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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1919. IMA
Someone from NOLA, what is this "neutral ground" reporters are referencing? Ty
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Quoting cloudyboy:
Just to make sure NOLA is New Orlean right?


Yes, that is correct.
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1917. ncstorm
Quoting K8eCane:


you maybe thinking of bonnie in 98


Probably right..I know we had one that stalled, I just couldnt remember which one..thanks!
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1916. GetReal
I believed that someone already mentioned this already, but when this is over with I hope the NHC reviews the data from the local reporting stations. I am very confident that this morning between 0200-0400 hours, we were experiencing sustained winds of 100 mph...

I was here also for Katrina and saw nearly the same bowing of trees. The only difference is those type winds lasted about 4 hours.
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Zoom in on WonderMap to reference some of these towns you may not be familiar with. Truly helps me. Just a quick scan across the area will familiarize you with them. :-)
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
From TWC
Got that right! Waterfront indeed!
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Just to make sure NOLA is New Orlean right?
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Flood stage data



From here: Link
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1910. ncstorm
..ISAAC DRENCHING SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA...DANGEROUS STORM SURGE
AND FLOOD THREAT FROM HEAVY RAINS LIKELY TO CONTINUE THROUGH
TONIGHT...


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1909. LargoFl
Quoting Waltanater:
idiot pic with idiot person in useless vest!
evidently you are sitting home nice and safe an comfy..not standing on a levee stranded in a hurricane..on ignore you go..idiot
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Quoting Kumo:


Safety always comes first kiddo. I hope you realize that those folks probably had to wade/swim through deep water to get to this bit of higher ground?!?
Tell that to them! I don't think "Safety" crossed their minds at all since they are now stuck in that situation! If they would have thought of "safety" first, they would have evacuated much earlier!
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:


Definitely looking more NW as the morning goes forward. Unfortunately NOLA has a long long ways to go before the surge, wind and rain stop
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1906. K8eCane
Quoting ncstorm:


I believed we had Bertha or fran..I cant remember which one stalled over us here in NC..and they were cat 2/3


you maybe thinking of bonnie in 98
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Dr. M - or anyone else - have an idea on why an inner eyewall formed outta nowhere?

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BULLETIN
HURRICANE ISAAC ADVISORY NUMBER 34
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092012
1000 AM CDT WED AUG 29 2012

...ISAAC DRENCHING SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA...DANGEROUS STORM SURGE
AND FLOOD THREAT FROM HEAVY RAINS LIKELY TO CONTINUE THROUGH
TONIGHT...


SUMMARY OF 1000 AM CDT...1500 UTC...INFORMATION
-----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...29.6N 90.7W
ABOUT 0 MI...0 KM N OF HOUMA LOUISIANA
ABOUT 45 MI...75 KM SW OF NEW ORLEANS LOUISIANA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...75 MPH...120 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NW OR 310 DEGREES AT 6 MPH...9 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...972 MB...28.70 INCHES


WATCHES AND WARNINGS
--------------------
CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY...

THE TROPICAL STORM WARNING HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED EAST OF THE
ALABAMA-FLORIDA BORDER.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT...

A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* EAST OF MORGAN CITY LOUISIANA TO THE MISSISSIPPI-ALABAMA BORDER...
INCLUDING METROPOLITAN NEW ORLEANS...LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN...AND LAKE
MAUREPAS

A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* INTRACOASTAL CITY TO MORGAN CITY LOUISIANA

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI-ALABAMA BORDER TO THE ALABAMA-FLORIDA
BORDER
* MORGAN CITY TO SABINE PASS TEXAS

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* EAST OF HIGH ISLAND TEXAS TO JUST WEST OF SABINE PASS

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...PLEASE MONITOR
PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST
OFFICE.


DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK
------------------------------
AT 1000 AM CDT...1500 UTC...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE ISAAC WAS
LOCATED BY NOAA DOPPLER WEATHER RADAR NEAR LATITUDE 29.6 NORTH...
LONGITUDE 90.7 WEST...OR VERY NEAR HOUMA LOUISIANA. ISAAC IS MOVING
TOWARD THE NORTHWEST NEAR 6 MPH...9 KM/H. THIS GENERAL MOTION IS
EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THROUGH TONIGHT...FOLLOWED BY A TURN TOWARD
THE NORTH-NORTHWEST BY THURSDAY NIGHT OR EARLY FRIDAY. ON THE
FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF ISAAC WILL MOVE FARTHER INLAND OVER
LOUISIANA TODAY AND TOMORROW...AND OVER SOUTHERN ARKANSAS BY EARLY
FRIDAY.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE DECREASED TO NEAR 75 MPH...120 KM/H...
WITH HIGHER GUSTS. ISAAC IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE
SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE WIND SCALE. GRADUAL WEAKENING IS FORECAST
DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS ISAAC CONTINUES MOVING FARTHER INLAND...
AND ISAAC IS EXPECTED TO WEAKEN TO A TROPICAL STORM LATER TODAY.

HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 45 MILES...75 KM...FROM
THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 175
MILES...280 KM.

A GUST TO 74 MPH WAS RECENTLY REPORTED AT THE MID LAKE STATION IN
LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN...AND A WIND GUST TO 63 MPH WAS REPORTED AT
NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.

THE ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE BASED ON NEARBY SURFACE
OBSERVATIONS IS 972 MB...28.70 INCHES.


HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND
----------------------
STORM SURGE...THE COMBINATION OF A STORM SURGE AND THE TIDE WILL
CAUSE NORMALLY DRY AREAS NEAR THE COAST TO BE FLOODED BY RISING
WATERS. THE WATER COULD REACH THE FOLLOWING DEPTHS ABOVE GROUND IF
THE PEAK SURGE OCCURS AT THE TIME OF HIGH TIDE...

* MISSISSIPPI AND SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA...6 TO 12 FT
* ALABAMA...3 TO 6 FT
* SOUTH-CENTRAL LOUISIANA...3 TO 6 FT
* FLORIDA PANHANDLE AND APALACHEE BAY...2 TO 4 FT

THE DEEPEST WATER WILL OCCUR ALONG THE IMMEDIATE COAST IN AREAS OF
ONSHORE WINDS. SURGE-RELATED FLOODING DEPENDS ON THE RELATIVE
TIMING OF THE SURGE AND THE TIDAL CYCLE...AND CAN VARY GREATLY OVER
SHORT DISTANCES. FOR INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...PLEASE
SEE PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICE. NEAR THE
COAST...THE SURGE WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE AND DANGEROUS WAVES.

STORM SURGE VALUES OF NEAR 8 FEET HAVE RECENTLY BEEN REPORTED AT
SHELL BEACH LOUISIANA AND WAVELAND MISSISSIPPI.

WIND...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS WILL CONTINUE ACROSS THE WARNING
AREA TODAY...AND HURRICANE CONDITIONS WILL CONTINUE TO AFFECT
PORTIONS OF SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA AND MISSISSIPPI IN THE HURRICANE
WARNING AREA INTO THIS AFTERNOON.

WINDS AFFECTING THE UPPER FLOORS OF HIGH-RISE BUILDINGS WILL BE
SIGNIFICANTLY STRONGER THAN THOSE NEAR GROUND LEVEL. AT ABOUT THE
30TH STORY...WINDS WOULD LIKELY BE ONE SAFFIR-SIMPSON CATEGORY
STRONGER THAN AT THE SURFACE.

RAINFALL...ISAAC IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF
7 TO 14 INCHES...WITH POSSIBLE ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 20
INCHES...OVER MUCH OF LOUISIANA...SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI...AND
SOUTHWEST ALABAMA THROUGH FRIDAY MORNING. THESE RAINS COULD RESULT
IN SIGNIFICANT LOWLAND FLOODING. RAINS ARE EXPECTED TO INCREASE
NORTHWARD INTO ARKANSAS ON THURSDAY...WITH AMOUNTS OF 3 TO 6 INCHES
EXPECTED OVER SOUTHERN ARKANSAS BY FRIDAY MORNING.

TORNADOES...ISOLATED TORNADOES ARE POSSIBLE ALONG THE CENTRAL GULF
COAST REGION AND PARTS OF THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER VALLEY
THROUGH THURSDAY.

SURF...DANGEROUS SURF AND RIP CURRENT CONDITIONS WILL CONTINUE TO
AFFECT THE WEST COAST OF FLORIDA AND THE NORTHERN GULF COAST FOR THE
NEXT DAY OR SO.


