Little change to Isaac, but storm poses a serious storm surge threat

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:25 PM GMT on August 27, 2012

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Tropical Storm Isaac has changed little in strength or organization this morning, as the storm heads northwest at 14 mph towards the Central Gulf Coast. There are two hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm, and Isaac's central pressure held steady at 989 mb at the 8:30 am and 9:15 am center fixes. Top surface winds remain near 65 mph. Infrared and visible satellite loops show that Isaac is a very large storm, but isn't very symmetric. Heavy thunderstorm activity is lacking on the southeast side, where 10 knots of wind shear is driving dry air into the circulation. The center is surrounded by a ring of echoes now, which was not the case on Sunday. However, the echoes are weak. The 8:30 am center report from the Hurricane Hunters reported about half of a ragged eyewall, but the 9:15 am report did not mention any evidence of an eyewall. Isaac will have to form an eyewall in order to intensify significantly.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Isaac. Note the lack of heavy thunderstorm activity on the storm's southeast side, where dry air and wind shear are combining to interfere with development.

Isaac's rains
Isaac's heaviest rains have fallen along a swath from the east coast of Florida near West Palm Beach to the center of the state, just south of Orlando. West Palm Beach received 7.57" of rain from Isaac as of 10 am EDT this morning. A trained spotter in Western Boynton Beach reported 10" of rain from midnight to midnight Sunday. Heavy rains from Isaac are lingering over Cuba but have ended in Haiti and the Dominican Republic; flash floods in Haiti from Isaac's torrential rains killed at least nineteen, and two died in the Dominican Republic.


Figure 2. Radar-estimated rainfall from Melbourne, Florida radar shows that Isaac has dumped a wide swath of 3+ inches of rain (orange colors) across the state.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 0Z and 06Z (8 pm and 2 am EDT) model runs are fairly unified taking Isaac ashore near Southeast Louisiana late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, but continue to show major differences in what happens after that. It is still uncertain if a trough of low pressure passing to the north of Isaac will be able to turn the storm due north, as the ECMWF model is predicting, or bypass the storm, allowing a more west-northwest motion into western Louisiana, like the GFS model is predicting. In either case, Isaac is likely to slow down as it approaches the coast, which will increase the damage potential fro m its wind, storm surge, and rains. The latest 8-day precipitation forecast from the GFS model calls for 10 - 20 inches of rain over much of Louisiana. The ECMWF model predicts that these heavy rains will fall more over Mississippi. It appears likely that Arkansas will see some heavy rains from Isaac late in the week, which would help put a dent in the exceptional drought conditions there.


Figure 3. Predicted precipitation for the 8-day period from 2 am Monday August 27 to 2 am Tuesday September 4, from the 2 am EDT August 27 run of the GFS model. This model is predicting a wide swath of 5 - 10 inches of rain (orange colors) will affect portions of Louisiana. Additional very heavy rains are predicted for the Midwest, as moisture from Isaac interacts with a cold front. Image credit: NOAA/NCEP.

Intensity forecast for Isaac
Isaac is currently crossing over a relatively cool eddy of water, which will keep intensification slow today. By tonight, the total heat content of the waters increases, which should aid intensification. Low wind shear of 10 knots or less is likely until landfall. An analysis of upper level winds from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS shows that upper-level outflow to the north is not as strong as yesterday, which should also slow intensification today. The models forecast the upper-level outflow should improve by Tuesday. A storm this large will have trouble undergoing rapid intensification, and Isaac's most likely intensity at landfall will be as a Category 1 hurricane, which is what most of the intensity models are forecasting.


Figure 4. Track of Hurricane Gustav of 2008, which followed a path very similar to that of Isaac's predicted path.

