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 Grothar:

I'd love one of the learned bloggers to explain the strip of rain on the east side of Florida. ?
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I think no one ever again should say..oh its just a tropical storm, those that did..do you see the people suffering right now and more to come..anything tropical..is dangerous and should be prepared for huh...first debby now issac, unbelievable flooding here in florida and soon to be the gulf coast
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Pressure down to 984 mb. as of the latest advisory and GFDL has trended west and now calls for landfall in south central Louisiana, strength seems reasonable, which wouldn't be as bad for New Orleans:




The models are mostly the same as far as track and its about timing. and the NHC is more up to the hour than that model as far as being in real-time with planes in there.

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556. 7544
Quoting Grothar:


wow how much more rain could issac tail bring to the east coast of from cuba issac just doent want to leave east fla yet cant believe we talking about his tail lol
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Quoting Felix2007:

I bet still 65mph at 2 pm.

Told you! Pressure down to 984mb though, but when will the winds respond to that??
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1:00 PM CDT Mon Aug 27
Location: 26.1°N 85.9°W
Moving: NW at 14 mph
Min pressure: 984 mb
Max sustained: 65 mph


wouldnt this be due west in 3 hours
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GFDL into Texas:

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As the chances of Isaac being a major storm subsides, there isn't much traffic here in Columbia Mississippi but lines at fuel stations are ridiculous! People are buying survival food and equipment at the large chain store but I didn't go in to see if pandemonium had set in because I went and got my stuff about 3 this morning. When Katrina came through people were going mad which was compounded by the non-residents crowding in as well. I'm still sticking to my Port Arthur TX. landfall as I'm looking for the storm to slow down about sundown, intensify slightly, and take a more westerly tack despite the proximity to land; I believe the warm pouches of water in the western Gulf will cause that shift. Looks like Mississippi has dodged the wind damage bullet but the rainfall is another matter entirely.
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Issued by The National Weather Service
Key West, FL

Mon, Aug 27, 2012, 12:55



Updated Aug 27, 2012, 1:55pm EDT






... STRONG WINDS CONTINUE ACROSS THE FLORIDA KEYS...

AT 1245 PM... A PERSISTENT BAND OF SHOWERS WAS DETECTED... RACING NORTHWARD AT AROUND 40 MPH... ACROSS THE EASTERN UPPER KEYS... NEAR NORTH KEY LARGO AND OCEAN REEF. THIS ACTIVITY IS PRODUCING WIND GUSTS OF 40 TO 50 MPH... AND PERIODIC BLINDING DOWNPOURS.

IN ADDITION... ADDITIONAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF AROUND ONE INCH IS EXPECTED OVER THE NEXT HOUR OR TWO.

ELSEWHERE ALONG THE KEYS... RESIDUAL WINDS FROM TROPICAL STORM ISAAC ARE STILL GUSTING FREQUENTLY TO 30 TO 40 MPH. A FEW SHOWERS WILL MOVE ACROSS THE KEY WEST AREA... DELIVERING SHORT SPELLS OF MODERATE TO HEAVY RAIN. RESIDENTS SHOULD CONTINUE TO EXERCISE CAUTION DURING RECOVERY ACTIONS.



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Quoting Methurricanes:
984mb Tropical storm, whats the record for the lowest pressure for a Tropical storm?


I don't know but I am curious myself....
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549. bwi
26.1n 86w latest from HH?

17:52:30Z 26.100N 85.983W 840.9 mb
(~ 24.83 inHg) 1,387 meters
(~ 4,551 feet) - - From 336° at 4 knots
(From the NNW at ~ 4.6 mph)
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1381
548. JeffM
Is the size of this thing the biggest factor that's inhibiting Isaac from blowing up? If it was more compact, do you think it would be significantly stronger by now or are other factors at play here?
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After losing power for 6 hours I am back. We had a pretty rough morning on the east side of Orlando. Torrential rain for most of the morning including one huge storm (the tornado warned cell in eastern Orange and Seminole counties that darkened the skies like crazy and produced almost an inch of rain in half an hour. The rotation evident in the storm passed 2 to 3 miles to the east of me and directly over areas such as the University of Central Florida, Winter Springs and Lake Mary. No funnel clouds were spotted but we had some very gusty winds while the downpour moved through. The yard now has a little standing water in it.

