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Tropical Cyclone Report

Hurricane Isabel

6 - 19 September 2003

Jack Beven and Hugh Cobb
National Hurricane Center
19 December 2003
Revised: 16 January 2004

Hurricane Isabel was a long-lived Cape Verde hurricane that reached Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. It made landfall near Drum Inlet on the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane. Isabel is considered to be one of the most significant tropical cyclones to affect portions of northeastern North Carolina and east-central Virginia since Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933.

a. Synoptic History

Isabel formed from a tropical wave that moved westward from the coast of Africa on 1 September. Over the next several days, the wave moved slowly westward and gradually became better organized. By 0000 UTC 5 September, there was sufficient organized convection for satellite-based Dvorak intensity estimates to begin. Development continued, and it is estimated that a tropical depression formed at 0000 UTC 6 September, with the depression becoming Tropical Storm Isabel six hours later. The "best track" chart of Isabel is given in Figure 1, with the wind and pressure histories shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3, respectively. The best track positions and intensities are listed in Table 1.

Isabel turned west-northwestward on 7 September and intensified into a hurricane. Strengthening continued for the next two days while Isabel moved between west-northwest and northwest. Isabel turned westward on 10 September and maintained this motion until 13 September on the south side of the Azores-Bermuda High. Isabel strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane on 11 September with maximum sustained winds estimated at 145 kt at 1800 UTC that day. After this peak, the maximum winds remained in the 130-140 kt range until 15 September. During this time, Isabel displayed a persistent 35-45 n mi diameter eye.

Isabel approached a weakness in the western portion of the Azores-Bermuda High, which allowed the hurricane to turn west-northwestward on 13 September, northwestward on 15, September, and north-northwestward on 16 September. The latter motion would continue for the rest of Isabel's life as a tropical cyclone.

Increased vertical wind shear on 15 September caused Isabel to gradually weaken. The system weakened below major hurricane status (96 kt or Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale) on 16 September. It maintained Category 2 status with 85-90 kt maximum winds for the next two days while the overall size of the hurricane increased. Isabel made landfall near Drum Inlet, North Carolina near 1700 UTC 18 September as a Category 2 hurricane, then weakened as it moved across eastern North Carolina. It weakened to a tropical storm over southern Virginia, then lost tropical characteristics as it moved across western Pennsylvania on 19 September. Extratropical Isabel moved northward into Canada and was absorbed into a larger baroclinic system moving eastward across south central Canada early the next day.

b. Meteorological Statistics

Observations in Isabel (Figure 2 and Figure 3) include satellite-based Dvorak technique intensity estimates from the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB), the Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB) and the U. S. Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA). Also included are flight-level and dropwindsonde observations from flights by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the U. S. Air Force Reserve Command, the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, and a Canadian research aircraft. Observations from ships (Table 2), land stations, and data buoys (Table 3) are included where appropriate. Microwave satellite imagery from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the NASA QuikSCAT, and the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites were also useful in tracking Isabel.

The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters made 39 center fixes during Isabel. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters made two formal center fixes and flew seven research missions into the storm. The highest winds measured by the aircraft were 158 kt (Air Force at 700 mb) and 157 kt (NOAA at 8400 ft) between 1700-1730 UTC 13 September. A 156-kt flight-level wind (700 mb) was also observed at 1719 UTC 12 September. Stronger winds were observed on eyewall dropsondes, with a maximum of 203 kt reported at 806 mb (4500 ft) at 1753 UTC 13 September. This is the strongest wind ever observed in an Atlantic hurricane, although it likely does not represent a 1-min average.

Comparison of the aircraft and satellite data makes the peak intensity of Isabel somewhat speculative. Aircraft data on 12 September indicate that Isabel had winds near 140 kt. However, the maximum intensity based on satellite imagery was reached on 11 September before the first reconnaissance mission, and the satellite signature was weaker at the time of the first mission. The maximum intensity estimate of 145 kt on 11 September is based on the aircraft data of 12 September and the stronger satellite signature on the previous day. The minimum central pressure of 915 mb on 11 September has a similar basis.

Isabel's intensity is also somewhat uncertain during 16-18 September. During this time, a large outer eyewall formed, which disrupted the inner core wind structure. Dropsonde data indicated that the usual 90% reduction for 700 mb winds to the surface in the eyewall was not valid, with the actual reductions being closer to 70-75%. Both Air Force and NOAA aircraft measured 118-kt flight-level winds in the northeast eyewall just as Isabel was making landfall, which using the 90% reduction would support 105 kt sustained surface winds. However, using a 75% reduction gives a sustained surface wind of near 90 kt, which is in better agreement with maximum surface winds estimated by a dropsonde (83 kt) and the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer on the NOAA aircraft (90 kt) near the same time. Based on this, the best estimate of the landfall intensity is 90 kt.

Isabel brought hurricane conditions to portions of eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. The highest observed wind on land (Table 3) was sustained at 69 kt with a gust to 85 kt at an instrumented tower near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina at 1622 UTC 18 September. Another tower in Elizabeth City, North Carolina reported 64-kt sustained winds with a gust to 84 kt at 1853 UTC that day. The National Ocean Service (NOS) station at Cape Hatteras reported 68-kt sustained winds with a gust to 83 kt before contact was lost. The Coastal Marine Automated Stations (C-MAN) at Chesapeake Light, Virginia and Duck, North Carolina reported similar winds. Elsewhere in Virginia, Gloucester Point reported 60-kt sustained winds with a gust to 79 kt at 2200 UTC 18 September, while the Norfolk Naval Air Station reported 50-kt sustained winds with a gust to 72 kt at 2100 UTC that day. Unofficial reports from the affected area include a gist of 102 kt at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, a gust of 93 kt from Gwynns Island, Virginia, a gust of 91 kt at Ocracoke, North Carolina, and a gust of 88 kt at New Bern, North Carolina. The wind record from the most seriously affected areas is incomplete, as several observing stations were either destroyed or lost power as Isabel passed.

