Much to the relief of everyone in southern Florida, Isaac never did get too organized or intense after passing by Haiti and Cuba. It maintained a steady tropical storm intensity as it skimmed by Key West, as it made the journey across the Gulf of Mexico. It has just been upgraded to a hurricane off the Louisiana coast, but it could have been much, much worse.
During the early morning hours on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in eastern Louisiana as an enormous Category 3 storm. It intensified from a tropical storm to a minimal hurricane as it passed over Miami and the southern Florida peninsula on August 25th, then took full advantage of ideal conditions in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and dramatically intensified to a monster Category 5 storm on August 28th. Something similar was certainly possible with Isaac, and haunting similarities were everywhere – the dates, the tracks, the size, the landfall location, but one key difference remained: the intensity.
I also made a comparison image of the two storms as they appeared on satellite at exactly the same date and time, just seven years apart (10:15am on August 28th). At this time, Katrina had 165mph sustained winds, while Isaac had 70mph sustained winds.
As far as Isaac goes, it is now a hurricane with 75mph winds as of 11:20am this morning. This is the first time that it has reached hurricane intensity during its entire 12-day journey across the Atlantic. It is just hours from landfall, and just hours from the exact landfall time of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. You can monitor the storm with a long radar loop from New Orleans. Rainfall totals along the northern Gulf coast are expected to be in the 12-18” range, and the storm surge could be significant between the center of the storm and places for hundreds of miles east of the center as its circulation pushes the ocean out ahead of it and onto the coastline.
Luckily, we aren’t looking at a repeat of one of our country’s largest natural disasters, but it acts to keep us vigilant and prepared.