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 JeffM:
Amazing how slow the blog is compared to yesterday.


A lot of people started school now so that would explain the inactivity. It'll probably be active again in the evening.
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Quoting weatherbeginner:
This might be a stupid question. Is it possible for a tropical system to spawn another tropical system?


technically, no reason why it couldn't given the right circumstances. All that convection band on the east coast, if conditions were right, completely break off from the storm into a stalled trough off the east coast or hover there on it's and start it's own system...but conditions would have to be right in that area of the Atlantic for any runaway remnants to do that
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Quoting JeffM:
Amazing how slow the blog is compared to yesterday.

It isn't as exciting as yesterday. And school started for many.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5890
356. 7544
Quoting StormTracker2K:
Flash Flood emergency across C Palm Beach County as 23" of rain has now been confirmed. Also 5" to 7" south of Orlando. Amazing!!



those bands , or tail is moving due north over se fl right tia
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Quoting canehater1:
Not convinced the cone is going to remain where it is
I think storm will go ashore more to the west, probably
closer to Terrebonne Bay.


that's pretty much what is being confirmed, possibly Atchafalaya Bay..........
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Quoting JeffM:
Amazing how slow the blog is compared to yesterday.


It is also a work day or a mop-up-the-rain day for most of us.
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All that rain training on the east coast of Florida is slowly moving towards the west coast. I think we're going to get a drenching soon....
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Quoting BZCTX:
304. Dunkman 12:00 PM CDT on August 27, 2012 +0
Interesting mapping note. From the last recon fix a motion of 307 degrees takes it to Morgan City, LA. 300 degree motion takes it to Beaumont, TX and a 295 motion takes it to Houston.
Action: Quote | Ignore User
Member Since: February 6, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 197

Stupid question, I am sure but....
Can you give me a quick summary on understanding degree in movement, sorry, I never have understood what they mean when giving the motion of degrees. tia
Do you have a link to read latest recon fix? Thanks for the information!!!
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351. JeffM
Amazing how slow the blog is compared to yesterday.
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I don't know if it's been posted yet, but this buoy passed through the eye this morning. Wave height peaked at 17.1 ft.



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Quoting gordydunnot:
If this thing goes up the middle of the country it will be a God sent for those that need the rain, except for mountainous areas. To me these are the people that should be doing the most preparing.Anybody know how far the east coast of Fl. is away from the center, because we still have torrential rain, T.S. force guts in Dade county.


Same here in Broward. I saw further North of us is even worse



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348. Skyepony (Mod)
1104 AM TSTM WND DMG 1 WSW PARADISE PARK 27.64N 80.51W
08/27/2012 INDIAN RIVER FL EMERGENCY MNGR

PRELIMINARY REPORTS OF MINOR TO MODERATE DAMAGE TO
APPROXIMATELY 20 MOBILE HOMES NEAR HIGHWAY 60, BETWEEN
82ND AVENUE AND 90TH AVENUE.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
the bands over the east will shift with time to the west as storm advances closer to its target point


Agree.

Yesterday, you could clearly see them approach from the east (over the ocean). Earlier this morning they materialized from almost due south and now they are slightly west of my location (very near I-95). Best guess is each new round of bands will be creeping west ward, hopefully much rain will fall over Lake Okeechobee, where it is always welcome.

Regards,
-Gary
Hollywood Florida
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Does anyone think this storm has any potential to get to a Cat. 2 before tomorrow's landfall?
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Quoting LargoFl:
why would you say that?..we have real bad weather here in florida right now, been posting about it all morning long?
I'm not saying Florida is not being affected. All I'm saying is it seems like a lot less comments than a few days ago when ppl thought it was gonna be a direct hit on Tampa , or when some were posting a cat 3 or 4 in the gulf.
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Quoting HarryMc:


They had numerous readings in the high 60's and mid 70
's, a couple of clean ones up around 77 mph. That was URNT15 about 12:20PM EDT.


They were not clean...just because it isn't notated as flagged doesn't mean a SFMR reading taken with 60mm/hr of rain can be considered valid.
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Quoting BZCTX:
304. Dunkman 12:00 PM CDT on August 27, 2012 0
Interesting mapping note. From the last recon fix a motion of 307 degrees takes it to Morgan City, LA. 300 degree motion takes it to Beaumont, TX and a 295 motion takes it to Houston.
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Member Since: February 6, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 197

Stupid question, I am sure but....
Can you give me a quick summary on understanding degree in movement, sorry, I never have understood what they mean when giving the motion of degrees. tia

If you get a compass you can see the degrees on there gives you your N 360 degrees S 180 E 90 and W 270
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BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MIAMI FL
108 PM EDT MON AUG 27 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIAMI HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
CENTRAL PALM BEACH COUNTY IN SOUTH FLORIDA.

