Isaac Targets Florida, Central Gulf

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
August 24, 2012; 1:04 PM ET
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After crossing Cuba this weekend, Isaac will turn its sights to Florida and the central Gulf of Mexico next week.

According to Dan Kottlowski, head of the AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center, "Given Isaac's current position and momentum in the Caribbean, the storm is much more likely to track into the Gulf of Mexico than to track along the east coast of Florida."

The latest forecast path map. A larger version of this map can be found on the AccuWeather Hurricane Center.

It is very rare for tropical storms or hurricanes to move from south to north over the heart of the Florida Peninsula after coming from this area of the Caribbean.

Significant impact is likely in the Florida Keys, and in much of Florida in general, as a result.

This track will bring the moist, stormy eastern side of the tropical system over much of the Florida Peninsula.

Bands of torrential rain, gusty winds, building seas, thunderstorms and the potential for a few tornadoes are typical characteristics in this scenario over the peninsula.

Satellite loop of Isaac from NOAA.

While such a track would bring these conditions regardless of intensity, the severity of the conditions will depend on the strength of the system itself.

AccuWeather.com meteorologists are forecasting Isaac to become a hurricane over the Caribbean before crossing Cuba. However, weakening of the system as it crosses Cuba is likely. Next, after moving away from Cuba, restrengthening is likely. How much restrengthening occurs will depend on its proximity to the west coast of Florida. Waters are very warm over the Florida Straits and the Gulf of Mexico.

As the system moves up over the eastern Gulf, a return flow from the west and southwest in the wake of the storm can bring a storm surge along the Florida west coast. It is for this reason that people from Key West to Fort Myers, Tampa and Panama City should be prepared for coastal flooding.

There is still some question as to Isaac's behavior after reaching the Gulf. Current steering winds in the northern Gulf would turn the storm more to the north then perhaps to the northeast. This raises the possibility of the system moving inland over the northeastern Gulf coast. Because of this, folks over the upper Gulf Coast of Florida should keep a close eye on Isaac as there is a chance of landfall in their vicinity.

There is still a slight chance that Isaac will make an abrupt turn to the north somewhere between Hispaniola and eastern Cuba, which would bring the storm to the Atlantic side of Florida.

While tropical storm or hurricane conditions would be possible in the Bahamas and the Miami area in this scenario, much of the Florida Peninsula would be far less stormy and potentially sunny.

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