Did Hurricane Wilma have 209 mph sustained winds?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:00 PM GMT on 四月 28, 2012

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At last week's 30th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. Eric Uhlhorn of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division presented a poster that looked at the relationship between surface winds measured by the SFMR instrument and flight-level winds in two Category 5 storms. Hurricane Hunter flights done into Category 5 Supertyphoon Megi (17 October 2010) and Category 5 Hurricane Felix (03 September 2007) found that the surface winds measured by SFMR were greater than those measured at flight level (10,000 feet.) Usually, surface winds in a hurricane are 10 - 15% less than at 10,000 feet, but he showed that in super-intense Category 5 storms with small eyes, the dynamics of these situations may generate surface winds that are as strong or stronger than those found at 10,000 feet. He extrapolated this statistical relationship (using the inertial stability measured at flight level) to Hurricane Wilma of 2005, which was the strongest hurricane on record (882 mb), but was not observed by the SFMR. He estimated that the maximum wind averaged around the eyewall in Wilma at peak intensity could have been 209 mph, plus or minus 20 mph--so conceivably as high as 229 mph, with gusts to 270 mph. Yowza. That's well in excess of the 200 mph minimum wind speed a top end EF-5 tornado has. The Joplin, Missouri EF-5 tornado of May 22, 2011 had winds estimated at 225 - 250 mph. That tornado ripped pavement from the ground, leveled buildings to the concrete slabs they were built on, and killed 161 people. It's not a pretty thought to consider what Wilma would have done to Cancun, Key West, or Fort Myers had the hurricane hit with sustained winds of what the Joplin tornado had.


Figure 1. Hurricane Wilma's pinhole eye as seen at 8:22 a.m. CDT Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005, by the crew aboard NASA's international space station as the complex flew 222 miles above the storm. At the time, Wilma was the strongest Atlantic hurricane in history, with a central pressure of 882 mb and sustained surface winds estimated at 185 mph. The storm was located in the Caribbean Sea, 340 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. Image source: NASA's Space Photo Gallery.


Figure 2. Damage in Joplin, Missouri after the EF-5 tornado of May 22, 2011. Image credit: wunderphotographer thebige.

Official all-time strongest winds in an Atlantic hurricane: 190 mph
The official record for strongest winds in an Atlantic hurricane is 190 mph, for Hurricane Allen of 1980 as it was entering the Gulf of Mexico, and for Hurricane Camille of 1969, as it was making landfall in Pass Christian, Mississippi. In Dr. Bob Sheets' and Jack Williams' book, Hurricane Watch, they recount the Hurricane Hunters flight into Camile as the hurricane reached peak intensity: On Sunday afternoon, August 17, and Air Force C-130 piloted by Marvin Little penetrated Camille's eye and measured a pressure of 26.62 inches of mercury. "Just as we were nearing the eyewall cloud we suddenly broke into a clear area and could see the sea surface below," the copilot, Robert Lee Clark, wrote in 1982. "What a sight! Although everyone on the crew was experienced except me, no one had seen the wind whip the sea like that before...Instead of the green and white splotches normally found in a storm, the sea surface was in deep furrows running along the wind direction....The velocity was beyond the descriptions used in our training and far beyond anything we had ever seen." So, the 190 mph winds of Camille were an estimate that was off the scale from anything that had ever been observed in the past. The books that the Hurricane Hunters carried, filled with photos of the sea state at various wind speeds, only goes up to 150 mph (Figure 2). I still used this book to estimate surface winds when I flew with the Hurricane Hunters in the late 1980s, and the books are still carried on the planes today. In the two Category 5 hurricanes I flew into, Hugo and Gilbert, I never observed the furrowing effect referred to above. Gilbert had surface winds estimated at 175 mph based on what we measured at flight level, so I believe the 190 mph wind estimate in Camille may be reasonable.


Figure 3. Appearance of the sea surface in winds of 130 knots (150 mph). Image credit: Wind Estimations from Aerial Observations of Sea Conditions (1954), by Charlie Neumann.


Figure 4. Radar image of Hurricane Camille taken at 22:15 UTC August 17, 1969, a few hours before landfall in Mississippi. At the time, Camille had the highest sustained winds of any Atlantic hurricane in history--190 mph.

