Did Hurricane Wilma have 209 mph sustained winds?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:00 PM GMT on April 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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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


that is a typo, not no grammar error.
and my schoolings is good, i is homeschooled

:)

There, that is about the worst grammar i can think of.


Yes it was quite correct. But you had to mentally punctuate it.
Not sure if it supposed to have some or not. English was not one of my good subjects. Went more for Euro History and Auto Shop and Electronics.
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1180. yqt1001
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


There, that is about the worst grammar i can think of.


Y0 |]4\/\/G

7H4 41|\|7 |}4|]!

abt 's bad 's cn think
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1179. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting hydrus:
It is my theory that if they sold them ready to eat like they do chicken and donuts they would sell more....theory..


That is like my theory of Papa John's should have eat-in restaurants.
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1177. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting PedleyCA:


But it has to have some sort of flow. English isn't my favorite subject (or was). Back when schools were good.


that is a typo, not no grammar error.
and my schoolings is good, i is homeschooled

:)

There, that is about the worst grammar i can think of.
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1175. nigel20
Quoting hydrus:
1156. ASPECTRE- 10:02 PM GMT on April 29, 2012..I kno howe two spel..mi keebord skils knead som improvment..lol

lol, that's funny...seems a bit close to the Jamaican creole
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8324
1174. hydrus
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


as a kid i eat 2 boxes, but i am too impatient to wait for them to fully toast. :)
It is my theory that if they sold them ready to eat like they do chicken and donuts they would sell more....theory..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21782
Quoting spathy:
Throw the cow over the fence some hay.


Excellent. You have to read that a few times to make it work.
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1172. afj3
THE GFS MODEL REMAINS THE MOST AGGRESSIVE IN
DEVELOPING A WEAK SURFACE LOW ACROSS WESTERN CUBA ON THE
SOUTHWESTERN PERIPHERY OF THE RIDGE THAT EVENTUALLY WEAKENS AND
DISSIPATES ACROSS THE NW GULF WATERS.
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Quoting nigel20:

It's been dry and partly cloudy today

Excellent, rainy hot and damp does not work for me. You are probably used to the local weather. I would probably be whining. I am happy to live where it is not humid very often. And not Hot and Humid at the same time, which is a plus.
Speaking of Pluses and Minuses. I don't see any on the Blog today. Am I missing something. I am obviously logged on so that isn't it. Did someone break that feature.
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1170. ncstorm
Quoting nigel20:

We had 37 inches from TS Nicole in 2010....i think a storm in the pacific in 2009 dumped about 2000mm of rain in the Philippines if i'm not mistaken


We got over 20 inches from Ex Nicole at that time..I remember Cantore waiting in Florida on TWC for TS Nicole at the time and it barely even rained but when it got to us, oh boy!
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16042
Quoting WeatherfanPR:



I was asking the same myself but in any case we all know that even if only one storm forms, that storm can hit anywhere and do a lot of damage.


That's true.
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1167. nigel20
Quoting NCHurricane2009:
Speaking of rainfall totals (and since Dr. M mentioned Wilma)...Wilma produced the biggest rainfall amount I've ever heard of in the NHC post-storm reports:

62.05 Inches...Isla Mujueres...Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico

P.S...there is no typo...yes 62.05 inches...

We had 37 inches from TS Nicole in 2010....i think a storm in the pacific in 2009 dumped about 2000mm of rain in the Philippines if i'm not mistaken
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8324
The real waffle shortage happens when u can't get to a Waffle House. Forget Ihop when it comes to these things....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22585

I pretty much leave grammatical errors alone; frequently, "breaking the rules" of grammar is a purely stylistic choice. English has no rules of grammar: there is no official body deciding what is proper English and what is not.
And frequently the "rules" are wrong. eg For most people, "he quickly ran to the store" conveys a different meaning than "he ran quickly to the store". One describes how soon he started and the other describes how he ran. Yet the "properly worded" substitute for both (according to most grammar texts) is ambiguous at best.


Yikes, I am quickly drying my socks out after stepping in a huge puddle getting out of my car today in Boca. Then, I quickly I had to go back out to my car, and shut the window I left open, quickly realizing that the interior was getting drenched. I quickly realized, what a moron I was.
On a serious note, we are getting a nice soaking in SE Florida. Wonder if it will keep up thru tomorrow nite, since we are under a flood watch until 8pm Monday night.
Much needed rain though, for our golf course. Any tropical characteristics starting to form in the area? Wondering?
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


accordin to the Elements of Style, required in my curriculum, it is perfectly fine to deviate from standard grammar rules to better express you(r) meaning.
The problem comes when the deviation is in no way necessary or even beneficial


But it has to have some sort of flow. English isn't my favorite subject (or was). Back when schools were good.
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1163. nigel20
Quoting PedleyCA:


How is your Day going. Wet or Dry?

