August 3, 2020

Hurricane Isaias Makes Landfall In N.C., Strong Winds Likely Up I-95 Next Two Days


After several days of changing its appearance more than a theater star—yet maintaining its intensity against the odds—Isaias made landfall at 11:10 PM EDT near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina with 85 MPH winds. The system will push into eastern North Carolina overnight into Tuesday as it picks up speed and races up the Interstate 95 corridor. Widespread power outages and flash flooding are possible along the path of the storm as it heads toward Maine.

Show someone a satellite image of the hurricane making landfall in North Carolina and almost no one would guess that this thing has a solid core producing sustained winds of 85 MPH:


This has been quite the storm to follow over the last week. Hurricane Isaias organized its inner core and began to strengthen just as the eyewall began scraping the South Carolina coast. It seems counterintuitive, but we're pretty fortunate that strengthening happened now as opposed to a couple of hours ago; the hurricane could've strengthened more if it had more room to gobble up instability over the open water. A team of Hurricane Hunters found 85 MPH winds on the eastern side of the eye (with flight-level winds of  100+ MPH!), which isn't great news for coastal North Carolina, which will experience those hurricane force winds for several hours tonight.

As I explained in last night's post, the system will begin drawing some of its energy from the jet stream as it accelerates northward up the East Coast. This process is known as extratropical transition, resulting in a system that'll more closely resemble a strong nor'easter than a hurricane by the time it reaches New England on Tuesday night. This transition will allow Isaias to grow in size, exposing a larger area to strong winds and heavy rain.

Forecast


Isaias will make 'official' landfall—the center of the eye crossing the coastline—near Shalotte, North Carolina, around midnight, with sustained winds of about 85 MPH. The National Hurricane Center's forecast shows Isaias following a straight shot up the coast, reaching the Delmarva by Tuesday morning, New York City by Tuesday evening, and moving through Maine into the Canadian Maritimes on Wednesday.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for the counties where the storm is making landfall. Tropical storm warnings are in effect for the entire coast from Charleston, South Carolina, through southern Maine, including many inland areas where folks wouldn't necessarily expect to witness tropical storm conditions. Anyone in the tropical storm warning can expect a period of sustained winds of 35+ MPH, as well as the potential for flash flooding from heavy rain.

Wind & Storm Surge


The hurricane isn't going to wind down immediately once it comes ashore. The momentum of the storm and the influence of the jet stream will allow it to gradually lose strength, exposing lots of densely populated communities to a period of strong winds and even higher gusts.

Widespread power outages are likely from the point of landfall and northward through the New York City metro area, with scattered power outages possible elsewhere. For what it's worth, the NHC's evening forecast shows Isaias making it to New York City with sustained winds of 65 MPH with higher gusts. You can only hope folks in this region appreciate how strong the winds will be and how much damage those winds can do to the trees and power lines in these areas.

Storm surge is an issue since the storm will track so close to the coast. Onshore winds will push a surge of seawater into coastal communities. It won't be a big surge—a few feet deep in the hardest-hit communities—but even a few feet is dangerous if it swamps an occupied vehicle or it swamps a one-floor house or a condo complex. The NHC's map of potential storm surges is above.

Rain


Flash flooding is likely across areas in Isaias' path over the next couple of days. The Weather Prediction Center shows 3 to 5 inches of rain falling along and to the west of the center of the storm, which includes communities along and west of Interstate 95. The greatest rainfall totals are possible on the eastern side of the D.C. and Baltimore metro areas during the day on Tuesday.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes are an ongoing threat as the storm moves ashore. Tornado watches are in effect for almost all of eastern North Carolina tonight as Isaias makes landfall, and the threat will follow the eastern part of the storm as it moves up the coast. Multiple tornadoes have already occurred around Wilmington, and the supercells that produced them are hauling tail at highway speeds.

Here's the SPC's severe thunderstorm outlook for the rest of the night through 7:00 AM EDT on Tuesday...


...and here's their severe thunderstorm outlook for the day Tuesday and into early Wednesday morning:


Tropical tornadoes happen quickly and that speed reduces tornado warning lead time. Stay alert and make sure you've got a way to receive warnings the instant they're issued. Modern smartphones are equipped with emergency alerts that can be activated through the notifications section of your phone's settings.

[Radar: Gibson Ridge | Satellite: NOAA]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I ran Gawker's The Vane for two years and I've contributed to Mental Floss, Forbes, Popular Science, and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. I also teamed up with Outdoor Life to write a book called The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.

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