The infamous hurricane hunter flight into Wilma during its rapid intensification
While I was at last week's conference, I had a conversation with Rich Henning, a flight meteorologist for NOAA's Hurricane Hunters, who served for many years as a Air Reconnaissance Weather Officer (ARWO) for the Air Force Hurricane Hunters. Rich told me the story of the Air Force Hurricane Hunter mission into Hurricane Wilma in the early morning hours of October 19, 2005, as Wilma entered its explosive deepening phase. The previous airplane, which had departed Category 1 Wilma six hours previously, flew through Wilma at an altitude of 5,000 feet. They measured a central pressure of 954 mb when they departed the eye at 23:10 UTC. The crew of the new plane assumed that the hurricane, though intensifying, was probably not a major hurricane, and decided that they would also go in at 5,000 feet. Winds outside the eyewall were less than hurricane force, so this seemed like a reasonable assumption. Once the airplane hit the eyewall, they realized their mistake. Flight level winds quickly rose to 186 mph, far in excess of Category 5 strength, and severe turbulence rocked the aircraft. The aircraft was keeping a constant pressure altitude to maintain their height above the ocean during the penetration, but the area of low pressure at Wilma's center was so intense that the airplane descended at over 1,000 feet per minute during the penetration in order to maintain a constant pressure altitude. By they time they punched into the incredibly tiny 4-mile wide eye, which had a central pressure of just 901 mb at 04:32 UTC, the plane was at a dangerously low altitude of 1,500 feet--not a good idea in a Category 5 hurricane. The pilot ordered an immediate climb, and the plane exited the other side of Wilma's eyewall at an altitude of 10,000 feet. They maintained this altitude for the remainder of the flight. During their next pass through the eye at 06:11 UTC, the diameter of the eye had shrunk to an incredibly tiny two miles--the smallest hurricane eye ever measured. During their third and final pass through the eye at 0801 UTC, a dropsonde found a central pressure of 882 mb--the lowest pressure ever observed in an Atlantic hurricane. In the span of just 24 hours, Wilma had intensified from a 70 mph tropical storm to a 175 mph category 5 hurricane--an unprecedented event for an Atlantic hurricane. Since the pressure was still falling, it is likely that Wilma became even stronger after the mission departed.

I'll have a new post by Tuesday at the latest.

Jeff Masters

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SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LUBBOCK TX
807 PM CDT SAT APR 28 2012

TXC263-290130-
/O.CON.KLUB.SV.W.0063.000000T0000Z-120429T0130Z/
KENT TX-
807 PM CDT SAT APR 28 2012

...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR SOUTHEASTERN
KENT COUNTY UNTIL 830 PM CDT...

AT 802 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR CONTINUED TO
INDICATE A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM...CAPABLE OF PRODUCING LARGE
DESTRUCTIVE HAIL UP TO BASEBALL SIZE...AND DESTRUCTIVE WINDS IN
EXCESS OF 70 MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED 7 MILES SOUTHEAST OF
CLAIREMONT...OR 14 MILES SOUTHWEST OF JAYTON...MOVING EAST AT 45 MPH.

LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
MAINLY RURAL AREAS OF EASTERN KENT COUNTY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER...PLEASE CALL THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
IN LUBBOCK AT 8067451290.

&&

LAT...LON 3297 10080 3319 10081 3327 10061 3311 10052
3296 10052
TIME...MOT...LOC 0106Z 254DEG 38KT 3309 10064

$$

05
Member Since: 八月 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38241
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LOUISVILLE KY
859 PM EDT SAT APR 28 2012

KYZ034-039-040-047-290130-
ANDERSON-MERCER-SHELBY-WOODFORD-
859 PM EDT SAT APR 28 2012

...STRONG THUNDERSTORM WITH DANGEROUS LIGHTNING...AND PENNY SIZE
HAIL WILL MOVE ACROSS ANDERSON COUNTY...

AT 853 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR WAS TRACKING A
STRONG THUNDERSTORM 12 MILES EAST OF TAYLORSVILLE...AND MOVING EAST
AT 35 MPH.

CONTINUOUS CLOUD TO GROUND LIGHTNING...AND PENNY SIZE HAIL AND WIND
GUSTS UP TO 40 MPH...ARE EXPECTED WITH THIS STORM.

