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 cheaterwon:


Is an adjuster I need my vehicle I could be deployed somewhere else with no chance to go home. And if I don't arrive on time they give my spot to someone else.


Then leave now. Don't wait. The wind & rain will make your trip miserable by this afternoon.
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Quoting Felix2007:

There is no El Nino yet.


Thx. That answered my question.
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Quoting Patrap:


The Terra forming of 3rd Rock out continues slightly ahead of schedule.

: )

Pat wasn't there supposed to be some sort of an effect on storms that was going to be unpredictable,if the CO2 should ever get into the 400PPM bracket?
Or was that just some propaganda put out by alternative energy equipment manufactures, in order to increase sales!
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Quoting jeffs713:

Based on that map, southern Mississippi and Alabama won't be getting any rain. Lucky them! (hehe)


I noticed that too...very funny considering it's raining pretty good at my location in Mobile right now...haha
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I found this part of the good Doc's post interesting:

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.

Appears wind damage will in fact be a little more serious than people are expecting.
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Quoting islander101010:
hundreds.of.americans.could.be.in.harms.way.el.sa lv adore


Umm....what?
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Looking at recon, it's safe to assume that the center has wobbled back to the northeast. This dry air is keeping the center unstable and wobbling all different directions.
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883 aspectre on June 11, 2012 : From eyeballing the chart, minimum sea ice extent dropped
from 2006's ~4,400,000sq.kilometres to 2007's ~3,000,000sq.kilometres

A similar ~1,400,000sq.kilometres drop from 2011's ~3,400,000sq.kilometres would produce a minimum sea ice extent of ~2,000,000sq.kilometres for 2012... And

wouldn't be much of a consolation.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Biloxi/Gulfport Streaming television feed (WLOX)

Link
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Quoting luvtogolf:
Does Isaac's struggles with dry air have anything to do with El Niño?



NO
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114717
Quoting luvtogolf:
Does Isaac's struggles with dry air have anything to do with El Niño?

There is no El Nino yet.
Member Since: July 12, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 383
Quoting jeffs713:

If you leave this afternoon, it will put you going *through* the storm in the late evening. It doesn't sound safe at all. Is flying there not an option? Driving all the way to Jacksonville, while a tropical cyclone is coming ashore near NOLA, sounds like a death wish to me.


Is an adjuster I need my vehicle I could be deployed somewhere else with no chance to go home. And if I don't arrive on time they give my spot to someone else.
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Radar estimated minus 64kts (or greater) shaded area is about the size of Washington and St. Tammany parishes combined for NE quadrant.

SW quadrant still jumping in and out of hurricane force every two or three frames.
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I think Isaac will don´t do nothing in New Orleans this City is well prepared after Katrina
Member Since: June 20, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2150
12Z GFS even farther west..in line with the 00Z Euro scraping the coastline all the way to SW Louisiana!

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Link

Awesome wind map of the U.S.!
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All times in GMT. Derived from NHC_ATCF data for TropicalStormIsaac for 28August12pm
27Aug.06am , 24.9n83.7w
27Aug.12pm , 25.8n84.8w , 312.2*NW @ 24.8km/h (15.4mph) 13.4knots , 55knots , 987millibars , TS
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
2TA5-PortO'Connor :: HUM-Houma :: KAXO-GrandIsle :: 17LA-Venice :: 5LA6-SouthwestPass,MississippiRiver :: EYW-KeyWest

The kinked line is TS.Issac's path on its 6th day as a TropicalStorm
The southeasternmost dot on the longest straight line is TS.Isaac's 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.12pm: TS.Isaac had been headed for passage over Venice,Louisiana (middle,17LAblob)
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 was heading for a 9:30pm passage 17.8miles(28.7kilometres)SSWest of Dulac,Louisiana (bottom,nearHUMdumbbell
28Aug.12pm: TS.Isaac had been headed for a 29Aug.9:29am passage over GrandIsle,Louisiana in ~18hours from now (when this was posted) after passing 11.5miles(18.5kilometres)SWest of the E8TankBattery near the SouthwestPass shipping entrance/exit for the MississippiRiver

Copy&paste hum, 29.382n90.714w-29.161n90.868w, kaxo, 5la6-28.894n89.436w, 17la-29.268n89.322w, 17la-29.347n89.263w, 24.627n82.873w, eyw, 23.9n81.5w- 24.0n82.5w- 24.9n83.7w- 25.8n84.8w- 26.1n85.9w, 26.1n85.9w-26.7n86.5w, 26.7n86.5w-27.4n87.7w, 27.4n87.7w-27.8n88.2w, 27.4n87.7w-29.215n90.022w, 5la6-28.825n89.513w into the GreatCircleMapper for a larger map and other information
The previous mapping for comparison
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Does Isaac's struggles with dry air have anything to do with El Niño?
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This particular map or model has the storm hugging the coast westbound

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Quoting RTSplayer:
There may be a tornado embedded in the NE eye wall. There is some evidence of a counter rotation there, like a tornadic cell.

Maybe it will die down shortly, as these things usually aren't long-lived in the eye wall.

More than likely, it is just a mesovortex. Happens frequently in the eye wall of tropical cyclones (they are frequently at the base of "hot towers", which are just very strong updrafts)
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Quoting WxNerdVA:
Not a hurricane? Well, I guess the professional mets with PHDs and years of experience at the NHC know something that all of us amateurs don't.


LOL..One would hope
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To think after Katrina he was predicting major and stronger hurricanes ever year.lol.What a joke.
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Quoting Levi32:
Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Tuesday, August 28th, with Video


Thanks Levi...would the winds that are expected in NOLA support major power outages??
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With only some quick observation my thoughts haven't changed too much from last evening. Isaac will continue to strengthen gradually (no more opps for RI) as coastal waters will be less warm that the areas Isaac has just traversed.

