Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Isaac, now a hurricane, could dampen Labor Day in Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

He already has made mischief with the Republican National Convention and menaced the Gulf Coast. Will Isaac soak the Labor Day weekend plans of Western Pennsylvanians?

While it's too soon for a pinpoint forecast, there's an outside chance that we're not going to want to be outside for at least part of the weekend.

Several computer models show the storm making landfall in Louisiana or Mississippi, then slowly tracking north before turning east toward the Atlantic by way of the Keystone State.

"It is early," said meteorologist Tom Kines of State College-based AccuWeather. "The path that Isaac takes once it gets inland is still a big question mark."

But, he said, "my gut feeling is that we're going to have to deal with it over the weekend."

He said about half of the computer models run by AccuWeather bring the remnants of the storm up through the Ohio Valley and into Pennsylvania. Then again, he noted, none of the models has done a very good job of forecasting the track of Isaac so far.

"If it's going to affect Pennsylvania, it's probably going to be over the weekend, Saturday or Sunday. Obviously, with it being a tropical system, there's a potential for heavy rain," Mr. Kines said.

The storm is not expected to move quickly after coming ashore, and AccuWeather said a potential exists for "days of flooding rain in some locations if the storm stalls."

In preparation for landfall, the American Red Cross Western Pennsylvania Region said it has deployed 10 volunteers and two emergency response vehicles to Alabama and Florida and placed other local volunteers on alert for deployment if needed.

On the bright side, a long, soaking rain would be welcomed in the Mississippi River basin, where drought has river levels so low that barges are running aground.

National Weather Service meteorologist Rodney Smith agreed that "it's really too early to get a good idea" about Isaac's itinerary. "If it would get there, the remnants might arrive on Sunday."

While not exactly Hurricane Alley, Western Pennsylvania has taken its share of beatings from storms birthed in the tropics. Seven of the eight rainiest days in the region's recorded history have resulted from hurricane remnants.

The soggiest for Pittsburgh was Ivan, which got here in September 2004 with enough juice to deliver 5.95 inches of rain. With remnants of Hurricane Frances having soaked Western Pennsylvania just nine days earlier with 3.6 inches, Ivan caused widespread flooding and damage here.

Last September, Tropical Storm Lee brought extensive flooding to Central and northeastern Pennsylvania and even forced Gov. Tom Corbett to evacuate the governor's mansion in Harrisburg.

The worst natural disaster in the state's history was from the remnants of Hurricane Agnes in June 1972. It killed 48 and caused $2.1 billion in damage, with 68,000 homes destroyed by flooding or fires.

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