TS Isaac Drenches Haiti, Cuba; Turns West in Gulf of Mexico: AIR Analysis

August 27, 2012

According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, Tropical Storm Isaac made landfall about 40 miles [64 kms] east of Guantanamo, Cuba, on Sunday with sustained winds of 60 mph [96 km/h].

AIR said Isaac’s “passage over the mountainous tip of Cuba did little to diminish its strength and Isaac exited the island with winds intact at 60 mph. The storm then proceeded to track along the island’s northern coast, keeping the strongest winds offshore but delivering heavy rainfall to central and eastern provinces. Data from Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Isaac has strengthened only slightly overnight, possibly because the storm is battling with dry low- to mid-level dry air in the western side of its circulation.”

Scott Stransky, senior scientist at AIR Worldwide, explained: “As Isaac moves into the Florida Straits and into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, conditions should be favorable for further intensification. Isaac is now expected to achieve hurricane intensity soon after crossing the Florida Keys, and there is a chance that it will become a Category 2 hurricane as it approaches the Gulf Coast. How much stronger Isaac will become will depend in part on the storm’s track—that is, how much time it will spend over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Earlier on Sunday the storm crossed Haiti’s southern peninsula. AIR said that “hundreds of the tents that hundreds of thousands of people still call home were ripped away by Isaac’s winds or damaged by downed trees.

“The majority, however, remained intact according to U.N. officials. Sheet metal roofs were peeled off homes and businesses. There is evidence of heavy street flooding—waist deep in some locations—and widespread downed trees and power lines. Haiti’s national electricity supplier said that at one point 30 out of the country’s 32 electricity grids were down.”

Stransky added: “In the Dominican Republic, rivers overtopped their banks, washing out roads and bridges. An estimated 3,000 homes were flooded, according to reports, and at least 10 rural settlements were cut off by floodwaters. Nearly a million people were left without power. In both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, most of the damage is unlikely to be insured.”

“In Cuba, authorities evacuated thousands of residents in advance of the storm’s arrival. High waves have washed away structures on the immediate coastline. In Baracoa, the country’s easternmost city (estimated population over 80,000), officials report that at least 50 homes were destroyed or heavily damaged.”

“After crossing the eastern end of Cuba, Isaac tracked along the north coast of the country, just offshore. This means that most of Cuba was on the left, weaker side of Isaac. While further wind damage should not be a concern, the possibility of additional flooding remains an issue.”

According to AIR, “some of the Bahamian islands impacted by last year’s Hurricane Irene are now within the reach of Isaac’s tropical storm force winds. Sturdy construction there, however, should keep damage to a minimum.”

The report also noted that “some energy operators in the Gulf of Mexico have begun shutting down offshore oil and gas rigs. BP Plc, the biggest Gulf producer, has said it would shut down its Thunder Horse platform, the world’s largest.”

Source: AIR Worldwide

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