Virginia seems to have a thing for “I” storms, from Irene to Isabel — this looks to be no different. Isaias became a hurricane overnight with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph. We’re only at only July 31 and the peak of hurricane season is around September 10th. The latest path from the National Hurricane Center intensifies Isaias in the Bahamas and off the Florida coast as a Category 2 storm, then slowly weakening as it approaches the Carolina Coast. It’s still forecast to remain a hurricane off the Virginia coast late Monday night or Tuesday morning.
There remains potential for this system to intensity further as there’s plenty of warm water to work with and Isaias will travel across the warm gulf stream waters off the southeast coast Sunday into Monday. The system is being steered by a large high pressure system in the Atlantic. As the system moves northwest, then north, Isaias is expected to slow down before interaction with a trough dipping across the Eastern United States, which will help steer Isaias along the southeast and Mid-Atlantic coastline.
The latest spaghetti plots are tightly clustered, showing Isaias making landfall across Eastern North Carolina. This would put the Outer Banks in the WORST part of the storm with high winds. There remains a chance that the center of Isaias could come dangerously close to Virginia Beach or even as far west as the Norfolk area. This would be dangerous as moderate to major tidal flooding would be likely. This would NOT be a ‘Dorian’ type scenario and Hampton Roads gets spared with minimal flooding. Also, as the system approaches, there will be a ‘full moon’ and tides will already be astronomically higher than normal. The only ‘saving grace’ is that Isaias would move quickly, but we would still experience hurricane and/or tropical storm conditions for at least 12 hours from late Monday into Tuesday.
The ‘worst case scenario’ would be a combination of the UKMET and European models, showing the system near Virginia Beach or over the Lower Chesapeake Bay and Delmarva with category 2+ winds. This scenario would cause significant storm surge threat with evacuations likely needed for areas along the immediate coast. The ‘least case scenario’ would involve Isaias passing 100+ miles off the coast, or off the Outer Banks. There would still be tidal flooding and heavy rain, but likely not as severe.
As long as Isaias moves and doesn’t slow down, this will cut down on the rainfall amounts — but they will still be on the high side. The latest European model shows locally 3 to 6 inches of rain just east of I-95 into the Northern Neck, Peninsula Region, and Delmarva Peninsula. Lower amounts across Virginia Beach and Eastern North Carolina as these areas would be on the east side of the system, but a higher chance at seeing severe thunderstorms, including a few isolated tornadoes.
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