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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1009. flcanes
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Getting there; 54kt flight-level winds. The lack of extrap. pres. readings is rather disheartening.

192430 2632N 08550W 8412 01415 //// +176 //// 100052 054 043 009 01

so 60 mph wind speed? right?
that is weakening
o_o
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1008. dmh1026
Quoting LurkyMcLurkerson:


Yep. And the movement to _its_ NE is not what I would expect to see in a normal chunk of band. I really think it's being fed by Isaac's bands, but is becoming its own little world of mess over there.

And I say that with all sorts of "I don't necessarily know what I'm talking about" implied, bear in mind -- the movement in that blob is just not something I've seen from watching these things, the way that thing is behaving is odd to me.

Thank you for updating on the situation in FL. I'm not surprised to see all sorts of attention on the main chunk of Isaac, but what's going on in parts of FL right now is not minor. People in the rest of the Gulf need to be ready and everybody needs to see how Isaac is developing, but there's also current damage going on for plenty of folks in Isaac's right hand over there.

Wordy today, McLurkerson. Back to watching and seeing, but good luck to all.

I agree....Everyone to the right of the center needs to watch out as that major rain may be coming their way. Isaac dumped a ton of rain on DR, Haiti, and PR long after he moved away to the west...JMO
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Quoting Doppler22:
#859........ wow.... irene, Ike, Gustav, Dean, Felix, Igor..... these r plenty strong hurricanes... U dont need a Cat 5 to do damage!!!! Irene did plenty and so did ike!!
so to say were not up to par... is absolutely wrong and untruthful, 2005 and 2204 were not at par they were above par....
if you know that you are one good forecaster.
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Quoting cheaterwon:
It also looks like that the Atlantic high and the Continental high have just about bridged.
Link
Would you then expect a more westerly track with this "bridge" in place?
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Quoting bluebonnetgirl:
Can someone tell me which way Isaac is moving WNW or NW???



Its moving Northwest generally as there is the Bermuda High and a High over Texas sort of squeezing it into that general direction.
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1004. flcanes
Quoting Carnoustie:


agreed,knock it off please.

i missed out
o_o
who started it?
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Getting there; 54kt flight-level winds. The lack of extrap. pres. readings is rather disheartening.

192430 2632N 08550W 8412 01415 //// +176 //// 100052 054 043 009 01
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting cat6band:
Looks to me like an intensifying storm...I think Hurricane at 5...


He's finally winding up.
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Quoting cat6band:
Looks to me like an intensifying storm...I think Hurricane at 5...


You need to get back to reality....
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
929. Neapolitan 2:13 PM CDT on August 27, 2012 +29

I think someone just won the blog. Never seen such a highly rated post before!

Totally agree, by the way.


Levi had nearly 60 pluses last week when we first started tracking Isaac. Lol.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting cheaterwon:
It also looks like that the Atlantic high and the Continental high have just about bridged.
Link


That trough sure seems to be lifting out in a hurry and leaving Isaac behind.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Landfall is not until early Wednesday morning.


Little more time if it slows oor stalls as it approaches the coast.
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8898
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
HWRF is on board with Kirk.

Yep, just about all of them are on board... as usual the GFS is leading the charge, but all of them have it.
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Quoting TreasureCoastFl:


What is up with tha blob? We are flooded.


If you look at what's off shore around the FLA/GA border you can see it has been moving in a north western direction but in the last few you can actually see it start a clockwise rotation!! I really feel that this is going to continue causing problems on the east coast.
Link
Member Since: August 21, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 143
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Quoting bluebonnetgirl:
Can someone tell me which way Isaac is moving WNW or NW???

wnw offically, should go nw at 5
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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?


agreed,knock it off please.
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929. Neapolitan 2:13 PM CDT on August 27, 2012 +29

I think someone just won the blog. Never seen such a highly rated post before!

Totally agree, by the way.
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Quoting Dsntslp:
5 year old grandson says yes he did see one classroom with water in it at Northport. Daughter reports that some of the roads here are waist deep in water and mailboxes are floating down the road where people have hit them. Many cars stranded and in ditches. Out of four possibles roads in to the school only one is still accessible and it is almost waist deep. Power to the school and multiple surrounding blocks is out.

