded in front of them. Meteorologist Emily Sutton and storm chaser Kevin Josefy of local Oklahoma City TV station KFOR also had a very close call with the El Reno tornado Friday afternoon. They got too close to the tornado, and were forced to floor the car in reverse to escape flying debris. With branches of trees crashing around them, Sutton began feeling debris hitting her back, and realized that the rear windshield of the car must have gotten destroyed. Both were uninjured. Reed Timmer's armor-plated "Dominator" chase vehicle had its hood torn off by the tornado. Wunderground member Levi32 was out storm chasing during the El Reno Tornado, and got stuck in traffic on Highway 4 and couldn't move. "We looked up above the car and saw the wall cloud over top of us, with very quick rotation and rising scud indicating the updraft. We were definitely too close."


Video 1. Severe storm researcher and engineer Tim Samaras talks about his view on tornadoes and what remains to be understood in this interview posted on May 21, 2013.


Video 2. A tornado passes over one of Tim Samaras' specially designed six-camera video probes on June 11, 2004 near Storm Lake, Iowa.

Tornadoes and cars: a dangerous mix
A vehicle is about the worst place you can be in a tornado, as the tornado's winds can easily roll a car. (The only place less safe is probably a mobile home, as a tornado's winds can roll mobile homes almost as readily, and mobile homes don't come with seat belts and air bags.) At least five of the deaths in Friday's El Reno tornado occurred in vehicles. There was one local TV station that urged residents without underground shelters to get in their cars and "get south" in advance of the tornado that was approaching Oklahoma City, since chasers were reporting that the El Reno tornado may have been so strong that only an underground shelter would have provided adequate protection. This terrible piece of advice likely contributed to the incredible traffic jams that we saw on I-35, I-40, I-44, and other local roads Friday night. Thousands of cars were bumper-to-bumper on the roads as a dangerous tornado approached them. Had the El Reno tornado plowed directly down one of these car-choked interstates, the death toll could have easily exceeded 500. If you are located in a metro area and don't have an underground shelter, the best thing to do it to take shelter in an interior windowless room or hallway, with protective furniture over your body. Getting in a car and attempting to flee the tornado is the worst thing you can do in an urban area. You may not be able to see the tornado if it is dark or the tornado is wrapped in rain. You are likely to encounter hazardous winds, rain, and hail, run into unexpected traffic, or flooded or debris-blocked roads that will put you directly in the path of the tornado. Even without an underground shelter, most people will be able to survive a dangerous EF-4 tornado. Case in point: during the Mannsford, Oklahoma EF- 4 tornado of 1984, a packed church received a direct hit, and everyone in the church survived. The only fatality was a man who drove to the church to get his wife. It is often better to abandon your vehicle and take shelter in a ditch, if you are caught in a car during a tornado. However, if there is already flying debris in the air, leaving your car and exposing yourself to the debris in order to get to a ditch may be more hazardous than staying in your car. Furthermore, ditches are prone to flash floods. Four deaths during the El Reno tornado were from a family of seven that sheltered in a drainage ditch, and were washed into the Deep Fork River by a flash flood. Searchers are still looking for the other three bodies. A 2002 research paper, "UNSAFE AT ANY (WIND) SPEED? Testing the Stability of Motor Vehicles in Severe Winds" found that: "The stability and superior safety of being in a vehicle in severe winds, relative to occupying a mobile home or being outdoors, should be considered." Also, TWC's severe weather expert, Dr. Greg Forbes, commented on the pros and cons of abandoning one's vehicle for a ditch in a 2009 blog post, "Tornado Safety - Cars Versus Ditches: A Controversy." His personal take on what he would do if his car was being overtaken by a tornado, and no sturdy buildings were nearby to take shelter in: "I can't see myself getting out of the vehicle. I'd try first to drive away from the tornado. Both the NWS and the American Red Cross actually also advocate this. If you can determine which way the tornado is moving toward, face your body toward that direction and then go to the right, as shown in the diagram below. That is usually toward the south or southeast. The reason that it's best to head this way is that if you went to the left you would normally get into the region where largest hail and blinding rain occur in the kind of supercell, rotating thunderstorms that often spawn tornadoes. If I had no such driving option and I did feel the urge to get out of my car, I'd try to get into a building, and into a ditch well away from the car as the last resort."