Isabel brought tropical-storm conditions to a large area from eastern North Carolina northward to the eastern Great Lakes and western New England. The C-MAN station at Thomas Point, Maryland reported 42 kt sustained winds with a gust to 58 kt at 0850 UTC 19 September. Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC reported 39-kt sustained winds with a gust to 50 kt at 0139 UTC that day. Sustained tropical storm-force winds were reported at Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports in New York City, while a gust of 52 kt was reported in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Extratropical Isabel brought gale-force winds to portions of the eastern Great Lakes and southeastern Canada.

Shipping for the most part avoided Isabel. The most significant ship report was from the ZIPR7 (name unknown), which reported 52-kt winds at 1200 UTC 17 September (Table 2). Additionally, NOAA buoy 41002 reported a 10-min average wind of 52 kt with a gust to 70 kt at 0540 UTC 18 September. Two NOAA data buoys broke loose as the storm passed and had to be replaced.

The lowest pressure observed by reconnaissance aircraft was 920 mb at 1712 and 1901 UTC 12 September. The lowest pressures observed on land were unofficial reports of 957 mb at Arrowhead Beach, North Carolina, and 958 mb from a storm chaser in Hobucken, North Carolina. The lowest pressures from official observation sites were 962.8 mb from an instrumented tower in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina at 1645 UTC 18 September, and 963.5 mb at Washington, North Carolina at 1944 UTC that day.

Isabel produced storm surges of 6-8 ft above normal tide levels near the point of landfall along the Atlantic coast of North Carolina. Farther north, storm surge values ranged from 4-6 ft along the Virginia coast, 2-4 ft along the Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey shorelines, and 1-2 ft along the coast of Long Island and in the Long Island sound.

In the North Carolina estuaries, storm surge values were generally 4-6 ft above normal tide levels over the eastern portions of the Pamlico Sound and most of the Albemarle Sound. Values of 6-10 ft above normal tide levels were observed in the western end of the Pamlico Sound with a maximum value of 10.5 ft reported on the Neuse River in Craven County (Table 3).

Storm surges of 3-5 ft above normal tide levels were observed over the central portions of the Chesapeake Bay and 5-6 ft over the southern portion of the Bay in the vicinity of Hampton Roads, Virginia. Surge values of 6-8 ft above normal levels were observed in the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland and in most of the main stem rivers draining into the Chesapeake Bay. Even higher surges occurred at the heads of the rivers, with values of 8.5 ft above normal levels at the Richmond City locks along the James River in Virginia and nearly 8 ft along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Water levels exceeded previous record levels established in the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933 in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Annapolis.

Storm surges in Delaware Bay were generally 3-4 ft at the mouth of the bay and 5-6.5 ft at the head of the bay and along the Delaware River in the vicinity of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Rainfall from Hurricane Isabel averaged 4-7 in over large portions of eastern North Carolina, east-central Virginia and Maryland. Rainfall totals of 8-12 in with locally higher amounts occurred in the Shenandoah valley in northern Virginia. Upper Sherando, Virginia, reported a storm total of 20.20 in (Table 4). Lesser amounts in the 2-4 in range occurred elsewhere over eastern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula.

One tornado occurred in association with Hurricane Isabel. It touched down in the Ocean View section of Norfolk, Virginia at approximately 2200 UTC 18 September and was verified only by visual confirmation from law enforcement officials. No Fujita scale rating has been assigned to the tornado since its damage could not be distinguished from the extensive hurricane-related wind damage in the area.

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

Isabel is directly responsible for 16 deaths: 10 in Virginia, and 1 each in North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Florida. The deaths in Florida and Rhode Island were drownings in high surf generated by Isabel. Isabel was indirectly responsible for 34 deaths: 22 in Virginia, 6 in Maryland, 2 in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and 1 each in New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

Isabel caused widespread wind and storm surge damage in coastal eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. Storm surge damage also occurred along Chesapeake Bay and the associated river estuaries, while wind damage occurred over portions of the remaining area from southern Virginia northward to New York. The current estimate for insured property damage is $1.685 billion - $925 million in Virginia, $410 million in Maryland, $170 million in North Carolina, $80 million in Pennsylvania, $45 million in New York, $25 million in New Jersey, $20 million in Delaware, and $10 million in West Virginia. The total damage for Isabel is estimated to be about twice that of the insured damage, or $3.37 billion.

d. Forecast and Warning Critique

The track of Isabel was in general well forecast. Average official track errors (with the number of cases in parentheses) for Hurricane Isabel were 22 (51), 39 (49), 52 (47), 60 (45), 80 (41), 104 (37), and 146 (33) n mi for the 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 96, and 120 h forecasts, respectively1. These errors are much lower than the average official track errors for the 10-yr period 1993-20022 (45, 81, 116, 150, 225, 282, and 374 n mi, respectively) (Table 5) - 50-65 % smaller than the average forecast errors at all times. The track forecasts also showed tremendous skill when compared to the errors of the Climatology-Persistence (CLP5) model (32, 68, 109, 148, 231, 350, and 537 n mi for the 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 96, and 120 h forecasts, respectively) - including an almost 75% improvement at 120 h. Overall, the official track forecasts had smaller errors than the dynamical models. However, three ensemble methods that combine the forecasts of the dynamical models (GUNS, GUNA, and FSSE) had smaller errors than the official forecasts.

There appear to be three primary reasons for the excellent track forecasts. First, Isabel was a large and strong hurricane, and this type of tropical cyclone is generally easier to forecast.

Second, Isabel moved slowly through the central and eastern Atlantic in a relatively predictable steering pattern. While an initial northwestward motion was not as well forecast as other parts of the track, the forecasts did correctly anticipate that Isabel would turn westward and maintain that course for several days.

