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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1221. WxLogic
We'll soon find out if ECMWF will stay the same, go east or go west, or ...
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euro has 992 mb in 24 hours
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
No. They can't legitimately remove you from your household and hold mass arrests for not complying; they are ordered but not necessarily enforced. They do vary from state to state, so you will need to revise your statute laws.


if there is a Mandatory Evacuation in your area and you do not leave and are hurt your medical insurance will not cover you.
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1218. oakland
Quoting flcanes:

ehh used to have
we did make it up when a storm came through our area


OOPS, sorry guys.
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1217. robj144
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


You will just loose one of your off days later in the year to make it up :)


Since this is school related, it's "lose" one of your off days. :)
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1216. flcanes
Quoting Bluestorm5:
This blog is moving too fast...

okayyy
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Still a chance Isaac doesn't survive its Cuba visit.
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1214. flcanes
Quoting SSideBrac:


Actually, the small thread was totally related to what is going on!

how
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This blog is moving too fast...
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1211. GetReal
12 hour GFDL
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Isaac needs to move out of Hispanola for the sake of him and the people in tents!
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1209. zawxdsk
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Begin 12z Euro



Good initialization on the ECMWF.
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1208. flcanes
Quoting Levi32:


Yesterday due to Isaac reforming southward the track east of Florida became unlikely, which is why I shifted over the peninsula. I shifted farther west today more in agreement with the 06z-12z consensus due to its consistency. However, based on the runs we have seen so far this morning, the end-game is still full of model disagreement.

agreed
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Quoting flcanes:

ehh used to have
we did make it up when a storm came through our area
Quoting flcanes:

back to tropics, please


Actually, the small thread was totally related to what is going on!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting pottery:

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

:):))


Come on, man. Texas rules. Visit Austin and you won't want to leave.
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And for contrast, the GFDL has a much further equatorward solution with a southern Keys landfall. Basically has it moving WNW, which may not be the case.

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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


You will just loose one of your off days later in the year to make it up :)

And to top it off, he may be spending Monday with no power. XD
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1203. flcanes
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
Hey Levi...Since Isaac has not crossed 80W yet your forecast is still possible. I saw that you shifted just a tad west yesterday. Do you still think its possible that he goes up east florida or just off the east coast...as he seems to be jogging further north?

ehh, proabably not the later situation
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1202. Levi32
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
Hey Levi...Since Isaac has not crossed 80W yet your forecast is still possible. I saw that you shifted just a tad west yesterday. Do you still think its possible that he goes up east florida or just off the east coast...as he seems to be jogging further north?


Yesterday due to Isaac reforming southward the track east of Florida became unlikely, which is why I shifted over the peninsula. I shifted farther west today more in agreement with the 06z-12z consensus due to its consistency. However, based on the runs we have seen so far this morning, the end-game is still full of model disagreement.
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1201. GetReal
24 hours Euro
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
guys I really don't know the is either an elongated circulation or just multiple circulations the main LLC may not be the one at 20.8N 75.3W and then again it could so I'd say we will have to sit and wait untill we a clear idea of where the LLC is

but I can tell you surface obs and sattelite and microwave images and data show multiple or elongated circulation it could be off the N coast of cuba and it could be over S central cuba so lets all just sit and watch what happen
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1199. 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?
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1197. drs2008
Quoting Levi32:
12z GFS ensemble envelope is very far west compared to the other models and the NHC track.

i guess biloxi is still in play.
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Quoting tropicfreak:
Kinda off topic, but we had an area of low pressure move inland. This was unexpected as models had this riding the coast. Had a really nice round of gusty showers and storms earlier this morning.

also heard of a tornado on the ground earlier in accondack va. true? I know that's right on the md. border
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1195. flcanes
Quoting Tazmanian:
this is not good wind shear in the gulf have drop



nahh maybe 15 knots max
don't forget about the anticyclone
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Hey Levi...Since Isaac has not crossed 80W yet your forecast is still possible. I saw that you shifted just a tad west yesterday. Do you still think its possible that he goes up east florida or just off the east coast...as he seems to be jogging further north?
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1193. LargoFl
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Did you happen to see the 12z GFS today? Right into Mobile.

Check it in 12 more hours and it will change to the East
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Here comes the entertainment!.I mean um guidance from the euro on what may happen..
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Going to be a close call for southern Florida. Anyone from Miami-Dade county southward should be preparing for at least hurricane force gusts.

