Isaac pounding Haiti and the Dominican Republic with torrential rains

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:24 PM GMT on August 25, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac is pounding Haiti and the Dominican Republic with torrential rains that are causing extremely dangerous flooding and landslides. Isaac's center passed over Haiti's southwest peninsula early this morning, tracking about 50 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince. As the center pulled away to the northwest, Isaac's heaviest thunderstorms moved ashore over Hispaniola near sunrise, and are now dumping heavy rains with rainfall rates approaching one inch per hour, according to recent microwave satellite estimates. Barahona on the south coast of the Dominican Republic had received 5.14" of rain as of 8 am EDT this morning, and it is probable that some mountainous areas in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have already received up to 10" of rain from Isaac. These rains will continue though much of the day, and have the potential to cause high loss of life in Hispaniola.


Figure 1. A river north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti in flood due to rains from Isaac. Image from Amélie Baron via Twitter.

Latest observations
Isaac built a partial eyewall last night as the storm approached Haiti, but passage over the rough mountains of Haiti has destroyed the inner core, and the surface center of the storm is now fully exposed to view on satellite images. Radar out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba shows no sign of an organized center, but does reveal some very intense thunderstorms affecting Eastern Cuba, Western Haiti, and nearby islands. Latest data from the Air Force Hurricane Hunters confirm that Isaac has weakened; during their penetration to obtain their 7:08 am EDT center fix, the aircraft reported top surface winds of 55 mph with their SFMR instrument, top flight-level winds at 5,000 feet of 68 mph, and a pressure rise of 3 mb, to 998 mb. Infrared and visible satellite loops show that Isaac remains a large and well-organized storm, though it lacks an inner core. An analysis of upper level winds from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS shows that upper-level outflow is still good to the north, but is lacking elsewhere. An impressive large multi-day satellite animation of Isaac is available from the Navy Research Lab.


Figure 2. Rainfall rates estimated by the NOAA F-17 polar orbiting satellite at 6:21 am EDT August 25, 2012. Rainfall rates of 1 inch per hour (orange colors) were occurring in a large area to the south of Hispaniola, and these heavy rains have now moved onshore. Image credit: Navy Research Laboratory.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 0Z and 06Z (8 pm and 2 am EDT) model runs are similar in spread to the previous set of runs. Our two best models, the GFS and ECMWF, are virtually on top of each other, with a landfall location in the Florida Panhandle between Fort Walton Beach and Panama City. It is likely that the trough of low pressure pulling Isaac to the north will not be strong enough to pull Isaac all the way to the northeast and out to sea, and Isaac has the potential to drop torrential rains capable of causing serious flooding over the Southeast U.S. The latest 8-day precipitation forecast from the GFS model (Figure 3) calls for 10 - 15 inches of rain over portions of Georgia and South Carolina from Isaac. The ECMWF model, however, predicts that a ridge of high pressure will build in and force Isaac to the west after landfall, resulting in a slow motion across the Tennessee Valley into Arkansas by Friday. Arkansas is experiencing its worst drought in over 50 years, so the rains would be welcome there.


Figure 3. Predicted precipitation for the 8-day period from 2 am Saturday August 25 to 2 am Sunday September 2, from the 2 am EDT August 25 run of the GFS model. This model is predicting a wide swath of 5 - 10 inches of rain (orange colors) will affect portions of Cuba, Florida, the Bahamas, and the Southeast U.S. Image credit: NOAA/NCEP.

