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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Man folks on channel 8 at waterfront in New Orleans was showing people playing around the waters edge police just showed up to get them away good job
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Quoting nolacane2009:


I agree. It is a hard decision to make to leave or go. I just pray for everyone in LA, MS, AL & FLA with this storm. Keep me posted if you can on Conditions around your area if you can.

Thank you!
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Quoting Patrap:


Oh I hope so or the Univesre is skewed mucho.


I hope you are on high ground.
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Quoting freeroam:

Gust seem a lil more then that here, now and then. I am kinda wishing I would have left right now. My last nerve is shot. Worried about the surge and this storm slowing down it seems.


I agree. It is a hard decision to make to leave or go. I just pray for everyone in LA, MS, AL & FLA with this storm. Keep me posted if you can on Conditions around your area if you can.
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Lake Charles

...ISAAC NOW A HURRICANE...

.DISCUSSION...
RECENTLY UPGRADED HURRICANE ISSAC CONTINUES TO HEAD NORTHWEST
TOWARD SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA. THE LATEST FORECAST TRACK HAS SHIFTED
A BIT TO THE WEST POST LANDFALL TOMORROW AND TOMORROW NIGHT...WITH
THE END RESULT BEING A SLIGHTLY HIGHER WIND FORECAST FOR THE AREA.
NO CHANGES TO THE HAZARD GRIDS WERE NEEDED AT THIS TIME...BUT THAT
COULD CHANGE FOR INLAND AREAS SHOULD THERE BE ANY FURTHER WESTWARD
ADJUSTMENTS IN THE FORECAST TRACK.

FIRST PERIOD GRIDS WERE UPDATED TO REFLECT LATEST OBS/TRENDS...BUT
OTHERWISE NO MAJOR CHANGES TO THE FORECAST AT THIS TIME.

FOR THE COASTAL WATERS...ONE ITEM THAT WE HAVE NOT REALLY ADDRESSED
MUCH IS THE POSSIBILITY FOR VERY LOW WATER CONDITIONS TO DEVELOP ON
THE BACKSIDE OF ISSAC. IT IS ASSUMED THAT SHIPPING/BOATING
OPERATIONS ARE ALREADY GEARED UP FOR THE POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF THE
STORM ITSELF...SO A LOW WATER ADVISORY IS CURRENTLY NOT PLANNED.
I DID WANT TO POINT OUT THE POTENTIAL FOR THIS LOW WATER TO
OCCUR...HOWEVER...SINCE IT COULD BE A BIT CONFUSING TO SEE THAT
HAPPEN AND HEAR THAT A STORM SURGE IS POSSIBLE. THE REALITY IS
THAT BOTH CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE AND CONSISTENT WITH THE EXPECTED
TRACK OF THIS CYCLONE.
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Quoting doubtit:
I went trough Andrew, Katrina and Wilma in Miami, and what you are saying is pure ignorance. So unless you have been through a cat 1, 3 and 5 like I have personally stop trying to scare people. Yes this should be taken seriously as with any storm, but a cat 1 WILL NOT cause as much damage as a cat 3 or 5.


Their point is not that a weak cat 1 can be as damaging as a cat 5. The point is a 70 mph TS is not much different than a 75 mph Cat 1 and both can cause considerable damage and death. Plus, the perception of the difference between a TS and a hurricane to the general public is large.
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519. Caner
National Hurricane Center declares Isaac a Category 1 hurricane,

Link

Sensational much?
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Quoting ScottLincoln:

Slidell area... about to head in to work.

Please stay safe!
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Quoting freeroam:
Just wondering how many here are in New Orleans? I can see a few, and remember from past storms...Patrap I think you are uptown.

Slidell area... about to head in to work.
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Quoting freeroam:
Just wondering how many here are in New Orleans? I can see a few, and remember from past storms...Patrap I think you are uptown.


Oh I hope so or the Univesre is skewed mucho.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
Quoting reedzone:


Pressure wise, this IS a Category 2 Storm.


Agreed didnt this happen not to long ago with one these storms?
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Wow! Charleston S.C is flooding big time! It's all over the local news here. People getting rescued, Market Steet in downtown is flooding, interstates are flooding. That stinking hurricane kicked up this huge feeder band waaaay east of the storm. It's pretty bad over here and the rain keeps developing!
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Quoting nolacane2009:


Well Please stay safe. I can easily feel already 20 to 25 mph winds. Gusting past that I believe but I am no meteorologist.

