Isaac makes its final approach towards Louisiana

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:29 PM GMT on August 28, 2012

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The winds and water are rising all along the coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle as Tropical Storm Isaac makes its final approach. Two hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm are measuring a steadily lowering pressure and increasing winds aloft, but hurricane-force winds have not yet been observed at the surface. The 8:30 am center fix found a pressure of 976 mb, which is very low for a tropical storm. Top surface winds measured with the SFMR instrument were 70 mph, but the plane measured 102 mph at an altitude of 5,000 feet. It's more typical to see surface winds of 85 mph with a storm with these characteristics. Infrared and visible satellite loops and hurricane hunter reports from this morning have shown that Isaac has developed a 25-mile diameter eye, though the eyewall has not yet formed a full circle around the eye. Heavy thunderstorm activity is lacking on the north side, where light wind shear of 5 -10 knots is still pumping some dry air into the circulation.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Isaac. Note how dry air has wrapped into the west side of the storm, causing a lack of heavy thunderstorm activity.

Isaac's rains
One of the most remarkable features of Isaac has been the huge spiral band that parked itself along most of the east coast of Florida and remained there for an entire day, despite the fact the center of the storm moved 400 miles away. This rain band was amplified by a weak trough of low pressure along the East Coast, which pulled away from the coast Monday night, taking the band of heavy rain out to sea (except for a few lingering showers near West Palm Beach.) Isaac's heaviest rains fell along a swath from the east coast of Florida near West Palm Beach to the center of the state, just south of Orlando. The 2-day rainfall total of 9.03" at West Palm Beach brought their monthly rainfall total to 22.28", a new August record (old record: 20.12" in 1995.) Vero Beach's 6.48" of rain was a record for any August day. A possible tornado touched down there, damaging 20 mobile homes. In the Keys, rainfall totals as high as 7.94" (at Upper Matecumbe Key) were measured. 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 24, and two died in the Dominican Republic. The big concern in Haiti is the heavy damage that was done to crops, and the likelihood that the storm's rains will worsen the cholera epidemic that has killed over 7,000 Haitians.


Figure 2. Radar-estimated rainfall from Miami, Florida radar shows that Isaac has dumped a wide swath of 8+ inches of rain (orange colors) across the state. Rainfall amounts in excess of 20" may have fallen just west of West Palm Beach, though the highest amount reported by a rain gauge was 13.10" at Greenacres in Palm Beach County.

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 some differences in what happens after that. Isaac may scoot nearly west-northwest just inland along the coast into Texas, as predicted by the ECMWF model, or head straight inland to the northwest and into Arkansas, as predicted by the GFS model. The latest 8-day precipitation forecast from the GFS model calls for 10 - 20 inches of rain over much of Louisiana. It appears likely that Arkansas will see some heavy rains of up to five inches, which would help put a dent in the exceptional drought conditions there.

Intensity forecast for Isaac
Low wind shear of 10 knots or less is likely until landfall, along with very warm ocean temperatures. An analysis of upper level winds from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS shows that Isaac's upper-level outflow is the strongest we've seen, with a solid outflow channel to the south. These conditions favor continued strengthening of Isaac until landfall. However, we've observed in the past many instances of hurricanes suddenly weakening in the final 12 hours before making landfall along the Central Gulf Coast. Katrina, Gustav, Dennis, Ivan, and Rita all did so. A July 2012 paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society by Rosenfeld et al. titled, AEROSOL EFFECTS ON MICROSTRUCTURE AND INTENSITY OF TROPICAL CYCLONES, theorizes that this may happen because of the impact of small particles that get pulled into the outer circulation of hurricanes, seeding the clouds. These small particles, primarily from air pollution, serve as the seed around which water condenses, increasing the rain in the outer spiral bands. The increase in rain and heat energy at the periphery of the storm comes at the expense of the eyewall and inner core, where the winds tend to weaken. A detailed modeling study by Khain et al. (2010) of Hurricane Katrina in the final day before landfall was able to reproduce the storm's weakening only when this air pollution effect was included. This impact of small particles on hurricanes is not included in any operational hurricane model.


Figure 3. Tide gauge data from Shell Beach, located in Lake Borgne just east of New Orleans. The green line shows the storm surge. The red line is the storm tide, the height of the water above Mean Sea Level (MSL.)