My condolences and prayers go to all of the family and friends of Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young. Their deaths are a terrible shock to the meteorological community, and a great loss for tornado science. I hope that their deaths will lead towards safer tornado chasing, and help spur efforts to use emerging drone technology to take measurements in dangerous storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

Jeff Masters

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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SLU:


They were all bad years for the Caribbean and the US.
All the Home Depots in P.R. are full of people buying all kind of stuff.
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Why does the shear displayed on this product (nearly none in west-central gulf, not agree with a visual observation of the satellite loops?



Steering analysis would suggest the low gets kicked into the central Gulf, dead center.
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:
Very early to tell specifics as "Each" storm will have it's own unique set of circumstances. However, longer term 500mb patterns are leading me to believe that there will be a lot more storms threatening the US and Caribbean this year. But, it is weather and all of that can flip on a dime at any point in time, just to tick you off, lol.

Yeah... *cough* 2010 *cough*
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32280
897. JRRP
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Quoting weatherh98:


The longer you look at the satellite, the more swirls you see...

Yep...maybe swirls are from jet planes engines crossing everywhwre.
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I think Wunderground needs to do something about its 'local weather' facility. All the time I lived in Florida it kept identifying my local weather as coming from Malvern, PA. I had assumed that was due to the vagaries of the intranet at the international company I work for, but I just relocated to North Carolina and it now thinks I live in Lak Zurich, IL.

Anyone else have a similar issue?
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Just a shout out to all my friends on here. I don't post here often, but I certainly still have a lot of friends on here and my site.
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Quoting mikatnight:


Ouch! "Access Denied"!

lol let me guess its from the crawler police
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12163
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Very early to tell specifics as "Each" storm will have it's own unique set of circumstances. However, longer term 500mb patterns are leading me to believe that there will be a lot more storms threatening the US and Caribbean this year. But, it is weather and all of that can flip on a dime at any point in time, just to tick you off, lol.
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890. SLU
Quoting wunderkidcayman:

don't worry he ain't hes making me fell pitty on him


I'm hardly looking at it



sound like bad year for us all 3 of those year Cayman got affected


They were all bad years for the Caribbean and the US.
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Quoting JRRP:
Link


Ouch! "Access Denied"!
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Quoting SouthernIllinois:

Don't excite him.

don't worry he ain't hes making me fell pitty on him

Quoting weatherh98:


The longer you look at the satellite, the more swirls you see...


I'm hardly looking at it

Quoting SLU:


REPOST

While this may be a totally unsound meteorological comparison, I did some research using the NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis and found that in over 90% of the hurricane seasons since 1950, the storm tracks tend to resemble the surface pressure patterns established in the April to May timeframe. In areas where high pressure dominates in April to May, the storms generally seem to avoid these areas during the hurricane season but they tend to congregate where the pressures are lower in April to May.

This year in April to May, we have seen extremely high pressures persist near the North-eastern US and Eastern Canada both at the surface and the 500mb levels with lower pressures in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the North-eastern Atlantic near the Azores.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Based on that theory, we may see our storm tracks this year resemble that of the 1996, 1998 and 2004 hurricane seasons (1996 and 2004 both being CSU's analog years). In those seasons, There were 2 primary sets of storms tracks:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

1. A noticeable congregation of powerful Cape Verde hurricanes that moved westwards under the ridge and into the Caribbean and the United States.

2. Rapidly recurving storms in the far Eastern Atlantic near the Azores that did not affect land.

I believe we may see a similar pattern in 2013.

Again, while this may be an unsound meteorological assertion, the correlation seemed to work in about 90% of all hurricane seasons since 1950 and therefore it deserves some sort of recognition.


sound like bad year for us all 3 of those year Cayman got affected
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12163
887. JRRP
Link
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Breaking on BBC and SKY news.

Prague City centre to be evacuated

Link
Member Since: October 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2026
#880 -

Fascinating post.
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Quoting SLU:
CSU's new forecast still calls for 18-9-4
My forecast is many fishes again.
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Quoting weatherh98:


Yup, ridging over southern Canada and troughs over central us...

Setting up for a 2004 like year with probably a few more storms....

I can hear janiel cheering!


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Quoting prcane4you:
Hurry a cat 5 is forming.