These would seem to be the reasons for the school calling for parents to pick their children up early.

I am trying to remember if that school is usually used as a Red Cross Shelter. If so, they should rethink that, IMO.
gee this is just awful over there..i think the local govts over there thought this storm would be a west coast event..as we did too..and this east coast storm caught everyone by surprise...a word of caution over there..remember about the snakes and gators will be all around now
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 43050
Can someone tell me which way Isaac is moving WNW or NW???
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Quoting LargoFl:
on that radar..LOOK at the blob over east florida..looks like its expanding and growing huh


Yep. And the movement to _its_ NE is not what I would expect to see in a normal chunk of band. I really think it's being fed by Isaac's bands, but is becoming its own little world of mess over there.

And I say that with all sorts of "I don't necessarily know what I'm talking about" implied, bear in mind -- the movement in that blob is just not something I've seen from watching these things, the way that thing is behaving is odd to me.

Thank you for updating on the situation in FL. I'm not surprised to see all sorts of attention on the main chunk of Isaac, but what's going on in parts of FL right now is not minor. People in the rest of the Gulf need to be ready and everybody needs to see how Isaac is developing, but there's also current damage going on for plenty of folks in Isaac's right hand over there.

Wordy today, McLurkerson. Back to watching and seeing, but good luck to all.
Member Since: August 26, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 368
Quoting wxmanjarod:
Convection looks like it's finally trying to wrap in on the southern half. Pretty bold effort by Isaac. If it's going to do something, now is the time. This thing only has about 12-18 more hours to put the pedal to the metal.


Landfall is not until early Wednesday morning.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting opal92nwf:

I should have phrased that differently, you're right. Just compared to what we have been seeing in the recent past, it "seems" like a "slight drought" of major hurricanes.


I think the point being so politely made is that it only "seems" to you that this is happening.

If one is going to write long paragraphs about a weather matter in the midst of a hurricane, one should first check one's facts.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

The rain rate is pretty high and flight level winds are lower.


But it isn't enough to be deemed "rain-contaminated". As far as flight level winds are concerned, when they upgraded Isaac up to 65 mph, the flight level winds were 10-15 mph lower. The winds are bound to respond to the pressure change shortly.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Fun times ahead guys.



Models have put this coming storm just about anywhere you could imagine.
HWRF is on board with Kirk.
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If New Orleans blocks all the Canals, when it rains, won't the canals rise, with the pumps pumping into them, and then there is no way to let the water out, without letting more water in, unless the pumping stations are on the lake, or the barriers have pumping stations themselves.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Recon turning southwestward towards the circulation; entry through the northeastern semicircle. Flight-level winds steadily increasing: currently around 49kts.

191430 2700N 08532W 8412 01478 //// +193 //// 121048 049 036 001 01


Flight-to-surface reduction factor is holding pretty stable around 80% in that quad. The NW quad was not close on the "rule-of-dumb" 80%, indicating a lot of mixing. Hopefully they release some dropsondes into those higher wind bands. Seems close to HU.
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Quoting BeanTech:


I understand your point.

Personally, I'm ok with it as long as they don't start talking about her feet and calling her "Goddess"...


Feet? What's up with her feet?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Isaac's pressure is very low for a mid grade tropical storm. Winds have to catch up eventually.
Winds react to pressure gradient. If the wind field remains rather large, than the winds will continue to below throughout Isaac's lifetime, similar to Hurricane Alex in 2010. In order for the winds to increase, the windfield needs to contract. It is a double edged sword though because a larger windfield favors a higher surge over a larger areas, while a more compact wind field is over a smaller area, but higher max winds.
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Looks to me like an intensifying storm...I think Hurricane at 5...
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Fun times ahead guys.



Models have put this coming storm just about anywhere you could imagine.
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I sure hope not, but all my preps are done and I left, had a trip to north LA planned for Tuesday, but left (Terrebonne Parish) this morning.
Quoting GetReal:



IMO a perfect looking core now, with COC directly underneath.... IMO the RI flag is ON.