* THIS STORM WILL ALSO IMPACT...
VERSAILLES...
LAWRENCEBURG...
HICKORY GROVE AND FOX CREEK...
BALLARD AND DUGANSVILLE...
NEVIN AND MCBRAYER...
BONDVILLE AND VANARSDELL...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

IF YOU ARE IN THE PATH OF THIS STORM...SEEK SHELTER INDOORS AND STAY
AWAY FROM WINDOWS. STAY TUNED TO NOAA ALL HAZARDS RADIO...
WEATHER.GOV/LOUISVILLE ON THE INTERNET...OR LOCAL MEDIA FOR LATER
UPDATES AND POSSIBLE WARNINGS.

&&

LAT...LON 3781 8490 3785 8500 3789 8503 3789 8511
3792 8512 3790 8513 3791 8516 3798 8517
3799 8516 3800 8513 3804 8510 3805 8514
3813 8511 3806 8473
TIME...MOT...LOC 0058Z 289DEG 30KT 3799 8507

$$

JSD
Member Since: 八月 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38241
Quoting PlazaRed:

Senor Grother, Perdon mi teclada Inglais!
Estoy aqui en Iberia, moy cera la Cuidad de Jerez. el tiempo ex moy malo con cubascos moy fuertes y posibilidads de tormentas.
Manana es el dia de Gren Pix de motorcyclistas en Jerez y yo voy y hacer una nmisa para ellos por bein tiempo.
Saludos Curandero! Caballero.
( Soy del coligio de Illuminati?)


Hay que trabajar en su español un poco. Yo lo entiendo, pero es un poco difícil. Espero que no los "illuminati" de la Iglesia.
Member Since: 七月 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26052
Quoting WxGeekVA:


I'm looking at the same storm, and the rotation is just too broad. That isn't even low level rotation, it's a few thousand feet up because it's not close to a radar station. I don't think that storm is tornadic IMO.


Doesn't mean that it hasn't worked its way down
Member Since: 六月 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6482
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Still no warning...



I'm looking at the same storm, and the rotation is just too broad. That isn't even low level rotation, it's a few thousand feet up because it's not close to a radar station. I don't think that storm is tornadic IMO.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Still no warning...


I think it's as strong as it's ever been... I don't know what the NWS is looking at, but I see some good rotation
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Still no warning...



That's better than the last one, closer
Member Since: 六月 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6482
Quoting nigel20:

Hurricane Katrina wad a demon of a storm that no one wish to experience and can you believe that it weakened from a moderate cat 5 to a cat 3 before landfall...though it maybe possible that it was still a cat 4 at landfall


It was awesome and mind boggeling, awe inspiring, and destructive.

Amazing
Member Since: 六月 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6482
Still no warning...

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Storm in Texas needs a tornado warning immediately.



I think it's close but no according to that!
Member Since: 六月 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6482
That was only directed to Red in response to his earlier comment on pg 9, he and I know each other well.
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Quoting CanesfanatUT:


My GF will get a lot of money from her parents.


Quite the lucky dude
Member Since: 六月 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6482
Quoting PedleyCA:


Woo-Hoo only 2 weeks, my back yard.....

hopefully we'll get an early storm to watch
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981
Quoting HurrikanEB:


It's amazing to think that the 2004 hurricane season obtained the title of "most costly season" with just something like a total of $50 billion in damage. Then just a year later we had individual storms like Katrina and Wilma that were costing anywhere from 50%-200% of what had been the previous seasonal record.

Excellent post by Dr. Masters.

Hurricane Katrina wad a demon of a storm that no one wish to experience and can you believe that it weakened from a moderate cat 5 to a cat 3 before landfall...though it maybe possible that it was still a cat 4 at landfall
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981
Storm in Texas needs a tornado warning immediately.

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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Impressive supercell in Texas...

Wow, it has a nice hook... definitely tornado warning needed
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So Plaza Red if GW isn't going to be the end of the world as we know it, what will be the trigger to what will be? The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zo'ar. Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomor'rah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
3 months ago


now

Significant, but expected warming over the past three months
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981
Impressive supercell in Texas...
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Quoting weatherh98:


I intend to marry a rich girl lol


My GF will get a lot of money from her parents.
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Quoting MetMan2012:


Speak for yourself.

Ah yes, I had forgotten about you. Some things never change, do they? Still hoping for death and destruction like always.
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Quoting nigel20:


And only two weeks before the eastern pacific hurricane season...thanks much


Woo-Hoo only 2 weeks, my back yard.....
Member Since: 二月 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5773
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Doing fine. Only 33 days left until June 1rst.

