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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1659. airmet3
Quoting NCHurricane2009:

Is there a mandatory evac for NOLA? I haven't been checking any news sources all day here at work....(except for this blog)...


This morning on TWC, one of the city officials said they do not order mandatory evacuation unless it is a high end Cat 3.
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1658. Michfan
I have a feeling that dry air slot is going to limit its RI. It needs to mix that out and fast.
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:

Is there a mandatory evac for NOLA? I haven't been checking any news sources all day here at work....(except for this blog)...

No, there is not.

NOLA.com (news)
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Quoting reedzone:
Ridiculous... period.



What should it have been? 75, 80? a Hurricane? How does the lack of a hurricane in their advisory effect you personally? Does it cause human lives to be in danger? The media is doing a great job of publicizing the storm and it's potential impacts. What's the issue?
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Stacy Stewart


He is a good forecaster
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Dayton International Speedway

In preparation for Isaac DIS welcomed 5,000 workers and 2,500 trucks from as far as Wyoming, Texas and Pennsylvania before embarking on their individual assignments. This FPL Connect pre-positioning at DIS marks the largest to date.
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6032
1653. help4u
100 mph winds is a cat2,i will go with the national hurricane center,has anyone ever see a hurricane stall and sit in one place for 24 hrs. This is not good for New Orleans.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
This dude is about to take off...


Cat2 is seeming more likely now, something is about to happen.
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1651. flcanes
Quoting kctinney:


A TON of ppl on Fox Hurricane chat.......why I started googling about hurricanes and found this website. There were some ppl on here as well (some obviously trolls). Please don't ask me to recall from 2005 d/t I don't remember!

i don't remember either
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So the pressure has dropped 7 mb and wind up 5 mph since 11am, with 54-60 hours til landfall, thats 95-100mph landfall, right on target with NHC, so expect this rate til landfall.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
This dude is about to take off...


As long as it doesn't intensify too fast, in which case it would pull in dry air and completely collapse its core.
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Beautiful...
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

I don't think so, the NE quad is to weak and dry to allow anything more than slow, steady intensification until landfall. I'm with Doc on this one, Cat 1 peak.


nhc says low cat 2 though
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1644. Michfan
Good evening all. What i miss so far today? Was too busy at work to check in.
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Quoting Hurricane12:
Love the working from Stewart. Lol.

THE MUCH ANTICIPATED INTENSIFICATION PROCESS APPEARS TO HAVE FINALLY
STARTED BASED ON REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE RECONNAISSANCE
AIRCRAFT AND FROM NEARBY NOAA BUOY 42003.
I am telling you he reads the blog.
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Quoting BeanTech:


What intersection is that?
The park sign looks familiar...is it off Floresta?


Yep, that's Floresta between Thornhill and West Virginia.
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Live from Biloxi. Spent the day assisting the disabbilities community at the LIFE center in Biloxi and letting local FD and shelters know we are here and will be available for evac assistance tomorrow.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
This dude is about to take off...



O_o

Quoting Bluestorm5:
10 mph higher than last pass in SE side of Isaac... whoa.


O_o

I'll believe it when I see it...because last afternoon I thought Isaac was about to take off. This is the firs time though I've heard of a wind increase like that....so now I am intrigued....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 475 Comments: 3668
Quoting NCHurricane2009:

Is there a mandatory evac for NOLA? I haven't been checking any news sources all day here at work....(except for this blog)...


Yes
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Guys and girls remember. The true measure of of storms strhenth is it's Barometric pressure. So with a 4 millibar drop - in a way Issac is going through RI. Don't worry be patient and the winds will eventually catch up with the pressure readings.
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1637. will40
Quoting flcanes:

how strong?


it will be in the discussion
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Love the wording from Stewart. Lol.

THE MUCH ANTICIPATED INTENSIFICATION PROCESS APPEARS TO HAVE FINALLY
STARTED BASED ON REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE RECONNAISSANCE
AIRCRAFT AND FROM NEARBY NOAA BUOY 42003.
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1635. flcanes
Quoting HurrikanEB:


And yet you're still following their forecasts...

that makes no sense, with his comment
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Quoting bappit:
]
Who downplayed Katrina?????


A TON of ppl on Fox Hurricane chat.......why I started googling about hurricanes and found this website. There were some ppl on here as well (some obviously trolls). Please don't ask me to recall from 2005 d/t I don't remember!
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Now that Isaac is certain to become a hurricane, it'll will keep the 2012 pattern going: save for Alberto, all the storms with male names have become hurricanes, and all those with female names have topped out as tropical storms:

Beryl: Tropical storm
Chris: Hurricane
Debby: Tropical storm
Ernesto: Hurricane
Florence: Tropical storm
Gordon: Hurricane
Helene: Tropical storm
Isaac: Hurricane
Joyce: Tropical storm
Kirk: ???
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13531

I am thinking a strengthening upper level or lower level Cat 1 or 2 could be worse than a Cat weakening as it comes ashore, so I think its important to note this storm most likely will be strengthening as it hits land.
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1630. airmet3
Quoting Thing342:
I wonder what the blog's reaction would be if the NHC doesn't make Isaac a hurricane.