Storm surge observations from Isaac
Isaac's storm surge has peaked along the west coast of Florida. As I explain in our Storm Surge Tutorial, we are most interested in the storm tide--the height above Mean Sea Level (MSL) of the tide plus the storm surge. The storm tide is the number given in NHC advisories for how much above ground level the ocean will be at the coast. The storm surge is the extra elevation of the water due to wind blowing on the water, and does not include the action of waves on top of the water, nor the tide. Tide gauges are specially constructed so that transient waves do not impact water level measurements. At Cedar Key on the West Florida coast north of Tampa, a storm surge of 3' and storm tide of 3.8' were observed early this morning. These were the highest water levels measured at any tide gauge along the Florida west coast. Higher storm surges are occurring in the Florida Panhandle. As of 9 am EDT, here were the storm surge/storm tide measurements along the Florida Panhandle:

Apalachicola, FL: 3.5' storm surge, 4' storm tide
Panama City, FL: 2.3' storm surge, 3.3' storm tide
Pensacola, FL: 1.5' storm surge, 2.5' storm tide

A storm surge of 3.5 feet was recorded at 10 am EDT at Shell Beach on the east side of New Orleans in Lake Borgne. This site will have one of the highest surge values during Isaac; a storm surge of 9.5' was measured at Shell Beach during Hurricane Gustav in 2008.


Figure 4. Category 2 Hurricane Gustav of 2008 followed a very similar path to Isaac, and brought a storm tide (the combined effect of the storm surge and tidal levels) of up to 14.5' above ground level to the east side of New Orleans. Isaac's surge may be similar, though probably a little less, than Gustav's.


Figure 5. Track of Hurricane Gustav of 2008, which followed a path very similar to that of Isaac's predicted path.

Isaac: similar to Category 2 Hurricane Gustav of 2008 in destructive power?
Isaac is a huge and slow-moving storm, with tropical storm-force winds that extend out 205 miles from the center. Isaac has cut its forward speed down from 14 mph yesterday to 10 mph today, and a large swath of the coast will be subject to high winds and a large storm surge for an usually long period of time for a hurricane--up to 24 hours. Long duration winds are much more damaging than short duration winds, and a long duration storm surge event allows damage to occur during multiple high tide cycles. The long duration storm event will also allow very high rainfall totals, resulting in greater fresh-water flooding problems than usual. As a result, I expect Isaac's to cause more damage than the typical Category 1 hurricane. The 9:30 am EDT Integrated Kinetic Energy analysis from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division put the destructive potential of Isaac's winds near 2.3 on a scale of 0 to 6, but the destructive potential of Isaacs's storm surge was 4.1 on a scale of 0 to 6. For comparison, the storm surge destructive potential of Category 2 Hurricane Gustav of 2008 was rated at 4.2 on a scale of 0 to 6, and the wind destructive potential was 1.1--which is lower than Isaac's, even though Isaac was just a tropical storm at 9:30 am EDT. Gustav brought a storm tide (the combined height of the storm surge and high tide) of 14.5' to the east side of New Orleans, and 11' to Waveland, Mississippi. However, the destructive potential of Isaac's surge may be overrated by this analysis. Wave heights this morning from buoy and ships in Isaac have mostly been below 15', which is quite unimpressive. One ship report to the SE of the storm had a 19' wave height (thanks to meteorologist Steve Gregory for pointing this out.) With only another 12 - 18 hours over water, Isaac likely won't have time for its slowing increasing winds to build up a storm surge that will reach as high as 14', like Gustav did. The official NHC forecast of maximum storm surge height of 12' looks like a good one. The highest rainfall total observed in Gustav was 21" at Larto Lake, Louisiana, and I expect we'll exceed that for Isaac, since the storm is moving more slowly. Gustav spawned 41 tornadoes--21 in Mississippi, 11 in Louisiana, 6 in Florida, 2 in Arkansas, and 1 in Alabama. The strongest tornado was an EF2 in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana. Isaac will likely produce 10+ tornadoes. The total damage from Gustav in the U.S. was $4.5 billion (2012 dollars.) I expect Isaac's damage total will be in the $500 million - $4 billion range.

Invest 97L in the Middle Atlantic
A tropical wave (Invest 97L) is located in the Middle Atlantic, about 1250 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 40% chance of developing by Thursday morning. None of the reliable models foresee that 97L will be a threat to any land areas.

Another tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on Sunday is located just southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, and is moving west at 15 mph. 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 Thursday morning. The disturbance could begin to affect the Northern Lesser Antilles as early as Saturday night, though our two best models, the GFS and ECMWF, predict the center of the disturbance will pass a few hundred miles north of the islands. The disturbance could be a long-range threat to Bermuda.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting ncstorm:
Texas, Mississippi, LA, Florida, NC and SC, Alabama, GA, VA .nine states currently being affected by Isaac..


I see a little in Tennessee also. And there's still some in Cuba!
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Quoting 9030mike:
Just walked to Lake Pontchartrain, the lake level is lower than I would have thought, almost like a high tide plus 3-4 foot waves. Maybe the new massive Lake Bourne structure is doing it's job?


On the North or South Shore?
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Quoting Neapolitan:
TD11:

AL, 11, 2012082818, , BEST, 0, 237N, 434W, 30, 1008, TD, 34, NEQ, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1014, 160, 100, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, ELEVEN, S,

invest_RENUMBER_al972012_al112012.ren

(Note: twice this year, ATCF has thrown up a renumber, only to see the TD re-renumbered [is that a word?] back to an invest, so proceed with caution until the NHC verifies at 1700.)


If misremember is a word re-renumbered should be too.
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tide height right outside flood gates... rising higher than predicted:



REALLY COOL LINK TO ALL AREA TIDE SURGES
Member Since: December 28, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 134
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Quoting SWLACajun:
Patrap - Oh my gosh that band coming into the Crescent City looks unbelievable and sooo ominous on the radar you posted! Good luck and stay safe as well as other N.O. WU bloggers. Is it me or is the eye just barely touching and teasing ya'll as it sits there spinning? May be slowing drifting west a little?


Indeed, not the best track and speed,..actually..our worst.

Faith Hope and Prayer can't hurt,datz fer sure.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128871
Just walked to Lake Pontchartrain, the lake level is lower than I would have thought, almost like a high tide plus 3-4 foot waves. Maybe the new massive Lake Bourne structure is doing it's job?
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Have the NHC realized that Isaac is actually moving to the north of the official forecast?
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Dry air looks to be less of an issue. The core has remained solid for a while. Of course, now we don't have recon. Lol.

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Quoting leicaman:
A little bit of humor never hurt anybody...

Top Ten Reasons Hurricane Season is Like Christmas

10. Decorating the house (boarding up windows).
9. Dragging out boxes that haven't been used since last season (camping gear, flashlights).
8. Last minute shopping in crowded stores.
7. Regular TV shows pre-empted for "specials".
6. Family coming to stay with you.
5. Family and friends from out-of-state calling.
4. Buying food you don't normally buy ... and in large quantities.
3. Days off from work.
2. Candles.

1 And the number one reason Hurricane Season is like Christmas...At some point you know you're going to have a tree in your house!


Lol!!! That's great. Thanks for sharing.
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We are down to watching wobbles, so far, so bad for New Orleans and Mississippi.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



we have TD 11



Well heck, Taz! Go figure! We get one coming ashore and another one cranks up. Thanks for reporting. :)
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Isaac still has a chance to 85-90 mph imo!
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Nearest Analog I can think of,..from 65, my first eyewall dance.



This image shows Hurricane Betsy in the Gulf of Mexico in September of 1965 as taken by the TIROS VIII weather satellite.

Date 1965 September 4
Source spac0010, NOAA In Space Collection
Author NOAA Photo Library


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128871
AL, 11, 2012082818, , BEST, 0, 237N, 434W, 30, 1008, TD
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957. Skyepony (Mod)
Wellington got dumped on yesterday, 1 in a 100 year event for them. Bottom video here is the Wellington Showgrounds underwater. People are also looking for places to move horses to. Only takes a few days of standing in water & many of their hooves will kinda falloff.