Storm surge forecast for Isaac
Storm surge is the primary damage threat from Isaac. Isaac is a huge 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. Water levels at Shell Beach, Louisiana, just east of New Orleans, were already elevated by 1' this morning. Conversely, water levels have fallen by 2' this morning at St. Petersburg, Florida, where strong offshore winds due to Isaac's counter-clockwise circulation have carried water away from the coast. The latest 6:30 am EDT Integrated Kinetic Energy analysis from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division put the destructive potential of Isaac's winds near 0.6 on a scale of 0 to 6, but the destructive potential of Isaacs's storm surge was 2.1 on a scale of 0 to 6. I expect this destructive potential will rise above 3 by time Isaac makes landfall, making Isaac's storm surge similar to that generated by Category 2 Hurricane Gustav of 2008, which followed a path very similar to Isaac's predicted path. Gustav brought a storm surge characteristic of a Category 1 hurricane to New Orleans: 9.5' to Lake Borgne on the east side of the city. A higher Category 2-scale surge occurred along the south-central coast of Louisiana, and was 12.5' high in Black Bay, forty miles southeast of New Orleans. Recent model runs indicate Isaac may slow down to a forward speed under 5 mph on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, close to the coast. If Isaac is just offshore at this time, the coasts of Southeast Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle will be exposed to a large storm surge with battering waves for two high tide cycles. This sort of extending pounding will be capable of delivering more damage than the storm surge of Hurricane Gustav of 2008.

The affect of storm size and angle of approach on storm surge
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.

Isaac's storm surge will provide the first test of the newly-completed New Orleans levee system upgrade. In the wake of the disastrous storm surge flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Congress appropriated $14.5 billion to upgrade the New Orleans levee system to withstand a Category 3 hurricane storm surge. Katrina was a Category 3 storm at landfall, but the storm passed far enough to the east of the city that its storm surge was characteristic of a Category 1 - 2 storm at the places where the city's flood walls and levees failed. The new flood defenses were only partially completed in time for the arrival of Hurricane Gustav in 2008, which hit Central Louisiana as a Category 2 storm. Gustav brought a storm surge characteristic of a Category 1 hurricane to New Orleans: 9.5' to Lake Borgne on the east side of the city. Since that time, the imposing 2-mile long IHNC Flood Barrier has been completed to block off the funnel-shaped pair of canals on the east side of the city. I expect New Orleans' new flood defenses will be able to hold back Isaac's surge, but areas outside the levees are at risk of heavy storm surge damage.


Figure 5. A portion of New Orleans' new $14.5 billion dollar flood defenses, as taken from an Army Corps of Engineers map.

New Orleans flood defense info
Army Corps of Engineers map of the new flood defenses
Army Corps of Engineers video showing the flood defenses
New York Times article, Vast Defenses Now Shielding New Orleans

Invest 97L off the coast of Africa
A tropical wave (Invest 97L) is located in the Middle Atlantic, about 1050 miles west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands. 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 30% chance of developing by Wednesday morning. None of the reliable models foresee that 97L will be a threat to the Lesser Antilles Islands, and high wind shear should begin to tear the disturbance apart on Tuesday.

Another tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on Sunday is located just south of the Cape Verde Islands. This disturbance is moving west at 10 - 15 mph, and could arrive in the Lesser Antilles around September 2. Several models develop the disturbance into a tropical depression late this week, and NHC is giving the disturbance a 10% chance of becoming a tropical depression by Wednesday morning.

Angela Fritz will have a new post here by 6 pm EDT. I'm in Atlanta to help out The Weather Channel with their on-air hurricane coverage, and will doing a few 3-minute tropical updates at 30 minutes past the hour between 2:30 - 7:30 pm EDT today.

Jeff Masters

Tropical Storm Isaac (chelina)
View from the north side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Tropical Storm Isaac
our street at noon today (seflagamma)
Aug 26, 2012: Isaac floods our street really bad. Now nearly 11
our street at noon today

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Quoting ILwthrfan:

Thanks GT. This be my #1 Bookmark during Hurricane season now. Thank you.
I like the HWRF model too because of its nested grid and it can even pan out to the rest of the Tropical Atlantic.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Center is stationary. Edit: never mind, you're right, a slight NNE-ward motion was observed since the last center penetration; my bad.



Of course I'm right. Back off me, MH. :-)
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1107. LargoFl
I dont know about you all..but im exhausted lol..been a very hectic day today posting huh...here's another warning......COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN TAMPA BAY RUSKIN HAS ISSUED A
COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY...WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM EDT THIS
EVENING.

