Isaac lashing the Keys; an eyewall is building

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:48 PM GMT on August 26, 2012

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Tropical Storm Isaac is steadily organizing as it lashes the Florida Keys with heavy rain and tropical storm-force winds. Sustained winds of 44 mph and 41 mph have been observed at Molasses Reef and Sombrero Key, respectively, this morning. Radar out of Key West shows an increase in spiral banding, and the beginnings of an eyewall. An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft completed its first pass through the center of Isaac near 11:30 am EDT, and did not find the pressure had fallen, or that the peak winds had increased. Infrared and visible satellite loops show that Isaac is a large and increasingly well-organized storm. An analysis of upper level winds from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS shows that upper-level outflow is quite good and increasing to the north, but is lacking elsewhere. Moderate wind shear and dry air to the south are interfering with heavy thunderstorm development on Isaac's south side. Heavy rains from Isaac are lingering over Haiti and the Dominican Republic; flash floods in Haiti from Isaac's torrential rains killed at least four people.


Figure 1. Morning reflectivity image from the Radar out of Key West radar shows the northwest section of an eyewall beginning to form to the southeast of the city.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 0Z and 06Z (8 pm and 2 am EDT) model runs have diverged significantly, and we can no longer be confident we know where Isaac will make landfall on the Gulf Coast. One camp of models, the UKMET and ECMWF, predict that a trough of low pressure moving across the Southeast U.S. will be strong enough to turn Isaac north to a landfall in the Florida Panhandle. The other set of models, the GFDL, GFS, and HWRF, predict the trough will bypass Isaac, and a ridge of high pressure will build in and force Isaac to a landfall over Louisiana. The official NHC forecast averages out these two extremes, calling for a landfall midway between the two solutions. Odds are, one of the two model solutions will turn out to be the correct one, and the NHC will be forced to make a substantial adjustment in their forecast track to the east or the west. Isaac has the potential to drop torrential rains capable of causing serious flooding and drought relief over the South. The latest 8-day precipitation forecast from the GFS model calls for 10 - 20 inches of rain over Southeast Louisiana, where it predicts Isaac will make landfall. The ECMWF model, however, these heavy rains will fall more over the Florida Panhandle, Alabama, and Georgia.


Figure 2. A hurricane forecaster's dilemma: which set of models is correct? The latest set of 0Z and 06Z (8 pm and 2 am EDT) model runs have diverged significantly. Our two top models--the GFS and ECMWF--have 72-hour forecasts that are about 350 miles apart. The ECMWF forecast is not shown here, but lies just to the west of the UKMET forecast (white line.)

Intensity forecast for Isaac
Isaac survived passage over Hispaniola and Cuba relatively intact. It's large size aided this. Isaac is over very warm waters of 31°C (88°F) with high total heat content in the Florida Straits, but is encountering moderate wind shear of 10 - 15 knots due to upper-level winds out of the southwest. This shear is predicted to relax to the light range tonight as an upper-level anticyclone becomes established over the storm. This should allow for more substantial intensification after Isaac passes the Florida Keys. However, the total heat content of the ocean decreases for Isaac Monday morning as it encounters a relatively cool ocean eddy in the Southeast Gulf of Mexico. If Isaac takes a more westerly track, passing due south of the Central Louisiana coast, the storm will encounter a modest warm eddy, which would aid intensification. The intensify forecasts from the various models are very divergent. The latest 06Z (2 am EDT) run of the GFDL model keeps Isaac as a strong tropical storm until landfall in Louisiana. Isaac will undergo rapid intensification into a Category 3 hurricane as it hits New Orleans, says the latest 06Z (2 am EDT) run of the HWRF model. The ECMWF model has Isaac as a strong Category 2 storm with a central pressure near 950 mb as it hits near the Alabama/Florida border.

Comparing Isaac with Ike of 2008
The current situation with Isaac is similar in some ways to that of Hurricane Ike of 2008. Ike spent considerable time over Cuba, weakening from a Category 4 to a Category 1 storm. The storm couldn't put its energy into building a strong inner core, but it was able to build up its outer rainbands that were over very warm waters. This resulted in a major expansion of its wind field, with tropical storm-force winds extending out 275 miles from the center at one point. Ike was able to intensify into a Category 2 storm on its path towards Texas, and had an unusually low pressure for a Cat 2 storm with 100 mph winds--944 mb. That's a central pressure more typical of a Category 3 storm, but Ike could only manage Category 2 winds, since it had such a large chunk of the atmosphere to keep spinning. With Isaac's TS winds already extending out to 205 miles, maybe we'll see another Ike-type situation as it intensifies--the storm will have an unusually low pressure in order to keep a huge wind field spinning, but never make it above Category 2, since it will take so long to spin up such a large wind field.

