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Tropical Storm Isaac Analysis and Forecast Discussion
Haiti had its effect on the circulation of Tropical Storm Isaac overnight, but although the deep thunderstorms over Isaac's core have subsided the circulation remains well intact over Cuba's east end around 10 AM Saturday.
With a well defined circulation, Isaac should be able to regain its intensity fairly quickly once it moves north of Cuba and passes through the Straights of Florida, where water temperatures are in the middle and high 80's. The wind environment appears to favor a period of intensification once Isaac reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Heat content in the central Gulf often contributes to rapid intensification, and the National Hurricane Center's official forecast now calls for a category two hurricane just before landfall.
As far as the storm's movement is concerned, high pressure ridging to the north as weakened a bit per upper air data from Florida. That has allowed a bit more of a northward trek overnight, but the overall movement is still toward the northwest. At this point there are no real surprises. The high pressure to the north of Isaac is forecast to build across the Southeast. We are already seeing evidence of the high rebuilding across Georgia and Northern Florida, so while a track the northwest may continue for much of today and more west/northwest track may resume Sunday. The National Hurricane Center's track does NOT currently reflect this, but it certainly is something that is very much possible. A handful of our traditionally high-performing computer models also pick up on this possibility.
The National Hurricane Center's official forecast calls for landfall along the Northwest Florida Coast between Fort Walton Beach and Panama City Beach. There very well could be some changes in this forecast, and based on current upper air analysis over the Southeast I suspect there will be some westward changes in the landfall forecast and landfall could very well be closer to Pensacola or Mobile. I still am hesitant to rule out the Mississippi Coast, and at at this point both the Mississippi and Alabama coasts fall within the official forecast's cone of uncertainty. I also do not want to rule out the possibility of a stronger hurricane. A category three hurricane is not forecast right now, but it is not out of the question by any means.
Current Watches & Warnings
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for these areas:
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for these areas:
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for these areas:
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for these areas:
Local Impacts in East Mississippi and West Alabama
The impacts for our area will depend greatly on the exact path taken by the center of the storm. If the official forecast pans out, we very well may see nothing more than a brisk northerly wind on Tuesday and Wednesday. If the storm takes a westward course and is closer to us, we could be in for a rainy Tuesday that packs some 30-40 mph winds and higher gusts and the occasional tornado. The local impacts from Isaac will become more apparent within the next 24-48 hours.
Local Impacts Along the Coast
Of course, coastal impacts also depend on the exact track also. As the storm prepares to enter the Gulf of Mexico, beach goers should be cautions of increased swells and widespread dangerous rip currents days before the storm approaches for landfall. Flooding caused by a 7-10 foot storm surge in the onshore winds east of the storm's center will inundate communities along the immediate coast. Destructive winds and brief tornadoes will be widespread, and rainfall totals of well over 10 inches in some spots are possible.
Anyone along the northern Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Panama City should continue to closely monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Isaac. Preparedness information is available here: Hurricane Preparedness.