Third, when Isabel reached the western Atlantic, synoptic surveillance missions began using both the NOAA Gulfstream-IV jet and Air Force Reserve aircraft. These mission helped resolve a complex steering flow pattern around Isabel. Preliminary estimates from the Hurricane Research Division indicate that the synoptic surveillance data improved the track forecasts of the NWS Global Forecast System model (AVNO in Table 5) by as much as 40% at 120 h. Qualitative examination of forecasts from the NOGAPS (NGPS) and UKMET models (UKM) also suggest forecast track improvement due to the data.

The landfall forecasts were exceptionally accurate. The track forecast errors verifying at 1800 UTC 18 September (1 h after landfall) had errors of 6, 12, 6, 16, 31, 86, and 118 n mi for the 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 96, and 120 h forecasts, respectively.

The intensity forecasts were less accurate than the track forecasts. Average official intensity errors were 7, 11, 14, 17, 22, 25, and 27 kt for the 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 96, and 120 h forecasts, respectively, which are larger than the average official intensity errors over the 10-yr period 1993-2002 (6, 10, 13, 15, 19, 21, and 22 kt, respectively). However, the intensity forecasts showed skill when compared to intensity climatology and persistence, which had errors of 8, 13, 18, 23, 29, 32, and 35 kt for the 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 96, and 120 h forecasts, respectively. The greatest contributors to the intensity forecast errors included 1) underforecasting how quickly Isabel would intensify over the eastern Atlantic, and 2) overforecasting how strong Isabel would remain as it reached a less favorable environment in the western Atlantic.

Table 6 lists the watches and warnings associated with Hurricane Isabel. The accurate track forecasts and the large size of Isabel led to longer than normal watch and warning lead times. A hurricane watch was issued for the landfall area 50 h before the center made landfall. A hurricane warning was issued 38 h before landfall.

Acknowledgements

Much of the data from the affected areas were provided by the NWS Weather Forecast Offices at Wilmington, Morehead City, and Raleigh, North Carolina, Wakefield, Sterling, and Blacksburg, Virginia, Mount Holly, New Jersey, Upton, New York, and Pittsburgh and State College, Pennsylvania. NOAA buoy and C-MAN data were provided by the National Data Buoy Center. NOS data were provided by the NOAA National Ocean Service. Remote Automated Weather Stations (RAWS) data were provided by the National Interagency Fire Center. USGS data were provided by the NWISWeb web site. Other data were provided by the Weather Underground web site.

1All forecast verifications in this report include the depression stage of the cyclone. National Hurricane Center verifications presented in these reports prior to 2003 did not include the depression stage.

2Errors given for the 96 and 120 h periods are averages over the two-year period 2001-2002.



Table 1: Best track for Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 September 2003.
Date/Time
(UTC)
PositionPressure
(mb)
Wind Speed
(kt)
Stage
Lat.
(°N)
Lon.
(°W)
 06 / 0000 13.8 31.4 1009 30 tropical depression
 06 / 0600 13.9 32.7 1005 35 tropical storm
 06 / 1200 13.6 33.9 1003 40 "
 06 / 1800 13.4 34.9 1000 45 "
 07 / 0000 13.5 35.8 994 55 "
 07 / 0600 13.9 36.5 991 60 "
 07 / 1200 14.4 37.3 987 65 hurricane
 07 / 1800 15.2 38.5 984 70 "
 08 / 0000 15.8 39.7 976 80 "
 08 / 0600 16.5 40.9 966 95 "
 08 / 1200 17.1 42.0 952 110 "
 08 / 1800 17.6 43.1 952 110 "
 09 / 0000 18.2 44.1 948 115 "
 09 / 0600 18.9 45.2 948 115 "
 09 / 1200 19.4 46.3 948 115 "
 09 / 1800 20.0 47.3 948 115 "
 10 / 0000 20.5 48.3 952 110 "
 10 / 0600 20.9 49.4 952 110 "
 10 / 1200 21.1 50.4 948 115 "
 10 / 1800 21.1 51.4 942 120 "
 11 / 0000 21.2 52.3 935 125 "
 11 / 0600 21.3 53.2 935 125 "
 11 / 1200 21.4 54.0 925 135 "
 11 / 1800 21.5 54.8 915 145 "
 12 / 0000 21.6 55.7 920 140 "
 12 / 0600 21.7 56.6 920 140 "
 12 / 1200 21.6 57.4 920 140 "
 12 / 1800 21.7 58.2 920 140 "
 13 / 0000 21.8 59.1 925 135 "
 13 / 0600 21.9 60.1 935 130 "
 13 / 1200 22.1 61.0 935 135 "
 13 / 1800 22.5 62.1 932 140 "
 14 / 0000 22.9 63.3 935 135 "
 14 / 0600 23.2 64.6 939 135 "
 14 / 1200 23.5 65.8 935 135 "
 14 / 1800 23.9 67.0 933 140 "
 15 / 0000 24.3 67.9 937 130 "
 15 / 0600 24.5 68.8 940 125 "
 15 / 1200 24.8 69.4 946 120 "
 15 / 1800 25.3 69.8 949 115 "
 16 / 0000 25.7 70.2 952 105 "
 16 / 0600 26.3 70.5 955 100 "
 16 / 1200 26.8 70.9 959 95 "
 16 / 1800 27.4 71.2 959 95 "
 17 / 0000 28.1 71.5 957 95 "
 17 / 0600 28.9 71.9 957 95 "
 17 / 1200 29.7 72.5 957 90 "
 17 / 1800 30.6 73.0 955 90 "
 18 / 0000 31.5 73.5 953 90 "
 18 / 0600 32.5 74.3 956 90 "
 18 / 1200 33.7 75.2 956 90 "
 18 / 1800 35.1 76.4 958 85 "
 19 / 0000 36.7 77.7 969 65 "
 19 / 0600 38.6 78.9 988 50 tropical storm
 19 / 1200 40.9 80.3 997 35 extratropical
 19 / 1800 43.9 80.9 1000 30 "
 20 / 0000 48.0 81.0 1000 25 "
 20 / 0600     absorbed by extratropical low
 11 / 1800 21.5 54.8 915 145 minimum pressure
 18 / 1700 34.9 76.2 957 90 landfall at Drum Inlet, North Carolina