* COASTAL FLOODING...1 TO 3 FEET ABOVE NORMAL TIDES.

* TIMING...THROUGH THIS EVENING.

* IMPACTS...MINOR FLOODING RIGHT ALONG THE COAST DURING HIGH
TIDES.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY INDICATES THAT ONSHORE WINDS AND TIDES
WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE FLOODING OF LOW AREAS ALONG THE SHORE.

&&
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36936
Quoting MississippiWx:


Zoom in and look to the NNE along their path. You'll see a white barb and a windshift.
Aww, you quoted me before I made the edit. You're right.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
1105. flcanes
Quoting GTcooliebai:
If it continues on a NW heading it could come in East of NOLA around Gulfport.

track shift east?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Center is stationary.



I dont think so. The obs from the HH now show WSW winds to the NE of the first center dropsonde position.
This suggests a center reformation. The white pin in the data set to the NE of the first drop should be the new center position I would think as obs to the N and S of that "pin" show winds from the E and W respectively.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
1103. flcanes
Quoting ILwthrfan:

Thanks GT. This be my #1 Bookmark during Hurricane season now. Thank you.

i've got to say thanks to him too
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Quoting Caner:
Microwave scan smooths the motion and makes the direction of travel less wobbly, easier to see.

If it continues on a NW heading it could come in East of NOLA around Gulfport.
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1101. Kumo
Quoting GetReal:
This will answer a lot of questions about direction, organization, and strength.








I think I see what you are referring to. Noticed the west part of circulation really light up in the last few frames.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Center is stationary.



Zoom in and look to the NNE along their path. You'll see a white barb and a windshift.
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Quoting flcanes:

dat is good


Dat is bad if that is indeed the case..........
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Quoting MrNatural:


Absolutely not. In fact I see it winding up. But surface temperatures and TCHP will not support that at this time.

Link


Re-read my comment...I didn't say CAT 5...I said a hurricane AT 5.....
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Palm Beach County Schools have been cancelled for Tuesday after what some are calling the "Every 100 years storm". Palm Beach Post
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1096. CJ5
Quoting Neapolitan:
I'm not the blog police, and far be it from me to stomp on anyone's fun, but I personally find the repeated jokes about Stephanie Abrams' body to be tasteless and disrespectful. I understand that some may not like her, and that's their choice. I also understand that some may find her attractive. That, too, is their choice. But the woman is a professional, not some bimbo posing for the cover of Maxim; she's got degrees in meteorology and geography (along with a minor in mathematics, fer cryin' out loud). As often as met students in this forum talk about how difficult those courses are, I'd think Ms Abrams would deserve at least here to be talked about for what she's accomplished more than the physical attributes gifted to her by her DNA. Not to mention: there aren't just hormonal males frequenting this forum. So can you guys maybe save the female body worship for WU mails or your own blogs? Please?


I agree, it is quite sophomoric.
Member Since: July 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1755
Conditions NE of Lake Charles mostly sunny, north breeze increasing, pressure starting to drop slightly on my home barometer.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Nice educational post.


I'm sure all he read was, "OMG it's moving NNE now" instead of reading the explanation as to why it was happening.
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1093. flcanes
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Center is stationary.


dat is good
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Link

Thanks GT. This be my #1 Bookmark during Hurricane season now. Thank you.
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Quoting tennisgirl08:
Isaac will be a rain and surge event. Kind of like Irene up the East coast. Dr. Rick Knabb on TWC just said 2 days straight of rains.

We need to stop thinking he's going to be a huge wind event.
I think fresh water flooding or inland flooding is the #1 killer in Tropical Systems.
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1090. flcanes
Quoting ncstorm:
Sorry as a woman, I didnt plus Nea's comment..calling any woman a Bimbo dont sit well with me..


i would not
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Recon finds that the center has moved to the NNE since the last fix. The center is being tossed around by the convection that's wrapping around it.
Center is stationary. Edit: never mind, you're right, a slight NNE-ward motion was observed since the last center penetration; my bad.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting CajunCrawfishhunter:


um no

Nice educational post.
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1087. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36936
1086. Caner
Microwave scan smooths the motion and makes the direction of travel less wobbly, easier to see.



