Hurricane Isaac hits Louisiana, driving dangerous storm surges

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:27 AM GMT on August 29, 2012

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Hurricane Isaac is ashore over Southeast Louisiana, having officially crossed the coast on the Mississippi Delta 90 miles southeast of New Orleans at 7:45 am EDT on August 28. Isaac intensified right up until landfall, striking with 80 mph winds and a central pressure of 970 mb. The storm's large size and large 50 - 60 mile diameter eye kept the intensification rate slow today, but it came quite close to becoming a significantly more dangerous storm. That's because at landfall, Isaac was in the midst of establishing a small inner eyewall within its large 50-mile diameter eye, a very rare feat I've never seen before. Usually, when an eye first forms, it gradually contracts, eventually becoming so small that it becomes unstable. An outer concentric eyewall then forms around the small inner eyewall, eventually becoming the only eyewall when the inner eyewall collapses. But Isaac is a very unusual storm that has continually surprised us, and this inside-out concentric eyewall formation fits the storm's unusual character. The storm isn't in a hurry to move fully inland, and has slowed down to a crawl this evening. This will give the storm the opportunity to keep its center mostly over water a few more hours, and maintain hurricane strength into the early morning on Wednesday.


Figure 1. Radar reflectivity image from New Orleans as Isaac made landfall at 6 pm CDT August 28, 2012.

A dangerous storm surge event underway
Isaac is bringing large and dangerous storm surge to the coast from Central Louisiana to the Panhandle of Florida. At 10 pm EDT, here were some of the storm surge values being recorded at NOAA tide gauges:

6.2' Waveland, MS
9.9' Shell Beach, LA
3.0' Pensacola, FL
4.4' Pascagoula, MS
3.4' Mobile, AL

The 9.9' storm surge at Shell Beach, which is in Lake Borgne 20 miles southeast of New Orleans, exceeds the 9.5' surge recorded there during Category 2 Hurricane Gustav of 2008. Research scientists running a Doppler on Wheels radar located on top of the 16' levees in Plaquemines Parish near Port Sulphur, LA, reported at 8:30 pm EDT that a storm surge of 14' moved up the Mississippi River, and was just 2' below the levees. Waves on top of the surge were cresting over the west side of the levee. Needless to say, they were very nervous. Over the past hour, the surge has retreated some, and waves were no longer lapping over the top of the levee. This is probably due to the fact that we're headed towards low tide. A storm surge of 9.5' has moved up the Mississippi River to the Carrrollton gauge in New Orleans. This is not a concern for the levees in New Orleans, since the storm surge has now brought the river up to 2.5' above its normal water level, which was 7' low due to the 2012 U.S. drought. The highest rise of the water above ground level will occur Wednesday morning over much of Southeast Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the western Florida Panhandle, when the tide comes back in. It is clear now that this storm surge event will be as dangerous as that of Category 2 Hurricane Gustav of 2008. One piece of good news: NWS New Orleans successfully launched their 00Z balloon. However, their discussion noted the atmosphere is "saturated or nearly saturated" all the way up to 470mb, or 20,000 feet. Precipitable water was 2.76 inches, which will be ripe for extremely heavy rainfall.


Figure 2. Tide gauge data from Shell Beach, located on the south shore of 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.)

Portlight disaster relief charity responds to Issac
The Portlight.org disaster relief charity, founded and staffed by members of the wunderground community, have mobilized resources in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Isaac. Their crew, including 2 EMTs, is at the Biloxi Special Needs Shelter, and will be caring for shelter dwellers and doing rescues of people who call for help. Another team will be surveying all the shelters in the area to ensure that they are accessible to all people. You can donate to Portlight's disaster relief fund here.

I'll have more in the morning. Hunker down, New Orleans. It's going to be a long night.

Jeff Masters

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We may have to keep an eye on the storm here in SeTx... hope it doesn't come this way but looking at the loop it has been moving almost due west for the past 3 hours.
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Quoting AllBoardedUp:
I just finished putting on a new roof today. Crew has to come back tomorrow to clean up.

I'm near Galveston so this ought to be interesting.


Pearland here! Where are you?
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Quoting Diabellical:


safe and sound back inside. Was on the bayou for the big squall come through.

991.8mb


Glad you made it back okay! I hung around waiting and hoping, even though I have to get up and open the Library here in the morning. Take care. Prayers ensuing for all y'all!
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Quoting BrazoriaMan:


A picture is worth a thousand words. Thanks!


