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 TropicalAnalystwx13:


they just keep coming
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Link

The Houston Chronicle Science Blog (Which covers the tropics)

HOUSTON EFFECTS

Forecasters at the Houston/Galveston office of the National Weather Service have been grappling with the question of whether Houston will see some effects from Isaac.

I just spoke with Gene Hafele, the office’s meteorologist in charge, and he told me, “We’re leaning toward some effects, and we’re increasing the chance of rain and winds.”

This means, for areas east of Interstate 45, there will be a 40 percent chance of showers due to Isaac from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday. Inland winds also could creep up a bit, but not to dangerous levels. Areas west of I-45 will probably remain hot and dry for the remainder of the work week.

Offshore winds could approach tropical storm strength, Hafele said.

I think that sounds pretty reasonable. Seeing as I live 2 miles EAST of I-45 I guess I am going to get some rain?
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1473. Patrap
Quoting nola70119:
Wind gusts are already higher than what I had for Gustav....


Close Id say as well..


There was like 41 Confirmed Tornadoes..and the Radio,NOAA one was worn out the second day.



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129419
Conditions at KMIS, Oil Platform
29.296 N 88.842 W (29°17'46" N 88°50'31" W)
Anemometer height: 85 m

Wind Direction (WDIR):SSE ( 150 deg true )
Wind Speed (WSPD): 69.0 kts
Wind Gust (GST): 85.1 kts
Air Temperature (ATMP): 80.6 °F
Dew Point (DEWP): 77.0 °F
Visibility (VIS):0.2 nmi
Link:
Link
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1471. HCW
Quoting StormHype:
Live video from chaser now in Lakeshore MS:
Link


That guy came very close to getting into trouble with cops trying to get to Dauphin Island, AL listening on the scanner was a hoot
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Um....what?

...NEW TROPICAL DEPRESSION FORMS OVER THE EASTERN ATLANTIC...NO THREAT TO LAND...
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Quoting tennisgirl08:


After Isaac, I am going to be tired of tracking. There is so much dry air in the ATL right now I doubt we will see any Major Hurricanes this year.



LOL, it's too early in the season for hurricane fatigue! ;) Just really getting going!
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Quoting Patrap:


A Downhill trend I think.


great expectations...
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1466. Patrap
Quoting StormHype:
There should be a ban for posting more than one image. Someone broke the blog and i think we know who.


Just use the HIDE and it will be OK..or Iggy as well.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129419
Quoting nola70119:
Wind gusts are already higher than what I had for Gustav....


Post some photos please....XD
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Quoting mbar62:
It should be noted that no weather observations record hurricane-strength winds, including platforms on the open water.


Many thanks for paying attention to the data and not the hysteria.
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Quoting nola70119:
Wind gusts are already higher than what I had for Gustav....


same here. a few hours of this and the trees begin to fall
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Any weather stations or anyone talking about this? Looks more westerly. Is this a real possibility or most likely not?

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1461. Patrap
Quoting nola70119:


Pat, what do you expect tonight?


A Downhill trend I think.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129419
Live video from chaser now in Lakeshore MS:
Link
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There should be a ban for posting more than one image. Someone broke the blog and i think we know who.
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Wind gusts are already higher than what I had for Gustav....
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Quoting jascott1967:
I know it's going to be a few days before Isaac's out of our hair but there are a couple waves, one just west of the cape and another getting ready to splash into the Atlantic that looks structurally similiar to Isaac when it was a wave. It's this second one that I think bears watching.


After Isaac, I am going to be tired of tracking. There is so much dry air in the ATL right now I doubt we will see any Major Hurricanes this year.

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Quoting moonlightcowboy:
Old habits are hard to break. I can't help but think that Isaac will turn more due north as he gets stronger and 1012mb pressures recede northwards into central MS. Additionally, the plains high is or should be serving as a blocking high to the storm's nwest. I'm thinking there's a rut in the north Gom and Isaac will get on track shortly to follow Camille's and Katrina's path, maybe even a tad further eastwards eventually.