With the microwave showing the coc, you can clearly see the apparent westward wobble is the expansion of the convection on the western side.
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1085. flcanes
Quoting leelee75k:


Thank You!! That's what I'm getting the husband to do now. From Inside the attic. I'll leave actual repairs to the experts as soon as I can get someone out, allowing hours more of torrential rains wouldn't be a good idea! Dry spot right now, so we're taking advantage of it.

Good luck to everyone in the path, cone and 300 miles OUTSIDE of the cone!!! You might get lucky and be in a dry spot and get minimal conditions or you might get stuck in a neverending feeder band. No need to rush out and buy stuff. Just fix and address all the issues you know your dwelling may have and get ready to hunker down.

better to be over-prepared than under-prepared
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1084. ncstorm
Sorry as a woman, I didnt plus Nea's comment..calling any woman a Bimbo dont sit well with me..

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14550
Isaac will be a rain and surge event. Kind of like Irene up the East coast. Dr. Rick Knabb on TWC just said 2 days straight of rains.

We need to stop thinking he's going to be a huge wind event.
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Quoting CajunCrawfishhunter:


um no


Want to go get information before you come at me with an attitude? And for your information, um, YES.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Northeast quadrant is very disappointing; no SFMR readings exceeded 45kts. The strongest winds associated with Isaac are confined mainly in the southern semicircle(s), which is rather unusual.

192500 2631N 08551W 8404 01418 //// 166 //// 099049 051 042 008 01

Waiting on the dropsonde to see how the MSLP has evolved over the past hour or so.


Out of all the quadrants, the northeast is the weakest right now in terms of convection so its not at all surprising, again I think tonight we will see him strengthen, how much. I don't know, but once he gets that last little bit of his core built, his winds will catch up in a hurry I believe. I still think a 90knot storm at landfall is not out of the question.
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Quoting cat6band:



Let me guess....you think it's falling apart??


Absolutely not. In fact I see it winding up. But surface temperatures and TCHP will not support that at this time.

Link
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Quoting ILwthrfan:


Link? Thanks!
Link
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1078. flcanes
Quoting mitthbevnuruodo:


Yes, well stated and said what I was pretty much thinking...I was trying to bring it up lightly before since I'm new here and didn't want everyone mad at me for being too preachy or something LOL

teddy or levi? who has the most pluses
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Quoting Skyepony:


It's hard to say. Slight shift to the east but it could come back on you like it is me now~ north of you.. Take what ever break you get to stop leaks. The train looks almost endless from the south & the flooding will attract & feed it.. So if you get a break use it. .....That roof sealer in a can that works wet or dry is great. Too many people fall off roofs in these conditions. Y'all be careful..


Thank You!! That's what I'm getting the husband to do now. From Inside the attic. I'll leave actual repairs to the experts as soon as I can get someone out, allowing hours more of torrential rains wouldn't be a good idea! Dry spot right now, so we're taking advantage of it.

Good luck to everyone in the path, cone and 300 miles OUTSIDE of the cone!!! You might get lucky and be in a dry spot and get minimal conditions or you might get stuck in a neverending feeder band. No need to rush out and buy stuff. Just fix and address all the issues you know your dwelling may have and get ready to hunker down.
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Quoting cat6band:



Let me guess....you think it's falling apart??


I suspect he read a little too quickly and thought you meant that it would be a cat 5 hurricane, ... I understood you to mean that it would be a cat 1 at 5 PM.
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Member Since: September 18, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1073
Quoting MississippiWx:
Recon finds that the center has moved to the NNE since the last fix. The center is being tossed around by the convection that's wrapping around it.


um no
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Quoting LargoFl:
yes everyone in the northern gulf needs to listen to him on this..this is a huge flooding event especially if he stalls out and sits there


He looks to me to be already drifting a little bit as we speak........People really need to take the flooding threat very seriously from this one and possibly evacuate if you live in a flood prone area.....Wind damage might be the least of folks problems.
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1071. Max1023
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Northeast quadrant is very disappointing; no SFMR readings exceeded 45kts. The strongest winds associated with Isaac are confined mainly in the southern semicircle(s), which is rather unusual.