Yes it is and I don't think the US ridge is doing the pushing...
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5450
Quoting HoustonTxGal:


Did you get a warranty?
Yes, but this job is an insurance claim from hail damage! I might as well pay this roof contractor on retainer!
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Quoting iahishome:
I've got 4 hours and 30 minutes of radar data out of Slidell. The eye has moved no more than 20 miles in that time... Granted, it went NW for a bit, and arced back around to the SW for a bit.

The net motion is less than 20 miles. If I had to give the storm a direction and a rate of speed based on this data, I'd give it a speed of 5 mph, and a heading of 260.

Given MLC's sound hypothesis, and some of the model support, perhaps this does stay off shore a bit.

The NHC did slow forward speed another MPH, but I didn't see them admit to any real heading change yet.

I'm still hoping it can't go all the way to Texas... I would hate to see even a fraction of Katrina and Rita like impacts in the same storm!

I hope the next intermediate advisory gives reassurance that Isaac will in fact go ashore.
Stay safe all.


Sorry, got buried at the end of the blog page, hoping to hear if anyone is seeing the same thing.
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issac, the unpredictable storm that will just not go away just like my ex-wife. final destination..who the heck knows.
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Quoting WetBankGuy:


Hope you survived that last gust. Mark Folse @ 3036 Fortin St. Going to get another hot cup of coffee. (Watch. Power will be out when I get back).



safe and sound back inside. Was on the bayou for the big squall come through.

991.8mb
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034030 2859N 08955W 8427 01237 9695 +210 +210 239003 008 000 004 05

Recon confirms, intermediate-term motion is just South of due West.
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A really good read! Thanks


Quoting moonlightcowboy:
Fundamentals.

Earlier someone asked me simply what I thought would happen with track. My answer may have sounded kind of trite - if so, I apologize. :) I said Isaac could:

1. Move inland, degenerate
2. Move back out into the open water (basically)

I think I mentioned a stall three days ago, but I didn't think it would happen quite this close to shore. The stall then was predicated by a still strong tongue of high pressure on the western periphery of the econus high. Didn't quite work out like that.

So, here's what has happened and may happen. Couple choices still. I'd thought the shallow shortwave trough would be enough to pull Isaac nw, n and then ne finally over the old Camille and Katrina gulf ruts, given his strengthening. That has not happened. If you've been following of few of my posts, I also mentioned that the sfc maps and charts are not likely in 'exact' real time and could be somewhat deceptive. So, in short, the plains high has effectively pinched the 'weak' weakness if you will northeast, and the plains high has become lateral over Isaac now, hence the stall.

FUNDAMENTALS. :) An ol' pal, Rand, shared one thing true with me after Katrina - if you've any doubts, look at a water vapor loop! So, that's what I did - got a wv loop of the big conus picture. In more real time now one can clearly see that the plains high is nearly totally laterally over Isaac, and the shortwave trough boat has all but already sailed. Isaac would probably have to be a CAT 2 or 3 to be tall and strong enough to feel that departing weakness and make that nw, n and ne move I mentioned earlier. He still has a chance, but it's getting more negligible.

Here's the wv pix and LOOP LINK.



So, what happens now? Isaac has indeed mostly stalled despite his slight jogging westwards. Where does he go?

Somewhat deceptive steering chart layer for Isaac:



That neasterly weakness is weak, almost gone. Isaac can't find it. The eastern periphery of the plains high is weaker on the seast side and in tandem with Isaac's general wnw/nw motion. So, he will attempt to move into that direction, but the plains high is still strong and getting more dominant and lateral over the storm. If he comes inland and stalls, he could very well deteriorate there, somewhere over Houma or north of Morgan City. And, that's if the plains high does not deepen further southwards.

If the plains high deepens and strengthens (has been) and bridges towards the western side of the BA high, then we truly have a stalled system. It will take several hours to upwell and diminish strength over open water - probably 20 hours or more would be my guess. That's one scenario: inland or upwelling deterioration.

Here's the other: CALL ME CRAZY! ;P

He's over water. He has hardly any place to go inland. He'll either diminish or continue to look for an escape route. All storms want to go poleward, so he'll look for even the slightest weakness - this is all very slow, but not too slow to upwell and diminish. Westwards? TX? Could be. But, my thinking is that there'll be still enough of a hint of the weakness that will stop Isaac and the motion will move slowly back neastwards/eastwards, maybe even still over open water, traversing the coastline back east causing more pain and grief. Yes, you're right - that'd be certifiable, commitment-type thinking! ;P Probably won't happen, but those are the options, geeks, with a blocking high! :)

Plz don't laugh! ;)


And, plz remember, my original landfall spot was Mud Lake near Grand Chenier, LA. ;P
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Quoting xtremeweathertracker:


Wonder how the NHC will explain that??