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Quoting GetReal:



IMO a perfect looking core now, with COC directly underneath.... IMO the RI flag is ON.


Stranglehold......
Member Since: June 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1567
.
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This is why you should take Isaac seriously, just because it is not a 155mph Category 4 hurricane doesn't mean it is not destructive. Isaac will be approaching Category 2 status by the time it makes landfall per NHC forecast, but the storm surge has the potential to be much higher than your average Category 2. Here's an excerpt from Hurricane Gustav in 2008 at landfall regarding Storm Surge, the last time a hurricane hit this similar area.
AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS STORM SURGE OF 10 TO 14 FEET ABOVE NORMAL
TIDAL LEVELS IS EXPECTED NEAR AND TO THE EAST OF WHERE THE CENTER
OF GUSTAV CROSSES THE COAST.

This is what Isaac could be producing.
* SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...MISSISSIPPI...AND ALABAMA...6 TO 12 FT
* SOUTH-CENTRAL LOUISIANA...3 TO 6 FT
* FLORIDA PANHANDLE...3 TO 6 FT
* FLORIDA WEST COAST INCLUDING APALACHEE BAY...1 TO 3 FT

That's significant. Storm Surge is the number one killer in tropical cyclones, it is what is responsible for most of the destruction. Not the wind, always the water.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24603
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..


VERY good point about falling off of roofs!!! Be careful. Be careful Be careful!!
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Quoting peterj:
Just found out the Lake Okeechobee has received about 10 inches of rain and some more to come. Schools in Okeechobee County will be closed tomorrow as well due to heavy flooding in the areas.
thanks for the info
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 43050
Quoting BeanTech:


I understand your point.

Personally, I'm ok with it as long as they don't start talking about her feet and calling her "Goddess"...
Yes, but your avatar makes you suspect.
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Moisture profiles have improved some, but there's still noticeable dry air present at 400/500MB:



Any premature collapse of convection near the center will cause delays in intensification as we've seen so far.

Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 5039
Quoting SELouisianaGirl:


I am... sort of.. Going to Northern Covington with family. Mega generator, well water, high ground and that is where I will stay until it is over. Same place I stayed for Katrina and Gustav. I'm about 2 miles from the lake so we have never flooded but you never know.


Thats smart.
The Industrial Canal is armed now and so is the Intercoastal....the water is going to pile up in the Lake.
Member Since: June 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1567
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

The rain rate is pretty high and flight level winds are lower.


Yes but there were other readings with no rain contamination and they were very valid.
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Convection looks like it's finally trying to wrap in on the southern half. Pretty bold effort by Isaac. If it's going to do something, now is the time. This thing only has about 12-18 more hours to put the pedal to the metal.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Recon turning southwestward towards the circulation; entry through the northeastern semicircle. Flight-level winds steadily increasing: currently around 49kts.

191430 2700N 08532W 8412 01478 //// +193 //// 121048 049 036 001 01
The circulation has become very solid, with virtually 40+ knot winds throughout the eastern half.
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50+ respect points to Nea.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting LargoFl:
on that radar..LOOK at the blob over east florida..looks like its expanding and growing huh


What is up with tha blob? We are flooded.
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IMO a perfect looking core now, with COC directly underneath.... IMO the RI flag is ON.
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8898
Link

I am assuming somewhere underneath that blob is a NW track. I just can't see it, lol!
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 43050
It also looks like that the Atlantic high and the Continental high have just about bridged.
Link
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It looks like shear and dry air has taken a toll on Isaac, so it will never be able to reach anything more than a strong Cat 1 to weak Cat 2, but I have noticed it is still steadily getting its act together.

I would not be surprised if there were a few minor outbursts of intensification before this storm made landfall. The problems with Isaac in terms of it not strengthening much is just due to the fact that the conditions are not ideal, its so large, and it has gone through quite a troubled history.

I do expect that when/if it gets its act together it could be one potent force to contend with. Other then that I just expect steady strengthening as it nears the Louisiana coast.
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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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