Hurricane Isaias

Hurricane Isaias
Category 5 Hurricane
Hurricane Isaias at peak intensity whilst making landfall near Miami on September 8th.
FormedAugust 25, 2020
DissipatedSeptember 12, 2020.
(Remnant low after September 9, 2020.)
Highest winds1-minute sustained:
315 km/h (195 mph)
Lowest pressure905 hPa (mbar); 26.72 inHg
Fatalities2,571 direct, 7,423 indirect
Damage135 billion
Areas affectedLesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Haiti, The Bahamas, Eastern United States, Eastern Canada, southern Greenland
Part of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Isaias was the most intense tropical cyclone on record to strike the USA and is regarded as the worst natural disaster in the country's history. It was also one of the most powerful hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic Ocean in terms of 1-minute sustained winds, with these winds peaking at 195 mph. It was the ninth named storm, fourth hurricane, and the second major hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Isaias struck the Floridian Peninsula on September 1 with maximum sustained winds of 195 mph, Breaking the record set by the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, and Hurricane Dorian for the highest wind speeds of an Atlantic hurricane ever recorded at landfall. Beforehand, Isaias struck Haiti with wind speeds up to 160 MPH, and then later, Isaias went on to strike Grand Bahama and Florida at a stronger intensity. The resultant damage to these islands was catastrophic; most structures were flattened or swept to sea, and at least 203,000 people were left homeless. After its ravages through Florida and the Bahamas, Isaias proceeded along the coasts of the Southeastern United States and Atlantic Canada, leaving behind considerable damage and economic losses in those regions.

Meteorological history


Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

On August 22, 2020, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) identified a tropical wave—an elongated trough of low air pressure—within a monsoon trough over Guinea and Senegal in western Africa. Convective activity associated with the wave was limited by an abundance of Saharan dust in the region. Propagating west over the tropical Atlantic Ocean, the system remained disorganized for several days. On August 25, a defined area of low pressure consolidated at the surface and thunderstorm activity increased. The system acquired sufficient organized convection to be classified as Tropical Depression Thirteen at 15:00 UTC on August 25. At this time the system was situated around 500 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. A deep ridge imparted continued westward movement of the depression, steering it toward the Lesser Antilles. A small cyclone, it soon developed a defined inner-core with an 8 mi (13 km) wide eye-like feature. This marked the system's intensification into a tropical storm, at which time it was assigned the name Isaias by the NHC. Thereafter, moderate wind shear limited further intensification. Rainbands gradually wrapped more around Isaias on August 27–28, though convection remained inconsistent.

Isaias continued moving west-south-westwards and barely missed Barbados, bringing category-3 equivalent winds and heavy rain. It then started moving northwestward toward Saint Vincent. At 10:00 UTC on August 29, Isaias made landfall on the island of Saint Lucia as a tropical storm, briefly disrupting the core of the storm, before entering the Caribbean Sea. At that time, wind shear had died down enough to allow Isaias to strengthen drastically. It was expected to continue northwestwards. however, Isaias made a southernly turn as it neared the Dominican Republic. On September 2nd, Isaias intensified into a Category 5 hurricane as it approached western Haiti; at 18:00 UTC that day, Isaias made landfall in Haiti at a catastrophic Category 5 intensity. However, this land interaction caused Isaias to weaken to a Category 4 system.

Once the system moved north past Haiti, the storm entered an extremely favorable environment. On the next day, the system started to rapidly intensify, reaching Category 5 status again early on September 5th. This strengthening trend came to a halt for the remainder of the day but soon resumed. The system continued strengthening, and on September 7th, Isaias surpassed the 200mph (322 km/h) mark. Originally, Isaias was forecasted to veer northeastwards and not impact the US mainland, however, it started to veer westwards, defying the models. Before this time, hurricane watches and warnings were issued roughly on September 6th. Major evacuations were set in place on September 6th as well, however, this caused massive air traffic and traffic delays all over the Floridian, Bahamas, and Georgian coastlines.

Eventually, as Isaias continued to strengthen whilst heading northwestwards, it made landfall on Andros Island in the Bahamas at wind speeds up to 190mph (306 km/h), the highest landfall wind speed measured. Any structure on the island was completely destroyed, and any inhabitants still remaining on the island had little to no chance of survival. As it continued northwest, it picked up a little bit in intensity, reaching a peak of 195mph (314 km/h). At exactly 16:00 UTC, Isaias made landfall at 195mph (314 km/h) directly over Miami, causing catastrophic damage in the area. 65% of all buildings in Miami was destroyed due to Isaias.

After around a day of causing havoc over the Floridian peninsula, Isaias exited as a category 4. However, shortly after, due to warm water temperatures, it restrengthened into a Category 5 and reaching the 2nd peak of 165mph (266 km/h), and made landfall in North Carolina, causing catastrophic damages to the eastern shores. This as well completely disrupted the wildlife, as it made landfall in a national park.

After Isaias made landfall, it started to be picked up the jet stream and speed up significantly. And on September 9th, Isaias was declared extratropical with sustained category 2 wind speeds. However, due to the large wind field, it continued to cause havoc in Canada, putting over 1 million people out of power. Eventually, the remnants of Isaias dissipated as a weakening extratropical system south of Greenland.

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