According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Isaias is getting stronger. In their 5pm update, they extended watches and warnings in effect for the storm up the U.S. East Coast.
Right now, a Storm Surge Warning is in effect from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to Cape Fear, North Carolina while a Storm Surge Watch is in effect from Cape Fear to Duck North Carolina, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. A Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours in the indicated locations. A Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life- threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours.
A Hurricane Watch is now in effect for South Santee River, South Carolina to Surf City, North Carolina. A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from Sebastian Inlet, Florida to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. This includes the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, the Chesapeake Bay, Tidal Potomac River, Delaware Bay, Long Island and Long Island Sound. A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area, generally within 36 hours. A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.
The latest computer model forecast guidance remains in excellent agreement on Isaias moving north-northwestward through a break in the subtropical ridge tonight and turning northward by Monday morning, all the while remaining offshore of the coast from east-central Florida to Georgia. By Monday night, Isaias is forecast to turn northeastward and accelerate toward the Carolinas, reaching the mid-Atlantic states on Tuesday and New England by early Wednesday.
There is the danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation of 2 to 4 feet above ground level from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to Cape Fear, North Carolina along the immediate coastline and adjacent waterways. Life-threatening storm surge is possible along the North Carolina coast from Cape Fear to Duck. Residents in these areas should follow advice given by local emergency officials.
Tropical storm conditions will spread northward within the Tropical Storm Warning area from Florida to North Carolina through Monday night. Isaias is expected to be near hurricane strength when it reaches the coast of northern South Carolina and southern North Carolina Monday night, and strong tropical storm force winds are likely with hurricane conditions possible in the Hurricane Watch area.
Heavy rainfall from Isaias will continue to result in potentially life-threatening flash flooding in the Northwest Bahamas through tonight. Flash and urban flooding, some of which may be significant in the eastern Carolinas and the mid Atlantic, are expected through midweek along and near the path of Isaias across the U.S. East Coast. Widespread minor to isolated moderate river flooding is possible across portions of the Carolinas and the mid-Atlantic.
Tropical storm force winds are possible around the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast on Tuesday, including the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and Long Island
Sound. Additional watches and warnings will likely be issued tonight and Monday as Isaias is expected to move northward near or over the mid-Atlantic and New England states Tuesday and Wednesday.
In the 5 pm update, Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, just shy of Category 1 hurricane strength. Additional strengthening is possible and Isaias could be a hurricane as it impacts the Mid Atlantic coast. Minimum central pressure is down to 994 mb or 29.36 inches.
These are the expected impacts and timing based on this morning’s new data:
- South Carolina
- Weak hurricane or strong tropical storm conditions likely; extremely heavy rains, very strong winds, even away from the coast. Storm surge flooding likely along portions of the coast. Isolated tornadoes possible. Waterspouts possible on the Atlantic coast.
- Most of Monday
- North Carolina
- Weak hurricane or strong tropical storm conditions across the eastern half of the state. Heavy rains, strong winds, and coastal storm surge flooding possible. Some tornadoes possible in the coastal plain; waterspouts in coastal areas.
- Monday PM into Monday Night
- Strong tropical storm conditions expected; torrential, heavy rain, gusty winds. Some coastal flooding and beach erosion. Risk of an isolated tornado or two.
- Late Monday Night / Early Tuesday
- Tropical storm conditions expected over the eastern half of the state; rain likely state-wide. Flooding downpours likely. Gusty winds. Coastal flooding and beach erosion. Risk of an isolated tornado or two. Waterspouts possible at the coast.
- Early Tuesday
- Tropical storm conditions expected state-wide with serious flooding issues possible. Gusty winds. Coastal flooding and beach erosion. Risk of an isolated tornado or two. Waterspouts possible at the shore. Hurricane force wind gusts possible at the shore.
- Tuesday Morning
- South Carolina
- New Jersey
- Tropical storm conditions expected statewide, with hurricane force gusts possible at the shore. Significant fresh water flooding likely; storm surge flooding possible along with damaging wind gusts and beach erosion at the coast. Some tornadoes possible. Waterspouts possible at the shore.
- Tropical storm conditions likely in the southeastern and eastern portions of the state; rain expected into central and west-central portions of the state. Significant fresh water flooding likely in eastern portions of the state. Risk of an isolated tornado or two.
- New York
- Tropical storm conditions likely in the southeastern part of the state, including all of New York City and Long Island. Urban flooding possible. Heavy rain and gusty winds throughout the eastern half of the state; flash flooding possible. Damaging wind gusts and beach erosion at the coast; risk of storm surge flooding around New York City and the south shore of Long Island. Risk of isolated tornadoes and waterspouts.
- Tropical storm conditions possible at the coast; wind-swept rains elsewhere. Flooding conditions possible. Some storm surge possible along Long Island Sound.