Forecaster Pasch: *Coughs* Ahem...the er high pressure ridge built eastward faster than anticipated and as such our track will reflect a tiny...i mean..TINY..leftward shift.

LOL


...continuing...hurricane watches will be posted for much of the Texas coastline as Isaac turns SW over night and into the morning...

*sarcasm*
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Recon has found Isaac has returned on a NW heading after completing that cyclonic loop I mentioned several times. Recon also reveals Isaac has weakened slightly as indicated by the 969mb surface extrapolations, which is a slight increase from the last pass (which I also suspected would occur).






Hate to say I told y'all, but I did tell ya
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406. skook
Quoting JeffM:
Outer rain bands almost reaching Houston! This is a wide storm.




We have a "band" coming through Tampa atm as well.
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Quoting AllBoardedUp:
I just finished putting on a new roof today. Crew has to come back tomorrow to clean up.

I'm near Galveston so this ought to be interesting.


Did you get a warranty?
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Quoting aislinnpaps:
LOL, I can just see the pups with Pat and Nola Roux,
Isaac
Lil Miss Fresca
Roker
Cantore
Jeff
Stephanie
Bryan
You forgot Angela!
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More than 10' of storm surge at Yscloskey (Shell Beach). This is really bad. I visited this area right after Katrina and a few times since then. 10' means that all is under water and likely destroyed. It is really sad to think that all the reconstruction effort since Katrina (homes, a new firehouse, ....) may probably be lost now. The USACE built a huge levee but this area is outside the area protected by the levee.
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Over Texarkana @ 54 hrs
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:




A picture is worth a thousand words. Thanks!
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I've got 4 hours and 30 minutes of radar data out of Slidell. The eye has moved no more than 20 miles in that time... Granted, it went NW for a bit, and arced back around to the SW for a bit.

The net motion is less than 20 miles. If I had to give the storm a direction and a rate of speed based on this data, I'd give it a speed of 5 mph, and a heading of 260.

Given MLC's sound hypothesis, and some of the model support, perhaps this does stay off shore a bit.

The NHC did slow forward speed another MPH, but I didn't see them admit to any real heading change yet.

I'm still hoping it can't go all the way to Texas... I would hate to see even a fraction of Katrina and Rita like impacts in the same storm!

I hope the next intermediate advisory gives reassurance that Isaac will in fact go ashore.
Stay safe all.
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12Z ARW actually drops Isaac relatively far SW before bringing him back inland along Vermillion Bay.

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Quoting ProgressivePulse:
Working on a solid ring of deep convection around the center. Isaac may miss land and ride the coast if Nward movements don't return soon.

it would only be fitting for this storm to make a second landfall in tx
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395. JeffM
Outer rain bands almost reaching Houston! This is a wide storm.
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Quoting silverstripes:
Recon showing it has moved moved back NW from previous fix but almost directly west the past 4 hours. Pressure still around 969.


"Stair stepping" away from land rather than towards land ;)
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Quoting TexasStormChaser:
Hey guys. On which side of the storm is the wind field the most
Intense?

Also what areas on land have already felt the brunt of these winds?


NE side, generally, but it varies depending on the cyclone shape. In this case, I would guess most of the highest winds have been out in the Gulf and over into MS.
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I just finished putting on a new roof today. Crew has to come back tomorrow to clean up.

I'm near Galveston so this ought to be interesting.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Yeah I'm starting to come around to the agreement that the GFS has this right, I think that the reason all northerly movement by Isaac has stopped is because it is getting ready to slip underneath the ridge which may keep the circulation offshore.


Wonder how the NHC will explain that??

Forecaster Pasch: *Coughs* Ahem...the er high pressure ridge built eastward faster than anticipated and as such our track will reflect a tiny...i mean..TINY..leftward shift.

