Visible satellite of Isaac near noon today. (NASA)

As of 11 a.m. EDT, the maximum sustained winds were increased to 65 mph and tropical storm force winds extended 205 miles from the center.

Isaac is forecast to pass directly over the southern Florida Keys later this afternoon as a high-end tropical storm. Rainbands have been affecting all of southern Florida during the night and into the day, bringing with them gusty winds, torrential rain, and the risk of tornadoes. The center was located 80 miles southeast of Key West and moving west-northwest at 18 mph. A very long radar loop from Key West shows the progression of the rainbands and the inner core.

Link: Hurricane Tracker

Forecasts from 8am today showing the range of potential tracks from models ranging from simple to sophisticated. (UW-Milwaukee)

A hurricane warning remains in effect for the Keys and the southwestern Florida peninsula, and a hurricane watch is in effect for the northern Gulf coast from Morgan City La. to Indian Pass Fl., and now includes New Orleans.

The corresponding model intensity forecasts range anywhere from a strong tropical storm to a borderline major Category 3 hurricane, but the official forecast calls for a landfall intensity of a strong Category 2 storm. It should certainly be taken very seriously, and preliminary preparations begun.

The National Hurricane Center should always be consulted for the latest official forecasts, watches, and warnings.

Rainfall forecast for the period spanning Sunday morning through Thursday morning. Yellows indicate 8” or more rain. See larger. (NOAA/HPC)

A significant rain swath will follow Isaac’s remnants once it heads northeast toward the East Coast. In a rainy scenario, the D.C. area could receive a few inches of rain toward week’s end, but little in the way of wind. Given the storm’s expected movement, it’s hard to say whether or not the area will see much rain yet.

We will monitor Isaac as it heads north toward the central Gulf coast. It could become a strong hurricane by then, and make landfall exactly on the 7th anniversary of Katrina’s infamous landfall.

Brian McNoldy is a senior researcher at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.