Sat presentation is better, looks like a duck, walks like duck, quacks like a duck, well...it's probably a duck! That's the way it needs to be treated. Isaac may sneak up on folks, 80 mph winds with higher gusts is no walk in the park. Winds will likely landfall stronger as Isaac's LLC earnestly tries to spin up the broader circulation at the mid-levels which is still slightly asymmetrical. Isaac is wobbler in stature, not truly a standing-up vertical storm which also means, I think, that he'll never really mature.

Still ingesting dry air, still trying to wall-up a solid inner core. Obviously, the ingestion of dry air has not weakened him as he has tried to intensify, so I suspect it will be a weakening deterrent any further towards landfall. It probably does mean that he want increase intensity too terribly much either. We may reach 90-type range of winds at landfall, but that'd be about tops I think.

Track. The general rule of thumb here has been weaker means west, but Isaac has continued to climb gradually on a nwest motion. I suspect that will continue and he'll move further east from my original thoughts of landfall at Mud Lake. 1012mb pressures have relaxed west and nwest of the sytem, still tight up against the storm on the right side. So, I suspect the slowed (mentioned that last night too) 10 mph nwest movement will continue. He will also slow fwd speed further to almost a stall nearing landfall. That relaxed weakness is starting to show him an escape route, but it won't be quick at all. I'm thinking the current motion, some gradual strengthening will set him on a course over Grand Isle, the eastern side of NOLA, and almost stalling as it tries to turn due north/poleward.

Isaac is a VERY serious storm still. It's lack of further classification has likely generated considerable apathy. Mistake. There will be very long periods of hurricane force winds on land. He will not be a "passing-thru" system. There will be lots of rain and flooding. And, there will be above estimated surge, imo, as well.



Classification or not, this is a SERIOUS storm! BE DILIGENT, don't let your guard down; otherwise, Isaac will be a killer!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
Quoting RobBielawski:
Does wunderground or NOAA have a site that shows multiple tide gauge charts on the same page? It'd be ideal for observing the effects of a storm that covers such a large amount of shoreline like this one.




Link
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Quoting reedzone:
Isaac is the most strongest and intense Tropical; Storm on record.


So, barely weaker than the weakest hurricane ever?

Tell us, where is the tallest hill on planet Earth?
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Quoting RitaEvac:



Based on that map, southern Mississippi and Alabama won't be getting any rain. Lucky them! (hehe)
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Hopefully the levies will hold back the water and Isaac won't strengthen too much.
Thinking about drainage and how that's all going to work.
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http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/quicklook/data/I SAAC.html
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Thanks Dr. Masters.
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There may be a tornado embedded in the NE eye wall. There is some evidence of a counter rotation there, like a tornadic cell.

Maybe it will die down shortly, as these things usually aren't long-lived in the eye wall.
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isaac has peaked imo due to continental dry air now mixing into the cirulation(second time a ull injecting dry air kept a TC in check in the eastern gom this season) and should slowly drift nnw ,curious whats going on off wilmington,NC?...looks like isaacs spawn,i'd put a yellow circle around it
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Maybe this happens with the Gulf storms...Ernesto not weakened just before landfall in yucatan peninsula
Member Since: June 20, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2150
Quoting help4u:
Who would of thought, the air pollution hurricane!!


The Terra forming of 3rd Rock out continues slightly ahead of schedule.

: )
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
Quoting cheaterwon:
From other Blog:
I have to leave Houston tomorrow morning to be in Jacksonville Florida by 7am for a State Farm assignment. Do you all think I-10 will be okay to travel tomorrow? I didn't think about driving through the storm before excepting the assignment.

Pat suggested I-12 thank you.

I think I should just leave this afternoon and get on the other side.

If you leave this afternoon, it will put you going *through* the storm in the late evening. It doesn't sound safe at all. Is flying there not an option? Driving all the way to Jacksonville, while a tropical cyclone is coming ashore near NOLA, sounds like a death wish to me.
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What happened to Isaac's ACE? went down from 7.44 to 6.69.
Member Since: July 12, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 383
Thanks Dr. Masters.

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Does wunderground or NOAA have a site that shows multiple tide gauge charts on the same page? It'd be ideal for observing the effects of a storm that covers such a large amount of shoreline like this one.
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Who would of thought, the air pollution hurricane!!
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Quoting UpperLevelLOL:
Was Isaac expected to slam on the breaks this morning, or is the movement a surprise? Either way it can't be good as it means a lot more rain for the affected areas

Unfortunately...he has been expected to hit the brakes while he crashes into the coast...due to a blocking area of high pressure buidling in the low-levels to his north. I provided a step-by-step detail on the rest of Isaac's future in my newest blog update so it doesn't blow up this blog space....
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Dry air has been an issue with this system for quite sometime.

Always good to take a look at the big picture first as you could see right away what would be of hindrance to a developing system and go from there.
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Quoting reedzone:
Isaac is the most strongest and intense Tropical; Storm on record.

Yeah..gotta easily rank in top 5 lowest pressures for a tropical storm for the Atlantic. I wonder though if monsoon-like tropical cyclones in other parts of the world have this same phenomenon....

I put out a blog update very early this morning concluding why Isaac has been able to have such a low pressure without the winds rising. There's also lots of detailed stuff in this new blog update about Isaac...and the rest of the Atlantic tropics....check it out if you want....
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From other Blog:
I have to leave Houston tomorrow morning to be in Jacksonville Florida by 7am for a State Farm assignment. Do you all think I-10 will be okay to travel tomorrow? I didn't think about driving through the storm before excepting the assignment.

Pat suggested I-12 thank you.

I think I should just leave this afternoon and get on the other side.
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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.