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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About 3.5 to 4 foot storm surge thus far in Pt. Clear, Alabama, on E. Shore.

Mostly light drizzle, had sun out for a few hours until recently. A bit breezy but not unlike a good norther blowing down in December.

About half / half businesses in Fairhope and along 98 from Daphne S. towards Foley and Gulf Shores are open.

Looks like radar showing a decent band coming in later this afternoon.

But surge of 4 feet on this side of the bay a bit surprising...for this storm as well.
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Up to 20%.

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.
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14301



Well this sucks for everyone in NOLA and surrounding areas, but I am glad that on Monday the models and the track ultimately locked up and became less troublesome, which made it easier on everyone across the gulf coast to prepare.



As for Isaac I mentioned on Sunday I thought it was not going to intensify as much as some of the hype suggested and it didn't, nonetheless it's massive size will cause many problems on its own including the unusually large surge.


Best of luck to everyone in NOLA, I can tell you that the port here in Galveston is jammed with OSV's and rig boats coming in to avoid the storm, at night offshore it looks like a small city with all the tankers and other vessels loitering. Been very busy around here, as a result, so we know how bad it is.


Good luck NOLA guys.
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Quoting reedzone:
Pressure wise, this IS a Category 2 Storm.
That is an important point, Reed, you are right. The lower pressure contributes significantly to the storm surge regardless of the wind speed.

The Saffir-Simpson scale and even our language are both inadequate to accurately describe the different types of tropical cyclones.
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Quoting dannb65:
000
FXUS64 KLCH 281749
AFDLCH

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LAKE CHARLES LA
1249 PM CDT TUE AUG 28 2012

.AVIATION...WINDS ARE STEADILY INCREASING AND GUSTY UNDER AN
ALTOCU DECK AS NEWLY DESIGNATED HURRICANE ISAAC MAKES ITS WAY
TOWARDS SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA. MVFR CIGS AND A FEW SHOWERS ARE
EXPECTED TO MOVE INTO THE ACADIANA TERMINALS LFT AND ARA IN A FEW
HOURS WITH GUSTS TO 30 KTS. IF CURRENT PROJECTIONS HOLD, BPT, LCH
AND AEX WILL ENCOUNTER MVFR CIGS AND RAIN WITH GUSTS 30 TO 40
KNOTS WEDNESDAY MORNING WHILE THE ACADIANA AIRPORTS CAN EXPECT DRIVING
RAINS MVFR CIGS AND GUSTS AS HIGH AS 45 KNOTS.

SWEENEY


Well that's definitely more than forecasted.
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2PM TWO suggests we could have another TD by the end of today.

1. 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.
Member Since: August 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 436
669. JLPR2
In other news, this is slightly interesting.


28/1745 UTC 23.7N 43.5W T2.0/2.0 97L

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Quoting markw:


As a resident in the path of Isaac....that was just a dumb statement to make.
I agree with you Markw.I bet if it was happening in Florida that person wouldnt be saying that.I hope for the best for all of us in its path.
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Quoting tennisgirl08:


So based on the last advisory coordinates...which way is he moving? and is it really 10 mph?


Its gone way north of the precip model now on the weather channel and if it doesn't wobble back west soon, the heaviest winds will be in the next 5 hours in new orleans with the center going 10 miles south of the city center. Winds will drop however, as the center passes by because there is a large area of minimum pressure in the center, 40 miles across.
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Quoting JeffM:
You would think TWC could cutback on their Local on the 8's crap when a hurricane is bearing down on a city.

People want to know their local weather also I think TWC does a good job keeping people informed. They usuall have a dual screen when in emergency mode.
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i see they are now calling this tropical storm a hurricane...this weather we are experiencing in coastal north carolina (which is indirectly related to isaac) is wrose than the storm itself
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Those who belittled this storm need only look at rain toals in Fla and now in the Carolinas as well as whats to come along the N. Gulf coast...Its not the
wind its the Water....
Member Since: September 8, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1078
Now I'm out, have to go for a bit.
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Curfew Issued in Terrebonne Parish

Terrebonne Parish will impose a parish wide curfew beginning tonight (Tuesday, August 28) at 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 29, 2012.

