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 allancalderini:
Btw only male names have become hurricanes until know this year in the Atlantic (Chris,Ernesto,Gordon and probably Isaac).

Well last year was female names (Irene, Katia, Ophelia, Rina) so now it's the guy's turn.
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Cloud tops warming in the eye. Could be the start of a clearing out trend.

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1457. robj144
Quoting Hoff511:
Hey Everyone, on topic but a little bit of a sidetrack. I know storms, but just experienced in Port Saint Lucie, FL thunder and lightning like never before. It was a weird flash, not a bolt, followed by what could only be described as multiple sonic booms occurring simultaneously. To the point of shaking my patio doors. Not thinking conspiracies or anything crazy just wondering if anyone else is aware of or has experienced this phenomenon. I have been through plenty of storms and rolling thunder but this is beyond that exponentially.


Most likely transformers blowing.
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Quoting Hoff511:


Strange, yes? I know thunder, but that was extreme.
yup. Been a crazy day. Very flooded here. Streets are like rivers. Hopefully is done here but weatherman said something about possible bands moving back up from Miami later tonight?
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1454. Hoff511
Quoting kwgirl:
The strike was so close to you, you are lucky to be alive. Check your roof to see if your house is struck. It can cause a fire.


Thanks for the concern, but no, it was not that either, unless my house got struck 10 time today.
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Think they are going to get the Doc an "on air" coach.
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From all that I see, the tropical storm is still with us who live South of Tampa. Barometer still low and unchanged. Bands of rain and strong wind (25 to 30mph from south/south-east) moving through quarter hour intervals or less. Tornado advisory at noon. Flooding a problem with ditches full, streams and rivers overflowing. Sure looks like Isaac is moving away and leaving a new tropical storm in its place ready to move up the east coast(?)
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Afternoon, all.

What is up with this storm? Is it just the dry run [or in this case the soaking wet run] for another, larger storm? or is it going to be a shocker by this time tomorrow?



Pressure dropped 3-4 mb in past hour. Went from 985 mb to 981 in one pass. We got hurricane force winds to SW of Isaac's center and we got eye forming. Isaac is technically undergoing RI.
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Quoting LargoFl:
Levi i know your busy but alot of us espeially on the east coast of florida..want to know what is going on with that blob on the east coast of florida..almost like it is seperate from issac


We do. Even those of us on the West Coast do. Looks like it's coming for us next!
It's probably my imagination, or maybe a visual illusion when juxtiposed next to Issac, but it looks like it's beginging to develop it's own spin in the opposite direction.
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Everyone makes fun of that story I told 7 years ago, an old Cajun told me that a long time ago.  Weather it's ants, birds or mammals, they know.  
Quoting MississippiWx:


Lol. I've always thought it was some sort of craziness when people said that, but I've never had an ant problem until the past week to two weeks. Some of them got in my car and I had to deal with that (ugh). Might be a coincidence. Lol. Nature has a way of knowing things...

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1448. flcanes
Quoting MississippiWx:


Nea is a great blogger and contributor here. Very well-respected and always level-headed. Great to have him here.

i think he is good as well
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Btw only male names have become hurricanes until know this year in the Atlantic (Chris,Ernesto,Gordon and probably Isaac).
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It's Bernoulli.
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Quoting Sfloridacat5:
Dr Masters just now on TWC - "not going to be a cat 2 today or tomorrow."


Mother Nature may prove him wrong..
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1444. kwgirl
Quoting Hoff511:
Hey Everyone, on topic but a little bit of a sidetrack. I know storms, but just experienced in Port Saint Lucie, FL thunder and lightning like never before. It was a weird flash, not a bolt, followed by what could only be described as multiple sonic booms occurring simultaneously. To the point of shaking my patio doors. Not thinking conspiracies or anything crazy just wondering if anyone else is aware of or has experienced this phenomenon. I have been through plenty of storms and rolling thunder but this is beyond that exponentially.
The strike was so close to you, you are lucky to be alive. Check your roof to see if your house is struck. It can cause a fire.
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Quoting catastropheadjuster:
I have been hearing the trains coming from the state docks, downtown Mobile,Al all day, sounds like right before Katrina. There all heading North and loaded to the gill. You can hear the motors in a strain. this should tell folks they need to listen.

Sheri


That's cool information, if they are going to spend the money and effort on fuel to move bulk goods, that's kinda scary.
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1442. divdog
Quoting kmanislander:


Still see NW track. The new center position is either a temporary jog or a center reformation, neither of which should make any difference to the overall track forecast reasoning IMO.
Squeezing in between the high to east and the high to the west providing a path of least resistance for the storm to follow.? Big storm winds waiting to catch up.
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You can see Reed Timmer in New Orleans on here:

http://live.tvnweather.com/

And I got streaming for free instead of usual $2 fee.
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Afternoon, all.