NEXT ADVISORY
-------------
NEXT INTERMEDIATE ADVISORIES...1200 PM CDT AND 200 PM CDT.
NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY...400 PM CDT.

$$
FORECASTER STEWART
Member Since: August 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 460
1903. LargoFl
Quoting NOLAAlyCat:
Doing pretty good in the Carrollton section of Uptown, NOLA. Not a ridiculous amount of rain. No street flooding. Seen worse in some thunderstorms. Very gusty. Lost a shutter off the house and don't know where it ended up. Lots of debris in the street. Obviously we are without electricity at our house but we have family in Old Metairie and in Madisonville that do. We are doing well considering, but wish Isaac would hurry up leave!!
going to be around for quite awhile it seems..good luck
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Quoting Charmeck:
These storms - whether TD, TS, Hurricane Typhoon - and the sea are nothing to fool with. One day people will finally learn that you cannot win against them. There is absolutely NO reason to risk you life - NO reason not to get out of harms way. Loss of life in these situations is so tragically unnecessary. I love the beach - would love to live near the coast - I can assure you that I would be ready to evacuate when it was necessary. Houses can be replaced - you life can't and what have you gained if you stay to protect your property and loose your life???? Sorry, It's just plain stupidity not to evacuate these areas - no excuse - no reason!
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1900. angiest
Quoting SFLWeatherman:
From TWC


The restaurant's name is a bit too literal right now.
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1899. LargoFl
Quoting LargoFl:
..tornado activity chart
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1897. MTWX
Quoting catastropheadjuster:


MTWX~~ thank you for letting me know. They are such good folks. My prayers are with them. Wonder what kind of puppie? Hope to see them on here soon.

sheri


tkeith is good. He just checked in.

Post on FB:

"We made it through the night. Sporatic Internet on the phone. Prolly no power for days. Minus half a back yard fence. Still getting hurricane force gusts. Hope all my other NOLA friends are good.

Lots of Debris flyin and floating around. Lots of trees down.

This storm was much worse than Gustavo."
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1896. nolemm
Quoting LargoFl:
Longbeach......wish they would put what state.


Longbeach, Mississippi

West coastal area
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1895. LargoFl
Quoting StormSurgeon:


Miss.
ty
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1894. snotly
Should make it mandatory to be covered for insurance or to pass inspection, In coastal flood plain? Please show me where you store your ax or where the roof hatch to exit is.

Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Seriously, all homes in flood zones should be equipped with emergency exit hatches and/or tools in the attic.
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Just put 2 pieces of siding back on my house that were loose and flapping in the breeze. Had a couple of shingles on the ground as well. I'll take care of that later. Honestly though the weather really hasn't been bad here yet. Looks like the center may pass directly over us. We just finished building this house in January.
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1892. LargoFl
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Quoting LargoFl:
twinspan bridge in NOLA


Going to Slidell?

That aint good.
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1279
Quoting LargoFl:
Longbeach......wish they would put what state.


Miss.
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1889. kwgirl
Quoting SELAliveforthetropic:
I have a question, once a storm makes landfall the surge comes, the surge happens just that once or can it keep coming as long as it is part over water? I hope that makes sense.
Wave action is very destructive. The longer the storm sits and spins, the more water gets piled up with wave action. The surge can come and go with the tides, but at one point, you aren't able to tell if the tide is going out, because all the water is coming in.
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From TWC
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1887. MahFL
Looks to me that an eye is clearing out, at first I thought it was just convection waning, but the convection is still in place on the northern side.
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Quoting jeffs713:

The NWS absolutely did warn them about the surge. Hence the whole "mandatory evacuation" order. If someone chooses to disobey that order, and they get stranded... (be warned - I'm being blunt) they can darn well wait. Just because you refused an order to evacuate shouldn't mean that first responders have to risk their lives to save your dumb a**.
Unfortunately the CHILDREN of these people had no say in the matter. They are the ones who deserve rescuing.
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Quoting DavidHOUTX:
Unbelievable..

OH my GOD!Terrible!
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1884. Kumo
Quoting Waltanater:
Really!? A life vest!? c'mon...


Safety always comes first kiddo. I hope you realize that those folks probably had to wade/swim through deep water to get to this bit of higher ground?!?
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Quoting BeanTech:
Really feeling for these people....

Stuck under a stalled/slow-moving hurricane is just awful.

I remember it well from Frances...and the biggest sigh of relief we had was when they said on the radio that it had started moving again.