Table 2: Selected ship reports with winds of at least 34 kt for Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 September 2003.
Ship Name or Call SignDate/Time (UTC)Lat.
(°N)
Lon.
(°W)
Wind dir/speed (deg/kt)Pressure (mb)
Duncan Island17/ 030027.468.7160/42 1007.5 
Duncan Island17/ 090029.167.9160/45 1010.0 
ZIPR717/ 090032.068.3110/45 1010.7 
ZIPR717/ 120030.267.4150/52 1011.6 
Sealand Hawaii17/ 180031.068.5130/40 1010.2 
Galveston Bay17/ 180033.476.7020/37 1010.8 
Oriental Bay19/ 000035.573.1140/37 1010.6 
P&O Ned Lloyd Pegasus19/ 030034.774.8190/37 1010.5 
P&ONed Lloyd Piraeus19/ 060038.972.9160/45 1015.3 
James R. Barker19/ 120042.281.1060/42 1001.0 


Table 3: Selected surface observations for Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 September 2003.
Minimum
Sea-level
Pressure
Maximum Surface Wind Speed
(kt)
LocationDate/
Time
(UTC)
Press.
(mb)
Date/
Timea
(UTC)
Sust.
Windb
(kts)
Peak
Gust (kts)
Storm
Surgec
(ft)
Storm
Tided
(ft)
Rain
(storm total)
(in)
South Carolina
Springmaid Pier  18/1545 24 39    
North Carolina
Alligator River NWR RAWS  18/1900 50    3.75 
Atlantic Beach (Clemson/UF Tower)18/1645 962.8 18/1558 55 67    
Back Island RAWS  18/1813  53   1.65 
Beaufort RAWS  18/1815  64   5.64 
Beaufort (NOS)     5.8 2.5  
Burlington (KBUY)    48    
Cape Hatteras (Clemson/UF Tower)18/1644 968.2 18/1622 69 85    
Cape Hatteras Pier NOSf18/1518 974.0 18/1518 68 83 7.7 5.6  
Caswell Gamelands RAWS  18/2017  46   1.95 
Cherry Point (KNKT)18/1840 968.2 18/1818  62   5.24 
Clinton (KCTZ)    40    
Craven Co. (Neuse river)      10.5  
Duke Forest RAWS  18/1907  53   1.70 
Duck Corps of EngineersPier NOSe18/1918 984.0 18/2100 55 72 7.8 4.7 4.72 
Elizabeth City (KECG)  18/1543 51e 64e   2.72 
Elizabeth City (Clemson/UF Tower)18/1940 981.9 18/1852 64 84    
Elizabethtown  18/2320 22 43   2.26 
Erwin-Dunn (KHRJ)    38    
Fayetteville (KFAY)   35 50    
Fort Bragg (KFBG)    52    
Fort Bragg RAWS  18/2007  48   1.33 
Franklinton (KLHZ)    39    
Goldsboro (KGSB)   35 51    
Greensboro (KGSO)    40    
Greens Cross RAWS  18/1708  50e   6.29 
Greenville (KPGV)  18/1855 34 44   5.75 
Henderson (KHNZ)    39    
Hoffman Forest RAWS  18/1509  50   2.35 
Laurinburg (KMEB)    35    
Lumberton (KLBT)  18/1921 32 45   3.39 
Manteo (KMQI)18/1743 982.4 18/1843 44 68    
Nature Conservancy RAWS  18/1658  54   1.91 
New Bern (KEWN)  18/1608  50e    
New River (KNCA)18/1756 981.7 18/1556 39 56   2.02 
Newport (KMHX)18/1730 968.9 18/1800  46   5.87 
Oregon Inlet Marina NOS     5.4 4.7  
Pocosin Lake NWR RAWS  18/1823  64   5.94 
Raleigh (KRDU)    39    
Rocky Mount (KRWI)   35 54    
Rocky Mount RAWS  18/2113  52e   4.20 
Roanoke Rapidse (KRZZ)  18/2147 38 55    
Sanford (KTTA)    43    
Smithfield (KJNX)    34    
Sunny Point RAWS  18/2158  51   2.09 
Turnbull Creek RAWS  18/2313  41   2.19 
Washington (KOCW)18/1944 963.5 18/1803 37 49    
Wilmington (KILM)18/1843 990.5 18/2143 39 51   1.98 
Wilmington (Clemson/UF Tower)18/1730 990.8 18/1315  43    
Virginia
Back Bay NWR RAWS  18/1935 38 53   4.12 
Blacksburg (WFO)  19/0120  34    
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel NOS18/2154 992.4 18/2048 52 64 7.5 4.8  
Colonial Beach NOSe     5.4 3.7 (6.5)h  
Culpeper (KCJR)19/0303 995.0       
Danville (KDAN)  18/1922  45    
Dulles Airport (KIAD)19/0359 997.6 19/0122 32 42   1.96 
Fort Belvoir (KDAA)       2.32 
Fredericksburg (KEZF)       2.79 
Gloucester Point NOSe     8.3 6.4  
Gloucester Point (VIMS)  18/2200 60 79    
Great Dismal Swamp RAWS  18/1945  39    
Kingsmill NOSe     6.6 4.3  
Kiptopeake NOS  18/2342 39 60 6.5   
Langley AFB (KLFI)18/2348 991.9 18/1808 46 66   2.67 
Leesburg (KJYO)  19/0444  42    
Lewisetta NOSe19/0012 997.3 19/0100 46 59 3.7 3.0  
Manassas (KHEF)19/0335 997.0       
Melfa (KMFV)18/2102 1000.0       
Money Point NOS  18/2318 38 52 8.3 5.7  
Newport Newse (KPHF)18/2237 990.2 18/1756 38 57   3.16 
Norfolk Airporte (KORF)18/2151 990.2 18/2049 41 64   2.50 
Norfolk N.A.S. (KNGU)  18/2110 50 72   4.21 
Oceana N.A.S. (KNTU)18/2056 990.9 18/2056 48 60    
Portsmouth18/2225 987.2       
Quantico (KNYG)19/0355 996.8 19/0322 47 67    
Roanoke (KRNK)  18/2143  38    
Rappahannock Light NOS18/2354 995.4 18/2318  60    
Richmond (KRIC)  19/0013 33 63   4.32 
Scotland NOSe     6.8 4.8  
Sewells Point NOS18/2130 991.4 18/1642 50 64 7.9 5.6  
Wakefield (KAKQ)       5.76 
Wallops Island (KWAL)19/0012 1003.1 18/1747 43 54   0.80 
Wachapreague NOSe18/2300 1001.8    5.5 2.5  
Wakefield WFO       5.66 
Washington Reagan Airport (KDCA)19/0359 999.3 19/0139 39 50   2.31 
Windmill Point NOS     3.8   
District of Columbia
National Academy of Science (DCNet)   19/ N/A 62    
Washington NOS     7.9   
West Virginia
Martinsburg19/0654 997.3 19/0318 26 40    
Petersburg (W99)19/0537 995.0       
Maryland
Andrews AFB (KADW)  18/2051 33 60    
Annapolis NOS     7.2 6.3  
Baltimore NOS     8.2 7.3  
Baltimore (KBWI)19/0358 1001.4 19/0211 38 48   3.21 
Black NWR RAWS  18/2227  40   1.42 
Cambridge NOSe19/0154 1003.0 18/2054 37 49 6.2 5.2 2.20 
Chesapeake City NOS     5.7 4.9  
Frederick  19/0543  43    
Hagerstown (KHGR)19/0548 998.6 18/2328 34 45    
Maryland Science Center(KDMH)19/0301 1002.4       
Ocean City (KOXB)18/2257 1006.1 18/2252 36 46 6.5  1.97 
Patuxent River (KNHK)19/0355 999.0 19/0355 48 60    
Salisbury (KSBY)19/0331 1005.1 18/2009 32 44   2.08 
Silver Springs (DCNet)  19/ N/A  72    
Solomons Island NOSe19/0018 1000.7 19/0106 45 56    
Tolchester Beach NOS19/0354 1003.2 19/0124  38 7.9 6.9  
Delaware
Brandywine Shoal NOS19/0424 1007.3 19/0742  54    
Delaware City NOS19/0630 1005.6 19/0606 34 47 8.62 5.42  
Dover AFB (KDOV)  19/0419  53    
Georgetown (KGED)  19/0613  52   1.74 
Lewes NOS19/0336 1006.6 18/2024 46 54 6.51 3.07  
Prime Hook NWR RAWS  18/2127  44   1.06 
Reedy Point NOS     8.66 5.00  
Wilmington (KILG)  19/0720  46   1.46 
New Jersey
Atlantic City (KACY)  19/0034  42    
Atlantic City USGS19/0300 1011.9 19/0100  46    
Barnegat Light USGS19/0500 1014.6 19/1930  39    
Burlington NOS19/0706 1010.4    10.6 6.5  
Cape May NOS19/0500 1008.1 18/2124  47 6.5 3.1  
Cape May USGS19/0100 1005.2 18/2100 34 53    
Forsythe NWR RAWS  19/0827  34   0.31 
Keansburg USGS19/0600 1014.6 19/0100  45    
Millville (KMIV)  19/0046  48    
Newark (KEWR)19/0757 1013.9 19/0619 28 38   0.66 
Point Pleasant USGS19/0500 1014.6 19/0100  40    
Sandy Hook NOS19/0736 1014.2 19/0142  39    
Ship John Shoal NOS19/0518 1007.1 19/0206 47 62 8.0 4.7  
Tacony-Palmyra Bridge NOS     9.9 5.8  
Trenton (KTNT)  19/0304  38    
Wildwood (KWWD)  19/0835  41   1.30 
Wrightstown  19/0337  47    
Pennsylvania
Allentown (KABE)  19/0907  41    
Altoona (KAOO)19/0804 998.7 19/0429  37    
Capital City19/0513 1003.0 19/0530  50    
Clearfield (KFIG)19/0926 1000.3 19/0604  35    
Hazelton (KFET)        
Lancaster (KLNS)19/0634 1004.4 19/0637  46    
Middletown19/0509 1003.0 19/0517  52    
Mt Pocono (KMPO)    40    
Philadelphia (KPHL)  19/0747  43   1.14 
Philadelphia NOS19/0530 1010.6 18/2312  37 9.5 5.4  
