Hurricane Isidore is only the second hurricane and first major hurricane of the 2002 Atlantic Hurricane Season. However, it has already brought along a swath of destruction, and could be poised to do more if things turn out the way they could in the Gulf over the next several days to a week.
Isidore has had quite a bumpy ride since forming on September 14th, 2002. Originally a depression near the Southern Windwards, the storm encountered difficulty near the northern coast of Venezuela, but came back several days later.
It would then go on a march through the Western Caribbean islands of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Western Cuba that left these areas under as much as 30 inches of rain along with winds as high as 100 mph. Now, it is poised to become a nightmare of a problem for residents of the Gulf Coast of the United States and Eastern Mexico.
In the late afternoon of Saturday, September 14th, 2002, the National Hurricane Center began to notice an area of disturbed weather that became more organized just east of the Windward Islands. On the heels of Gustav, originally a subtropical system that became the season's first hurricane, this disturbance continued what would become an onslaught of tropical activity in the month of September, 2002.
This disturbance became the tenth tropical depression of the year, and seemed quite impressive with a good deal of convection. However, it didn't gather much strength early on as it encountered problems due to its close proximity to the Northern coast of Venezuela in South America. On the night of September 15th, 2002, the depression moved over the extreme Northern coast of Venezuela, where it seemed to have dissipated.
Forecasters did indicate that the open wave as it was called, was going to move more toward the northwest, and with time possibly redevelop into a depression again. That would happen some 48 hours later as it approached the island of Jamaica.
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During the day on Monday, September 16th, 2002, the wave began showing signs of making a comeback. Convection began to flare up again in the afternoon hours, and it certainly looked more impressive than it had previously. On Tuesday, September 17th, the National Hurricane Center reclassified the system as a depression, and believed that it could become a storm. It did.
Upper level winds in the Western Caribbean had become the most favorable it has probably been all season, and as a result, Isidore, which it was now called began to slowly flourish. During the day on September 18th, the storm maintained its strength for the most part, but in the late evening, and then early morning hours of September 19th, the storm showed signs of reorganization, which meant that it was strengthening.
Later, on the 19th, Isidore became the second hurricane of the season, and was hitting Jamaica, and the Caymans hard with between one to two feet of rain. It continued to gradually strengthen as it winds rose from 75 to 85 to 105 mph.
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While the storm did appear ragged at times, Isidore pumped in tremendous amounts of moisture to Central and Western Cuba as well as Jamaica and the Caymans. Rainfall amounts continued to rise, and were in the range of 20 to 30 inches easily in parts.
Hurricane Warnings went up for much of the Western portion of the island of Cuba, which was getting itself organized for the storm's arrival under the personal direction of leader Fidel Castro.
Isidore, in the meantime, continued to drift slowly toward the Western tip of Cuba, and during the afternoon of September 20th, 2002, it made landfall in the Isle of Youth and Pinar del Rio region of the Communist island nation.
Moreover, it was still pumping in tremendous amounts of moisture and rainfall to Jamaica and the Caymans due to the storm's slow progress and growing convection. Images from the region showed homes partially submerged in muddy flood waters. At around 11:00 PM EDT, the storm departed from Western Cuba, and into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Soon afterward, the storm strengthened to a major hurricane, and now, as of this report, it is on the threshold of Category Four Hurricane status. The question is, where will the storm go.
Currently, it is drifting to the West just north of the Yucatan Peninsula. However, steering currents continue to be weak in this area, and a trough in the Western Gulf has drifted to the South. Stay tuned because we may have a very powerful hurricane on our hands.
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