Meanwhile Isaac is still below hurricane strength and ingesting further dry air on its NE-ern side, although RECON just found some stronger winds at flight level closer to the center, so he may be trying to build yet another formative eyewall.
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Quoting jeffs713:

Going from travel altitude (20k feet) to data-collecting altitude (5k feet). When they have a longer run, and time-on-station isn't as important, they descend while moving to position. For this, it is better for them to travel at altitude, then descend. (it also allows them to get some mid-upper level air data while en route)

Check out the flight-level temp on Levi's recon page. (the rapid rise in temp corresponds with their drop in altitude)

Link


Was home for lunch and I swear I saw a hurricane hunter plane going over me coming down I-45 from Ellington Airport, it was loud which caught my attention and then headed towards gulf gaining altitude. Looked like a bomber plane
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT MON AUG 27 2012

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL
STORM ISAAC...LOCATED ABOUT 255 MILES SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF
APALACHICOLA FLORIDA.

A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE LOCATED ABOUT 1100 MILES WEST-NORTHWEST
OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS CONTINUES TO PRODUCING SHOWERS AND
THUNDERSTORMS TO THE NORTH OF THE CENTER. UPPER-LEVEL WINDS ARE
FORECAST TO BECOME LESS FAVORABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT DURING THE NEXT
DAY OR TWO AS THE LOW MOVES WEST-NORTHWESTWARD TO NORTHWESTWARD AT
10 TO 15 MPH. THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM CHANCE...30 PERCENT...OF
BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

A TROPICAL WAVE LOCATED NEAR THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS IS PRODUCING
DISORGANIZED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
ARE CONDUCIVE FOR SOME GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THIS WAVE DURING THE
NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS. THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...10
PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS
AS IT MOVES WESTWARD AT 10 TO 15 MPH.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER CANGIALOSI
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Quoting interstatelover7165:
...HEAVY RAINS AND FLOODING AFFECTING THE FLORIDA EAST COAST... SIGNIFICANT STORM SURGE THREAT EXPECTED FOR THE NORTHERN GULF COAST... ...U.S. Warnings in Effect...
1:00 PM CDT Mon Aug 27
Location: 26.1°N 85.9°W
Moving: NW at 14 mph
Min pressure: 984 mb
Max sustained: 65 mph


Woah. Winds are likely to catch up along with organisation, unless a currently unoticed factor intervenes. Like dry air to the south or high sheer to the west.
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
WPB Photo of the front driveway. 23+ inches.
..oh thats terrible
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12z Euro...Louisiana/MS border.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160
GFDL 12z 54 hours-



GFDL 12z 72 hours-
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Quoting Methurricanes:
984mb Tropical storm, whats the record for the lowest pressure for a Tropical storm?

Yeah, I wondered that too.
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Pressure down to 984 mb. as of the latest advisory and GFDL has trended west and now calls for landfall in south central Louisiana, strength seems reasonable, which wouldn't be as bad for New Orleans:

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Isaac's pressure is really plummeting, yet it can't seem to translate the pressure into surface winds.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
984mb Tropical storm, whats the record for the lowest pressure for a Tropical storm?
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Quoting presslord:
BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!

Stormjunkie just admitted to me over the phone that he was actually wrong about something...and that I was right!!!!!!

Back to our regularly scheduled programming....


He was probably wrong about the second part, too.....
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Atlantic Tropical Weather Outlook


000
ABNT20 KNHC 271801
TWOAT

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT MON AUG 27 2012

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL
STORM ISAAC...LOCATED ABOUT 255 MILES SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF
APALACHICOLA FLORIDA.