It's been dry and partly cloudy today
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8324
1162. hydrus
1156. ASPECTRE- 10:02 PM GMT on April 29, 2012..I kno howe two spel..mi keebord skils knead som improvment..lol
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21782
Quoting hydrus:
Hence the tiny frozen disks they sell at the supermarket called "eggos" I have nothing against them except that when you reach adulthood, you literally have to eat a box of them to get a decent meal, and each one must be toasted. I just empty the box on to a sheet pan and pop them into the oven...What a big cloud that is by Florida..gee...


as a kid i eat 2 boxes, but i am too impatient to wait for them to fully toast. :)
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Quoting aspectre:
PedleyCA: Spelling Errors. If you want your spelling errors brought to your attention, I would be glad to point them out. I usually just reply to a post and correct the error and say nothing. Maybe that person gets the hint. Or I might just point it out if it amuses me.....
640. Grothar: It really isn't polite to correct someone's spelling on the blog, or their grammar. But sometimes it can be funny. Since English is not really my first language, I am always a little hesitant to correct someone anyway. English is by far, one of the most difficult languages to write correctly. Even Klingon is pretty much phonetic.

It isn't polite to point out that one is correcting a spelling or grammar error...
...though pointedly correcting the text of someone attacking another for such errors is easily justifiable under the "we all make mistakes, especially including you" doctrine.

I too routinely correct spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors without announcing that I'm doing so:
It makes the reading easier, especially for languages infrequently used on the forum
Constantly seeing misspellings/etc confuses the mind into making the same errors. And for me personally, making the correction helps to insure that I won't copy that error in the future.

I pretty much leave grammatical errors alone; frequently, "breaking the rules" of grammar is a purely stylistic choice. English has no rules of grammar: there is no official body deciding what is proper English and what is not.
And frequently the "rules" are wrong. eg For most people, "he quickly ran to the store" conveys a different meaning than "he ran quickly to the store". One describes how soon he started and the other describes how he ran. Yet the "properly worded" substitute for both (according to most grammar texts) is ambiguous at best.

On the other hand, misspellings that completely change the meaning of a sentence from what was intended are fair game for (t)witticisms.


accordin to the Elements of Style, required in my curriculum, it is perfectly fine to deviate from standard grammar rules to better express you meaning.
The problem comes when the deviation is in no way necessary or even beneficial
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1159. hydrus
Quoting aspectre:
1104 hydrus: "Eggo" brand Waffles while convenient are sub-marginal to a true waffle.

Hey! No fair! Some of us aren't mentally dextrous enough to engage in true waffling.
Hence the tiny frozen disks they sell at the supermarket called "eggos" I have nothing against them except that when you reach adulthood, you literally have to eat a box of them to get a decent meal, and each one must be toasted. I just empty the box on to a sheet pan and pop them into the oven...What a big cloud that is by Florida..gee...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21782
how about this craziness...

NHC BULLETIN
HURRICANE BERYL ADVISORY NUMBER 12
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
1100 AM AST SUN AUG 24 2012

...BERYL STRENGTHENS TO 345 MPH... BREAKING ALL CYCLONE RECORDS FOR FOR THE ERA... THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS PHENOMENON MAKING HISTORY


SUMMARY OF 1100 AM AST...0600 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...16.0N 60.4W
ABOUT 75 MI...125 KM ESE OF GUADELOUPE
ABOUT 120 MI...195 KM SE OF ANTIGUA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...345 MPH...300 KT
PRESENT MOVEMENT...W OR 280 DEGREES AT 12 MPH...8 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...754 MB
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Quoting Grothar:
From Molasses Reef in the keys


Sweet!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11432
633 PedleyCA: Spelling Errors. If you want your spelling errors brought to your attention, I would be glad to point them out. I usually just reply to a post and correct the error and say nothing. Maybe that person gets the hint. Or I might just point it out if it amuses me.....
640 Grothar: It really isn't polite to correct someone's spelling on the blog, or their grammar. But sometimes it can be funny. Since English is not really my first language, I am always a little hesitant to correct someone anyway. English is by far, one of the most difficult languages to write correctly. Even Klingon is pretty much phonetic.

It isn't polite to point out that one is correcting a spelling or grammar error...
...though pointedly correcting the text of someone attacking another for such errors is easily justifiable under the "We all make mistakes, especially including you." doctrine.

When quoting someone, I too routinely correct spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors without announcing that I'm doing so:
It makes the reading easier, especially for languages infrequently used on the forum.
Constantly seeing misspellings/etc confuses the mind into making the same errors. And for me personally, making the correction helps to ensure that I won't copy that error in the future.