Storm surge forecast for Isaac
Isaac is a very large storm, with tropical storm-force winds that extend out 205 miles from the center. For comparison, Hurricane Katrina at landfall had tropical storm-force winds that extended out 230 miles from its center. Isaac's large size will enable it to set a large area of the ocean into motion, which will generate a large storm surge once the storm approaches land on the Gulf Coast. The latest 3:30 am EDT Integrated Kinetic Energy analysis from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division put the destructive potential of Isaac's winds near 0 on a scale of 1 to 6, but the destructive potential of Isaacs's storm surge was 2.1 on a scale of 1 to 6. A 2008 paper by Irish et al., The influence of storm size on hurricane surge, found that large storms like Isaac are capable to delivering a 30% larger storm surge to the coast than a smaller storm with the same maximum wind speeds. The angle with which the storm hit the coast is important, too--a storm moving due north or slightly east of north will deliver a storm surge about 10% greater than a storm moving NNW or NW. Consult our Storm Surge pages for detailed information on what the risk is for the coast. I expect that Isaac's storm surge will be about 30% higher than the typical surge one would expect based on the maximum wind speeds.

Invest 97L off the coast of Africa
A tropical wave (Invest 97L) is located about 650 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. The storm has a modest amount of spin and heavy thunderstorms, and is under moderate wind shear. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 97L a 50% chance of developing by Tuesday morning. None of the reliable models foresee that 97L will be a threat to the Lesser Antilles Islands. However, both the GFS and ECMWF models predict that a tropical wave that has not yet emerged from the coast of Africa may develop late this week, and potentially take a more westward track towards the Lesser Antilles, arriving around September 2.

Angela Fritz will have a new post here by 6 pm EDT. For the next few days, I plan to do the morning blog post, and Angela will be doing the late afternoon post. I'm in Atlanta to help out The Weather Channel with their on-air hurricane coverage, and will be on either in the afternoon or evening on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Jeff Masters

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Hello Everyone: According to the wunderground twitter account, New Orleans has declared a state of emergency.
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Very strong rain band here in West Palm Beach, 50 mph gusts i would say, blinding rain, 3-4 rumbles of thunder. No damage in my neighborhood, but the flooding just doubled.
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Angela is da house!!!!!! Now it's a party!!!!!
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Quoting violet312s:
My goodness I would not want to be in Brawley, CA. The little quakes keep coming. That would freak me out.
There have also been several small quakes all week in the Puerto Rico and Virgin Island area - but I guess they are so use to it that they don't think much about them.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Lol. Thanks for the laugh. :)
Wherever Isaac goes it is out of everyone's control, prepare for the Worst and pray and hope for the best, that is all anyone can do IMO.
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
Not healthy to drink water from a once filled with milk jug.


No offense, but healthy is relative in a disaster.

"It was crawlin' and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I've drunk,
I'm gratefullest to one from Gunga Din."

(quote from Gunga Din by Kipling)

If you lose power and water for weeks, tap water from a milk jug seems healthy compared to other sources that need to be filtered and dosed with iodine or bleach and still may be nasty.
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1770. bappit
Quoting Maineweatherguy20023:

DMIN is around now right??

Depends on where you are. Over the peninsula we are at Dmax.
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New Orleans is a unique situation...having a major population center sitting under sea level. If need be, they can and should do what they didn't do for Katrina. Bring in the full resources and get everyone out via C-130 and copters. I think you could all those willing to go out of dodge in less than 24 hours. This is America in 2012. Look what was done with less resources in Dunkirk 72 years ago.
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1768. airmet3
Quoting Bluestorm5:
What do Isaac have that Katrina or Rita did not have? Or it's equal for exception of dry air and heat content?


I believe Rita and Katrina were both well established hurricanes at this point and also had smaller overall circulations which allowed for a faster spinup..

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Quoting yoboi:


ya have to look past storm surge in nola the pumps can't keep up with a surge and 20 inches of rain....