Reading (KRDG)  19/0735  43    
Scranton Wilkes-Barre (KAVP)    35    
Sherburne RAWS  19/1808  41    
Williamsport (KIPT)19/0843 1003.0 19/0841  45    
York (KTHV)19/0603 1002.7 19/0601  38    
New York
Binghamton (KBGM)    39    
Buffalo (KBUF)  19/2012  35    
Farmingdale (KFMG)19/0902 1016.3 19/0725 28 36   0.00 
Monticello (KMSV)    38    
New York Kennedy Airport (KJFK)19/0815 1015.2 19/0802 35 43   0.16 
New York LaGuardia Airport (KLGA)19/0827 1014.9 19/0736 35 44   0.26 
Saranac Lake (KSLK)  19/1827  38    
Shinnecock Inlet  18/2330 30 45    
Syracuse (KSYR)    35    
Utica (KUCA)    37    
Watertown (KART)  19/1605  35    
Wellsville (KELZ)  19/0958  35    
Vermont
Burlington (KBTV)  19/1940  40    
Rutland (KRUT)  19/1535  35    
Canada
Burlington    39    
Hamilton    36    
Long Point   37 42    
Point Petre    43    
Port Colburne   35 44    
Toronto Island    43    
Toronto Pearson Airport (CYYZ)  19/1350  39    
Buoy/CMAN
NOAA Buoy 4100118/0900 997.7 18/0150 40g 51    
NOAA Buoy 4100218/0800 978.8 18/0540 52g 70    
NOAA Buoy 44004  18/2331  35    
NOAA Buoy 4400919/0000 1006.6 19/2200 38 51    
NOAA Buoy 4401418/1900 995.5 18/1250 43g 60    
NOAA Buoy 4401719/0900 1018.5 18/2300 29 36    
NOAA Buoy 4402519/0800 1015.0 19/0100 30 38    
NOAA Buoy 4500519/1300 1002.6 19/2100 27g 35    
NOAA Buoy 4500819/1700 1002.6 20/0030 28 34    
NOAA Buoy 4501219/1700 1004.2 19/1220 32g 41    
Canadian Buoy 45135   34 42    
Canadian Buoy 45139   32 40    
Canadian Buoy 45160   32 40    
Ambrose Tower (ALSN7)19/0700 1014.1 19/2350 44g 52    
Chesapeake Light (CHLV2)18/2100 990.6 18/2140 65g 83    
Cape Lookout (CKLN7)18/1600 964.9 18/1530 60g 79    
Dunkirk (DBLN6)19/1500 1000.3 19/1900 31 39    
Diamond Shoals Light (DSLN7)18/1600 970.5       
Duck (DUCN7)18/1900 984.4 18/1930 66>g 82    
Frying Pan Shoals (FPSN7)18/1700 993.4 18/1610 63g 77    
Lake St Clair (LSCM4)19/1400 1004.1 19/2100 31 36    
South Bass Island (SBOI1)19/1400 1003.8 19/2050 32g 36    
Thomas Point Light (TPLM2)19/0500 1001.1 19/0850 42g 58    
Unofficial Observations:
South Carolina
Little River  18/1723  36    
Loris EMS  18/1742  37   1.34 
Myrtle Beach Pavilion  18/1638  34    
Pawleys Island  18/1624  35    
North Carolina
Arrowhead Beach18/2030 957.0       
Atlantic Beach (Sudduth)18/1644 967.5 18/1531 48 59    
Battleship    43    
Cape Lookoute  18/1415  71    
Carolina Beach  18/1405  45    
Cary (Weather Underground)18/2209 988.0 18/2149  43   1.22 
Cedar Island  18/1440  75    
Clayton (Weather Underground)19/0102 990.4 18/1752  40    
Edenton      7.0  
Elizabeth City      5.0  
Harkers Island Bridge  18/1430  85    
Hobucken (Leonard)18/1750 958.0       
Holly Shelter  18/2020  53    
Isabelle Homes Bridge (Cape Fear River)  18/1330  50    
Kitty Hawk18/1925 984.5 18/ N/A  102    
Kure Beach Pier  18/1605  41    
Kyre Beach La Que Center  18/1300  48    
Lillington (Weather Underground)  18/1808  37    
New Bern (Weather Underground)18/1912 970.1 18/1327 80 88    
Ocean Isle  18/1600  50    
Ocracoke  18/1545  91    
Plymouth  18/1805  83    
Southport NC State Pilot  18/2334  56    
Southport Elementary School    46    
Southport Brunswick County Airport  18/1600  44   1.95 
Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal  18/2020  45    
Surf City (Weather Underground)18/1846 991.8 18/1206 44 75    
Topsail Beach  18/1430  50    
Trenton  18/1912  70    
Whiteville Chamber of Commerce    43   4.51 
Wilmington (NC State Port)  18/1400  57    
Wilmington (Weather Underground)18/1730 994.1 18/1800  36    
Wilmington (WECT TV)    46   2.24 
Wilson (Weather Underground)18/2110 976.5 18/1955  47    
Wrightsville Beach Police  18/1500  39    
Wrightsville Beach FD  18/1230  52    
Wrightsville Beach Oceanic Pier  18/2128  49    
Virginia
Boone  18/2241  40    
Chase City  18/2010  46    
Chesapeake Bay Bridge  18/2125 62 76    
Chincoteague  18/2315  41    
Chincoteague CGS    62    
Chincoteague (Weather Underground)18/2311 1004.3 18/2231 36 40    
Dublin  19/0220  49    
Dunnsville      6.0  
Five Forks    70    
Gwynns Island  19/0042  93    
Hampton  18/2130 58 80    
Hillsville  19/0240  37    
Hopewell      8.0  
Hot Springs  19/0020  38    
Jefferson  19/0220  35    
Norfolk Fred Heutte Center  18/1944  61   4.88 
Oak Hall    50    
Onley    54    
Parksley    57    
Portsmouth (WRS)  18/1944  48    
Reedville    87    
Richmond (WWBT-TV)    55    
Richmond County   42j 57j    
Smith Island    72    
Smithfield     10.75j 8.0j  
Tappahannock      5.5  
West Point      9.0j  
White Stone (NNWS)e  18/ N/A  55    
Williamsburg (Weather Underground)18/2247 993.5 18/1917  50    
Yorktown (Weather Underground)e  18/1820  41    
Maryland
Frederick (Weather Underground)19/0705 1001.2 18/ N/A  42    
Hagerstown (Weather Underground)  19/0500  55   2.89 
Hurlock    54    
Millersville (Weather Underground)19/ N/A 1001.3 18/ N/A  41   2.14 
Montgomery Village (Weather Underground)19/0344 1000.3 19/0300  43   2.30 
Ocean Pines    52    
Perry Hall (Weather Underground)19/0430 1000.9 19/0350  37   0.68 
Pocomoke    43    
New Jersey
Berlin (Weather Underground)19/0525 1010.0 19/0540  42    
Buena (Weather Underground)  19/0030  42    
Oceanport (Weather Underground)19/0649 1013.8 18/2209  39    
Toms River (Weather Underground)19/0700 1015.5 18/2200  37    
Williamstown (Weather Underground)  19/0740  53    
Pennsylvania
Aston (Weather Underground)19/0615 1010.0 19/0030  34    
Elk Lake    40    
Exeter    37    
Gettysburg  19/0701  50    
Jermyn    40    
Kinzer (Weather Underground)e  19/0600  39    
Lancaster (Weather Underground)  19/0800  40    
Lancaster (WGAL)  19/0608  63    
Millersville (University)  19/0800  44    
Moscow    41    
New Holland  19/0742  47    
Perkasie (Weather Underground)  19/0845  35    
Plymouth    34    
Rock Spring  19/0723  40    
Saylorsburg (Weather Underground)  19/0744  34    
Shiremanstown  19/0645  59    
New York
Hornell    39    
Liverpool    38    
Lowville (Weather Underground)19/1916 1008.4 19/1847  37    
Madison    38    
Marathan    36    
Rochester (Weather Underground)19/1602 1003.3 19/1446  34    
Romulus    35    
Vermont
Cambridge  19/1720  45    
Lincoln (Weather Underground)  19/1231  44    
Mt Mansfield  19/1805  72    
Pleasant Valley  19/1728  48    
Salisbury  19/1620  43    
aDate/time is for sustained wind when both sustained and gust are listed.
b Except as noted, sustained wind averaging periods for C-MAN and land-based ASOS reports are 2 min; buoy averaging periods are 8 min; NOS stations averaging periods are 6 min; RAWS stations report 10 min average sustained winds.
cStorm surge is water height above normal astronomical tide level.
d Storm tide is water height above National Geodetic Vertical Datum (1929 mean sea level).
eIncomplete record - more extreme values may have occurred
fStation destroyed - more extreme values may have occurred
g10-min average
hSubsequent Survey Storm Surge value
i15-min average
jEstimated