I pretty much leave grammatical errors alone. Frequently, "breaking the rules" of grammar is a purely stylistic choice. English has no rules of grammar: there is no official body deciding what is proper English and what is not.
And at least as frequently, the "rules" are wrong. eg For most people, "he quickly ran to the store" conveys a different meaning than "he ran quickly to the store". One describes how soon he started and the other describes how he ran.
Yet the "properly worded" substitute for both (according to most grammar texts) is ambiguous at best.

On the other hand, mischosen homonyms and misspellings that humorously change the meaning of a sentence from what was intended are fair game for (t)witticisms.
eg "I wait for your response with baited breath, chum."
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Quoting PedleyCA:


Hopefully, concerning this conversation, the admins see...NOTHING!!!!!

I love that show, but few of my friends in school have seen it.

oh well, it is an off day Sunday afternoon, no rules broken. I think

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1154. ncstorm
I just looked at the CMC and not read back on the blog so forgive me if this has been posted already..

EDIT
The CMC does see a low for Florida and takes it to the GOM..




then develops a low off the NC coast
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16042


September 17, 1965, to March 28, 1971,
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1152. hydrus
Quoting JNCali:

My 12 year old...
They still say that..:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21782
1104 hydrus: "Eggo" brand Waffles while convenient are sub-marginal to a true waffle.

Hey! No fair! Some of us aren't mentally dextrous enough to engage in true waffling.
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Quoting Grothar:


For you I will give a Blaetterteig!


who watched Hogan's Heroes?
Best show ever, never will be another one like it.
That is also all the German i know. :)
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1149. JNCali
Quoting Grothar:


Leggo my Eggo!

My 12 year old...
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1148. Grothar
Quoting PedleyCA:
Well, I guess you are finally getting a bunch of rain. As usual if ya ask for some, it sometimes gets out of hand and you get copious.

Hunker down and keep that snorkel in one hand. Hang in there
Sensei.


Will do, Grasshopper! We finally got some good rain. It was so dry our geckos were forming committees on how to ration.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26897
1147. Grothar
Quoting barbamz:

By chance I saw that cookie and got hungry, lol. And you know, as your German fan I always listen to you carefully and will remember ...


For you I will give a Blaetterteig!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26897
Quoting nigel20:

OK, so you are having a fairly good day


How is your Day going. Wet or Dry?
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Quoting WeatherfanPR:



I was asking the same myself but in any case we all know that even if only one storm forms, that storm can hit anywhere and do a lot of damage.


On average or below average seasons in the past years,there have been many big hurricane landfalls like Andrew, Hugo and many more.
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Speaking of rainfall totals (and since Dr. M mentioned Wilma)...Wilma produced the biggest rainfall amount I've ever heard of in the NHC post-storm reports:

62.05 Inches...Isla Mujueres...Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico

P.S...there is no typo...yes 62.05 inches...
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 529 Comments: 3706
1143. nigel20
Quoting PedleyCA:

Doing OK, I see that they backed off on the forecast. It was saying 93 yesterday and I just looked and it is 88 now for today. Right now it is 80.6°
Been downloading a few ISO files for Linux OS's for one of my computers. One an update and the other something new to try.

OK, so you are having a fairly good day
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8324
1142. Grothar
Hey, hydrus. We are ready for one of your Monet maps of Florida.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26897
1141. nigel20
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8324
1140. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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1139. barbamz
Quoting Grothar:


Ach, you have a good memory!!

By chance I saw that cookie and got hungry, lol. And you know, as your German fan I always listen to you carefully and will remember ...
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Quoting nigel20:

Hey pedley...how is your weekend going?

Doing OK, I see that they backed off on the forecast. It was saying 93 yesterday and I just looked and it is 88 now for today. Right now it is 80.6°
Been downloading a few ISO files for Linux OS's for one of my computers. One an update and the other something new to try.
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1137. Grothar
Quoting barbamz:


*copious" lol, Grothar, give another cookie to yourself?
All the best and don't drown!


Ach, you have a good memory!! It is like a word one would use in Hannover, just to impress us. LOL
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26897
Quoting BahaHurican:
Well, I knew that wouldn't last. Now winds and rain are high again... looks like the next band of weather is heading through. Looking at the sat pics it still seems as if much of this moisture is streaming N from the northern CAR...


How High are your winds?
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1135. Grothar
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26897
1133. nigel20
Quoting PedleyCA:
Thanks for that link. Adding it to the pile.

Hey pedley...how is your weekend going?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8324
1132. barbamz
Quoting Grothar:
It is getting very dark and ominous. The wind is picking up and we are expecting copious amount of rain in the next hour. I don't know how long I can stay on.



*copious" lol, Grothar, give another cookie to yourself?
All the best and don't drown!
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Quoting CaribBoy:


What if 2012 is NOT below average...



I was asking the same myself but in any case we all know that even if only one storm forms, that storm can hit anywhere and do a lot of damage.
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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.