The pumps in the New Orleans area are built to handle 2 inches of rain per hour. If more than 2 inches falls per hour for several hours, there will be flooding. But then, anyplace in the world would flood with that much rain.
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Key west now

Atmospheric Pressure (PRES): 29.43 in
Pressure Tendency (PTDY): -0.11 in ( Falling Rapidly )
Air Temperature (ATMP): 78.8 °F
Water Temperature (WTMP): 83.3 °F
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Quoting robj144:
Let's do this one more time. I know it's set to public now:



Not much.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
This blog is moving at ludicrous speed. Been a long time since I've seen it move this fast.

It has been a while since we were looking at a good possibility of a major hurricane hitting the USA coast.
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1763. sar2401
Quoting catastropheadjuster:
So has everything changed since this morning? Is it going to NO or TX? I've been out getting a few things and haven't been able to hear anything. I live in Mobile,Al our we out of it know?

sheri


No, the entire northern Gulf coast is still in it. The models are battling on where Isaac is going, and some models are east and some are west. Just keep watching and, once the models begin to converge, we'll have a better idea who is at lower risk.
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1762. pottery
Quoting PrivateIdaho:


Swimming against the tide again I see....


heheheheheh.... I got sucked out with the under-toads.....
Trying to get back to shore now.
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Quoting Levi32:


You're right. You can't ask for better. The only limitations are the dry air and ocean heat content.
that should prevent a cat 5 but im not so sure about a 3 or 4..
Member Since: July 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1102
Quoting Stormchaser121:

No its on the KFDM site


I checked earlier and it wasn't there. Glad you posted.
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
7 years ago this coming Wednesday
Wow, and headed right back to Mississippi!
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Analysis of upper level winds from the UKMET, ECMWF, and GFS show that the ULAC will be slightly displaced out to about 24 hrs, as indicated by the slight shear on SHIPS analysis. Beyond 24hrs, as the ULL continues to retrograde, however, the ULAC becomes firmly established over the storm providing outflow/divergence in all quadrants. SHIPS forecast supports this, showing shear values around 5 knots (even down to 1 knot) around that time. While the upper level environment is supportive of intensification now, what the models are showing us is the upper level environment will soon become prime for explosive development.




The only problem lies in the mid to low levels. Dry air, is present in Isaac's circulation, which has resulted from downsloping winds off Cuba and a lack of convection over the circulation. Isaac will need to build up a solid core and work out the dry air in order to take full advantage of the favorable SSTs and upper level environment. Furthermore, SHIPS text shows that mid to low level moisture will drop slightly as Isaac moves into the heart of the Gulf.

Still, all these factors considered, Isaac should continue to strengthen just about up until landfall. Strengthening very well may become explosive tomorrow if Isaac can rid himself of dry air and build up solid core today, allowing him to take full advantage of the ideal upper level environment.
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Quoting catastropheadjuster:
So has everything changed since this morning? Is it going to NO or TX? I've been out getting a few things and haven't been able to hear anything. I live in Mobile,Al our we out of it know?

sheri
If you in the cone,which you are still.I would pay attention to this storm.Things could shift one way or another.
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1756. JGreco
Quoting angelafritz:


So far Isaac is low risk for you. Even the models that are pushing Isaac west aren't reaching Corpus Christi.


So is the Panhandle of Florida safe then...the Fort Walton Beach Destin area....specifically...
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Quoting Levi32:


I said the trade winds and broadness were two of the problems.

The large-scale sinking is a clear problem. We saw with Ernesto how convection can go off very deeply but the pressures don't fall. The only way that can happen is if sinking air is offsetting the rising air causing the thunderstorms. With accelerating trade winds ahead of the storm and the MJO switching phases out ahead of it, the Caribbean was favored for sinking air, not for pressure falls.
Yeah but convection is rising air. If you have convection over a single consolidated and closed circulation pressures will fall, regardless of the MJO phase. My point is this didn't happen because of the broadness and the tradewinds preventing consolidation, not the sinking air of the leaving MJO.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


With Isaac's forward speed, even the heat content might not be much of an issue. The upper level conditions can often make up for what is lacking in SST heat potential as we see in the open Atlantic sometimes when majors form out there.
Gordon is a nice example...
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16979
Quoting catastropheadjuster:
So has everything changed since this morning? Is it going to NO or TX? I've been out getting a few things and haven't been able to hear anything. I live in Mobile,Al our we out of it know?

sheri


Nope your not out of it yet
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1752. duranta
Quoting WetBankGuy:


People were in fact directed to the Dome, RTA buses were delivering them to the dome, and people were told to bring their own supplies.

If you want to re-fight the myth battles, I suggest we find someplace off the board.