192500 2631N 08551W 8404 01418 //// 166 //// 099049 051 042 008 01

Waiting on the dropsonde to see how the MSLP has evolved over the past hour or so.


Over all of Issac's life post-cuba the NE quadrant has been weaker then you would expect. The strongest winds for some reason have usually been in the NW quadrant, now SW it appears. Maybe the eyewall is forming but is open in the NE.

Also, based on HH data Issac is either jumping around or is actually moving NNE for some reason.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
I'm not the blog police, and far be it from me to stomp on anyone's fun, but I personally find the repeated jokes about Stephanie Abrams' body to be tasteless and disrespectful. I understand that some may not like her, and that's their choice. I also understand that some may find her attractive. That, too, is their choice. But the woman is a professional, not some bimbo posing for the cover of Maxim; she's got degrees in meteorology and geography (along with a minor in mathematics, fer cryin' out loud). As often as met students in this forum talk about how difficult those courses are, I'd think Ms Abrams would deserve at least here to be talked about for what she's accomplished more than the physical attributes gifted to her by her DNA. Not to mention: there aren't just hormonal males frequenting this forum. So can you guys maybe save the female body worship for WU mails or your own blogs? Please?

67 pluses!?! Mind=blow.

Another brilliant rant, Nea. :)
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So is Issac's pressure still 984mb or has it went up?
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Recon finds that the center has moved to the NNE since the last fix. The center is being tossed around by the convection that's wrapping around it.
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Quoting JasonRE:


Redbull, I hear ya. Where are you located again? I'm in Lafayette. I think you are too. Nobody around here is doing anything, which is surprising me. I know it's only a Cat. 1, and we are about in the center or just West of the center for landfall, but really? Just, oh yeah, we'll be fine......oh it won't be bad, etc etc.....I'm getting sandbags myself.


Not sure where in lafayette you are but the stores were packed 2 hours ago. Water flying off shelves. I suggest getting off computer and riding around and you will see.
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1066. flcanes
Quoting Cotillion:
For those asking about lowest minimal pressure for a tropical storm, Wilma managed 980mb before getting upgraded to a hurricane.


wilma was medium, right
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


I got ~80 pluses on a massive rant last year to a troll claiming to be a met who believed that 2011 would not see a single hurricane. I believe that's the record for most pluses on a comment. Still, his post is excellent and deserves just as many.


Yes, well stated and said what I was pretty much thinking...I was trying to bring it up lightly before since I'm new here and didn't want everyone mad at me for being too preachy or something LOL so thanks for those being vocal about it as it was getting a bit annoying.

Those IR images are looking a bit fierce now. Wondering if one of those highs he's sandwiched between might give out a bit?!
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1064. LargoFl
Quoting WalkingInTheSun:


Lots of people missing checks in the mail, lots saying "Hey, the check is in the mail, honest!", and kids saying, "An alligator ate my homework!"
LMAO on the gator
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36936
1063. flcanes
Quoting LargoFl:
yes everyone in the northern gulf needs to listen to him on this..this is a huge flooding event especially if he stalls out and sits there

a flood of biblical proportions
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For those asking about lowest minimal pressure for a tropical storm, Wilma managed 980mb before getting upgraded to a hurricane.

Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
1061. JasonRE
Quoting Redbull77:
people just amaze me. I just had a lady come into my business and we asked her what they were doing to get ready, she said "they have warned us before and nothing happened so i don't think its gonna get to bad." this is the problem with people and this is how people lose there lives by getting lazy. Louisiana


Redbull, I hear ya. Where are you located again? I'm in Lafayette. I think you are too. Nobody around here is doing anything, which is surprising me. I know it's only a Cat. 1, and we are about in the center or just West of the center for landfall, but really? Just, oh yeah, we'll be fine......oh it won't be bad, etc etc.....I'm getting sandbags myself.
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Quoting Chicklit:

That's a lot of water.
Now if it would just trundle over to west Texas, Isaac might be appreciated.


Who knows? -- You know how to pray? ;)
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1059. NSB207
Entity, possible!
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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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