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1189. GetReal
GFDL starting


I'm not sure about this initialization....
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1188. flcanes
Quoting oakland:


Maybe not. If it's only one day they may not have to make it up since the school day has, or at least used to have, extra time built into each day.

ehh used to have
we did make it up when a storm came through our area
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this is not good wind shear in the gulf have drop


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Quoting GetReal:
66 hours



Never seen a system bomb that clse to the coast in NE GOM>>>


The NE-ern Gulf of Mexico out to around 150 miles offshore from the coastline (from the mouth of the MS all the way to the Big Bend area) is notorious for preventing intensification of major hurricanes approaching landfall. There are a combination of factors that go into it and some of them we just don't understand well enough yet, but many strong hurricanes have weakened in the 12-24 hour period before hitting the Gulf coast states...Andrew, Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, Gustav.

I expect Isaac to behave similarly and reach peak intensity somewhere in the E-ern Gulf of Mexico before weakening slightly in the leadup to final landfall. The only thing that could throw that off in my mind is if the storm approached the coast right after an EWRC and consequently deepens in response to a new inner eyewall before moving ashore.
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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.
Up here they generally call of school the day of, so like an hour before the school day starts.
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Other than an increase an pressure, Isaac didn't weaken much over Cuba
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New Day 2 outlook from the SPC.


THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS CURRENTLY FORECASTING TROPICAL
STORM ISAAC TO MOVE NWWD ALONG THE NRN COAST OF CUBA TONIGHT
APPROACHING THE FL KEYS ON SUNDAY. AS ISAAC MOVES INTO THE OPEN
WATERS SOUTH OF FL...THE SYSTEM IS FORECAST TO BECOME A HURRICANE
SOMETIME AROUND MIDDAY ON SUNDAY. RAINBANDS TO THE EAST OF THE
CENTER SHOULD MOVE ACROSS SRN AND CNTRL FL PENINSULA SUNDAY AND
SUNDAY NIGHT WHERE MODEL FORECASTS SHOW STRONG LOW-LEVEL SHEAR
PROFILES. NAM FORECAST SOUNDINGS LATE SUNDAY AFTERNOON AT MIAMI
INCREASE 0-1 KM SHEAR TO AROUND 40 KT AND DEVELOP MODERATE
INSTABILITY WITH MUCAPE AROUND 1500 J/KG. THIS COMBINED WITH LCL
HEIGHTS BELOW 300 METERS WILL LIKELY CREATE CONDITIONS FAVORABLE FOR
ROTATING STORMS AND TORNADOES. THE GREATEST TORNADO THREAT SHOULD
EXIST WITH DISCRETE CELLS THAT DEVELOP OUT AHEAD OF THE RAINBANDS
WHERE THE AIRMASS MAY MORE EFFECTIVELY HEAT UP. HOWEVER...A TORNADO
THREAT MAY ALSO EXIST WITH ROTATING CELLS EMBEDDED IN THE RAINBANDS
DUE TO THE STRONG LOW-LEVEL SHEAR. A WIND DAMAGE THREAT WILL ALSO BE
POSSIBLE ESPECIALLY IF LINE-SEGMENTS CAN ORGANIZE AND PERSIST WITHIN
THE RAINBANDS OF ISAAC.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Euro starting off with fairly good initialization, showing a slightly elongated low from NE-SE, with the main focus over Cuba with a 998mb low. Curious to see how strong it goes.
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1180. drj27
Quoting msgambler:
This has got to be old. It isn't coming to Mobile, going about 300 miles East. Maybe 400 miles
so 300-400 miles east where are you thinking it may go
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NCEP COUPLED HWRF HURRICANE MODEL FORECAST MADE FOR

TROPICAL STORM ISAAC 09L

INITIAL TIME 12Z AUG 25

FORECAST POSITIONS (FROM STATS.SHORT FILE...)

HOUR LATITUDE LONGITUDE MIN PRESS (hPa) MAX SFC WIND (KTS)