Table 4: Selected storm rainfalls (in) from Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 September 2003.
StationStorm-total Rainfall (in)
Virginia
Amelia (Amelia)5.50
Apple Orchard Mountain (Botetourt)8.76
Ash RAWS4.33
Ashland (Hanover)5.20
Bent Gap (Nelson)6.68
Big Meadows (Madison)8.60
Big Meadows (Page)11.10
Blackstone (Nottoway)7.00
Bowling Green (Caroline)4.22
Bumpass (Louisa)5.45
Carson (Dinwiddie)6.20
Cartersville (Goochland)4.91
Charles City (Charles City)4.90
Chester (Chesterfield)5.50
Chesterfield (Chesterfield)5.80
Craigsville (Augusta)3.44
Crewe (Nottoway)5.10
Dale Enterprise (Rockingham)4.17
Devils Knob (Nelson)10.70
Emporia (Greenville)6.41
Farmville (Prince Edward)5.00
Glen Allen (Henrico)5.50
Green Bay (Prince Edward)4.76
Grottoes (Rockingham)6.25
Hogback Mountain (Warren)7.55
Homeville (Sussex)7.10
Hood (Madison)4.00
Hopewell6.00
Ida (Page)8.59
Irish Gap (Rockbridge)6.96
James River NWR RAWS5.42
Jordan's Point (Prince George)5.67
Lewis Mountain (Page)6.82
Linden (Warren)4.23
Long Run (Rockingham)7.08
Lynnwood (Rockingham)5.48
Madison/Green Line (Madison)4.36
Madison (Madison)4.10
Mathews Arm (Page)8.40
McDowell (Highland)4.76
Mechanicsville (Hanover)4.50
Mills Creek Dam (Augusta)9.16
Montebello 1SSE (Nelson)6.10
Monterey (Highland)4.24
Montpelier4.00
Mustoe (Highland)3.20
Nethers (Madison)4.23
Newland (Richmond)3.50
New Market (Shenandoah)4.50
Newport News3.70
Orange (Orange)3.42
Paineville (Amelia)4.17
Petersberg5.59
Portsmouth4.04
Powhatan (Powhatan)5.00
Prince George (Prince George)6.00
Richmond (WBBT TV)6.88
Richmond (WTVR-TV)4.01
Robinson Hollow (Augusta)7.24
Ruther Glen (Caroline)4.22
Sandston (Henrico)5.08
Sherando (Augusta)8.32
Short Pump (Henrico)3.78
Skyland (Page)9.54
Somerset (Orange)4.73
Sperryville (Rappahannock)3.62
Stuarts Draft (Augusta)6.50
Suffolk4.79
Swift Run (Rockingham)6.90
The Plains (Fauquier)3.45
Toano (James City)10.60
Toms Branch (Augusta)7.12
Upper Sherando (Augusta)20.20
Urbanna (Middlesex)7.00
Watkins Landing (Powhatan)4.00
Waynesboro (Augusta)6.11
West Point (King William)3.86
Williamsburg4.50
Woodstock (Shenandoah)3.50


