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Hurricane Hut

Isabel - 2003
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Powerful Isabel as a Category 5 Storm

A tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa on September 1, and moved slowly westward. The convection gradually became more organized, and it became Tropical Depression 13 on September 5. It was named Tropical Storm Isabel six hours later at the next advisory. Isabel turned to the WNW and became a hurricane on September 7. Under prime conditions, Isabel continued to strengthen very rapidly, reaching major hurricane status on September 8. Isabel reached Category 4 status early on September 9, and maintained this for about 24 hours before weakening to a Category 3 storm.

The second phase of rapid strengthening began later on the 9th, making the storm a powerful Category 5 by September 11. Isabel reached its peak intensity that day, with sustained winds at 165 mph and a pressure of 915 mbar. This made Isabel one of the strongest hurricanes on record. Isabel was able to maintain Category 5 intensity for over a day, before weakening to a Category 4.

Hurricane Isabel continued west, now north of the Caribbean Islands through September 15, remaining a Category 4 through most of the period, with the exception of briefly reaching Category 5 status on two different occasions. On September 16, the storm completed a turn to the NW around a weakness in the high pressure ridge that was formerly sterring it west. It was also at this point that vertical shear on the hurricane increased, causing a steady weakening trend.

Isabel weakened to a Category 2 storm on September 16, and remained a Cat 2 until landfall near Drum Inlet, North Carolina on September 18. Winds at landfall were sustained at 100 mph. After landfall, Isabel moved inland and weakened to a depression and later dissipated over Canada.

Isabel caused widespread damage in the United States, totaling over 3.3 Billion Dollars, making among some of the costliest hurricanes on record. Despite landfall in North Carolina, most of the damage total was from damages in Virginia. Isabel was responsible for a total of fifty direct and indirect deaths.

The name Isabel was retired in the Spring of 2004, and will be replaced with the name Ida when the list is used again in 2009.