Gust seem a lil more then that here, now and then. I am kinda wishing I would have left right now. My last nerve is shot. Worried about the surge and this storm slowing down it seems.
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Quoting jazzygal:


Seems to be correct. First time since Hurricane Betsy in 1965 that an eye has gone over N.O. directly I believe.


The HH is now sampling the wind field just East of Venice and finding surface winds over 60 MPH. Lots of water will be carried inland with this hurricane.
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Quoting JLPR2:


Finally! Jeez! at first I saw Dr.M's entry and I was like, no way, it still isn't a hurricane?!!! XD

So Isaac is the fourth of the season, though it wont be a major, we still have not seen one of those.


Too funny...we've been tracking Isaac since he was a baby wave over Africa..it seems like it's been an eternity since we watched him threaten the Leewards...(weren't they under a Hurricane Watch, too, for a time?...)Hurrican Watch/Warning for Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Keys/Miami...and only now two days later, does he make Hurricane status (barely)....has to be one for the records! Though, I agree with Jeff that that pressure is way low for the winds they're finding.
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Quoting RayRayfromLa:


this was not intended for you washington as you were not the original poster. I guess you didnt see who I quoted. and thanks for wishing bad things my way, I really appreicate the comment.. you seem like such a great person with a huge heart. have a nice day!
I deleted the last part.Please delete that one :).
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I think Isaac is bombing out right before landfall. He's a real charmer, acting all coy up until just prior to landfall so that people don't take him seriously until it's too late.

Stay safe and bunker down, nature's got a way of doling punishment in a cruelly ironic sense: this landfall happening in NOLA 7 years (almost, if not exactly to the day) after Katrina is its newest "Up yours" gesture. This is going to be a long day.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 612
Quoting CaneHunter031472:
Looking good on visible. Cat two anyone?



Pressure wise, this IS a Category 2 Storm.
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I'm getting my first light sprinkles here east of Springfield near the border of Tangipahoa and Livingston Parishes.

I've got two rain gauges about 100feet apart, one of them is in a better location and elevated on a fence post so it won't get contaminated from any higher surfaces, as long as it doesn't get blown away.

Most of the mist that just fell evaporated from the concrete and asphault right away.
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Quoting kmanislander:


Starting to look like landfall near or over Venice and a track to NO or just West of there.


Seems to be correct. First time since Hurricane Betsy in 1965 that an eye has gone over N.O. directly I believe.
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Wow just about all of these have this moving more wnw in a day or so or just before land fall

Link
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Quoting freeroam:

I am in Lakeview close to City Park.


Well Please stay safe. I can easily feel already 20 to 25 mph winds. Gusting past that I believe but I am no meteorologist.
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Quoting WxNerdVA:


I very much agree with this, he is right. Just because it is a weak hurricane doesn't mean that damage won't be that bad, because it could be.
I went trough Andrew, Katrina and Wilma in Miami, and what you are saying is pure ignorance. So unless you have been through a cat 1, 3 and 5 like I have personally stop trying to scare people. Yes this should be taken seriously as with any storm, but a cat 1 WILL NOT cause as much damage as a cat 3 or 5.
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Latest dropsonde pressure:
975mb (28.79 inHg) Sea Level (Surface) 28.8°C (83.8°F) 27.4°C (81.3°F) 170° (from the S) 7 knots (8 mph)
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7958
Quoting Tazmanian:



hes not wishcasting this could still be come at lest a 90 too 100mph storm


No he's wishcasting. He has not presented any evidence that may lead to the storm increasing in strength. It is just hoping that it does because he like many on this blog probably predicted that it would be a Cat 3 at landfall several days ago. Rather than just accepting that this storm is not the monster some on here so want it to be.
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And the northern convection collapses again. Isaac isn't very good at this hurricane thing.
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Quoting CaribBoy:


Lol that's no surprise :) 40 W is your magic threshold.. so let's wait til it gets there!


yes lets wait

Quoting Tazmanian:
you guys need too stop down playing this


a cat 1 storm can do this has marh damg has a cat 3 or 5 hurricane can



storm suge is the # one killer in storms all so New Orleans is be low sea level

and there are a lot of old home that can be havy damg or gone

all so down town New Orleans could be havy damg with flying grass from the higher levels so there is likey going too be a lot of clean up


yep hurricane Ike was a good example of that
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12453
Quoting CaneHunter031472:
Looking good on visible. Cat two anyone?