A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE LOCATED ABOUT 1100 MILES WEST-NORTHWEST
OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS CONTINUES TO PRODUCING SHOWERS AND
THUNDERSTORMS TO THE NORTH OF THE CENTER. UPPER-LEVEL WINDS ARE
FORECAST TO BECOME LESS FAVORABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT DURING THE NEXT
DAY OR TWO AS THE LOW MOVES WEST-NORTHWESTWARD TO NORTHWESTWARD AT
10 TO 15 MPH. THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM CHANCE...30 PERCENT...OF
BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

A TROPICAL WAVE LOCATED NEAR THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS IS PRODUCING
DISORGANIZED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
ARE CONDUCIVE FOR SOME GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THIS WAVE DURING THE
NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS. THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...10
PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS
AS IT MOVES WESTWARD AT 10 TO 15 MPH.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER CANGIALOSI
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533. JeffM
I'm thinking this will be lucky to pull itself together to gain Cat 1 status by landfall (wherever that may be).
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Quoting K8eCane:
Now it has started POURING and it feels very tropical. Im in Wilmington NC and this is from Isaac at least i think it is. does anyone know? It sure acts tropical

We've got it down here in Hilton Head and Savannah.
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Quoting JeffM:
1:00 PM CDT Mon Aug 27
Location: 26.1°N 85.9°W
Moving: NW at 14 mph
Min pressure: 984 mb
Max sustained: 65 mph


winds have to go up
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Pressure down to 984
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...HEAVY RAINS AND FLOODING AFFECTING THE FLORIDA EAST COAST... SIGNIFICANT STORM SURGE THREAT EXPECTED FOR THE NORTHERN GULF COAST... ...U.S. Warnings in Effect...
1:00 PM CDT Mon Aug 27
Location: 26.1°N 85.9°W
Moving: NW at 14 mph
Min pressure: 984 mb
Max sustained: 65 mph
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
527. JeffM
1:00 PM CDT Mon Aug 27
Location: 26.1°N 85.9°W
Moving: NW at 14 mph
Min pressure: 984 mb
Max sustained: 65 mph
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Quoting waterskiman:

Vessel in trouble maybe
They flew the first leg, at high altitude, which is faster and more fuel efficient, and then circled as they made a controlled descent for their run into the center of the storm at a much lower height.
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C'mon NHC!
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All this rain just helped me discover that there is a LEAK in my roof in three rooms! AHHHHH! Someone make it stop raining please! The train of moisture from Cuba doesn't look like it wants to cut off yet! Getting little breaks but not enough for us to deal with the leaks!
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Quoting weatherganny:

can you please post the link ? TIA


it was posted further down on the blog Post #490
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Quoting K8eCane:
Now it has started POURING and it feels very tropical. Im in Wilmington NC and this is from Isaac at least i think it is. does anyone know? It sure acts tropical


yes its Isaac..Im in wilmington too..we are getting some outer bands here on the coast..
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:

Last night we were sayin the same thing...

But realistically...I still believe he'll be a cat 1 before landfall...but I just think its amazing that a storm in apparently favorable conditions is takin its sweet time gettin its act together....


This scenario has replayed many times during the past six seasons.
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WPB Photo of the front driveway. 23+ inches.
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Quoting presslord:
BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!

Stormjunkie just admitted to me over the phone that he was actually wrong about something...and that I was right!!!!!!

Back to our regularly scheduled programming....


Did you record it?
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Quoting Fleetfox:
Anybody else notice that the Hurricane Hunters circled about three times earlier while heading out to Isaac? Why would they do this? Just curious if anybody might know. Sorry if it's already been discussed. Thanks.


Spiral downward from 18000 feet to 5000 feet. Looping like that is a lot easier on the stomach than "crabbing" down to take measurements.
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Now it has started POURING and it feels very tropical. Im in Wilmington NC and this is from Isaac at least i think it is. does anyone know? It sure acts tropical
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GFDL running....

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hey sorry about that guys internet starting to behave like crap
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Quoting HoustonTxGal:


It looks like more of a west movement in the loop.

can you please post the link ? TIA
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New Blog Update on Isaac!!
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Quoting Fleetfox:
Anybody else notice that the Hurricane Hunters circled about three times earlier while heading out to Isaac? Why would they do this? Just curious if anybody might know. Sorry if it's already been discussed. Thanks.

Vessel in trouble maybe
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Quoting Fleetfox:
Anybody else notice that the Hurricane Hunters circled about three times earlier while heading out to Isaac? Why would they do this? Just curious if anybody might know. Sorry if it's already been discussed. Thanks.


Are you talking about what's going on off the NE coast of FLA?
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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.