Eyes on the sky
Hurricane Isaac has forced hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents to hunker down as the storm is on track to make landfall tonight (Aug. 28). The storm could strike New Orleans nearly seven years to the day that Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people across the Gulf. While the Gulf braces for the worst, the storm has already been felt from Haiti to South Florida.
On Aug. 26, the wind was already picking up in Boca Raton, Fla., as then Tropical Storm Isaac approached the United States.
Tropical Storm Isaac intensified to a hurricane today (Aug. 28), with winds of 75 mph (121 kph). The hurricane is forecast to pass the mouth of the Mississippi River tonight, with some locations seeing up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain.
Yesterday, hurricane hunters from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration returned to the skies to gauge Isaac's intensity. A glimpse out of the navigator's window, shown above, reveals a menacing tropical storm below, with wind speeds around 70 mph (112 kph).
No deaths have been reported in the United States, but Haiti wasn't so lucky. The Caribbean nation, still struggling to recover from a deadly earthquake in 2010 and an ensuing cholera epidemic, was among the first to feel Isaac's force. At least 24 people died during the storm, according to the Haitian government.
Above, a woman wades through flood waters to save her possessions from her flooded home.
Haiti hit again
Isaac brought widespread damage, as seen in this aerial photo taken on Aug. 26 by United Nations' surveyors. The photo shows the southern town of Leogane, where severe flooding and other damage resulted from Tropical Storm Isaac, which struck Haiti on Aug. 24, 2012.
Some victims were electrocuted and other died after being struck by falling objects. Isaac's death toll now stands at 29, with five deaths in the Dominican Republic.
Isaac was named on Aug. 21; satellites have been keeping watch over the storm from above, and hurricane-hunting aircraft have been monitoring it for days now. Late last week, crews sent back some arresting photographs from inside the roiling storm.
By Aug. 26, U.S. forecasters and hurricane hunters already smelled trouble for the Gulf Coast, and hurricane-measuring aircraft again took to the skies to track and measure the storm.
Isaac is expected to be a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, with winds of up to 95 mph (153 kph). Some forecasters even predict Isaac could reach Category 2 status with winds between 96-110 mph (154-177 kph). Isaac will certainly pack a punch regardless of its category rank, but the storm will be much smaller than Hurricane Katrina, which was a powerful Category 5 hurricane at landfall. Katrina was the costliest storm in U.S. history.
By Aug. 27, the windy weather from Tropical Storm Isaac was whipping though South Florida. The palm trees in Pompano Beach were rocking in the wind as Tropical Storm Isaac raked the Florida coast on its northwesterly track.
This adventurous kite surfer wasn't scared of Isaac. The surfer was riding the unusually high surf at Daytona Beach, Fla., on Aug. 27. But for this brave soul, the wind was almost too much.
"His ride took him very close to the pier a few times, but he managed to keep control of his kite," wrote Sophia Gribbin of Ocala, Fla., who captured the action from the balcony of a nine-story condo nearby.
Airlines have cancelled flights to and from New Orleans just to be safe, following widespread cancellations on Sunday in South Florida. Southwest cancelled about 80 flights today for passengers travelling to and from New Orleans, reported the Associated Press. Other airlines, including JetBlue, shown above, also cancelled several days' worth of flights.
On Monday, public officials called for mandatory evacuations in low-lying areas in metro New Orleans, including all of St. Charles Parish. They stopped short of calling for a mandatory metrowide evacuation, as was the case in 2005 as Katrina approached.
Tropical Storm Isaac created a storm surge into the backyard of Kev Cook's home in Pembroke Pines, Fla., in the Everglades. Storm surges from hurricanes and tropical storms are extremely dangerous. Already, forecasters have predicted that Isaac will erode beaches and dunes across the Gulf Coast.
"We have been under a persistent Isaac spiral feeder band since last night," Cook wrote, referring to the cloud structure with a long area of rainfall. "It's like a never-ending train of rain/wind/thunder. I've lost about 8 feet of my back garden so far."
The Gulf Coast is no stranger to hurricanes. While the streets were quiet on Key West yesterday, the party went on indoors. Many folks, such as those seen here at the Bourbon Bar in Key West, had a colorful suggestion for the passing tropical storm.