LOL
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Quoting Stormchaser121:

Still puts it over TX. Come on NHC...what are you doing!
Over Baton Rouge @ 36HRS
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41. moonlightcowboy 10:38 PM CDT on August 28, 2012

Enjoyed reading your thoughts.
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Looks like Isaac will stay over water for some time?
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Quoting lopaka001:
Carrollton, LA

Data from station is reporting that the water level has risen 2.5 feet and still climbing.
If you look at google it doesn't look like that place would take much to flood that area.
Google Map


From the USACE maps, it looks like flood stage is 17'. The river is a little over 11' now. It was very low at 2-3' ft yesterday. The river can handle a lot of water coming downstream - or as it turns out, upstream as well.
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Quoting slavicthunder:
Mayor of Grand Isle just said on WWLTV that they had a wind gust up to 120 mph. Can this be accurate?


Tell me the type of anemometer he has, what brand and model, how it's mounted, how high, and what's the exposure. Then I might be able to give you a guess. I suspect that, being a mayor, he had the old thumb in the air model. :)
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Quoting Joanie38:
Alexandria, LA here...been waiting for this thing...moving westward???? REALLY????


Crazy aint it? Never can tell with these things.
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Quoting Stormchaser121:

Still puts it over TX. Come on NHC...what are you doing!
Yeah I'm starting to come around to the agreement that the GFS has this right, I think that the reason all northerly movement by Isaac has stopped is because it is getting ready to slip underneath the ridge which may keep the circulation offshore.
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Hey guys. On which side of the storm is the wind field the most
Intense?

Also what areas on land have already felt the brunt of these winds?
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Recon showing it has moved moved back NW from previous fix but almost directly west the past 4 hours. Pressure still around 969.
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Quoting BrazoriaMan:


I know storms have wobbles, but does anyone know why Isaac is going w/wsw now? Is the high pressure building in or too strong for him to keep going more northerly?


Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5450
Quoting Patrap:
Nola Roux with first two..
The No Cat 2

(I'll stop now.)
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Quoting Stormchaser121:

Still puts it over TX. Come on NHC...what are you doing!


I guess if you follow the extreme left side of their cone it would mimic the GFS track!!
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Quoting Joanie38:
Alexandria, LA here...been waiting for this thing...moving westward???? REALLY????


This shouldn't surprise us. He is doing what he has done his entire existence: Not acting according to plan.
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Top Gear on the History Channel just aired their visit with Smart cars to the Atchafalaya. It was HILARIOUS!! I was crying I was laughing so hard.
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Quoting skycycle:
Does anyone have an idea of the lowest pressure of any landfalling Category 1 in the Atlantic basin? I'm guessing Isaac should be up there within the top 10?


Try this site to see if you can ferret out the info!
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/tropical-cyclones/
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
36 hrs. this is a slow mover...


Still puts it over TX. Come on NHC...what are you doing!
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Apparently not as far as the GFS and Nam. I really couldn't tell they shifted their track much at all. So They aren't agreeing with a west path.


According to the 00Z GFS my Southeast Texas friends..you could be experiencing 45 to 50 Knot 850MB winds in 36 to 42 hours!!

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Quoting moonlightcowboy:
Fundamentals.

Earlier someone asked me simply what I thought would happen with track. My answer may have sounded kind of trite - if so, I apologize. :) I said Isaac could:

1. Move inland, degenerate
2. Move back out into the open water (basically)

I think I mentioned a stall three days ago, but I didn't think it would happen quite this close to shore. The stall then was predicated by a still strong tongue of high pressure on the western periphery of the econus high. Didn't quite work out like that.

So, here's what has happened and may happen. Couple choices still. I'd thought the shallow shortwave trough would be enough to pull Isaac nw, n and then ne finally over the old Camille and Katrina gulf ruts, given his strengthening. That has not happened. If you've been following of few of my posts, I also mentioned that the sfc maps and charts are not likely in 'exact' real time and could be somewhat deceptive. So, in short, the plains high has effectively pinched the 'weak' weakness if you will northeast, and the plains high has become lateral over Isaac now, hence the stall.

FUNDAMENTALS. :) An ol' pal, Rand, shared one thing true with me after Katrina - if you've any doubts, look at a water vapor loop! So, that's what I did - got a wv loop of the big conus picture. In more real time now one can clearly see that the plains high is nearly totally laterally over Isaac, and the shortwave trough boat has all but already sailed. Isaac would probably have to be a CAT 2 or 3 to be tall and strong enough to feel that departing weakness and make that nw, n and ne move I mentioned earlier. He still has a chance, but it's getting more negligible.

Here's the wv pix and LOOP LINK.



So, what happens now? Isaac has indeed mostly stalled despite his slight jogging westwards. Where does he go?