Intensity forecast for Isaac
Isaac survived passage over Hispaniola relatively intact. It's large size aided this, and this will also help it survive passage over Cuba today and Sunday. By the time Isaac pops off the coast of Cuba into the Florida Straits on Sunday, it will likely be a 50 mph tropical storm with a large, intact circulation. Isaac will be over very warm waters of 31°C (88°F) in the Florida Straits, wind shear will be light to moderate, and the upper-level wind pattern will feature an upper-level anticyclone over the storm, aiding its upper-level outflow. As I discussed in my previous post, Crossing Hispaniola and Cuba: a history, there have been five storms since 1900 with an intensity similar to Isaac, which crossed over both Haiti and Cuba, then emerged into the Florida Straits. These five storms strengthened by 5 - 20 mph in their first 24 hours after coming off the coast of Cuba. Given the relatively intact structure of Isaac so far, and the favorable conditions for intensification, I expect Isaac will intensify by 15 - 20 mph in 24 hours once the center moves off of the north coast of Cuba. If Isaac spends a full two days over water after passing the Florida Keys, it is possible that it will have enough time to develop a full eyewall and undergo rapid intensification into a Category 2 or 3 hurricane. The latest 06Z (2 am EDT) run of the GFDL model is calling for Isaac to intensify to Category 2 strength, then weaken to Category 1 at landfall in Mississippi on Tuesday. The 06Z HWRF run is calling for landfall in the Florida Panhandle near Fort Walton Beach as a borderline Category 2 or 3 hurricane. The 5 am EDT NHC wind probability forecast gave Isaac a 19% chance of becoming a Category 2 or stronger hurricane in the Gulf. I expect these odds are too low, and that Isaac has a 40% chance of becoming a Category 2 or stronger hurricane in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. I doubt the storm has much of a chance of hitting Category 4 or 5 status, though. While the surface waters in the Gulf of Mexico are very warm, near 30 - 31°C, the total heat content of these waters is unusually low for this time of year. We got lucky with the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current this summer, as it did not shed a big warm eddy during the height of hurricane season, like happened in 2005 (I discuss this in my Gulf of Mexico Loop Current Tutorial.) Without the type of super-high heat energy we had in 2005 in the Gulf of Mexico, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012 will have difficulty forming.

Invest 97L off the coast of Africa
A tropical wave (Invest 97L) is located about 350 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. 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 30% chance of developing by Monday morning. The 8 am EDT SHIPS model forecast predicts moderate shear for the next 5 days over 97L, so some development is possible if 97L can fend off the dry air to its north. None of the reliable models foresee that 97L will be a threat to the Lesser Antilles Islands. However, both the GFS and ECMWF models predict that a tropical wave that has not yet emerged from the coast of Africa may develop next week, and potentially take a more westward track towards the Lesser Antilles.

The Weather Channel's hurricane expert, Brian Norcross, is now writing a blog on wunderground.com. For those of you unfamiliar with his background, here's an excerpt from his first post, from last night:

"This evening 20 years ago the sun set on the horrendous first day after Hurricane Andrew. I was in downtown Miami at the studios of the NBC station. We knew that there was "total" destruction in South Dade County, but even that didn't describe it. Here's to the people that went through it... and held their families together in a situation that most people can't imagine."

Angela Fritz will have a new post here by 6 pm EDT. For the next few days, I plan to do the morning blog post, and Angela will be doing the late afternoon post.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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1271. dader
Quoting Seastep:


TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 205 MILES...335 KM FROM THE CENTER.

No buses at 39mph+


I understand. It just seems like they could have waited until tonight/Sunday morning with the uncertainty. Closing schools has an incredible impact- especially for someone who has children in North Dade schools and I am expected to be at work for TS force winds- it's Florida not New England.
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I have to admit that I have an admiration (but would not like to live that way) for how the Cuban Authorities handle Evacuation- and they seem to do it comprehensively and effectively.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
GFDL 12z has already been updated on this map - shifted slightly eastward to landfall near Destin. GFS 12z and HWRF 12z haven't been updated on the map.


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Still can't believe the amount of people here (Naples)that are taking this storm for granted. They just think it's going to be a little blow comparing this to Wilma. BUT Wilma came in to our south. We had NO surge due to offshore winds. Even if this is a 90 MPH storm and parallels us we will have surge way higher than anything experienced from Wilma. Once this storm is directly west of Naples the naples bay will fill with water due to its north south orientation. The water will pile up in thebay and lead to a 4-6 ft surge. IMO
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Quoting chrisdscane:


what website is this?