People were told to bring supplies for three days. If you recall, folks were there much longer. I'll re-fight it with you here and now.
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Quoting Levi32:


You're right. You can't ask for better. The only limitations are the dry air and ocean heat content.
What do Isaac have that Katrina or Rita did not have? Or it's equal for exception of dry air and heat content?
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8009
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x
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Why does the official forecast seem to be ignoring a majority of the models. It looks like 3 of the 6 models bring Isaac into Texas whereas the official forecast track -- even in the error range -- does not.
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Finally the rain easing up. Strongest band yet. 30+ gusts might have been an over estimate, but the rain was pretty intense.
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1746. LargoFl
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Quoting Levi32:


You're right. You can't ask for better. The only limitations are the dry air and ocean heat content.


With Isaac's forward speed, even the heat content might not be much of an issue. The upper level conditions can often make up for what is lacking in SST heat potential as we see in the open Atlantic sometimes when majors form out there.
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Quoting bappit:
Funktop shows a slight decrease in convection near the end of this loop, but compared to the beginning of the loop convection is on an upward path.


DMIN is around now right??
Member Since: August 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 269
Quoting blsealevel:


Thanks Angela nice call
Thanks Angela!
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This blog is moving at ludicrous speed. Been a long time since I've seen it move this fast.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Blog is moving so fast...posting this again here for emphasis:

Other than a bit of dry air initially, I'm not sure if Isaac could ask for better upper level conditions. He has an upper low backing away to his SW, another upper low to the SE of him, and an upper low along the Eastern Seaboard giving him excellent poleward outflow. Combine that with upper level ridging in the Gulf and the stage is set.


Hard to ask for anything better. If this were in the northwest Caribbean, it'd probably completely bomb out with such high Ocean Heat Content.
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1740. duranta
Quoting Bobsled27:


Actually, the Superdome was never intended as a shelter. In fact, people were told NOT to go there because there were no resources and it wasn't safe. But they came anyway, and you saw the results.


I have lived in New Orleans for years. People were told to go to the superdome, but that it wasn't equipped for special needs. New Orleans had no evacuation plan that they were willing to enact. Buses were left in low ground. Many folks here live on little income as this city's "economy", if you want to call it that, is based on tourism and the service industry. Many couldn't afford to leave. Cuba has their act together when it comes to evacuation and shelter. Now New Orleans has a much better plan, with buses and shelter planned for as many that need it. It took much misery of thousands and deaths to get there. Shame.
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Quoting katrinavet:
Katrina is nearly 7 years ago, guys. Can we leave it alone?
No.That storm has gone down in history for worst natural disaster.It affected the entire country one way or another.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16979
Full disclosure. major dad and I are veterans of major Hurricanes Bertha, Fran, Ivan and Dennis (along with others less significant in damage for us, but worth preparing for). Thanks to Irene visiting brother Bingley last year, I thought I would offer up what's worked for us in terms of preparation, both food-wise, house-wise PLUS some of the things folks don't know about, that make life bearable if those winds of almost-September come early. I hope you'll find something that you didn't know before. First up is the heavy lifting.

For Bertha and Fran in NC (Cat 2 and 3, 56 days apart in ’96), we only lived 10 miles inland, were on the eastern side of the storm both times (translation: got beat all to hell), never boarded up and did just fine. The most important thing we did, and have always done, is CLEAR THE AREA OF POTENTIAL FLYING OBJECTS. Anything and everything in our yard AND the neighborhood that could be turned into a missile (including that 100lb garden pot you don’t think can fly…it can), goes into the garage. Bertha came in during the daytime and, along around noon, we got to watch the neighbor’s metal shed explode and fly through our backyard at about 110 mph. That was the only thing we couldn’t control that day that went walkabout, and it would have killed someone if the wind hadn’t been parallel to the house.

************************************************* ************************************************** *******

*What to Do Inside*

Get ALL Your Laundry Done

You can run out of underwear FAST and blow through some serious t-shirts clearing flotsom. Plus, the second the last load is out of the washer, fill it up on it’s largest setting with cold water and STOP it. Voilà. Another source of water for rinse/washing. (The washing machine also makes an EXCELLENT ice cooler if you are space challenged, trust me. Fill it with THAT instead.)

