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 sar2401:


You're kidding!!!!!!!!!! Right into LA?!!!!!!!! I had no idea!!!!!!!!!!


I didnt know that was possible, huh, learn something new everyday.
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Hang on. We now have an eye. LOL
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1356. Bielle
Quoting Grothar:
Coming soon to a PC near you!




I know this is irreverent, but it looks like a colonoscopy highlighting some serious problems.
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Quoting DelawareJack:
The Chicken Little of All Chicken Littles .. the Weather Channel has done it yet again .. scared people half to death for their own selfish wishes for ratings >> " Tampa was considered a possible landfall spot for Tropical Storm Isaac. The storm stayed well west of the city, bound apparently for Louisiana or Mississippi, and sunshine was drenching Tampa by Monday afternoon. " All this does is make things worse the next time there is a genuine threat .. people have already begun to see the " Hollywood -Like Antics " of the Weather Channel . and because of that some folks will not believe them the next time ..


Not just The Weather Channel but too many in the media tend to hype these storm systems. There is no need for hype at all because once the storm is underway there will be plenty of opportunity for ratings and such, with the actual, real events unfolding from the storm effects.

Here in the Tampa Bay area, the local TV station with the lowest news ratings has an on-air meteorologist who was still trying to claim as late as Sunday morning that there was a real risk of Isaac hitting our area. This was long after all the other local TV mets had declared this to be extremely unlikely to happen. He had the gall to state, "I'm not hyping this, but..." Yeah, right.

And for at least a day after it was clearly evident that the storm would not hit Tampa, the local news producers were still obviously pushing the "What if the Republican convention has to be canceled because the storm is coming here?" theme.

Television is all about ratings and so the truth gets lost in the battle to shamelessly trawl for more viewers. One should always keep that in mind when watching news reports about these storms, and a lot of other things.
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Quoting kmanislander:


We all make a miss now and then :-)


They actually wanted to change the language, but it would take a software change that would not be ready for this season. Decided just to acknowledge it ment the center.
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Quoting floridaboy14:
if he undergoes RI, we still cant discount a 3 correct?


If it slows down a whole lot, it is possible, but I wouldn't bet on it. It will also go further north the stronger it gets (I would think).
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1352. WxLogic
Quoting sunlinepr:
Water Vapor



Not sure if you guys have noticed but look at sunlinepr post of the Water Vapor loop above and look at the ULAC location:



You'll see that the convective complex has a better defined upper level outflow than Isaac.

Just mentioning it since I don't believe that topic has been touched. Isaac upper level outflow is OK but not optimal. Until it can get that ULAC on top of it... its outflow is going to be getting interrupted to some degree.
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 5008
GOOD AFTERNOON ALL. Slidell, LA here. I am happy to say my family and I are much better prepared this time then we were for Katrina. We will be going to my Aunt's house. She has 3 generators and lives right where the three rivers meet in Covington. I agree Isaac will be a hurricane at 5 o'clock.
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1348. Levi32
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


Nothing, just enhanced outer spiral bands in a higher convergence zone.
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1347. sar2401
Quoting floridaboy14:
notice on satalite that every quadrent except the NE one looks well established and he is showing signs of an eye trying to pop out. there any chance he gets to a 3? he's got a day and a half over water


There's always a chance, but the probability is very low. Probability is what matters, not chance. There's a chance that, if frogs had wings, they could fly.
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1346. Skyepony (Mod)
We have 09E in the EPAC now..


Quoting kmanislander:
Did anyone notice this statement in the dropsonde decoded material

"Dropsonde Location: Dropped in eye."



The really interesting ones say "Dropped in eyewall"
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1345. airmet3
Quoting Gorty:


Your point? 2 am is still tomorrow is it not? So it looks like he will be a hurricane this evening not tomorrow at 2 am.


Interpolation shows 75mph at 8pm EDT. Close enough for government work.

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1343. CJ5
Quoting reedzone:
This is what we people like to call ... A Hurricane


No, that is not a good example at all.
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Quoting Levi32:
If Isaac keeps strengthening at a good pace today, he could be a solid Cat 2 at landfall. The proper thing to do early this morning after seeing the continued struggle with the dry air and no winds over 50kt within 50 miles of the center was to forecast a gradually strengthening high-end Cat 1, with the caveat for greater strengthening if he pulled itself together faster, which it is now doing.
if he undergoes RI, we still cant discount a 3 correct?
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Quoting Grothar:
Coming soon to a PC near you!




My plan for the week:

Mon: Isaac
Tue: Isaac
Wed:Isaac
Thu: Day off
Fri: Day off
Sat: Kirk?
Sun: Kirk

Expect Kirk to consume much of next week.
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1340. drs2008
Quoting RitaEvac:


Paranoia
Im in biloxi and I see it coming right at me !
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Paranoia


Some of it's paranoia, some of it's something else.
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1337. LargoFl
Quoting Levi32:
If Isaac keeps strengthening at a good pace today, he could be a solid Cat 2 at landfall. The proper thing to do early this morning after seeing the continued struggle with the dry air and no winds over 50kt within 50 miles of the center was to forecast a gradually strengthening high-end Cat 1, with the caveat for greater strengthening if it pulled itself together faster, which it is now doing.
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
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 40717
A lot of kids at school are expecting a strong tropical storm if this is really RI then they will be in for at least a cat 2.
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What is the James Bond w/ a drum machine sounding music on TWC. BTW, John Oldshue represents WU well. Very professional.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 397
Quoting Elena85Vet:


And to think I rewarded myself with a Fresca for getting +12 :P



They still make Fresca or do you just have a private stash? :)
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1333. Grothar
Coming soon to a PC near you!


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Kermit headed towards Isaac from Jacksonville.
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Quoting coondini:

Not to mention the fact that the Weather Underground is now part of The Weather Channel, which means that the TWC meteorologists, including Stephanie Abrams, can now come on here and potentially see that stuff. Wouldn't really cast WU bloggers in a good light if many are seen making snide remarks/jokes like that.

Just thought I'd toss that quick point in there real quick...

I imagine she could have visited Dr. Master's blog before the sale to TWC.
She is a professional broadcaster who knows that she has a fan base, and who also is aware she is attractive. But the innuendo and double entendre on this blog today were rude and uncalled-for.
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Quoting ILwthrfan:


Question, sorry if it sounds dumb, but this is the first time I've heard of adjusted surfaces pressures bases of the wind speed being measure with that current pressure? So what is the rule of thumb?
Ok, when a dropsonde is dropped into the eye of a cyclone for it to be completely valid the wind speed at the surface should be below 9mph to ensure that they truly dropped it in the center of the cyclone and did not miss. When the winds are above 10mph, a 1 millibar reduction should be subtracted from the MSLP found by the dropsonde since it is unlikely that they hit the true center. So the rule of thumb would be a 1 milliar reduction for every 10mph of wind. (E.g: 2 millibar reduction for 20mph surface winds, 3 millibar reduction for 30mph surface winds, and so forth).
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Flight level winds at this time support a 75mph system.
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1328. Dakster
Quoting flcanes:

panic, panic!!!!!


I would only be panicking if I lived in NOLA and had no hurricane plan in place. My personal Hurricane plan if I live in NOLA would be to leave... But that is just me.
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He's already a CAT 1 in my opinion and he will likely be a CAT 2 by the time he makes landfall again.
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Quoting floridaboy14:
notice on satalite that every quadrent except the NE one looks well established and he is showing signs of an eye trying to pop out. there any chance he gets to a 3? he's got a day and a half over water


Decent chance.. Isaac is spinning in very warm waters and favorable conditions. Though because he's soo big, it's gonna take time to organize, but it looks like he's finally starting to deepen at a good pace.
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Quoting NICycloneChaser:
If the NHC bumps this to 70mph this blog will explode.



Holy crap, i already can't keep up. Everytime i hit f5 im backed up another 40 posts.
Member Since: June 24, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 472
Quoting CybrTeddy:


I got ~80 pluses on a massive rant last year to a troll claiming to be a met who believed that 2011 would not see a single hurricane. I believe that's the record for most pluses on a comment. Still, his post is excellent and deserves just as many.


And to think I rewarded myself with a Fresca for getting +12 :P

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Product: Air Force Vortex Message (URNT12 KNHC)
Transmitted: 27th day of the month at 20:07Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 306)
Storm Number & Year: 09L in 2012
Storm Name: Isaac (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 27
Observation Number: 10
A. Time of Center Fix: 27th day of the month at 19:30:40Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 26°14'N 85°56'W (26.2333N 85.9333W) (View map)
B. Center Fix Location: 245 miles (394 km) to the WSW (241°) from Tampa, FL, USA.
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 1,280m (4,199ft) at 850mb
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 43kts (~ 49.5mph)
E. Location of the Estimated Maximum Surface Wind: 11 nautical miles (13 statute miles) to the NNE (12°) of center fix
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 100° at 54kts (From the E at ~ 62.1mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 19 nautical miles (22 statute miles) to the NNE (19°) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 982mb (29.00 inHg)
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 20°C (68°F) at a pressure alt. of 1,543m (5,062ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 22°C (72°F) at a pressure alt. of 1,544m (5,066ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp & Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Open in the north
M. Eye Shape & Diameter: Circular with a diameter of 20 nautical miles (23 statute miles)
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Radar, Wind, Pressure and Temperature
N. Fix Level: 850mb
O. Navigation Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 1 nautical mile
Remarks Section:
Maximum Wind Outbound: 65kts (~ 74.8mph) in the southwest quadrant at 19:50:10Z
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 65kts (~ 74.8mph) in the southwest quadrant at 19:50:10Z
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1322. snotly
Who ya gonna call? Drought busters!
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1321. Levi32
If Isaac keeps strengthening at a good pace today, he could be a solid Cat 2 at landfall. The proper thing to do early this morning after seeing the continued struggle with the dry air and no winds over 50kt within 50 miles of the center was to forecast a gradually strengthening high-end Cat 1, with the caveat for greater strengthening if he pulled itself together faster, which it is now doing.
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Bigger picture... Water Vapor

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If Isaac is moving off to the NW, then the weakest winds should be in the SW quadrant. However, recon found by far the strongest winds there. How does this make sense? Perhaps it isn't as organized as it looks? Or the eye will be pulled into the SW quadrant?
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Quoting ncstorm:
Sorry as a woman, I didnt plus Nea's comment..calling any woman a Bimbo dont sit well with me..



**not some bimbo posing for the cover of Maxim**

clipped directly from his quote. See the "not"?
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1317. will40
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Generic language to indicate the center of a cyclone. See item #11 here



there ya are lol
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1316. flcanes
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Vortex data doesn't seem to include the SFMR readings that they found in the southwestern semicircle, nor the additional millibar reduction due to the surface winds in the dropsonde. It should be noted that they have included a 20 nautical mile eye feature, open to the north though.

000
URNT12 KNHC 272007
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL092012
A. 27/19:30:40Z
B. 26 deg 14 min N
085 deg 56 min W
C. 850 mb 1280 m
D. 43 kt
E. 012 deg 11 nm
F. 100 deg 54 kt
G. 019 deg 19 nm
H. 982 mb
I. 20 C / 1543 m
J. 22 C / 1544 m
K. NA / NA
L. OPEN N
M. C20
N. 12345 / 8
O. 0.02 / 1 nm
P. AF306 2709A ISAAC OB 10
MAX OUTBOUND AND MAX FL WIND 65 KT SW QUAD 19:50:10Z
;

hurricane for sure, once the eye is closed off
( goes to throw rock in lake in the backyard, it formed yesterday, 2 feet deep
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1314. sar2401
Quoting flcanes:

anyone from la, watch out, isaac is coming!!!!!!!!!!!


You're kidding!!!!!!!!!! Right into LA?!!!!!!!! I had no idea!!!!!!!!!!
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Generic language to indicate the center of a cyclone. See item #11 here


We all make a miss now and then :-)
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1312. will40
Quoting kmanislander:
Did anyone notice this statement in the dropsonde decoded material

"Dropsonde Location: Dropped in eye."



the guy in here that does very well with the recon stuff said that was a saying meaning it was dropped in the center of the storm. i cant remember what his handle is tho.
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Quoting airmet3:


He forcast 70 at 2pm EDT today and 80 at 2am EDT tonight. He was spot freaking on. You guys need to get over this.

I would like to see a copy of the group apology email that was sent to him.

I meant his forecast yesterday at 5 pm but thats different now! Btw I didn't no mail to him lol
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Water Vapor

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Quoting JasonRE:


I am in Lafayette....about 10-12 minutes from Acadiana Mall. Thanks!

I called LCG - not giving them out yet. I'm thinking they are going to wait until they declare a State of Emergency, then they will start offering them. Youngsville is doing so now, so maybe Lafayette will follow shortly. KATC.com is updating info as it comes in so check there too later today.
Member Since: September 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3488

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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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