NHC's Interactive Map.
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Quoting Levi32:
Good morning.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Saturday, August 25th, with Video
Like the new track a lot better Levi lol. Pretty much inline with the track I posted yesterday (posted below). Personally, I may have to adjust west for a more west Florida Panhandle landfall, rather than Central, as the current consensus and GFS and GEFS tracks are further west. But I'll see what the ECMWF brings, which looks to have a better intialization than the GFS.

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Time: 17:54:30Z
Coordinates: 20.7N 70.0833W
Acft. Static Air Press: 427.8 mb (~ 12.63 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 7,053 meters (~ 23,140 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: -
D-value: 349 meters (~ 1,145 feet)
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 121° at 28 knots (From the ESE at ~ 32.2 mph)
Air Temp: -12.5°C (~ 9.5°F)
Dew Pt: -15.3°C (~ 4.5°F)
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 28 knots (~ 32.2 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 36 knots (~ 41.4 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 1 mm/hr (~ 0.04 in/hr)
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1263. GetReal
84 hours


Still near same spot...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
This will blow up in 12-18 hours and graze south florida as a minimal cat 2. I will be back to say told you so.
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1261. LargoFl
----------------------------
AT 200 PM EDT...1800 UTC...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL STORM ISAAC WAS
LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 20.8 NORTH...LONGITUDE 75.3 WEST. ISAAC IS
MOVING TOWARD THE NORTHWEST NEAR 17 MPH...28 KM/H. A GENERAL
NORTHWESTWARD MOTION IS EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS. ON THE
FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF ISAAC SHOULD MOVE NEAR OR OVER
EASTERN CUBA THIS AFTERNOON...NEAR OR OVER CENTRAL CUBA TONIGHT...
AND MOVE NEAR OR OVER THE FLORIDA KEYS AND THE SOUTHERN FLORIDA
PENINSULA SUNDAY OR SUNDAY NIGHT.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 60 MPH...95 KM/H...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS. LITTLE CHANGE IN STRENGTH IS EXPECTED THIS AFTERNOON. SOME
STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST TONIGHT THROUGH MONDAY...AND ISAAC IS
EXPECTED TO BECOME A HURRICANE SUNDAY OR SUNDAY NIGHT.

TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 205 MILES...335 KM
FROM THE CENTER.

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 1000 MB...29.53 INCHES.


HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND
----------------------
RAINFALL...TOTAL RAINFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF 8 TO 12 INCHES...WITH
MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 20 INCHES...ARE POSSIBLE OVER HISPANIOLA. THESE
RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES.
TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF 4 TO 8 INCHES...WITH MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF
12 INCHES...ARE POSSIBLE ACROSS JAMAICA...THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN
PORTIONS OF CUBA...THE FLORIDA KEYS AND THE SOUTHERN PENINSULA OF
FLORIDA. TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 4 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE
OVER THE CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN BAHAMAS.

WIND...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE OCCURRING OVER PORTIONS OF THE
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND HAITI...EASTERN CUBA...THE SOUTHEASTERN
BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS. TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS
ARE EXPECTED OVER THE CENTRAL BAHAMAS LATER TODAY AND TONIGHT...AND
OVER THE NORTHWESTERN BAHAMAS BY SUNDAY MORNING. HURRICANE
CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE ON ANDROS ISLAND ON SUNDAY. TROPICAL STORM
CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OVER CENTRAL CUBA BY LATER TODAY AND
TONIGHT. TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO REACH
NORTHWESTERN CUBA AND THE NORTHWESTERN BAHAMAS BY TONIGHT OR
SUNDAY.

HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED IN THE HURRICANE WARNING AREA IN
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA AND THE FLORIDA KEYS ON SUNDAY...WITH TROPICAL
STORM CONDITIONS EXPECTED BY EARLY SUNDAY. HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE
POSSIBLE IN THE HURRICANE WATCH AREA IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA ON
SUNDAY...WITH TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS EXPECTED IN THE TROPICAL
STORM WARNING AREA IN FLORIDA BY EARLY SUNDAY. TROPICAL STORM
CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE IN THE TROPICAL STORM WATCH AREA IN FLORIDA
BY SUNDAY NIGHT OR MONDAY.