* UNTIL 145 PM EDT

* AT 107 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS
OF 60 MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR LOXAHATCHEE NATIONAL
WILDLIFE REFUGE...AND MOVING NORTH AT 40 MPH.

* THE STORM WILL AFFECT...
LOXAHATCHEE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE...
GREENACRES CITY...
WELLINGTON...
LION COUNTRY SAFARI...
AND SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41172


WVLoopZoom
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Here in East Orlando it is strangely quiet. We can't have had much more than 1-2" of rain in total according to my patented 'pool-o-meter (TM)' and very few gusts worth mentioning. Currently a very gentle breeze which is barely moving the trees and very light rain. Nothing like what those of you further south are having to go through.

-Oviedo Watcher
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My main point was that since we have a storm that (long-term) is moving NW towards a coastline that runs WNW from the LA delta to Texas only a slight deviation in track could mean hundreds of miles of difference in landfall location.
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Quoting StormTracker2K:
Flash Flood emergency across C Palm Beach County as 23" of rain has now been confirmed. Also 5" to 7" south of Orlando. Amazing!!



Well, the east FL coast may have not had it go their way...but they're sure getting the brunt of it still :O didn't need it to land there obviously
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Not convinced the cone is going to remain where it is
I think storm will go ashore more to the west, probably
closer to Terrebonne Bay.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
While many on the east coast and elsewhere in Florida have been pummeled by Isaac's rain--and are still being drenched by them--here in Naples Isaac hasn't brought much. We're the mainland city Isaac has been nearest, yet our rains have been meager: less than 2" yesterday, and about half an inch today. I'm sure some in the drought-stricken Midwest would envy us greatly for even that, but still: as of this morning, Naples was still down 4.83" from June 1, and 7.37" for the year.

Ah, well; maybe the next one will help out...
same here east of naples. sun is shinning now and the gusts are stronger than the were yesterday. I dont think I had a gust over 30 yesterday
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North is 360 east is 90 south 180 west 270.
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41172
Quoting Dunkman:


All I see are low 50s. It could be flagged reading the last HH mission got when they were in a ton of rain.


They had numerous readings in the high 60's and mid 70
's, a couple of clean ones up around 77 mph. That was URNT15 about 12:20PM EDT.
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Quoting BZCTX:
304. Dunkman 12:00 PM CDT on August 27, 2012 +0
Interesting mapping note. From the last recon fix a motion of 307 degrees takes it to Morgan City, LA. 300 degree motion takes it to Beaumont, TX and a 295 motion takes it to Houston.
Action: Quote | Ignore User
Member Since: February 6, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 197

Stupid question, I am sure but....
Can you give me a quick summary on understanding degree in movement, sorry, I never have understood what they mean when giving the motion of degrees. tia


270 is W, 292.5 is WNW, 315 is NW, 337.5 is NNW, 360 is N.
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Quoting BZCTX:
304. Dunkman 12:00 PM CDT on August 27, 2012 +0
Interesting mapping note. From the last recon fix a motion of 307 degrees takes it to Morgan City, LA. 300 degree motion takes it to Beaumont, TX and a 295 motion takes it to Houston.
Action: Quote | Ignore User
Member Since: February 6, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 197

Stupid question, I am sure but....
Can you give me a quick summary on understanding degree in movement, sorry, I never have understood what they mean when giving the motion of degrees. tia


its just giving it in compass points
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Recon finding ~50 mph surface winds well-removed form the center.
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329. BlxMS
Quoting BZCTX:
304. Dunkman 12:00 PM CDT on August 27, 2012 +0
Interesting mapping note. From the last recon fix a motion of 307 degrees takes it to Morgan City, LA. 300 degree motion takes it to Beaumont, TX and a 295 motion takes it to Houston.
Action: Quote | Ignore User
Member Since: February 6, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 197

Stupid question, I am sure but....
Can you give me a quick summary on understanding degree in movement, sorry, I never have understood what they mean when giving the motion of degrees. tia


Movement due NORTH is 360 degrees...due EAST is 90 degrees...due South is 180 degrees...and due WEST is 270 degrees...Make sense??
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Link Rainbow Loop Floater
getting to be a happy camper now.
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41172
If this thing goes up the middle of the country it will be a God sent for those that need the rain, except for mountainous areas. To me these are the people that should be doing the most preparing.Anybody know how far the east coast of Fl. is away from the center, because we still have torrential rain, T.S. force guts in Dade county.
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
Did i miss something while i was gone?