- Rhode Island
- Gusty winds and squalls likely. Tropical storm force winds likely at the coast. Slight risk of fresh water and storm surge flooding. Most rain should fall west of the state. Isolated tornadoes or waterspouts possible.
- Late Tuesday
- Tropical storm conditions possible. Otherwise, gusty winds, flooding rains expected, especially over western portions of the state. Slight risk of storm surge flooding and beach erosion.
- Tuesday Afternoon
- New Hampshire
- Heavy rains, gusty winds expected over much of the state. Slight chance of coastal flooding; larger change of inland freshwater flooding.
- Tuesday Night / Wednesday Morning
- Heavy rains, gusty winds; inland freshwater flooding possible, especially over the southern half of the state.
- Tuesday Afternoon / Early Wednesday
- Heavy rains, gusty winds, rough surf expected over coastal Maine. Squalls. Flooding possible over inland areas from heavy downpours.
- Early Wednesday
Tropical cyclones, including Hurricane Isaias, could have erratic behavior with fluctuating intensity and shifts in trajectory. Conditions could quickly change, prompting new watches or warnings as the storm moves along the coast. Despite today’s forecast track, it is important that everyone from South Carolina to Maine closely monitor the storm, prepare for its impacts, and take efforts to protect life and property until the threat has completely passed.
While Isaias probably won’t be a strong hurricane when it pushes into the Mid Atlantic and New England states, it will likely be a destructive tropical storm similar to past damaging tropical storms that have impact the region.
One such storm was Floyd in 1999. While Floyd initially made landfall as a hurricane into the North Carolina coast, it weakened to tropical storm status by late on September 16. The storm gradually lost its tropical characteristics as it quickly moved through the Delmarva Peninsula, eastern New Jersey, Long Island, and New England. Late on September 17, Floyd transitioned into an extratropical cyclone near the coast of southern Maine. Even though Floyd was “only” a tropical storm, it left a trail of death and destruction from North Carolina to Maine. In Virginia, Floyd created $101 million in damages and claimed 4 lives. In Washington, DC, damaging winds knocked down trees and power-lines; a wind gust of 56 mph was recorded at the Children’s National Medical Hospital. Maryland and Delaware were hit by flooding rains that caused more than $100 million in damages. In Delaware alone, 171 homes were damaged with 33 destroyed. New Jersey then saw its worst natural disaster in the state’s history at the time; 7 people were killed while major floods washed away homes and entire communities. More than 1,500 homes were damaged and 284 were destroyed in the Garden State, leaving more than 1,000 people homeless, with Middlesex, Somerset, and Bergen Counties among the worst hit. Even away from the coast, Pennsylvania was not spared; there, Floyd killed 13 people, largely due to drownings, fallen trees, or heart attacks, and another 40 people were severely injured. The hurricane left about $60 million in damage, mostly related to its heavy rainfall. Floyd continued adding to its damage and death toll as it moved into New York state, with many left without power for a prolonged period of time.
Another storm to impact the region was Tropical Storm Irene. After making landfall on North Carolina as a category 1 hurricane, it moved north, making a second landfall at Brigantine, New Jersey on August 28, 2011. Making landfall with winds of 70 mph, Irene moved over water again, hugging the New Jersey coastline. Later that morning, Tropical Storm Irene made landfall again with 65 mph winds in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. The storm would replace Floyd as New Jersey’s costliest natural disaster. It also created incredible damage and claimed lives into New England, leaving 48 people dead and creating a damage total of $13.5 billion.
Another notable non-hurricane storm to impact the U.S. East Coast was Sandy in 2012. In October of that year, Sandy moved ashore in Brigantine, New Jersey as an extratropical cyclone. Sandy killed 37 and causing nearly $30 billion in damages, surpassing Floyd and Irene as the Garden State’s biggest natural disaster. Widespread devastation occurred, particularly on Long Beach Island and the Barnegat Peninsula, where the Seaside Heights boardwalk collapsed into the ocean. Further north, storm surge flooding caused massive destruction along the Raritan Bay and traps thousands in Hoboken. All of New Jersey Transit’s commuter rail operations are affected, with some lines out of service for over a month. Sandy also causes the worst power outage in state history, blacking out over 2 million households. Sandy created equal devastation around New York City and across western Long Island, where coastal communities were inundated by a significant storm surge.
Ultimately, Isaias could be somewhere in between Floyd and Irene, with wind damage comparable to Sandy’s. No two storms are exactly alike and people in the watch/warning areas should deal with forecast conditions for their area, rather than consider fast experiences with these past tropical cyclones. Residents should also follow the advice of local officials, especially as it relates to coastal evacations.
Isaias is impacting the U.S. during the COVID-19 global pandemic. People in the storm’s path should remember that and follow pandemic guidelines and recommendations where they are. Even with a landfalling hurricane or tropical storm, people need to practice safe social distancing, wear masks, frequently wash hands, and use disinfectant sprays/gels/liquids/wipes.