Fortunately for everyone along the Gulf Coast, Isaac is still a tropical storm as of Monday morning. The storm has yet to form a solid inner core thanks to some wind shear from an upper-level disturbance near it, but that will change as it moves toward the northern Gulf Coast. Isaac should slow down as it gets further north and could create a scenario that has it making landfall in a spot similar to 2005's Hurricane Katrina and, even more ominously, on the seven-year anniversary.
But, before everyone goes crazy with that scenario -- this is assuming you haven't watched network television, where they seem to have determined already that this storm will crush New Orleans with the force of a neutron bomb -- the fact is Isaac is no Katrina. As Eric Berger over at the Houston Chronicle pointed out in a reasoned post this morning on his SciGuy blog, Katrina was already substantially stronger than Isaac at the same points in their development and the 2005 hurricane would pass over substantially warmer waters -- the very thing needed for rapid intensification -- than Isaac has ahead of it on its way to landfall to the east of NOLA.
This should by no means diminish the fact that Isaac will bring a bunch of wind and rain to the Gulf Coast this week, but even the most bullish forecasts are calling for a modest category-two storm at landfall with no rapid intensification predicted.
The next question is where does Isaac go? The forecast models, which tend to have a better handle on things by this point in the track, are still pretty divergent, with a spread from Pensacola, Florida, to near Beaumont. This is abnormal, but not terribly surprising. Isaac still has not formed a consistent inner core, which would help to make the storm more predictable, and the upper-level steering currents in the atmosphere are, to say the least, complicated at the moment.
The National Hurricane Center is calling for a landfall in the eastern to central Louisiana area late Tuesday or early Wednesday and, with less than 48 hours to go before landfall, the average deviation is less than 100 miles, so confidence is pretty high they are right.
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What that means for us here in Houston is likely hotter and drier weather, but only for a couple days as our forecast turns wetter as the Labor Day weekend approaches.
It's never good to have a budding hurricane in the Gulf, but things could be much worse as we enter the busiest part of the hurricane season.