Anyone in violation of this curfew will be questioned by law enforcement officers. This curfew is being issued to ensure the safety of residents and could be extended as weather conditions warrant.

Link
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Quoting swlacanemom:
#635

Thank you. I'm in Sulphur. We may see a little something but I keep reading about it coming further west after landfall. Just trying to get prepared.


Good idea. That's what I'm doing. :)
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Quoting Patrap:
Well all toodle's and giggles aside...,

The Rainbow Loop shows the first "Impactor" fetch cluster feeder to come around in the next Hours.

Be ready..rush all PREPS to Completion as the time is now fast closing for everyone to Hunker Down and have the flashlights, NOAA Radio at the ready..pets inside.

The Situation will deteriorate fast soon.





This image is 45 minutes old... should already be in east new orleans now according to the 1759 GMT image with the GEOS-14:

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658. auburn (Mod)
Regardless if your on the East coast..or in NOLA its all part of Isaac and is affecting people in different ways..if you dont like what someone is posting block them and move on...
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657. JeffM
You would think TWC could cutback on their Local on the 8's crap when a hurricane is bearing down on a city.
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Quoting emcf30:
Fuel prices will continue to rise.

89.8mph wind gust just recorded at an Apache Corp oil platform about 300ft above ocean level. (80mi SE of NOLA).

Link


Those winds will be Congo in tonight, late this afternoon in the Greater Metro Area.



Thanx..

All factual Posts are welcome.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128609
New Orleans co-ordinates:
29°57′53″N 90°4′14″W

We're watching closing here in SWLA.
Praying those gazillion dollars levees hold.
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I was just checking the National Data Buoy site on the special Observations on Issac. There are a couple hundred observations and the highest sustained wind speed is 64mph. I guess we should be seeing some 70 and 75mph observations soon.
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Quoting WxNerdVA:

I would say thats landfall at the mouth of the river eh?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
000
FXUS64 KLCH 281749
AFDLCH

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LAKE CHARLES LA
1249 PM CDT TUE AUG 28 2012

.AVIATION...WINDS ARE STEADILY INCREASING AND GUSTY UNDER AN
ALTOCU DECK AS NEWLY DESIGNATED HURRICANE ISAAC MAKES ITS WAY
TOWARDS SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA. MVFR CIGS AND A FEW SHOWERS ARE
EXPECTED TO MOVE INTO THE ACADIANA TERMINALS LFT AND ARA IN A FEW
HOURS WITH GUSTS TO 30 KTS. IF CURRENT PROJECTIONS HOLD, BPT, LCH
AND AEX WILL ENCOUNTER MVFR CIGS AND RAIN WITH GUSTS 30 TO 40
KNOTS WEDNESDAY MORNING WHILE THE ACADIANA AIRPORTS CAN EXPECT DRIVING
RAINS MVFR CIGS AND GUSTS AS HIGH AS 45 KNOTS.

SWEENEY
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Quoting Charmeck:

They are moving to the NE (out to sea) but there is an endless train of another and another (of course it's from a hurricane). The puzzling thing is that as they come off Isaac instead of growing weaker they seem to be growing strong. You can see it on the satellite http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/eaus/rb-l.jpg
the 1st one is off the NC coast, the second is blowing up over the SC coastal area and the third is just starting to form over eastern Florida (and they sure don't need any more)!


help..

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Starting to get more frequent wind gusts over 30mph here in Northeast St.Tammany Parish. The sky looks ominous, but no rain yet.
Hope all our neighbors to the south and east fair well and stay safe in coastal MS, Slidell, Lacombe, New Orleans and everywhere in between.
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:

Wow Isaac finally made it... but still a crappy storm. Im disappointed.




you will find out wed PM what the power a cat 1 can do when damg reports start rolling in
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115239
We have a Ambulance evac down the street here currently.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128609
#635

Thank you. I'm in Sulphur. We may see a little something but I keep reading about it coming further west after landfall. Just trying to get prepared.
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I am in LA, but please stay safe to all that is also in Isaac's path!!!! I hope you all are prepared!!! :)
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Quoting markw:


As a resident in the path of Isaac....that was just a dumb statement to make.