HOUR: 0.0 LONG: -73.60 LAT: 19.80 MIN PRESS (hPa): 998.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 50.00
HOUR: 3.0 LONG: -74.00 LAT: 19.90 MIN PRESS (hPa): 993.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 44.00
HOUR: 6.0 LONG: -74.00 LAT: 20.70 MIN PRESS (hPa): 993.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 47.00
HOUR: 9.0 LONG: -74.40 LAT: 21.50 MIN PRESS (hPa): 993.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 57.00
HOUR: 12.0 LONG: -75.00 LAT: 22.10 MIN PRESS (hPa): 991.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 57.00
HOUR: 15.0 LONG: -75.70 LAT: 22.70 MIN PRESS (hPa): 990.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 62.00
HOUR: 18.0 LONG: -76.60 LAT: 23.20 MIN PRESS (hPa): 988.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 59.00
HOUR: 21.0 LONG: -77.30 LAT: 23.50 MIN PRESS (hPa): 986.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 56.00
HOUR: 24.0 LONG: -78.00 LAT: 23.90 MIN PRESS (hPa): 989.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 56.00
HOUR: 27.0 LONG: -78.90 LAT: 24.30 MIN PRESS (hPa): 988.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 55.00
HOUR: 30.0 LONG: -79.60 LAT: 24.20 MIN PRESS (hPa): 986.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 52.00
HOUR: 33.0 LONG: -79.90 LAT: 24.50 MIN PRESS (hPa): 986.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 54.00
HOUR: 36.0 LONG: -80.40 LAT: 24.90 MIN PRESS (hPa): 982.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 57.00
HOUR: 39.0 LONG: -80.90 LAT: 25.20 MIN PRESS (hPa): 980.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 55.00
HOUR: 42.0 LONG: -81.40 LAT: 25.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 976.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 53.00
HOUR: 45.0 LONG: -81.70 LAT: 25.80 MIN PRESS (hPa): 972.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 58.00
HOUR: 48.0 LONG: -82.10 LAT: 26.00 MIN PRESS (hPa): 971.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 64.00
HOUR: 51.0 LONG: -82.40 LAT: 26.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 967.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 76.00
HOUR: 54.0 LONG: -82.70 LAT: 26.70 MIN PRESS (hPa): 962.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 80.00
HOUR: 57.0 LONG: -82.90 LAT: 27.20 MIN PRESS (hPa): 959.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 80.00
HOUR: 60.0 LONG: -83.20 LAT: 27.60 MIN PRESS (hPa): 957.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 89.00
HOUR: 63.0 LONG: -83.40 LAT: 28.00 MIN PRESS (hPa): 952.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 93.00
HOUR: 66.0 LONG: -83.70 LAT: 28.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 946.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 103.00
HOUR: 69.0 LONG: -83.80 LAT: 29.00 MIN PRESS (hPa): 945.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 99.00
HOUR: 72.0 LONG: -84.00 LAT: 29.50 MIN PRESS (hPa): 946.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 104.00
HOUR: 75.0 LONG: -84.20 LAT: 30.00 MIN PRESS (hPa): 950.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 87.00
HOUR: 78.0 LONG: -84.20 LAT: 30.60 MIN PRESS (hPa): 958.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 75.00
HOUR: 81.0 LONG: -84.20 LAT: 31.00 MIN PRESS (hPa): 964.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 56.00
HOUR: 84.0 LONG: -84.10 LAT: 31.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 968.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 46.00
HOUR: 87.0 LONG: -83.90 LAT: 31.80 MIN PRESS (hPa): 970.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 43.00
HOUR: 90.0 LONG: -83.80 LAT: 32.30 MIN PRESS (hPa): 970.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 41.00
HOUR: 93.0 LONG: -83.50 LAT: 32.80 MIN PRESS (hPa): 973.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 43.00
HOUR: 96.0 LONG: -83.20 LAT: 33.20 MIN PRESS (hPa): 975.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 50.00
HOUR: 99.0 LONG: -82.90 LAT: 33.60 MIN PRESS (hPa): 976.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 51.00
HOUR: 102.0 LONG: -82.50 LAT: 34.10 MIN PRESS (hPa): 976.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 47.00
HOUR: 105.0 LONG: -82.20 LAT: 34.50 MIN PRESS (hPa): 979.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 48.00
HOUR: 108.0 LONG: -81.80 LAT: 34.90 MIN PRESS (hPa): 981.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 44.00
HOUR: 111.0 LONG: -81.50 LAT: 35.30 MIN PRESS (hPa): 983.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 33.00
HOUR: 114.0 LONG: -81.20 LAT: 35.60 MIN PRESS (hPa): 985.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 31.00
HOUR: 117.0 LONG: -80.90 LAT: 35.90 MIN PRESS (hPa): 988.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 26.00
HOUR: 120.0 LONG: -80.40 LAT: 36.10 MIN PRESS (hPa): 992.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 23.00
HOUR: 123.0 LONG: -80.00 LAT: 36.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 995.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 22.00
HOUR: 126.0 LONG: -79.70 LAT: 36.70 MIN PRESS (hPa): 997.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 22.
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1178. drs2008
Quoting auburnguy:



He obviously wants Isaac near him... Hence the gulfbreeze in his screenname..
remember y'all. Not an exact science.
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Quoting msgambler:
This has got to be old. It isn't coming to Mobile, going about 300 miles East. Maybe 400 miles


check the 12z gfs
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1176. flcanes
Quoting LargoFl:
..wind in 42 hours

how strong would isaac be
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1175. oakland
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


You will just loose one of your off days later in the year to make it up :)


Maybe not. If it's only one day they may not have to make it up since the school day has, or at least used to have, extra time built into each day.
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1174. Levi32
12z GFS ensemble envelope is very far west compared to the other models and the NHC track.

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1173. pottery
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

They can in Texas.

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

:):))
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


You will just loose one of your off days later in the year to make it up :)
LOLOLOL, way to bring down the positivity hahaa.
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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