Link


And only two weeks before the eastern pacific hurricane season...thanks much
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
3 months ago


now



Did ya get all the cabinets installed oh mighty overseer.....
Member Since: 二月 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5773
Quoting HurrikanEB:


It's amazing to think that the 2004 hurricane season obtained the title of "most costly season" with just something like a total of $50 billion in damage. Then just a year later we had individual storms like Katrina and Wilma that were costing anywhere from 50%-200% of what had been the previous seasonal record.

Excellent post by Dr. Masters.

Two truly amazing hurricane seasons that none of us want to witness ever again.

3,193 fatalities in 2005 and >3000 fatalities in 2004.
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3 months ago


now
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Quoting hydrus:
$700 million
Haiti 12 $500 thousand
Jamaica 1 $93.5 million
Mexico 8 $7.5 billion
United States 36 $21 billion
Total 63 $29 billion

Wilma was responsible for at least 63 total deaths and over $29 billion (2005 US$) in damages.Wilma made several landfalls, with the most destructive effects felt in the Yucat%uFFFDn Peninsula of Mexico, Cuba, and the US state of Florida. At least 62 deaths were reported, and damage is estimated at $29.1 billion (2005 USD, $34.6 billion 2012 USD), $20.6 billion (2005 USD, $24.5 billion 2012 USD) of which occurred in the United States alone. As a result, Wilma is ranked among the top five most costly hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic and the fourth most costly storm in United States history.


It's amazing to think that the 2004 hurricane season obtained the title of "most costly season" with just something like a total of $50 billion in damage. Then just a year later we had individual storms like Katrina and Wilma that were costing anywhere from 50%-200% of what had been the previous seasonal record.

Excellent post by Dr. Masters.
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Quoting Grothar:


Well, I started out as Napolean and changed into the Old Major. Now I think I am more like Mr.Pilkington. So, you are in Eurasia?

Senor Grother, Perdon mi teclada Inglais!
Estoy aqui en Iberia, moy cera la Cuidad de Jerez. el tiempo ex moy malo con cubascos moy fuertes y posibilidads de tormentas.
Manana es el dia de Gren Pix de motorcyclistas en Jerez y yo voy y hacer una nmisa para ellos por bein tiempo.
Saludos Curandero! Caballero.
( Soy del coligio de Illuminati?)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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Quoting PlazaRed:

2.00, AM here, now and throwing it down with rain, I pity the fans in the tents out there who are about 60 miles away from me.
Mud and misery for sure. I used to suffer it too when we built those bikes about 40+years ago before the costs prohibited us from competing.
Still I hope it fines up for tomorrow as over 100,000 will be there to see the GP.
Thanks Pedley for your interest.
Plaza.


I'll be watching that from afar tomorrow. Love GP racing 2or 4 wheels. Been a fan of it since the early 60's when the cars were
really simple compared to what they field today. Long Live F1.
Member Since: 二月 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5773
Check out the hail core on the Louisville storm! At the time, my GRAnalyst was saying that the storm had 4.75 inch hail!!!

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Quoting nigel20:

Yes it is..what's up Twpr?


Doing fine. Only 33 days left until June 1rst.

Link
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This is the JTWC discussion of 97W.

AN AREA OF CONVECTION HAS PERSISTED NEAR 6.1N 127.8E,
APPROXIMATELY 155 NM EAST-SOUTHEAST OF DAVAO, PHILIPPINES. ANIMATED
INFRARED SATELLITE IMAGERY REVEALS INTENSE CONVECTION THAT HAS
CONTINUED TO BUILD OVER THE PAST 12-18 HOURS. A 281913Z SSMI 37 GHZ
MICROWAVE IMAGE DEPICTS DEEP CONVECTION WITH SOME CURVED BANDING ON
THE NORTHERN QUADRANT; HOWEVER, THE OVERALL CONVECTIVE SIGNATURE IS
POORLY ORGANIZED. RECENT SCATTEROMETRY DATA, INCLUDING A 281541Z
OSCAT PASS, REVEALS A SHARP SURFACE WAVE RATHER THAN A CLOSED LOW
LEVEL CIRCULATION CENTER (LLCC). SIMILARLY, THE 282100Z 850 MB
VORTICITY PRODUCT SHOWS A WAVE-LIKE SIGNATURE. UPPER LEVEL ANALYSIS
REVEALS THIS AREA IS UNDER EXCELLENT DIFFLUENCE IN THE EASTERLY
FLOW. THE VERTICAL WIND SHEAR IS ESTIMATED TO BE 15-20 KNOTS. THE
UPPER-LEVEL DIFFLUENCE IS PROVIDING AMPLE EXHAUST, AIDING THE
INTENSE CONVECTION. THE 282300Z SURFACE OBSERVATION FROM DAVAO,
PHILIPPINES REPORTS WINDS FROM THE NORTH AT FOUR KNOTS, AND A SEA
LEVEL PRESSURE OF 1011 MB. THE CURRENT NUMERICAL MODEL GUIDANCE DOES
NOT INDICATE THIS SYSTEM DEVELOPING INTO A TROPICAL CYCLONE;
HOWEVER, THE POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR THIS WAVE TO TRANSITION INTO A
CLOSED LLCC. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED SURFACE WINDS ARE ESTIMATED AT 15 TO
20 KNOTS. MINIMUM SEA LEVEL PRESSURE IS ESTIMATED TO BE NEAR 1008
MB. THE POTENTIAL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A SIGNIFICANT TROPICAL
CYCLONE WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS IS LOW.
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Quoting PedleyCA:


Not looking forward to it. I'm good without one. Here's hoping that this wet seasons doesn't wash any of you guys off your islands. Way too much rain lately down there. And it is the dry season, right.

Yeeah....typically the rainy season starts around mid-late May and finishes around October
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981
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Quoting PedleyCA:


Hey Red, and those guys will go do that race raining or not. Cool.

2.00, AM here, now and throwing it down with rain, I pity the fans in the tents out there who are about 60 miles away from me.
Mud and misery for sure. I used to suffer it too when we built those bikes about 40+years ago before the costs prohibited us from competing.
Still I hope it fines up for tomorrow as over 100,000 will be there to see the GP.
Thanks Pedley for your interest.
Plaza.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PedleyCA:


I'd rather be with the Earthquakes than the hurricanes and twisters.
That and being too close to sea level.

I preffer hurricanes more than earthquaks....earthquakes can be very destructive especially along subduction zones
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981
Quoting Grothar:


I never discuss politics, religion, climate change or most social issues.

Instead of spending my money on fancy cars and big houses and fine restaurants, I did the smart thing. I married someone who could buy these things for me. I am not now, nor have I ever been in the Social Security System.
what you don't have a cheque coming in a different name
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
97W looking good at this time.


Yes it is..what's up Twpr?
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981
Quoting nigel20:

hopefully you'll not get anything too strong anytime soon


Not looking forward to it. I'm good without one. Here's hoping that this wet seasons doesn't wash any of you guys off your islands. Way too much rain lately down there. And it is the dry season, right.
Member Since: 二月 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5773
Some times you just got to stop a while and think?
All these tornadoes, heat waves, hail stones, broken temp records,ice melting!Floods, droughts,sandstorms, Etc. etc's
That's before we consider oil leaks, radiation escapes, gas leaks, with a few wars, nuclear tests, genetically modified bacteria, (which even we never thought of!) and of course the general background population explosion. Then we have the ongoing economic crisis, a few passing plagues and the imminent migration of millions of starving 3rd worlders.
Who can add more? Oh the general increase in earthquake activity along with volcanic events!
The third stone from the sun looks like its in for an interesting next couple of decades?
I'm so glad we found you lot? Otherwise times would just have been a dull progression into the future. At least we can now look forward to infinitesimal dissection of the storm season!
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A big mess is what today has been.

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Quoting PedleyCA:


You feel those 5's, I been in a 6.6 and a 6.7, Those you remember. Nothing big here (near me) since the 1994 one (fingers crossed).

hopefully you'll not get anything too strong anytime soon
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981
Quoting nigel20:
I was watching some storm footage of Isabel and I must say that the east coast was very lucky with Irene


I'd rather be with the Earthquakes than the hurricanes and twisters.
That and being too close to sea level.
Member Since: 二月 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5773
I was watching some storm footage of Isabel and I must say that the east coast was very lucky with Irene
Member Since: 十一月 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7981

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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.