Somewhat deceptive steering chart layer for Isaac:



That neasterly weakness is weak, almost gone. Isaac can't find it. The eastern periphery of the plains high is weaker on the seast side and in tandem with Isaac's general wnw/nw motion. So, he will attempt to move into that direction, but the plains high is still strong and getting more dominant and lateral over the storm. If he comes inland and stall, he could very well deteriorate there, somewhere over Houma or north of Morgan City. And, that's if the plains high does not deepen further southwards.

If the plains high deepens and strengthens (has been) and bridges towards the western side of the BA high, then we truly have a stalled system. It will take several hours to upwell and diminish strength over open water - probably 20 hours or more would be my guess. That's one scenario: inland or upwelling deterioration.

Here's the other: CALL ME CRAZY! ;P

He's over water. He has hardly any place to go inland. He'll either diminish or continue to look for an escape route. All storms want to go poleward, so he'll look for even the slightest weakness - this is all very slow, but not too slow to upwell and diminish. Westwards? TX? Could be. But, my thinking is that there'll be still enough of a hint of the weakness that will stop Isaac and the motion will move slowly back neastwards/eastwards, maybe even still over open water, traversing the coastline back east causing more pain and grief. Yes, you're right - that'd be certifiable, commitment-type thinking! ;P Probably won't happen, but those are the options, geeks, with a blocking high! :)

Plz don't laugh! ;)


Laugh? Nah. Hey, you gave your rationale. That's way more than most do. Kudos.
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 635
Very well thought out and a good read :o)

Quoting moonlightcowboy:
Fundamentals.

Earlier someone asked me simply what I thought would happen with track. My answer may have sounded kind of trite - if so, I apologize. :) I said Isaac could:

1. Move inland, degenerate
2. Move back out into the open water (basically)

I think I mentioned a stall three days ago, but I didn't think it would happen quite this close to shore. The stall then was predicated by a still strong tongue of high pressure on the western periphery of the econus high. Didn't quite work out like that.

So, here's what has happened and may happen. Couple choices still. I'd thought the shallow shortwave trough would be enough to pull Isaac nw, n and then ne finally over the old Camille and Katrina gulf ruts, given his strengthening. That has not happened. If you've been following of few of my posts, I also mentioned that the sfc maps and charts are not likely in 'exact' real time and could be somewhat deceptive. So, in short, the plains high has effectively pinched the 'weak' weakness if you will northeast, and the plains high has become lateral over Isaac now, hence the stall.

FUNDAMENTALS. :) An ol' pal, Rand, shared one thing true with me after Katrina - if you've any doubts, look at a water vapor loop! So, that's what I did - got a wv loop of the big conus picture. In more real time now one can clearly see that the plains high is nearly totally laterally over Isaac, and the shortwave trough boat has all but already sailed. Isaac would probably have to be a CAT 2 or 3 to be tall and strong enough to feel that departing weakness and make that nw, n and ne move I mentioned earlier. He still has a chance, but it's getting more negligible.

Here's the wv pix and LOOP LINK.



So, what happens now? Isaac has indeed mostly stalled despite his slight jogging westwards. Where does he go?

Somewhat deceptive steering chart layer for Isaac:



That neasterly weakness is weak, almost gone. Isaac can't find it. The eastern periphery of the plains high is weaker on the seast side and in tandem with Isaac's general wnw/nw motion. So, he will attempt to move into that direction, but the plains high is still strong and getting more dominant and lateral over the storm. If he comes inland and stall, he could very well deteriorate there, somewhere over Houma or north of Morgan City. And, that's if the plains high does not deepen further southwards.

If the plains high deepens and strengthens (has been) and bridges towards the western side of the BA high, then we truly have a stalled system. It will take several hours to upwell and diminish strength over open water - probably 20 hours or more would be my guess. That's one scenario: inland or upwelling deterioration.

Here's the other: CALL ME CRAZY! ;P

He's over water. He has hardly any place to go inland. He'll either diminish or continue to look for an escape route. All storms want to go poleward, so he'll look for even the slightest weakness - this is all very slow, but not too slow to upwell and diminish. Westwards? TX? Could be. But, my thinking is that there'll be still enough of a hint of the weakness that will stop Isaac and the motion will move slowly back neastwards/eastwards, maybe even still over open water, traversing the coastline back east causing more pain and grief. Yes, you're right - that'd be certifiable, commitment-type thinking! ;P Probably won't happen, but those are the options, geeks, with a blocking high! :)

Plz don't laugh! ;)
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Channel 4 New Orleans talking to Grand Isle mayor again.....I swear I heard him say 100mph -140mph?
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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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