Check out the reaction from yesterday afternoon. I expect similar, though somewhat more muted and hopefully more respectful.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

I don't think so, the NE quad is to weak and dry to allow anything more than slow, steady intensification until landfall. I'm with Doc on this one, Cat 1 peak.



I concur.

It is slowly organizing, but I don't think RI or anything of that nature is expected or should be expected.
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1627. flcanes
Quoting MAweatherboy1:

I don't think so, the NE quad is to weak and dry to allow anything more than slow, steady intensification until landfall. I'm with Doc on this one, Cat 1 peak.


i stick with you, and the 15 foot storm surge
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Quoting WALMARTPROFITSAGAIN:
it was supposed to hit cat 1 strength like 30 different times after it clears land masses and this and that and so far still a tropical storm well its going this way models are all in agreement but wait now they changedonce it clears the dry air it will strengthen ( nope it didnt ) once it clears P.R. well it never hot pr once it clears hati ot will strngthen (nope ) once it clears tip of cuba it will stengthen ( nope) once it hits the straits it will strngthen ( nope once it clears the keys now it will strenghthen ( nope) good lord these forcasters suck bad and do this every year with every storm total idiots making money thats all this was


And yet you still choose to follow their forecasts...
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Quoting WALMARTPROFITSAGAIN:
it was supposed to hit cat 1 strength like 30 different times after it clears land masses and this and that and so far still a tropical storm well its going this way models are all in agreement but wait now they changedonce it clears the dry air it will strengthen ( nope it didnt ) once it clears P.R. well it never hot pr once it clears hati ot will strngthen (nope ) once it clears tip of cuba it will stengthen ( nope) once it hits the straits it will strngthen ( nope once it clears the keys now it will strenghthen ( nope) good lord these forcasters suck bad and do this every year with every storm total idiots making money thats all this was


Ummm... it was 60 mph when it exited Haiti and now it is 70 mph, BOGUSTRACK NOSTORMINFLORIDA. Pressures have lowered a lot since then.

Ignorance and trolling are bliss.
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ZCZC MIATCDAT4 ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM

TROPICAL STORM ISAAC DISCUSSION NUMBER 27
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092012
400 PM CDT MON AUG 27 2012

THE MUCH ANTICIPATED INTENSIFICATION PROCESS APPEARS TO HAVE FINALLY
STARTED BASED ON REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE RECONNAISSANCE
AIRCRAFT AND FROM NEARBY NOAA BUOY 42003. THE CENTRAL PRESSURE HAS
DECREASED BY AT LEAST 7 MB SINCE THE PREVIOUS ADVISORY. THE HIGHEST
FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS OBSERVED HAVE BEEN 74 KT IN THE SOUTHWEST
QUADRANT AND THE HIGHEST BIAS-ADJUSTED SFMR WINDS ARE NEAR 58 KT.
THESE DATA SUPPORT AN INTENSITY OF 60 KT.

ISAAC WOBBLED WESTWARD THIS AFTERNOON...BUT A REPRESENTATIVE INITIAL
MOTION ESTIMATE IS 305/10. THE LATEST 12Z NHC MODEL GUIDANCE IS IN
BETTER AGREEMENT ON A WEST-NORTHWEST TO NORTHWEST MOTION TOWARD THE
SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA AND MISSISSIPPI COASTAL AREAS OVER THE NEXT
36-48 HOURS. AFTER 48 HOURS...HOWEVER...THE MODEL GUIDANCE REMAINS
DIVERGENT ON THE HANDLING OF A SHORTWAVE TROUGH FORECAST TO DIG
SOUTHEASTWARD FROM THE UPPER MIDWEST AND INTO THE MID-ATLANTIC
REGION...FOLLOWED BY A RIDGE BUILDING IN BEHIND THE TROUGH. THE GFS
AND ECMWF...OUR MOST RELIABLE MODELS... NOW HAVE VERY SIMILAR
SOLUTIONS THROUGH DAY 5...AND THE OFFICIAL FORECAST TRACK IS
BETWEEN THOSE TWO MODELS.

SATELLITE DATA INDICATE ISAAC HAS BECOME BETTER ORGANIZED OVER THE
PAST 6 HOURS WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CENTRAL DENSE OVERCAST CLOUD
PATTERN OVER THE CENTER ALONG WITH A DEVELOPING EYE IN RECON DATA.
SATELLITE DATA T-NUMBERS HAVE INCREASED TO T4.5/77 KT FROM TAFB AND
SAB. RECON WIND DATA INDICATE THE RADIUS OF MAXIMUM WINDS HAS ALSO
PULLED INWARD TO ABOUT 30 N MI. ALTHOUGH ADDITIONAL CONVECTION HAS
BEEN DEVELOPING IN THE NORTHEASTERN QUADRANT...DRY MID-LEVEL AIR
STILL LURKS JUST TO THE EAST AND SOUTHEAST OF THE CDO FEATURE...
WHICH COULD BE ENTRAINED INTO THE INNER CORE AT ANY TIME AND
DISRUPT THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS. DUE TO THE PROXIMITY OF DRY
AIR...THE INTENSITY FORECAST INDICATES ONLY MODEST DEVELOPMENT FOR
THE NEXT 24 HOURS. HOWEVER...STRENGTHENING IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE
RIGHT UP UNTIL LANDFALL OCCURS DUE TO THE VERY WARM WATERS THE
CYCLONE WILL BE PASSING OVER AND THE VERY FAVORABLE UPPER-LEVEL
OUTFLOW REGIME THAT ISAAC IS FORECAST TO DEVELOP BY 24 HOURS. THE
INTENSITY FORECAST IS JUST SLIGHTLY HIGHER THAN THE MODEL GUIDANCE.