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...

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA COAST...5 TO 7 FT
SOUTHEAST FLORIDA COAST AND THE FLORIDA KEYS...1 TO 3 FT
HISPANIOLA AND EASTERN CUBA...1 TO 3 FT
THE BAHAMAS AND TURKS AND CAICOS...1 TO 3 FT

THE DEEPEST WATER WILL OCCUR ALONG THE IMMEDIATE COAST IN AREAS OF
ONSHORE FLOW. 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 DANGEROUS WAVES.

SURF...DANGEROUS SURF AND RIP CURRENT CONDITIONS WILL AFFECT
HISPANIOLA...THE BAHAMAS...THE TURKS AND CAICOS...EASTERN AND
CENTRAL CUBA...AND THE EAST COAST OF FLORIDA AND THE FLORIDA KEYS
DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS. PLEASE CONSULT PRODUCTS FROM YOUR
LOCAL WEATHER OFFICE FOR MORE INFORMATION.


NEXT ADVISORY
-------------
NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY...500 PM EDT.

$$
FORECASTER BEVEN
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Hurricanes305:


North of the NHC official forecast hmmmm

That's actually the NHC's center fix, and it seems to be right on track...
This could change if it keeps jogging NNW, though.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

And to top it off, he may be spending Monday with no power. XD
Lmfaooo, that's greeaaatttt.

Quoting chrisdscane:


u think he;s still going nnw or more Nw?
Looks to be moving steadily NW-ward near 320˚ around 21.1N.
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I'm pretty confident recon is not going to find 60mph winds, probably around 50mph. 1000mb is too high a pressure to support 60mph, especially in a big storm like Isaac.
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1257. GetReal
48 hours Euro
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Euro seems to have a good handle on this system, strengthening it to a Category 1 as it goes by the Keys. Inline with the NHC forecast.
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1255. Seastep
Quoting dader:


Right- they should have waited until tonight. Closing schools is a major disruption for a potential hurricane that is forecast to pass over appx 130 miles away.


TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 205 MILES...335 KM FROM THE CENTER.

No buses at 39mph+
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1254. Kumo
Quoting pottery:

Yeah, but that's not part of the US.

:):))


lol, try telling that to most Texans.

Unfortunately it is true that we have some rather ridiculous laws down here, and people may be evicted from their property by either the state or city for any reason. Blame it on our cumbersome and messy Texas Constitution.
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I see, on the distance.

I don't know what I was thinking earlier because the island isn't that big, but its 25mile rings on the radar, because that's short range. I kept thinking it was 50, so my estimate of the distance was double what it should have been, which means my fix was exactly right, I just read the rings wrong on the radar (because I'm so used to looking at long range radar).
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anyone know when the next recon goes out...
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1251. HurricaneHunterJoe
6:04 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting Tazmanian:




this wait and see when this gets in too the open gulf then will see oh is hyping


Dude, I love your grammar,even better than mine. :)
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1250. GetReal
6:04 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
78 hours GFDL


Stalled???
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1249. chrisdscane
6:04 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Isaac is officially offshore.

It's only ~5 miles, but still.


what website is this?
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1248. Maineweatherguy20023
6:04 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting GetReal:
72 hours gfdl

A smige west and a tad too strong but otherwise not obscene.
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1246. robj144
6:03 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting Carnoustie:


if there is a Mandatory Evacuation in your area and you do not leave and are hurt your medical insurance will not cover you.