Awful to see a line of showers settling up this afternoon there.
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Really looks to have slowed. I wouldn't doubt if this just makes it inland and then crawls to the WNW paralleling the coast of LA. for 24 hours.
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BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_RENUMBER_al972012_al112012.ren
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201208281902
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Patrap - Oh my gosh that band coming into the Crescent City looks unbelievable and sooo ominous on the radar you posted! Good luck and stay safe as well as other N.O. WU bloggers. Is it me or is the eye just barely touching and teasing ya'll as it sits there spinning? May be slowing drifting west a little?
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Quoting ILwthrfan:


It will be interesting to see how this storm interacts with land. Remember Ernesto? Just as he moved onto shore his eye cleared out was at his peak inland. I am wondering if the friction of the land will help this storm tighten up and bring down those 90 knot winds to the surface. What say you Levi? Or anyone else for that matter?


That has been one of my concerns regarding the strength of Isaac as he reaches my area. I also mentioned this possibility earlier this morning. It has happened before.
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Quoting nola70119:
Where is the center now?


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Quoting GetReal:


Re-post from earlier this blog:

Over the past 30 years SE LA has sustained severe land losses to coastal erosion. Many who are not familiar with the geography of LA, looking at the satellite pics may be under the mistaken impression that Isaac is going to make landfall, when he makes contact with the MS river delta. That would be a mistake. Much of the "land areas" depicted on the satellite pic outlines are actually open waters now.

The remaining area south of NOLA are patchy salt water marshes, and bays. Isaac will have to get as far north as 29.6N and almost 90W before finally reach hard real land.


Excellent post. He still has lots of moisture to work with when the is right at the "coast".
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OMG! TD 11??
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A little bit of humor never hurt anybody...

Top Ten Reasons Hurricane Season is Like Christmas

10. Decorating the house (boarding up windows).
9. Dragging out boxes that haven't been used since last season (camping gear, flashlights).
8. Last minute shopping in crowded stores.
7. Regular TV shows pre-empted for "specials".
6. Family coming to stay with you.
5. Family and friends from out-of-state calling.
4. Buying food you don't normally buy ... and in large quantities.
3. Days off from work.
2. Candles.

1 And the number one reason Hurricane Season is like Christmas...At some point you know you're going to have a tree in your house!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weatherh98:
the mouth of the river only has a few hundred yards of land on either side, nothing at all really


Everything west of the river up to New Orleans is really water anyway, the maps are way off. Until that eye clears the north edge of the Lake Pontchartrain its over water or swamp.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
AL, 11, 2012082818, , BEST, 0, 237N, 434W, 30, 1008, TD, 34, NEQ, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1014, 160, 100, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, ELEVEN, S,



we have TD 11
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115252
Quoting jascott1967:


You wouldn't happen to live in the Granite City? Just met a fella from there, an oil platorm safety auditor who had to cut his visit short because of Isaac.


no I,m in Gourock,on the river Clyde,I,ve lived in Surfside Beach,SC for the last 17 years,back in Scotland for a while to help look after sick mom.
Member Since: August 31, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 49
Quoting ILwthrfan:


It will be interesting to see how this storm interacts with land. Remember Ernesto? Just as he moved onto shore his eye cleared out was at his peak inland. I am wondering if the friction of the land will help this storm tighten up and bring down those 90 knot winds to the surface. What say you Levi? Or anyone else for that matter?


Absolutely possible, radar imagery shows the eyewall trying to spiral inwards and the frictional effects of land interaction can help mix down those stronger winds aloft. We have seen 75-90 kt sustained winds measured by hurricane hunter planes between 3,000 and 5,000 feet for around 12 hours now, and it's not out of the question that Isaac could produce high end Category 1 winds on its NE-ern side as it crosses the coastline.
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I uploaded a few pics of yesterdays flooding in Port Saint Lucie, FL.

I have videos as well but will need some time to figure out how to upload them here or will upload to another photo site and post the links.

Dsntslp
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TD11:

AL, 11, 2012082818, , BEST, 0, 237N, 434W, 30, 1008, TD, 34, NEQ, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1014, 160, 100, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, ELEVEN, S,

invest_RENUMBER_al972012_al112012.ren

(Note: twice already this year, ATCF has thrown up a renumber, only to see the newly-minted TD re-renumbered [is that a word?] back to an invest, so proceed with caution until the NHC verifies at 1700.)
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Tidal surge update. Feet above normal tide levels.
Lake Pontchartrain - New Canal + 2.
Shell Beach + 5.
Pilottown + 3.75
Waveland, MS + 4
Pascagoula + 3.75
Dauphin Island + 3.
Pensacola + 2.75
Panama City + 2.5
Appalachicola + 2.25 and falling.
Member Since: July 24, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 156
Quoting RitaEvac:


lmao, I'd buy that for a dollar


Maybe I should say that it absolutely, definitely, positively won't & cannot happen & that scientific weather experts refuse to regard it as so much as a possibility. Then,...it might happen? lol.
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Quoting GetReal:


