Technically speaking, Hurricane Isabel is still a Category Five hurricane at this hour, with winds of 160 miles per hour, tying it for third all-time among the longest-lasting Cat. 5 storms ever recorded in the Atlantic (at 30 hours). But really, the National Hurricane Center is cheating here. “I very much doubt that Isabel still has winds of [160 mph],” the NHC says in its 11:00 PM advisory.
The Hurricane Center notes that satellite intensity estimates are way down, and dry air appears to be infiltrating the system. “But since another aircraft will be in the hurricane in just three hours…we will wait for confirmation of this apparent weakening trend,” the discussion says. In other words, expect Isabel to “suddenly” weaken when the 5:00 AM advisory comes out.
Nevertheless, this is a very intense and, if it hits shore, a very dangerous hurricane. Which, of course, leads us to the obvious question: Where is it going? It seems the NHC’s computer models disagree. The UKMET model takes Isabel on a track that would seem likely to result in a landfall in the Carolinas; the GFS and NOGAPS models suggest a course that could take Isabel directly toward New York and New England; and the GFDL turns it north sharply enough that it might go out to sea.
The major players in this drama are a trough of low pressure offshore of the Carolinas and an upper-level high pressure system off New England. The low pressure system will tend to block Isabel from moving too far west, while the high pressure system will tend to keep it from going too far east. Both will push it north. This is just the sort of situation where that rare hurricane track scenario — a northward up-the-coast move directly toward New England — could quite plausibly happen. Indeed, I would venture that Isabel has the best chance of hitting New England of any major hurricane since Edouard and Hortense in 1996. (Those storms both missed, but the meteorological conditions were very close.)
But it’s way too soon to say for sure. It will all depend on the exact timing of the motions of those upper-level systems. The NHC explains: “The GFS and NOGAPS models are very similar in holding [the low-pressure trough off the Carolinas] in place almost a day longer than the UKMET…with the result that the former two models turn Isabel much more sharply northward than the UKMET.” If the GFS and NOGAPS are right, I might be photo-blogging images of hurricane-force winds in about a week. If the UKMET is right, look out, Carolinas. Which one will be right? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Wherever Isabel hits, it will very likely be weaker then that it is now. Hopefully, it will be considerably weaker.
By the way, the Hurricane Center said earlier today that it now believes Isabel may actually have been stronger yesterday than 160 mph. I’m guessing maybe 170 or 175? Wow.
I am heading to Connecticut for the weekend, on a Metro-North train in Stamford now.
You know what I love most about the New York Post? Its subtlety. :)
I just got back home. The view from the Staten Island ferry, and from the island itself, was incredible. Honestly, I think the whole scene — the Chrysler Building and the illuminated Statue of Liberty; the brilliant red, white, and blue Empire State Building, and on either side of the ESB, the two Tribute in Light spotlight beams; plus the Brooklyn and George Washington bridges and the rest of the Manhattan skyline — was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in my life.
I have lots more great photos where this one came from, and a ton of other photos from throughout the day (all of them much higher quality than the cell-phone photos on my Moblog). And I will post the best of those photos here in a 9/11/03 photo album. But not tonight. I’ve been up for nearly 19 hours, I was out of the house for more than 16 of those hours, and I need to sleep. Now. :)
Stay tuned for more 9/11 photos, either tomorrow night or sometime this weekend. I’ve got some good ones, so I promise it will be worth the wait.