BECAUSE SIGNIFICANT HAZARDS EXTEND WELL AWAY FROM THE CENTER...IT IS
IMPORTANT NOT TO FOCUS ON THE EXACT FORECAST TRACK. THE SLOW FORWARD
SPED OF AROUND 5 KT AFTER LANDFALL WILL RESULT IN A HEAVY RAIN AND
FLOOD SITUATION FOR PORTIONS OF THE CENTRAL GULF COAST AND LOWER
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY REGIONS.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 27/2100Z 26.4N 86.2W 60 KT 70 MPH
12H 28/0600Z 27.4N 87.5W 70 KT 80 MPH
24H 28/1800Z 28.6N 89.0W 80 KT 90 MPH
36H 29/0600Z 29.5N 90.0W 85 KT 100 MPH...NEAR THE COAST
48H 29/1800Z 30.3N 90.7W 75 KT 85 MPH...INLAND
72H 30/1800Z 32.2N 91.8W 35 KT 40 MPH...INLAND
96H 31/1800Z 35.9N 92.1W 25 KT 30 MPH...INLAND
120H 01/1800Z 38.7N 89.3W 20 KT 25 MPH...INLAND

$$
FORECASTER STEWART
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Yea issac is a hurricane has been for a few hours 981 pressure normall equates to a strong cat 1 this thing is about to ramp up
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Storm Surge is going to be huge, though... Ike was a Category 2 with Category 4 surge. Same thing is possible with this storm.

And as long as he sits out there spinning, the beaches are going to get beat to pieces before it even comes ashore.
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1620. flcanes
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Storm Surge is going to be huge, though... Ike was a Category 2 with Category 4 surge. Same thing is possible with this storm.

if it stays ts, still 10 ft surge
cat1=15
cat2=20
you get the idea
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Quoting MississippiWx:
This dude is about to take off...


I don't think so, the NE quad is to weak and dry to allow anything more than slow, steady intensification until landfall. I'm with Doc on this one, Cat 1 peak.

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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Storm Surge is going to be huge, though... Ike was a Category 2 with Category 4 surge. Same thing is possible with this storm.

Yeah...good point...so I hope Isaac doesn't get as strong as Ike did...
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 475 Comments: 3668
1616. Gorty
I kind a figured they were gonna keep it as a TS. 80-85 mph flight level is what like 10-15 mph lower at the surface? So 70-75 mph surface wins. So really, it was only a 50/50 chance.
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What did I tell you guys?

...RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT INDICATES ISAAC GETTING STRONGER... SIGNIFICANT STORM SURGE THREAT EXPECTED FOR THE NORTHERN GULF COAST... ...U.S. Warnings in Effect...
4:00 PM CDT Mon Aug 27
Location: 26.4°N 86.2°W
Moving: NW at 12 mph
Min pressure: 981 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph
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Quoting Stoopid1:
Seriously? NHC being too tight vested here.


They can only work with the information they have.

Although I agree that this should be named a hurricane so more people take it serious, they cannot just magically invent data and hope it comes true. They have to keep some level of authenticity.
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Quoting auburnguy:
For those leaving nola.. Traffic on i-10 east in nola east is backed up due to a shooting.. Take an alternate route if possible

Is there a mandatory evac for NOLA? I haven't been checking any news sources all day here at work....(except for this blog)...
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 475 Comments: 3668
1611. flcanes
Quoting WALMARTPROFITSAGAIN:
it was supposed to hit cat 1 strength like 30 different times after it clears land masses and this and that and so far still a tropical storm well its going this way models are all in agreement but wait now they changedonce it clears the dry air it will strengthen ( nope it didnt ) once it clears P.R. well it never hot pr once it clears hati ot will strngthen (nope ) once it clears tip of cuba it will stengthen ( nope) once it hits the straits it will strngthen ( nope once it clears the keys now it will strenghthen ( nope) good lord these forcasters suck bad and do this every year with every storm total idiots making money thats all this was

sometimes things happen, like with charley
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Quoting washingtonian115:
(comes back on the blog).Oh lookey what we have here?.Good news for the gulf with this one.Rain will be a issue though.I'm sure some of the mid-west states wouldn't complain if Isaac could give them some rain.
Storm Surge is going to be huge, though... Ike was a Category 2 with Category 4 surge. Same thing is possible with this storm.
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55kt SFMR winds with some 60kt flight-level winds in this data set.

204830 2555N 08529W 8434 01421 //// +213 //// 231055 056 055 002 05
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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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