What is up with this storm? Is it just the dry run [or in this case the soaking wet run] for another, larger storm? or is it going to be a shocker by this time tomorrow?

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1439. LargoFl
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY AREA - RUSKIN FL
355 PM EDT MON AUG 27 2012

FLZ050-051-055-272045-
HILLSBOROUGH-PINELLAS-MANATEE-
355 PM EDT MON AUG 27 2012

...A SIGNIFICANT WEATHER ADVISORY HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR EAST CENTRAL
PINELLAS...NORTHEASTERN MANATEE AND WESTERN HILLSBOROUGH COUNTIES FOR
A STRONG THUNDERSTORM WITH STRONG WIND GUSTS VALID UNTIL 445 PM
EDT...

AT 351 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATES A
STRONG THUNDERSTORM LOCATED NEAR DUETTE...OR 22 MILES WEST OF
WAUCHULA...MOVING NORTHWEST AT 40 MPH WILL AFFECT DUETTE...LITTLE
MANATEE RIVER STATE PARK...SUN CITY CENTER AND WIMAUMA.

THIS INCLUDES INTERSTATE 75 BETWEEN EXITS 240 AND 256.

THIS INCLUDES INTERSTATE 275 BETWEEN EXITS 39 AND 52.

GUSTY WINDS OF 45 TO 55 MPH CAN BE EXPECTED WHICH CAN CAUSE UNSECURED
OBJECTS TO BLOW AROUND...SNAP TREE LIMBS AND CAUSE POWER OUTAGES.
TORRENTIAL RAINS WILL REDUCE VISIBILITY TO NEAR ZERO AND WILL CAUSE
PONDING OF WATER ON ROADWAYS.


&&
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38423
Quoting catastropheadjuster:
I have been hearing the trains coming from the state docks, downtown Mobile,Al all day, sounds like right before Katrina. There all heading North and loaded to the gill. You can hear the motors in a strain. this should tell folks they need to listen.

Sheri

BNSF has been pulling trains from Galveston, but not from points inland.
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Can't wait to see what the blog will do when the NHC officially declares Isaac a hurricane in about, say, 15 minutes. It'll be maximum DOOM:CON level!


The blog's power level will be OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAAAND!!!!!!
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1436. Levi32
Coolest loop in the world right now, set to fill the screen of a 15-inch laptop. You can play with the URL parameters.
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1435. Hoff511
Quoting TreasureCoastFl:
In St Lucie here too. It was booming here, yes


Strange, yes? I know thunder, but that was extreme.
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Quoting TreasureCoastFl:
local weatherman says its a massive feeder band that broke off from Issac, then its all dry air on west coast
Looks like the feeder band finally moved a few miles east (off shore) I emptied my rain guage of 5 inches yesterday and emptied another 5 inches just now... So it had to be 10+ inches.
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Quoting GetReal:
Hmmmm... In the last hour I have had two different neighbors complain of large red ant invasions of their respective homes!!! There may be something to this watching the ants....


Lol. I've always thought it was some sort of craziness when people said that, but I've never had an ant problem until the past week to two weeks. Some of them got in my car and I had to deal with that (ugh). Might be a coincidence. Lol. Nature has a way of knowing things...
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Isaac is on the verge if not the fourth hurricane of the season.
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Quoting snotly:
What we here in the vernacular call a tropospheric vortex inducing a Burnuli effect in conjunction with the Coriolis effect due to equalization of pressure caused by the evaporation transport of heat above 850 millibars layer inducing a relative wind speed of or above 3308.1 centimeters per second.


Say wuuuuuut?
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2413
Quoting hurricanehanna:

I don't think the rain on the East side has stopped all day


It has been raining from about 8pm last night without stopping here. Heavy downpours at times, right now is just a light rain. I am hoping this is the end of it
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1428. Hoff511
Quoting Charmeck:

It might have been transformers blowing!


No, Still have power, and it was way different that that.
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I have been hearing the trains coming from the state docks, downtown Mobile,Al all day, sounds like right before Katrina. There all heading North and loaded to the gill. You can hear the motors in a strain. this should tell folks they need to listen.