Bathrooms

Scrub EVERY tub SPARKLING With a bleach based cleaner. We use a piece of saran wrap over the stopper, then plug it to make absolutely sure there’s NO leakage, then FILL THAT SUCKER UP. This becomes both relatively clean water to dip out for a sink sponge bath AND the ALL IMPORTANT FLUSH THE TOILET water. (And is ONLY used for…well, not tinkling.) Speaking of which, it doesn’t hurt to have a “Tidy Bowl” beforehand, if there’s a chance the power might be out for DAYS, if you get my drift…
Now, you may get lucky and have a trickle of water like we did after Fran, but the water company may beg you not to use it, because they’re trying to find leaks, or it’s not potable or whatever. (Another reason to HAVE A REAL RADIO: PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE)


Creature Comforts

While you’re busy as a bee, I always, ALWAYS recommend setting the thermostat on your A/C (while you have it) as LOW AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY STAND IT.

As in MEATLOCKER. Wearing SWEATS IN AUGUST cold. “But, ths, why?” you ask.

Because the second that power goes out and ALL those anxious people are still in your house in August breathing?

That temp is going to climb and F.A.S.T. And it will suck so bad.

And you will still have HOURS of storm to go, and schmaybe days without power. You’ll thank me....


Much more from our blog (originally written to help w/ Irene): a Soup to Nuts How-To's for Shopping, PLYWOOD BOARDING (WITH PICTURES), Making the Inside and Outside of Your Home SAFE AND Comfortable at my WunderBlog.
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Quoting katrinavet:
Katrina is nearly 7 years ago, guys. Can we leave it alone?
7 years ago this coming Wednesday
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LightingCharmer/Tar balls.
LightingCharmer. I fished the outside beach of Chandeleur Islands in the late '50s. Wade fishing from shore to the outside bar. In the sand frequently got tar between my toes. Good times, spent lots of nights camping and sleeping in the old lighthouse. All before Camille. Think that's gone now and with Kat...most of Chandeleur. Don't know where tar came from, just then thought it was part of the experience. Along with the black tip sharks biting specked trout off my stringer and occasionally hanging up in the stringer and pulling me along.
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
No problem, one of my favorite words. Especially since i am babysitting my 5 month old grandson, LOL


Lol. Thanks for the laugh. :)
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Quoting victoria780:
Im surprised the Weather Channel has Tropical Updates usually they have re runs of Ice Pilots


The day isn't over yet -- plus there are many days ahead for hurricane coverage. The Weather Channel still has lots of time to let its viewers stew in frustration and anger as they keep flipping back for nonexistent current weather coverage.

I know how frustrated I get when TWC mindlessly reruns its canned shows for the 10,000th time, with no updates or even the screen crawler when we have snow and thunderstorms.

God knows how the people who are experiencing tornado and hurricane warnings are feeling.
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Quoting robj144:
Let's do this one more time. I know it's set to public now:



It worked.
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1732. LargoFl
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Quoting Clearwater1:
When the levees where re-built, after Katrina, what were they built to withstand? Also, did they install a better pumping system, to withstand a Katrina strength storm? Anyone know? I hope they planned for a worse case situation. . . and hope they don't have to hope it works.


No, New Orleans is not prepared for a "worst case situation" regardless of what the Corps tells you. Better prepared but no where approaching what is necessary.
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1730. GetReal
Buoy in Se GOM that is located in the probable path that Isaac will take.


Station 42003
NDBC
Location: 26.044N 85.612W
Date: Sun, 26 Aug 2012 19:50:00 UTC
Winds: NNE (20°) at 23.3 kt gusting to 29.1 kt
Significant Wave Height: 8.2 ft
Dominant Wave Period: 8 sec
Mean Wave Direction: ENE (61°)
Atmospheric Pressure: 29.84 in and falling
Air Temperature: 83.7 F
Water Temperature: 85.3 F
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8874
Quoting sar2401:


All in bold for the furthest western point of any model? Preparedness is good, alarmism, not so much.

Maybe so...
Member Since: August 8, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 220
Blog is moving so fast...posting this again here for emphasis:

Other than a bit of dry air initially, I'm not sure if Isaac could ask for better upper level conditions. He has an upper low backing away to his SW, another upper low to the SE of him, and an upper low along the Eastern Seaboard giving him excellent poleward outflow. Combine that with upper level ridging in the Gulf and the stage is set.

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So has everything changed since this morning? Is it going to NO or TX? I've been out getting a few things and haven't been able to hear anything. I live in Mobile,Al our we out of it know?

sheri
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Quoting pottery:

Point taken.
But in the absence of an alternative, what ?

My point was really, that the people had no clear directions and reacted in panic.


Swimming against the tide again I see....
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.