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post #1 of 12 Old 06-10-2015 Thread Starter
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Thunderstorms

How do you make a go no go decision if the weather says thunderstorms are possible.

The recent Mobile Bay tragedy demonstrates that thunderstorms can be serious business.

That being said it is a rare day in the north east where the weather report doesn't mention a thunderstorm possibility.

What would be a prudent way to make this decision?

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post #2 of 12 Old 06-10-2015
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Re: Thunderstorms

Here in Micronesia they are in every forecast. So it is meaningless. You go and be prepared. An approaching squall can bring much needed wind, or it can bring unwanted 50 knot bursts. Unfortunately it is sometimes very difficult to know which.

Not as scary as the unknown drunk drivers you pass on the way to the marina.

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Re: Thunderstorms

I look for a 'mixed sky' where there is cloud layers at each level like in the photo below.

I tend to stay in port.

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Re: Thunderstorms

Stick your head out and read the sky. This is only useful if you have some knowledge and experience with how local wx systems move.
Then if you have any objective data sources, like Doppler radar maps of what is actually moving around your area, you can take a look to see if there are any storms you didn't see by eye, and where and how they are moving.

But radio forecasts? They have to walk a line between overly conservative to prevent damage, and overly simple, to prevent confusion. After one summer of cancelling weekend plans for no good reason except the forecasts, we came to call the NOAA man "the know-a-nothing man" and just use the eyeball, and some caution as needed.

And having said that, no, by the way, I do NOT like sailing in flash-bang wx. I do not like being anywhere near around it. (And that's a very Dr. Suess-like NOT.) But I'll still make my own decision, especially with NOAA's fine wx radar maps available to look at firsthand and animated.
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post #5 of 12 Old 06-10-2015
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Re: Thunderstorms

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
How do you make a go no go decision if the weather says thunderstorms are possible.

The recent Mobile Bay tragedy demonstrates that thunderstorms can be serious business.

That being said it is a rare day in the north east where the weather report doesn't mention a thunderstorm possibility.

What would be a prudent way to make this decision?
David, I share your concern, but have no answer other than be able to deal with these storms if they hit you. It's been a tough year on the Gulf of Mexico this year. Very different from the previous one. Statistics for a season don't mean much.

Our first return trip from the Bahamas was going great. The weather window was perfect, but there was a chance of thunderstorms in Florida. Go figure, it was June 30, 2013. We had a really great crossing to Lake Worth from Bimini. Well, until we neared the Florida coast. It was black along the coast as far as one could see. Lightning to port, starboard, and dead ahead. We got a big wind shift, but not much else went wrong, although the clouds had the look of,...of, well, the end of the world.

Now, we just get the heck out of the Bahamas in April, and clear of Florida by June. Still, this is no guarantee for our cruising grounds. Study your area, but keep in mind that whatever the forecast, thunderstorms can through a wrench in things.

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post #6 of 12 Old 06-11-2015
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Re: Thunderstorms

There are apps for smartphones that have weather radar showing thunderstorms, thunderstorm direction and speed as well as lightning strikes. XM radio also has satellite radar that shows the same and this can be fed to your chart plotter. I use both to make decisions about plans on water.
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post #7 of 12 Old 06-11-2015
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Re: Thunderstorms

It's summer, So most days are going to have some mention of Thunderstorms. They usually are " chance" of thunderstorms.
Typically they arrive in the late afternoon or evening. So plan your day around that if possible. And go sailing.

Sometimes they'll elevate it to Thunderstorms " likely" I tend to pay particular attention the the "Likely" forecast.

As Hellosailor said, look at the radar images. The storms usually move west to east and you can gauge when they'll arrive in your area.
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post #8 of 12 Old 06-12-2015
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Re: Thunderstorms

Gulf ,summer ,storms, the three go hand in hand you go out in the Gulf in the summer you Will get hit, simple.Thats the way it works near me.

Last edited by gah964; 06-12-2015 at 03:31 AM.
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post #9 of 12 Old 06-14-2015
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Re: Thunderstorms

If you can not deal with them then stay home. You need to learn to deal with them. We were in Fla for a few years and they just pop up. Got a lightening strike in the Bahamas that caused a lot of damage but repairable. Had a storm blow in unexpected off the coast of Panama and lightening strike 100yds behind the boat and all the circuit breakers went off and thus lost auto pilot, chartplotter, everything in winds in excess of 30k and boat rounded into the wind. Not good as we had to get everything back up and get back on course in high winds and seas.
Heading to an anchorage in southern San Blas and saw dark clouds coming and radar said not good. So cut sails and got hammered with 30-40k winds and in narrow area managed to keep the boat in a good position without getting to far toward a very shallow area and yet let the storm pass.

SO if you can not deal with the unexpected stay home.

Just our thoughts and opinion
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post #10 of 12 Old 06-14-2015
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Re: Thunderstorms

If you want to take a passive approach then lower all sails and go down below for the worst of the storm. The boat will lay abeam to the seas. Or hove too.
If you have plenty of sea room then while reefed you can go with it on a beam or broad reach. If it starts to really blow then go hove too.
Or you can strike the headsail and fore reach
All of this while hoping not to actually get struck by lightning.
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