And, I hope all my rowdy friends are hunkered down for the evening! ;)



That's a lot of high pressure to the north it seems Isaac has nowhere to go but NE eventually no?
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Didn't notice that Indianrivguy was back, I remember him from a few years back. Good blogger.
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All times in GMT. Derived from NHC_ATCF data for HurricaneIsaac for 28August6pm
60knots(69mph)111k/mh :: 65knots(75mph)120km/h
27Aug.12pm , 25.8n84.8w
27Aug.06pm , 26.1n85.9w , 287.0*WNW@19.2km/h (11.9mph)10.4knots , 60knots , 984millibars , TS
28Aug.12am , 26.7n86.5w , 318.1*NWest@ 14.9km/h (9.3mph) 8.0knots , 60knots , 981millibars , TS
28Aug.06am , 27.4n87.7w , 303.4*WNW @23.7km/h(14.7mph)12.8knots , 60knots , 978millibars , TS
28Aug.12pm , 27.8n88.2w , 312.0*NWest @ 11.1km/h (6.9mph) 6.0knots , 60knots , 976millibars , TS
28Aug.06pm , 28.5n88.9w , 318.6*NWest@17.3km/h(10.2mph)8.9knots , 60knots , 975millibars , HU
2TA5-PortO'Connor :: HUM-Houma :: KGNI-GrandIsle :: LS12-Buras :: 17LA-Venice :: 5LA6-SouthwestPass,MississippiRiver

The southeasternmost dot on the northwesternmost line is where TS.Isaac became a hurricane, and its most recent position

The longest line is a straightline projection through TS.Isaac's 2 most recent positions to its closest approach (within 18miles or 29kilometres) to an inhabited coastline
27Aug.6pm: TS.Isaac had been headed for passage over Seadrift(PortO'Connor)Texas (not shown)
28Aug.12am: TS.Isaac had been headed for passage 7.6miles(12.3kilometres)NEast of Venice (top,17LAblob)
28Aug.6am: TS.Isaac had been headed for passage 17.8miles(28.7kilometres)SSWest of Dulac,Louisiana (bottom,nearHUMdumbbell)
28Aug.12pm: TS.Isaac had been headed for passage over GrandIsle,Louisiana (left,KGNIdumbbell) after it had passed less than 10miles(16kilometres) SWest of the SouthwestPass shipping entrance/exit for the MississippiRiver (5LA6 removed because its dot was too close to the straightline projection as it crossed the Mississippi)
28Aug.6pm: H.Isaac was heading for a 29Aug.12:35pm passage 5.3miles(8.5kilometres)SWest of Buras,Louisiana in ~3&1/2.hours from now (when this was posted) before making a landfall very shortly thereafter

Copy&paste hum, 29.382n90.714w-29.161n90.868w, kgni-29.215n90.022w, 5la6, 17la-29.347n89.263w, 26.7n86.5w-27.4n87.7w, 27.4n87.7w-27.8n88.2w, 27.8n88.2w-28.5n88.9w, 27.8n88.2w-29.263n89.679w, ls12-29.263n89.679w into the GreatCircleMapper for a larger map and other information
The previous mapping for comparison
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Quoting moonlightcowboy:
Old habits are hard to break. I can't help but think that Isaac will turn more due north as he gets stronger and 1012mb pressures recede northwards into central MS. Additionally, the plains high is or should be serving as a blocking high to the storm's nwest. I'm thinking there's a rut in the north Gom and Isaac will get on track shortly to follow Camille's and Katrina's path, maybe even a tad further eastwards eventually.

And, I hope all my rowdy friends are hunkered down for the evening! ;)



MLC - that's what I keep thinking, too - but the NHC seems to disagree.

Here in Mobile, Al getting heavy rain with 20-30 mph gusts. But still have power.
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Very gusty winds and lots of rain coming down in the Oriole Beach Rd area in Gulf Breeze, FL
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I know it's going to be a few days before Isaac's out of our hair but there are a couple waves, one just west of the cape and another getting ready to splash into the Atlantic that looks structurally similiar to Isaac when it was a wave. It's this second one that I think bears watching.
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Quoting jeffs713:

Neil Frank was one of those that was pushing for more preparedness, and prompt evacuations... as would befit a former director of the NHC. People lost their lives because of complacency. The mayor of Galveston delayed evacuation - that cost lives. People stayed in their homes in Gilchrist... homes that ceased to exist post-Ike (one home was found on the other side of Galveston Bay, 20 miles away).

If you're told to evacuate, get the heck out. If you're told to prepare, get your stuff together. If you're told to implement your hurricane plan, get to work on it. It isn't hard... but some people think they are invincible... and frequently, they pay for it - with their lives.


I disagree. Niel Frank balked at the NHC forecast and downplayed the strength and surge dangers. He was certain that he knew more than them, and said the forecasts were wrong in his broadcasts. He disagreed with the NHC and because he is considered a God, folks listened to him, instead of the NHC. This includes the Mayor of Galveston, who after Franks broadcasts decided there was no need to evacuate. If Ike had come in even 25 miles south, Madam Mayor would have been the cause of hundreds of deaths. The folks on Crystal Beach listened to Frank instead of the NHC and waited too long to leave. "Its only a cat two"

Neil Frank was my hero as a kid, I even got to meet him after begging my Dad to make it happen. I was, and still am disappointed at the pissing contest he had with the NHC, and I firmly believe that folks died because they listened to him, instead of the NHC. My hero turned out to be human.

We had a more accurate assessment of the dangers right here on the Underground, and I believe that what was said HERE saved lives.
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Quoting HurricaneIsabel:
reedzone is still here wish casting hoping for a strong cat 5 to hit land? Sorry dude. This is borderline tropical storm, just some sprinkles here and there.
Oh please......Go away where someone might listen to you
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Quoting Patrap:
This is B-A-D Mojo...


Pat, what do you expect tonight?
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4:10PM CDT....Drizzling rain with light to breezy winds. I think it's time to get out the blender.
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Wonder how those elderly folks in Grand Isle are
fairing ? They are definitely in the crosshairs
for surge and heavy rain both.
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Isaac's shape reminds me of Katrina. Thankfully the winds are not the same.
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And they do drink a fair amount in Boothville.
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1443. mbar62
It should be noted that no weather observations record hurricane-strength winds, including platforms on the open water.
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Quoting Patrap:


Not much down There to stop those Winds..
that just amazes me though to say its a Cat 1 but u are right about that
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Are you guys out storm chasing?


ill go out this afternoon or tomorrow morning (if at all possible)but no he called me
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Quoting HurricaneIsabel:
reedzone is still here wish casting hoping for a strong cat 5 to hit land? Sorry dude. This is borderline tropical storm, just some sprinkles here and there.


Careful. If you go around posting the truth the panic mongers will get upset with you.
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Just in case you missed it Indianrivguy...posted back yonder: Indianrivguy !!! Hallelujuh! Been so long. So glad you're well, or getting back. Guess I was a little long winded, but brought results! In case you forgot, I'm just east of Pensacola, so out of danger here. Saw how the bands today covered your way. What a trip y'all had. Kids grandma in Ormond Beach, think that band missed her. I don't think that feature to correspond works like it did, so guess settle with knowing you ok, and thanks.
Coop
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Wow that's amazing how the blob is being reincorporated into Isaac or at least that is how it appears in that image Patrap posted. Good thing he's about out of time over water.
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Quoting bigwes6844:
Pat they just said on wdsu that boothville can see up to 110mph winds in a few hours. really??


gusting
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Quoting HurricaneIsabel:
thank goodness this is only a weak CAT 1 storm borderline Tropical storm.


Yea but the surge is insane on this thing. A lot of people where saying that for Ike and thank goodness it wasn't any stronger at landfall than 110mph, still ended up being a horrific hurricane.
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Don't worry too much they are still running around downtown NO on csm
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1433. GetReal
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this isnt good ene wind (east by the rigolets), the storm is now throwing water into the lakeshould continue to do so for the next 8-12 hours before the wind shifts and slings it north
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1431. Patrap
Quoting bigwes6844:
Pat they just said on wdsu that boothville can see up to 110mph winds in a few hours. really??


Not much down There to stop those Winds..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129419
1430. JonasNJ
Quoting Patrap:
Inside the NOAA P-3 Orion "Kermit






That is so cool. Best of luck with Isaac.
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Quoting Masquer08er:
Lost power for an hour in Mobile


You are on the hill of doom..lol. I have a natural gas generator that runs the house. I am spoiled!
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Quoting Charmeck:


Check out the band that is connecting Isaac to that mess in SC. These areas are still trying to reconnect! Absurd - this storm is mega huge.


That is insane.
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Pat they just said on wdsu that boothville can see up to 110mph winds in a few hours. really??
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Quoting weatherh98:


its fun


If its us big kids and grown men, yes, but kids that young should not be right down by the lake like that. Let them watch from afar, no need for any injuries or deaths that can be easily prevented.
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1425. JeffM
Mike Siedel on Orange Beach is in full on exaggeration mode.
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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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