AccuWeather.com reports Isaac will spend this weekend crossing Cuba before threatening Florida and the central Gulf Coast next week. In a Friday update, Dan Kottlowski, head of the AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center said, "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. " Those Gulf Coast communities that lie from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle are now at greatest risk of becoming Isaac's eventual target around Wednesday of next week, AccuWeather said. "However, all residents from Houston to Florida (its panhandle and peninsula) should closely monitor the progress of Isaac. This is a storm that should not be taken lightly by residents in its path and whose impacts will expand well to the east of its center," AccuWeather said.
Isaac is currently a strengthening tropical storm in the Caribbean. While some weakening will take place over Cuba, the door will open for rapid intensification once Isaac enters the Gulf of Mexico. Isaac could quickly strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane prior to its final landfall. There is even growing concern that Isaac will continue intensifying into a major hurricane (Category 3 strength or higher); the longer Isaac spends over water, the more valid this concern becomes, AccuWeather said. Destructive winds, widespread flooding rain, tornadoes and coastal flooding will accompany powerful Isaac onshore. Before Isaac makes its final landfall around Wednesday of next week, officials may be forced to evacuate the easternmost oil rigs in the central Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Peninsula will be threatened much sooner, AccuWeather said. Beginning as soon as later Sunday, Isaac's outer rain bands will start sweeping across the Florida Keys. Heavier rain and strong winds will follow for Sunday night into Monday morning as Isaac passes directly over or very close to the Keys, likely as a strengthening tropical storm. All of South Florida, including Miami and Naples, could also be battered by drenching rain and tropical storm-force winds Sunday night into Monday, AccuWeather said. Squally showers and thunderstorms will continue to spread northward across the Florida Peninsula through Tuesday as Isaac makes its northward trek through the Gulf of Mexico. Such squalls will contain flooding rain, tropical storm-force wind gusts and isolated tornadoes. " 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," stated AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. " It is for this reason that people from Key West to Fort Myers, Tampa and Panama City should be prepared for coastal flooding." Isaac's strength and proximity to Florida's western coast will determine the severity of the storm surge. The dangers of Isaac will not end when the storm makes its final landfall. Flooding rain and isolated tornadoes will continue to accompany Isaac inland through the South, AccuWeather said in its analysis.
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