Been thinking the same thing myself. Winds are going to finally catch up to the pressure.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1240
Quoting kmanislander:


Sting to look like landfall near or over Venice and a track to NO or just West of there.


I certainly agree.
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People there's an ignore button so use it.
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Both HWRF and GFDL look good with intensity and pressure up until landfall.
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494. Caner
If this was a cat 3 or 4 on this exact same path, NOLA would be utterly devastated.

This is a worst possible case scenario path wise for a land falling hurricane in NOLA...

Just look at that eye lining up to pile water into Lake Pontchartrain...

NOLA should thank their lucky stars they are getting off with a tropical storm today hehe.

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Quoting CaneHunter031472:
Looking good on visible. Cat two anyone?


It has cat2 pressure but winds haven't mixed down/responded due to the large wind field. Still not a good situation and people need to be ready for Isaac.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7958
Oh and by the way it's moving to the northside of the official track. Check the radar radar never lies.
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Quoting CaneHunter031472:
Looking good on visible. Cat two anyone?




vary good ch that it could try too make a run for cat 2 be for land fall
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115357
Always a lurker and just wanted to say thanks to all the very informational people on here today!
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Now I am beginning to understand the dynamic at play... the latest HH observation showed that the center was a bit NNE of the expected location. They found the old center with calm winds but the pressure was lower elsewhere.

What is going on: The convection is only partly wrapped around the storm. Now it is on the north north east side. This sucks air from the center and pulls the center northward.

Now I understand why it doesn't organize even more, it needs to have the thunderstorms go around the whole center with about equal strength so that there is not a pull on the center of circulation...

Here is my image from before... you can move the peak storm surge northward by about 20 miles, putting it right into New Orleans now.

img src="">
Member Since: December 28, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 134
Looking good on visible. Cat two anyone?

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Quoting nolacane2009:


Terrytown Here. Anyone of yall know what I can expect?

I am in Lakeview close to City Park.
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Quoting Floodman:
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
I wounder guys what would happen if Hurricane Isaac rapidly tighten it circulation and he rapidly make a run to strong Cat 2 boarder cat 3

Angry villagers outside your house?


Floodman, Hello stranger. So what cha think about Isaac? It's good to see ya.

sheri
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<
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the lady that using sign language is using some strange facial expressions..
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481. Skyepony (Mod)
Schooner's beach cam. Some water covering the beach now.
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Quoting JasonRE:
Anyone here today in Lafayette? Leaving work at 3 today and they have us open for work tomorrow. I'm NOT coming in. I'd rather lose 8 hours of pay then not be at home watching my home.

What is the general consensus for Lafayette's weather from later tonight until Wednesday night??


Work near downtown..its nice here right now :)

Plan for rain to start later tonight and winds to pick up..I would say expect 50ish winds in the morning and maybe most of tomorrow..it depends on how it comes onshore..if it turns north or west..
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Quoting LargoFl:
guys maybe its a good idea when this does hit..to leave the blog to those that are under the gun there, like they did for us here in florida yesterday..they can tell each other whats going on in their neighborhood or city etc..just an idea..this is going to be alot worse than florida's hit, they get the 75 mph winds, and that huge storm surge etc..well anyway..just an idea....good luck to you folks up there, stay safe
The blog yesterday was mature, informative, respectful and supportive... Today it's... I'm not sure what's going on today but there's way too much chaff. Good luck to all in this storm's path. Stay safe.
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Quoting freeroam:
Just wondering how many here are in New Orleans? I can see a few, and remember from past storms...Patrap I think you are uptown.


Terrytown Here. Anyone of yall know what I can expect?
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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.

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Quoting WxLogic:


Given current trends and possible eye relocation... it could make landfall sooner.


Starting to look like landfall near or over Venice and a track to NO or just West of there.
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GFDL 24 hr out



Link
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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.