Table 5: Preliminary forecast evaluation (heterogeneous sample) for Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 September 2003. Forecast errors (n mi) are followed by the number of forecasts in parentheses. Errors smaller than the NHC official forecast are shown in bold-face type. Verification includes the depression stage, but does not include the extratropical stage, if any.
Forecast TechniquePeriod (hours)
122436487296120
CLP532 (52) 68 (50) 109 (48) 148 (46) 231 (42) 350 (38) 537 (34) 
A90E29 (52) 60 (50) 93 (48) 144 (46) 235 (42) 373 (38) 503 (34) 
A98E29 (52) 59 (50) 92 (48) 142 (46) 238 (42) 384 (38) 492 (34) 
A9UK28 (24) 52 (23) 70 (22) 99 (21) 151 (19)   
LBAR26 (51) 49 (49) 75 (47) 104 (45) 163 (41) 205 (37) 227 (33) 
BAMD26 (52) 43 (50) 66 (48) 93 (46) 156 (42) 190 (38) 236 (34) 
BAMM29 (52) 52 (50) 79 (48) 110 (46) 169 (42) 190 (38) 223 (34) 
BAMS41 (52) 72 (50) 101 (48) 130 (46) 201 (42) 254 (38) 300 (34) 
COAI20 (27)35 (25)50 (23)65 (21) 100 (17)   
COAL*31 (14) 38 (13)52 (12) 60 (11) 95 ( 9)   
COEI20 (14)42 (14) 65 (14) 75 (12)    
COCE*22 ( 8) 33 ( 8)53 ( 7) 71 ( 6)    
AF1I31 (47) 51 (45) 78 (43) 103 (41) 157 (37)   
AFW1*56 (24) 75 (23) 83 (22) 105 (21) 144 (19)   
GFNI21 (44)35 (42)45 (40)63 (38) 109 (34)   
GFDN*24 (23) 36 (22)46 (21)52 (20)97 (18)   
GFDI26 (51) 45 (49) 60 (47) 69 (43) 97 (39) 117 (35) 149 (31) 
GFDL*22 (50) 39 (48) 54 (46) 67 (44) 95 (40) 111 (36) 143 (32)
UKMI23 (49) 41 (47) 57 (45) 67 (43) 88 (39) 111 (35) 154 (31) 
UKM*31 (25) 47 (24) 60 (23) 73 (22) 94 (20) 119 (18) 145 (16)
NGPI21 (52)39 (50) 58 (48) 78 (46) 129 (42) 192 (37) 250 (33) 
NGPS*25 (51) 36 (49)50 (47)63 (45) 105 (41) 159 (37) 215 (33) 
AVNI25 (49) 41 (47) 58 (45) 79 (43) 123 (39) 155 (35) 204 (31) 
AVNO*29 (50) 43 (48) 57 (46) 75 (44) 123 (40) 154 (36) 191 (32) 
AEMI15 ( 8)39 ( 8) 73 ( 7) 112 ( 6) 202 ( 3)   
AEMN*16 (8)32 ( 7)49 ( 6)84 ( 5) 160 ( 3) 205 ( 1)  
GUNS18 (49)32 (47)45 (45)52 (43)72 (39)86 (34)93 (30)
GUNA19 (49)32 (47)43 (45)53 (43)75 (39)97 (34)114 (30)
FSSE18 (24)32 (23)44 (22)51 (21)72 (19)  
OFCI24 (50) 42 (48) 54 (46) 64 (44) 85 (40) 108 (36) 157 (32) 
OFCL22 (51) 39 (49) 52 (47) 60 (45) 80 (41) 104 (37) 146 (33) 
NHC Official (1993-2002 mean)45 (2985) 81 (2726) 116 (2481) 150 (2230) 225 (1819) 282 (265) 374 (216) 