Re-post from earlier this blog:

Over the past 30 years SE LA has sustained severe land losses to coastal erosion. Many who are not familiar with the geography of LA, looking at the satellite pics may be under the mistaken impression that Isaac is going to make landfall, when he makes contact with the MS river delta. That would be a mistake. Much of the "land areas" depicted on the satellite pic outlines are actually open waters now.

The remaining area south of NOLA are patchy salt water marshes, and bays. Isaac will have to get as far north as 29.6N and almost 90W before finally reach hard real land.



Excellent Graphic I see it all the time flying in oilfield helicopters.
Member Since: September 8, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1078
Looks like hes back down to 6 or 7 mph
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the mouth of the river only has a few hundred yards of land on either side, nothing at all really
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Quoting windshear1993:
i bet yall isaac wont get retired!
hopefully it won't. that would mean it didnt cause death and destruction,and that would be a great thing if you ask me
Member Since: August 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 152
Isaac is certainly the focus, but both AOI's were upped at the 2pm TWO.

SHOWER ACTIVITY ASSOCIATED WITH AN AREA OF LOW PRESSURE...LOCATED
ABOUT 1425 MILES SOUTHWEST OF THE AZORES...HAS BECOME BETTER
ORGANIZED TODAY. A TROPICAL DEPRESSION COULD FORM AT ANY TIME TODAY
OR TONIGHT... BEFORE UPPER-LEVEL WINDS BECOME UNFAVORABLE FOR
DEVELOPMENT DURING THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM
CHANCE...50 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS AS THE LOW MOVES TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST AT 10 TO
15 MPH.

A LARGE BUT DISORGANIZED AREA OF CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS ASSOCIATED
WITH A TROPICAL WAVE IS LOCATED ABOUT 350 MILES WEST-SOUTHWEST OF
THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ARE FORECAST TO
BECOME MORE CONDUCIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL DAYS.
THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...20 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES WESTWARD ABOUT 15 MPH.
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I looks like it's about half way through getting an inner wrap on the eye-wall. We could see those winds come up another 5 to 10mph even at the last second here if it can complete that cycle.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
wow this thing is really tracking like NHC called it.. It is keeping completely away from Texas, and looks like it will totally miss Texas, even the very outer bands.. we could have definetely used some rain,, but oh well.. hope the upper coast who need it get the much needed rain, that we couldnt :(
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Quoting moonlightcowboy:
Finally met StormJunkie and the Portlight folks on Hwy 90 in Biloxi after all these years! Good guy, course, you all know that already! Very personable. Glad to have them here, already working hard. No way to put a price on that! Thanks!

Going to try and get some food together for them later on!

Swells really up in the GoM, 90 closed in several spots with water over the road already. Getting dark, bands starting to drop rain. Can tell it's all coming.


Very good MLC.

Glad y'all hooked up over yonder.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128871
Quoting mitthbevnuruodo:


Nah, he just keeps wishing for a TS or cat1 to hit wherever it is he lives for a bunch of rain (N Antilles?!). I'm pretty sure all his posts I've seen is him wishing them to him LOL



He lives in St Maarten.
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Where is the center now?
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929. MTWX
Goodluck and Godspeed to everyone in the path of Isaac!

Got the first light outer band here about an hour ago. Light to moderate rain for about 15 minutes. Winds are now a steady 12 MPH out of the East.
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Finally met StormJunkie and the Portlight folks on Hwy 90 in Biloxi after all these years! Good guy, course, you all know that already! Very personable. Glad to have them here, already working hard. No way to put a price on that! Thanks!

Going to try and get some food together for them later on!

Swells really up in the GoM, 90 closed in several spots with water over the road already. Getting dark, bands starting to drop rain. Can tell it's all coming.
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Hurricane Issac FunkTop Loop

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128871
Quoting WxNerdVA:


Getting close...


New Orleans is going to be on the bad side, Mississippi too.
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925. HCW
Storm Junkie streaming live with Port Light


Link
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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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