Friday morning update
Isaias, now a hurricane approaching the Bahamas, continues to show some mixed messages about how strong it will be as it curves along the Eastern Seaboard early next week.
Overnight, the track forecast from the National Hurricane Center hasn't changed much. But computer models still show a range of timing along that track, with Isaias' arrival in North Carolina potentially ranging from Monday afternoon to late Tuesday.
There are also competing factors playing into its future strengthening. Sustained winds at the heart of the storm, currently at 80 mph, are predicted to ramp up to 100 mph by Saturday morning as it sweeps over the warm waters of the western Atlantic. Then Isaias could level off or weaken slightly as it curves past eastern Florida and aims at the Carolinas due to some disruptive winds in the surrounding environment. Currently, the most likely scenario is a Category 1 hurricane making landfall in eastern North Carolina late Monday, then quickly moving up to New England by late Tuesday or Wednesday.
The best case scenario for the coast would be a weakened tropical storm passing just offshore – it doesn't look like it would dissipate or veer out to sea entirely. A manageable amount of rain reaching inland areas of Virginia could help with the developing drought, but totals are going to be very sensitive to its track and speed.
While we wait and see how this storm continues to evolve over the weekend, it's increasingly clear that eastern North Carolina and eastern Virginia will experience some of its rain and wind early next week.
Thursday evening update
There’s a growing likelihood that Tropical Storm Isaias will be a significant player in our region’s forecast early next week.
The system’s downpours and 60 mph winds collided with Hispaniola on Thursday, and it will continue to strengthen as it churns northwestward across the Bahamas on Friday and Saturday.
While the forecast track isn’t set in stone, it isn’t wildly uncertain at this point. The National Hurricane Center forecast builds off a bevy of computer models showing Isaias curving north after grazing Florida’s Atlantic coastline on Sunday, then arcing northeastward along the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina to New England from Monday into Tuesday.
But while the storm continues to get its act together, the main question now is how strong will it be when it approaches land.
The official NHC forecast from Thursday afternoon shows Isaias maintaining low-end hurricane status from the Bahamas into eastern North Carolina, but stressed that it is subject to more uncertainty than usual.
A fast-moving storm on a track that parallels the coast usually isn’t a scenario that raises major concerns for wind and flooding in inland areas like central Virginia.
Isaias will be steered between a stout high over Bermuda and a trough dipping into the Midwest, which wouldn’t leave much potential for it to veer directly inland or stall.
For Richmond and central Virginia, it’s a question of how much rain will the western side of the system send our way while the coastline takes the brunt.
While the threat of hurricane conditions appear highest for North Carolina’s barrier islands, eastern Virginia could also be in line for hazards depending on the fine details of the track.
A jog westward could put more wind, rain and surge risk into Tidewater and the Eastern Shore, while an eastward shift would be more favorable.
The range of rain possibilities for our area — and scope of other hazards for our neighbors to the east — ought to come into focus over the weekend.
But Isaias could make its presence felt at the coast even before the breezes pick up. Higher swells and rip current risks would reach our nearby beaches over the weekend in advance of the storm, according to the National Weather Service.
Otherwise, fairly typical summertime conditions can be expected here over the weekend: lower 90s and scattered thundershowers.
Look for more updates in the coming days.