*Output from these models was unavailable at forecast time.


Table 6: Watch and warning summary for Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 September 2003.
Date/TimeActionLocation
16/1500Hurricane Watch IssuedLittle River Inlet, S.C. Chincoteague Virginia including Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, the lower Chesapeake Bay south of North Beach Maryland, and the tidal Potomac. 
16/1500Tropical Storm Watch IssuedSouth Santee River SC to Little River Inlet, SC 
16/2100Tropical Storm Watch IssuedNorth of Chincoteague, VA to Little Egg Inlet, NJ including Delaware Bay. 
17/0300Hurricane Warning IssuedCape Fear North Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border including Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. 
17/0300Tropical Storm Warning IssuedLittle River Inlet, SC to Cape Fear, NC 
17/0900Hurricane Warning extended northwardNorth Carolina-Virginia border to Chincoteague including the Chesapeake Bay south of Smith Point. 
17/0900Tropical Storm Watch extended northwardLittle Egg Inlet, NJ to Sandy Hook, NJ 
17/1500Hurricane Watch changed to Tropical Storm warningSouth Santee River, SC to Cape Fear, NC and Chincoteague, VA to Sandy Hook, NJ including Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay north of Smith Point including the tidal Potomac. 
18/0900Tropical Storm warning extended eastwardSandy Hook, NJ to Moriches Inlet, NY 
18/2100Hurricane Warning changed to Tropical Storm warningCape Fear, NC to Surf City, NC 
18/2100Tropical Storm warning discontinuedSouth Santee River, SC to Cape Fear, NC 
19/0100Hurricane Warning changed to Tropical Storm warningSurf City, NC to Chincoteague, VA including Albemarle and Pamlico sounds and Chesapeake Bay south of Smith Point. 
19/0300Tropical Storm warning discontinuedSurf City, NC to Currituck Beach Light, NC including the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. 
19/0900Tropical Storm warning discontinuedCurrituck Beach Light, NC to Chincoteague, VA including the Chesapeake Bay south of Smith Point 
19/1500All coastal warnings discontinued 

Figure 1: Best track positions for Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 September 2003.

Figure 2: Selected wind estimates/observations and best track maximum sustained surface wind speed curve for Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 September 2003. Aircraft observations have been adjusted for elevation using 90% and 80% reduction factors for observations from 700 mb and 850 mb respectively. Dropwindsonde observations include actual 10 m winds (sfc), as well as surface estimates derived from the mean wind over the lowest 150 m of the wind sounding (LLM), and from the sounding boundary layer mean (MBL).

Figure 3: Selected pressure estimates/observations and best track minimum central pressure curve for Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 September 2003.


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