Sheri
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Quoting Hoff511:
Hey Everyone, on topic but a little bit of a sidetrack. I know storms, but just experienced in Port Saint Lucie, FL thunder and lightning like never before. It was a weird flash, not a bolt, followed by what could only be described as multiple sonic booms occurring simultaneously. To the point of shaking my patio doors. Not thinking conspiracies or anything crazy just wondering if anyone else is aware of or has experienced this phenomenon. I have been through plenty of storms and rolling thunder but this is beyond that exponentially.
In St Lucie here too. It was booming here, yes
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1425. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38423
1424. GetReal
Hmmmm... In the last hour I have had two different neighbors complain of large red ant invasions of their respective homes!!! There may be something to this watching the ants....
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8871
Quoting LargoFl:

I don't think the rain on the East side has stopped all day
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Quoting Sfloridacat5:
Dr Masters - "not going to be a cat 2 today or tomorrow."
What a Debby Downer.
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Quoting divdog:
Nw track still look good to you ? Iam such an amateur but it looks weird in these sw quad. Shape has changed some. Have no idea what that means or am I just seeing things.good luck all from destin


Still see NW track. The new center position is either a temporary jog or a center reformation, neither of which should make any difference to the overall track forecast reasoning IMO.
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Quoting snotly:
What we here in the vernacular call a tropospheric vortex inducing a Burnuli effect in conjunction with the Coriolis effect due to equalization of pressure caused by the evaporation transport of heat above 850 millibars layer inducing a relative wind speed of or above 3308.1 centimeters per second.


How long did it take you to put that one together? Quite impressive.
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1418. CJ5
L. Eye Character: Open in the north
M. Eye Shape & Diameter: Circular with a diameter of 20 nautical miles (23 statute miles)


This is not much better than any of the other recon reports we have had the past 96 hours. At least "ragged" is not in there. And it is open only on one side. Maybe he can eventually close up. It is the smallest diameter report we have had do that shows some improvement in that regard.
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I have been reader of the blog since experiencing three hurricanes in five weeks back in 2004. I'm astounded (impressed) by the insight I get from the better posters, and dumbfounded how the NHC does not seem to predict, of late, better than those posters. I am afraid the experienced forecasters have left the NHC leaving us with the non-thinking, inexperienced 'children/drones'. I have read over and over on the blog that storms that have not matured into organized systems are usually poorly predicted by the models (God knows the NHC must love those models). The models seem to focus on steering currents that only pickup more organized systems. The better posters scream that every time. Isaac is not organizing as predicted, and therefore keeps going west even though the models show a more northern trajectory. Until Isaac gets his act together and becomes better organized, he will go west possibly ending up much further into Texas than any model now predicts. The moment he gets organized, you can draw a line along that longitude and he will not cross it...maybe even going just east of north. But that organization seems a long time coming.

Another thing the models seem to always miss, and the bloggers always get, are cut off lows that transition into storms.

The impact of the NHC forecasters not seeming up to the task is huge. I saw hundreds of bucket trucks in daytona beach last night probably staged for a Tampa landfall. I saw hundreds of workers seemingly waiting to go to the next destination. People cancel plans for travel based on these inaccurate predictions. Evacuations take place based on these poor predictions. Schools close. RNC convention gets shortened. What a tremendous waste of limited resources!
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1416. flcanes
Quoting TreasureCoastFl:
local weatherman says its a massive feeder band that broke off from Issac, then its all dry air on west coast

dat true
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Quoting Xandra:

929. Neapolitan 07:13 PM GMT on Augusti 27, 2012 +103

Nea has now over 100 pluses ;)


Nea is a great blogger and contributor here. Very well-respected and always level-headed. Great to have him here.
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Dr Masters just now on TWC - "not going to be a cat 2 today or tomorrow."
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Quoting Hoff511:
Hey Everyone, on topic but a little bit of a sidetrack. I know storms, but just experienced in Port Saint Lucie, FL thunder and lightning like never before. It was a weird flash, not a bolt, followed by what could only be described as multiple sonic booms occurring simultaneously. To the point of shaking my patio doors. Not thinking conspiracies or anything crazy just wondering if anyone else is aware of or has experienced this phenomenon. I have been through plenty of storms and rolling thunder but this is beyond that exponentially.

It might have been transformers blowing!
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Quoting JasonRE:


Thanks, just got a call from my sister saying that as well. I thought they had declared LA a state of emergency already. Oh well...thanks though.

Well, the State of LA did - but that's to be able to get Federal help. The individual parishes make their own call as they deem fit. I'm sure by tomorrow AM LCG will be making that call. I don't think our conditions will start going downhill until tomorrow mid to late afternoon.
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1411. flcanes
Quoting RitaEvac:



lol
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Quoting LargoFl:
..ok ty
local weatherman says its a massive feeder band that broke off from Issac, then its all dry air on west coast
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1409. LargoFl
whoa..boomers and lightning with this storm by me now, looks like its going to be an active night
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38423

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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.