Rob Delp1:04 PM - Public
HURRICANE Hunter find 80Mph wind north of cent. have to see 2pm update Maps


All I see are low 50s. It could be flagged reading the last HH mission got when they were in a ton of rain.
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324. BZCTX
304. Dunkman 12:00 PM CDT on August 27, 2012 +0
Interesting mapping note. From the last recon fix a motion of 307 degrees takes it to Morgan City, LA. 300 degree motion takes it to Beaumont, TX and a 295 motion takes it to Houston.
Action: Quote | Ignore User
Member Since: February 6, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 197

Stupid question, I am sure but....
Can you give me a quick summary on understanding degree in movement, sorry, I never have understood what they mean when giving the motion of degrees. tia
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Quoting wxfan:


Very steady heading. No jog to north at all.


Nice post. Thanks.
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geez flooding and tons of lightning.......
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41172
Quoting Dsntslp:
The canal drain must be clogged as water is no longer draining from the pool patio but is backing up into the house now. There is a drain at the end of the street that drains a small canal behind my house into a much larger canal of the St. Lucie River.

Will wait for a break in the rain (if we even get one) and go down there and see if we can unblock it before our whole neighborhood floods.

Friends in Stuart Florida that live on the River have water to their back door as well.

It appears this rain will not end for some time to come as it is bearing down in a straight line headed N toward us. I do wish it would veer off it's current course just a little and spread the wealth...

More later, out to see if we can unclog the ditches...

Excuse typos, no time to proof...
the bands over the east will shift with time to the west as storm advances closer to its target point
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Quoting 900MB:
Wow. Can't believe that Issac still hasn't gotten it together. Yeah, it's big, but, Issac can't buy a break! Hopefully he is a drought buster for many!

Ike was never really a strong storm either but was so huge it covered the entire gulf and had horrible storm surge.
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319. wxfan


Very steady heading. No jog to north at all.
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Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8898
Did i miss something while i was gone?

Rob Delp1:04 PM - Public
HURRICANE Hunter find 80Mph wind north of cent. have to see 2pm update Maps
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Quoting StormHype:
No Cat1 @ 11am still... maybe by 5pm. Where's taz to hype his imaginary cat4 doomcast?


He wasn't the only one that was dreamcasting and had this thing larger than a minimal cat 2 at best.
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315. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Dsntslp:
The canal drain must be clogged as water is no longer draining from the pool patio but is backing up into the house now. There is a drain at the end of the street that drains a small canal behind my house into a much larger canal of the St. Lucie River.

Will wait for a break in the rain (if we even get one) and go down there and see if we can unblock it before our whole neighborhood floods.

Friends in Stuart Florida that live on the River have water to their back door as well.

It appears this rain will not end for some time to come as it is bearing down in a straight line headed N toward us. I do wish it would veer off it's current course just a little and spread the wealth...

More later, out to see if we can unclog the ditches...

Excuse typos, no time to proof...


Be careful. Canal clogs can be really dangerous..
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check out the wave heights when it finally hits..and this..on top..of the storm surge?........... does that look like 16 to 20 foot waves?..omg
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41172
Quoting leelee75k:


I'm right with you under that blob, if I'm not mistaken, I think the swath of area from Sawgrass Malls down to you (Sunrise, Tamarac, Lauderhill) has received between 8-10 inches of rain since this event started, and it's still coming down.


Northwest Dade here. The rain and wind are worse today than yesterday. This is kinda scary.
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Looks like Isaac is filling in a little on SE side.


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Quoting Dunkman:


I wouldn't say that. I've been thinking this had an outside shot of Texas for several days. It only takes a deviation of a few degrees for this to go to Houston instead of the S LA coast.

Okay thank you
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Quoting Neapolitan:
While many on the east coast and elsewhere in Florida have been pummeled by Isaac's rain--and are still being drenched by them--here in Naples Isaac hasn't brought much. We're the mainland city Isaac has been nearest, yet our rains have been meager: less than 2" yesterday, and about half an inch today. I'm sure some in the drought-stricken Midwest would envy us greatly for even that, but still: as of this morning, Naples was still down 4.83" from June 1, and 7.37" for the year.

Ah, well; maybe the next one will help out...
You may get plenty of water if those bands streaming north out of Cuba move over to the West Coast. We may get them tonight.
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Quoting GetReal:
Station 42003
NDBC
Location: 26.044N 85.612W
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 15:50:00 UTC
Winds: SE (140�) at 7.8 kt gusting to 13.6 kt
Significant Wave Height: 15.4 ft
Dominant Wave Period: 10 sec
Mean Wave Direction: ENE (68�)
Atmospheric Pressure: 29.17 in and falling rapidly
Air Temperature: 82.8 F
Water Temperature: 85.1F



Where is the wind?
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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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