You aren't kidding. I lived in the Daytona Beach area at the time and Frances was terrible. Lots of flooding. So glad when she finally moved out.
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@ 1839

Where was that pic taken at? I (now used to) live at Belair pump rd.
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1881. LargoFl
gee Mississippi is getting hammered with tornado warnings..its NOT over folks..stay hunkered down and safe ok..............BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MOBILE AL
936 AM CDT WED AUG 29 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOBILE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
GEORGE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST MISSISSIPPI...
SOUTHWESTERN GREENE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST MISSISSIPPI...
PERRY COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST MISSISSIPPI...

* UNTIL 1015 AM CDT

* AT 935 AM CDT...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A
TORNADO WAS LOCATED 4 MILES SOUTH OF LUCEDALE...OR 16 MILES NORTH
OF WADE...MOVING NORTHWEST AT 40 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
MCLAIN... RICHTON... NEW AUGUSTA...
BEAUMONT... LUCEDALE...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A TORNADO WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 400 PM CDT WEDNESDAY
AFTERNOON FOR SOUTHWEST ALABAMA AND SOUTHEAST MISSISSIPPI.
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Doing pretty good in the Carrollton section of Uptown, NOLA. Not a ridiculous amount of rain. No street flooding. Seen worse in some thunderstorms. Very gusty. Lost a shutter off the house and don't know where it ended up. Lots of debris in the street. Obviously we are without electricity at our house but we have family in Old Metairie and in Madisonville that do. We are doing well considering, but wish Isaac would hurry up leave!!
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Quoting ncstorm:
So if Im understanding correctly, the levees outside the Federal Govt are breeching..

Not quite. There's a stretch of back levees maintained by Plaquemines Parish that are confirmed to have overtopped - not breached - in at least two places. The Plaquemines Parish President has suggested breaching the Mississippi levee to drain his parish; the Army Corps has demurred, and is instead rushing large pumps to the area to pump out the water.
Member Since: August 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 460
1878. GetReal
Quoting ncstorm:
So if Im understanding correctly, the levees outside the Federal Govt are breeching..


Those levees that were topped in Plaq. Parish were NOT the newly improved levees that now surround the NOLA metro area... The NEW levee system has reported no problems...
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Quoting MahFL:


If you have ever visited NO it's not really unbeleivable as a lot of housing is either below sea level or only 5 or 6 feet above sea level, so with a 13 ft surge and 8 ft levee's your house is going to be flooded.


Oh I know that! I have been there plenty of times. Perhaps I should have used the word amazing instead of unbelievable. I didn't mean it as it was literally unbelievable lol
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1875. ncstorm
Quoting BeanTech:
Really feeling for these people....

Stuck under a stalled/slow-moving hurricane is just awful.

I remember it well from Frances...and the biggest sigh of relief we had was when they said on the radio that it had started moving again.



I believed we had Bertha or fran..I cant remember which one stalled over us here in NC..and they were cat 2/3
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1874. 7544
Quoting MisipiGrl:
7544....still have cell service in Long Beach...just west of Gulfport.


thanks stay safe there
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Quoting DavidHOUTX:


Plaquemines Parish
Thank you. Terrifying! I saw the aftermath of Ike here (Seabrook, TX), which was horrible, but it's always felt like there was an invisible vandal that did all the damage, since the storm came in at night and there were no photos when the water was at its height. Looking at this, my heart goes out to the residents....maybe in some ways it's better NOT to see your home inundated.
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1872. LargoFl
ULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
915 AM CDT WED AUG 29 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NEW ORLEANS HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
EAST CENTRAL WASHINGTON PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...
NORTHEASTERN HANCOCK COUNTY IN SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI...
PEARL RIVER COUNTY IN SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI...

* UNTIL 945 AM CDT

* AT 909 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO 21 MILES
SOUTHEAST OF MCNEIL...OR 9 MILES NORTH OF DIAMONDHEAD...MOVING
NORTHWEST AT 70 MPH.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
CROSSROADS
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I really feel for what people are experiencing Isaac right now.   It is stressful and frightening to be hunkered down with no power for hours on end listening to the unrelenting howl of wind and not knowing what you will find once it passes.

Hang in there!   We are looking forward to hearing your stories on the other side of Isaac.
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Quoting Bradenton:
Long Beach looks more like Long Island.


Land mass between Louisiana and Alabama.

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1869. LargoFl
Quoting WDEmobmet:
longbeach is in mississippi
ok, just saw a post on twitter..the water in the canals in MISS are rising also
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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.