It's a shame that brutally obvious sarcasm isn't easier for you to notice.
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Quoting dziban303:


Yes, please keep up with the radar images of Palm Beach every ten minutes. It's far more riveting than what's going on with this silly hurricane business in Louisiana.


A benefit to comments from different locations on a blog is that people can focus on multiple different things at once. Parts of FL got pounded yesterday, and it is related to the silly hurricane business -- damage is likely in a number of places today, it is neither negated by nor does it negate what's going on with Isaac and his center landfall.

In fact, I've been wondering a lot about the interplay between Isaac and his FL-NC coastal blob interaction with that trough to the NE. There's a lot going on there, I think, but I'll be pondering it for a while.
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Seen a few comments on the rain along southeast coast.  Does seem like it was part of outer band of Isaac and as of right now we have 3-4 feet of water in the streets of Charleston, SC with high tide a few hours away.
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This is so bad
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Not cool, laid down for a nap, wake to thunder, it is training again over the same area here in Palm Beach County.
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Quoting leftlink:
28.4N, 88.7W
75mph
975mb
nw at 10mph

new 2pm advisory is out, courtesy TWC.


So based on the last advisory coordinates...which way is he moving? and is it really 10 mph?
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Quoting swlacanemom:
When do they update the models again?


I'm not sure when they update them. I'm just going to keep checking the NHC to see if they change any of our warnings or not. And our NWS. We should know something by the 4 o'clock discussion anyway. :)
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What kind of winds and rain can people in Mobile, Al east to Pensacola expect. Im inland a ways in Mobile around the Semmes area.
Member Since: August 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 152
Fuel prices will continue to rise.

89.8mph wind gust just recorded at an Apache Corp oil platform about 300ft above ocean level. (80mi SE of NOLA).

Link
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Quoting ScottLincoln:


Those storm surge values will not be realized.... the size and speed of the storm are expected to cause larger surges for Isaac.
Isaac is interesting. If you take each data point on it's own (sustained ground wind speed(TS/Cat1(debatable)), pressure(Cat2), surge(Cat3?)) he falls into completely separate categories. That, along with his often failure to intensify/consolidate, his huge size, constant interaction with dry air and large scale features, and far flung affects on the atmosphere (bands/orphaned blobs) away from him is going to make for some interesting research papers.
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Quoting ncstorm:


I dont know..Dr. Masters thought it went out to sea..LOL, so maybe thats why people arent talking about it..

They are moving to the NE (out to sea) but there is an endless train of another and another (of course it's from a hurricane). The puzzling thing is that as they come off Isaac instead of growing weaker they seem to be growing strong. You can see it on the satellite the 1st one is off the NC coast, the second is blowing up over the SC coastal area and the third is just starting to form over eastern Florida (and they sure don't need any more)!<>img src="http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/eaus/rb-l.j pg
">
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Quoting VR46L (534):

But wind speed wise it aint ...and which is more important just sayin...
True, but do not forget part of the storm surge is due to the water dome formed under lower air pressure.
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Pilottown 49.9 gusting 67 @ 17:30 UTC.
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28.4N, 88.7W
75mph
975mb
nw at 10mph

new 2pm advisory is out, courtesy TWC.
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USE ALL AVAILABLE SOCIAL MEDIA, CELL PHONES,ETC to contact anyone who may be about..or may not be fully aware of the situ.

Esp the Shut ins, Elderly, Disabled abled..and those who may not have a place to be.

Humanity is the rule of the day now. As it should be everyday.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128609
Quoting RTSplayer:



Yes, it was originally supposed to do a rare left-hook landfall on the GFS and hit NOLA from the east, but it ended up coming in at a lower angle, and may still do the left hook later on in the track.

Notice in the steering layer, the left handed ridge over Texas and the plains states is oriented so that it really wants to push the storm south and west, this is probably what has been slowing down Isaac, as the storm is so big it literally cannot fit through the weakness created by the troughs, and is jammed between the two ridges.




Sounds good but my thinking is the high over TX might be retreting some of course thats just my uneducated opinion as im really bad at guessing on things like this
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Link

South Carolina coast.
Member Since: August 31, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 49

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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.