DOOM!!!!!CASTER
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12163
880. SLU
Quoting rmbjoe1954:


But thankfully it is too early to tell where the ridging will be in August when the Cape Verde season starts to crank up.


REPOST

While this may be a totally unsound meteorological comparison, I did some research using the NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis and found that in over 90% of the hurricane seasons since 1950, the storm tracks tend to resemble the surface pressure patterns established in the April to May timeframe. In areas where high pressure dominates in April to May, the storms generally seem to avoid these areas during the hurricane season but they tend to congregate where the pressures are lower in April to May.

This year in April to May, we have seen extremely high pressures persist near the North-eastern US and Eastern Canada both at the surface and the 500mb levels with lower pressures in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the North-eastern Atlantic near the Azores.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Based on that theory, we may see our storm tracks this year resemble that of the 1996, 1998 and 2004 hurricane seasons (1996 and 2004 both being CSU's analog years). In those seasons, There were 2 primary sets of storms tracks:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

1. A noticeable congregation of powerful Cape Verde hurricanes that moved westwards under the ridge and into the Caribbean and the United States.

2. Rapidly recurving storms in the far Eastern Atlantic near the Azores that did not affect land.

I believe we may see a similar pattern in 2013.

Again, while this may be an unsound meteorological assertion, the correlation seemed to work in about 90% of all hurricane seasons since 1950 and therefore it deserves some sort of recognition.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
looking at the MSLP on sat loop our low in off the coast of Belize in the GOH


The longer you look at the satellite, the more swirls you see...

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LSU ESL shows a naughty mass of cold, dry air west of the low. It'll have a hard time overcoming that mess.



Same deal on low clouds product. The shear and dry air cutting across that diagonal isn't letting any storms form at all.

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876. SLU
CSU's new forecast still calls for 18-9-4
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:



That is why I prepare the same every year. I assume a hurricane will affect me.


That's because you're smart like Captain Kirk -
Dilythium Crystals - check.
Shuttle Craft - check.
Shields - check.

And not like Captain Dork, who has his phaser set to stun, pointed at himself.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
RGB sat does seem to show a low level spin in that area as well
Hurry a cat 5 is forming.
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Belize radar is not updating so can't get a really clear picture
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12163
Quoting SLU:


Yep .. the ridging has been very strong since early April.
Never doomcast? What are you doing now? Everyone hurry suicide.
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RGB sat does seem to show a low level spin in that area as well
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12163
Quoting hydrus:
If the Bermuda High keeps up it current configurations, it may be a disastrous year....and i never doomcast.


Yup, ridging over southern Canada and troughs over central us...

Setting up for a 2004 like year with probably a few more storms....

I can hear janiel cheering!
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Quoting SLU:


Yep .. the ridging has been very strong since early April.


But thankfully it is too early to tell where the ridging will be in August when the Cape Verde season starts to crank up.
Member Since: June 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1365
looking at the MSLP on sat loop our low in off the coast of Belize in the GOH
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12163
Mornin' y'all.......Euro sez...

...guess I better enjoy these frames while I can still get 'em.
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866. SLU
Quoting hydrus:
If the Bermuda High keeps up it current configurations, it may be a disastrous year....and i never doomcast.


Yep .. the ridging has been very strong since early April.
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Looks really sloppy.. Tried to find a Center and questionably found at least 4 areas of rotation, between the monsoon gyre, the MLC and multiple swirls floating around... The last set of models might as well be tossed and should be until we get a consolidated center...

It's going to have a tough time getting together in the coming days with shear and it will probably start cooling water around there pretty soon...
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Quoting JRRP:

wave with nice rotation
I just saw a big spin......in my washer.
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863. SLU
Quoting K8eCane:


From April they had 18-9-4 (ACE ~165)
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"I wonder if we can bait him with some herring balls..."

Too funny. But if the blobs don't bring him out, I dunno... You'd probably only net Rose Nyland.

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AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MIAMI FL
1021 AM EDT MON JUN 3 2013

.UPDATE...