Is that true?
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1245. KeyWestbeachcomber
6:03 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
I did my Hurricane grocery shop at 11pm last night,beat the crowds who had earlier almost gutted the shelves.I spent 400.American..ALWAYS get sticker shock when I see the total...Well I am ready.I have a BIG bird cage outside that I will cover with a tarp... SO MY CONCERN is STORM SURGE..although I am about 8 ft above sea level here in Old Town.Can anyone give me some input at this time what to expect.Wilma (though a different animal) had the north end of the Island under 5-6 ft of storm surge sea water TWICE during 2 high tides.It was much worse up the keys.Is this likely to happen again? I had never seen it in my 25 years here and really don't want to see it again. Input most appreciated THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONCIDERATION.
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1244. Tribucanes
6:03 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Ike was the perfect example of people not following a mandatory evacuation to their great detriment. The percentage that would heed a mandatory evacuation in Tampa/St.Pete if a worst case surge happened is probably far lower than it should be. If that, God forbid happened, we'd be looking at a Katrina like body count again.
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1243. Levi32
6:03 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

The farther west, the stronger, right?

That's not good, at all.


In this case, any farther west means significantly stronger. The 12z GFS suite is the worst-case scenario for this storm, in my opinion.
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1242. Hurricanes305
6:02 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Isaac is officially offshore.

It's only ~5 miles, but still.


North of the NHC official forecast hmmmm
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1241. Maineweatherguy20023
6:02 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting Bamatracker:
Cant wait for recon to get back in the storm. Don't like not having new data to work with.



When is next recon??
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1240. LargoFl
6:02 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
2pm cone
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1239. GetReal
6:02 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
72 hours gfdl
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1238. TropicalAnalystwx13
6:02 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting Levi32:
12z GFS ensemble envelope is very far west compared to the other models and the NHC track.


The farther west, the stronger, right?

That's not good, at all.
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1237. chrisdscane
6:02 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
looks due north
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1236. pottery
6:01 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting muddertracker:


Come on, man. Texas rules. Visit Austin and you won't want to leave.


:):))
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1234. HurricaneHunterJoe
6:01 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Thanks for that link Levi! Seems hes trying to form more convection around the LLC.
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1233. Buhdog
6:01 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
looks due north on rapid scan....popping out now on the coast with big hot towers to the ne.
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1232. Maineweatherguy20023
6:01 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting GetReal:
12 hour GFDL

Initialized wrong then it is at the 12 hr mark already (or close)
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1231. nrtiwlnvragn
6:00 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting robj144:
Does anyone know the method the models use to initialize? Is it satellite data, buoy data, recon data, etc.? I ask because being non-linear systems, two different initializations with literally almost microscopic differences can diverge wildly in time.

Is that what the ensembles do... use slightly different initializations, run them, and average them?


How are tropical cyclones represented in
operational model initial conditions?
And why does it matter?


Somewhat technical
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1230. WeatherNerdPR
6:00 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Isaac is officially offshore.

It's only ~5 miles, but still.
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1229. LargoFl
6:00 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
tuesday might be our worst wind day..monday isnt all that great either for wind
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1228. SSideBrac
6:00 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting flcanes:

how

It concerned a simple question on Evacuation
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1227. Tazmanian
6:00 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting Bluestorm5:
This blog is moving too fast...



yep this blog is moveing at warp 10 if it gos any faster there may be a warp core breach
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1226. chrisdscane
6:00 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Going to be a close call for southern Florida. Anyone from Miami-Dade county southward should be preparing for at least hurricane force gusts.



u think he;s still going nnw or more Nw?
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1225. MiamiHurricanes09
6:00 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting weatherman12345:
Do you think broward will get hurricane force gusts?
Unlikely unless it makes landfall in Miami-Dade. Sustained tropical storm-force winds are a very likely possibility though.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1224. Maineweatherguy20023
5:59 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting washingtonian115:
Lol.But I think this pattern is foreshadowing what it could be like fore winter.Probably getting areas of low pressures bringing in snow(I hope).

Big snows like 2010-2011 woulg be AWESOME after this winters DUD. Back to Isaac :)
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1223. TexNowNM
5:59 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

They can in Texas.


Correct! State law.
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1222. Bamatracker
5:59 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Cant wait for recon to get back in the storm. Don't like not having new data to work with.


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1221. WxLogic
5:59 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
We'll soon find out if ECMWF will stay the same, go east or go west, or ...
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather