Isaias update: Peak rain and wind will most likely hit NJ on Tuesday
Happy August. We continue to closely monitor Hurricane Isaias, as it churns through the Bahamas Saturday and aims for the Florida coast on Sunday. If you're sick of hearing about this hard-to-pronounce storm, there's unfortunately a lot more ees-ah-EE-ahs to come.
The forecast is slowly becoming clearer. And it's still potentially ominous. At this point, the storm appears to have little to no opportunity for a complete "escape route" from the U.S. East Coast. In other words, it is now highly likely that New Jersey faces at least some rain, wind, surf, and/or surge impacts from Isaias within a few days.
But the details of Isaias's approach are still tricky. As of this writing (9 a.m. Saturday), we are still about 60 hours away from first raindrops and 72 to 84 hours away from the biggest impacts. That leaves plenty of time for the track to wiggle and for any of the zillions of pieces in this meteorological puzzle to change.
Where is Isaias Now?
As of 8 a.m. Saturday, Isaias was officially centered 50 miles south of Nassau, Bahamas or about 1,020 miles south-southwest of Cape May, N.J. It strengthened overnight, now packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. (Still a category 1 hurricane.)
Isaias's outermost clouds have now reached southeastern Florida, in the Miami area, where a Hurricane Warning is in effect. It is a compact storm, with 75 mph hurricane force winds only extending 30 miles from the center. (39 mph tropical storm force winds have a radius of 150 nautical miles on the northeast side of the hurricane.)
What We Know
1.) ThetimingThe National Hurricane Center's Isaias rainfall forecast paints an area of 2-4+ inches of rain over New Jersey. (NOAA / NHC)
—Wind... Probably the biggest question mark here, as this forecast involves balancing the strength, track, and orientation of the storm. It's possible that wind is not a huge factor, especially if the storm takes a more inland path. But I'm thinking gusts in the 30+ mph (inland) to 50+ mph (coast) range are a reasonable expectation. If the eye wall brushes past the Jersey Shore, those estimates would be too low.
—Surge... Since the storm timeline has shifted later, we still don't have reliable model guidance on the degree of potential storm surge and coastal flooding. My back-of-the-envelope estimate puts most likely surge in the 1 to 2 foot range on Tuesday, which is enough to cause minor to moderate flooding of tidal waterways. A more inland track would mitigate the flooding threat considerably.
—Surf... Yikes. I've seen max wave height forecasts ranging from 8 to 16 feet just off the Jersey Shore. A violent surfmaker could contribute to coastal flooding (especially on barrier islands), and also cause significant beach erosion. Remember, the elevated rip current risk and angry ocean has already begun.
I still don't think you need to necessarily do anything to prepare for the storm at this point. Maybe formulate a plan if the worst case scenario comes to fruition, especially if you live near the coast. If a tropical storm watch is issued — probably Sunday morning — that's when it's time to secure your property, check your supplies, and make adjustments to your Tuesday routine to remain safe and sound.
Unless something changes dramatically, my next weather blog will be published sometime Sunday morning.
Until then, enjoy this spectacular summer Saturday.