LITTLE CHANGE TO THE CURRENT FORECAST PACKAGE INCLUDING THE SHORT
TERM, ALTHOUGH CONTEMPLATED DROPPING THE POP`S FOR THIS AFTERNOON
DUE TO THE EXTENSIVE CLOUD COVERAGE OVER MUCH OF THE REGION THIS
MORNING WHICH MAY HAMPER DAY TIME HEATING AND POTENTIAL FOR
CONVECTION. THIS SEEMS TO BE IN LINE WITH THE RAPID REFRESH
GUIDANCE FOR THE MORNING HOURS, BUT BY THE EARLY AFTERNOON THE
GUIDANCE SUGGESTS THAT THE POTENTIAL FOR CONVECTION WILL CONTINUE
ALTHOUGH MOST OF THE COVERAGE COULD BE ACROSS THE NORTHERN AND
EASTERN PORTIONS OF THE SOUTH FLORID PENINSULA LATER THIS
AFTERNOON AND INTO THE EARLY EVENING. THE 12Z SOUNDING INDICATED A PWAT
AROUND 2.2 INCHES. ALTHOUGH THE MAIN THREAT FOR TODAY IS LIKELY
GOING TO BE LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL IN ISOLATED LOCATIONS, A SLIGHT
CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS REMAINS IN THE FORECAST.
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Quoting SLU:


Very bad sign for the Cape Verde season if we can see such a well defined feature that far east in early June.
If the Bermuda High keeps up it current configurations, it may be a disastrous year....and i never doomcast.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21420
Quoting mikatnight:


A possible hyperactive Atlantic season ahead - a season with an ACE index over 175% is considered "hyperactive." An average season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. Of course, as far as people are concerned, it doesn't matter how many storms form or what the ACE is, it's whether or not they're affected by one.



That is why I prepare the same every year. I assume a hurricane will affect me.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11215
Quoting redwagon:


If Gro doesn't get back here soon we won't have *anything* to watch. I wonder if we can bait him with some herring balls...


mmmmmmmm...herring balls...
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
Colorado State University Team Continues to Predict Above-Average 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Excerpt:


FORT COLLINS - The Colorado State University hurricane forecast team continues to predict an above-average 2013 Atlantic basin hurricane season due primarily to unusually warm water in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and an expected lack of an El Niño event. The team calls for 18 named storms during the hurricane season, between June 1 and Nov. 30. Nine of those are expected to become hurricanes and four of those are expected to become major hurricanes (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.


A possible hyperactive Atlantic season ahead - a season with an ACE index over 175% is considered "hyperactive." An average season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. Of course, as far as people are concerned, it doesn't matter how many storms form or what the ACE is, it's whether or not they're affected by one.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


IMO,they will maintain with the April numbers.


If Gro doesn't get back here soon we won't have *anything* to watch. I wonder if we can bait him with some herring balls...
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WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS
CARCAH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, MIAMI, FL.
1020 AM EDT MON 03 JUNE 2013
SUBJECT: TROPICAL CYCLONE PLAN OF THE DAY (TCPOD)
VALID 04/1100Z TO 05/1100Z JUNE 2013
TCPOD NUMBER.....13-003

I. ATLANTIC REQUIREMENTS
1. SUSPECT AREA---GULF OF MEXICO
FLIGHT ONE -- TEAL 70
A. 04/1900Z
B. AFXXX 01XXA INVEST
C. 04/1730Z
D. 24.0N 88.5W
E. 04/1845Z TO 04/2300Z
F. SFC TO 10,000 FT.

2. SUCCEEDING DAY OUTLOOK: POSSIBLE FIX MISSION
NEAR 24.5N 88.5W AT 05/1800Z.
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Quoting FLwolverine:
All driven by a desire to "drain the Swamp" and make the Lake O region safe for sugar cane and houses. I'm oversimplifying, but the whole thing is maddening.


Blame Walt Disney. He started it, and his ilk are continuing it. What does it say about a state when their primary income is tourism to "nonsense land"?
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I see our invest is still looking rather sloppy.

One thing I did notice is a blob of heavy convection moving northwards along the western Caribbean, which is probably merging with the broad low. This may kick start more development, if it holds together.

Coordinates and heading are a bit perplexing considering what model consensus had been yesterday evening, but I guess that's to be expected, changes, etc, in a highly disorganized system.

Doesn't look like there's any steering features in a hurry to dive south over the next few days, so maybe our invest has a few days to just do it's own thing over the Gulf.

SST of 28C is enough for strong development, but it's not very deep warm water yet, so if it's a slow mover the whole time it'll choke on it's own up-welling.
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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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