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Gustav is now starting to build an eyewall of heavy thunderstorms around the cloud-free center.
Tropical Storm Gustav intensified rapidly from a mere disturbance to a strong tropical storm in just a few short hours. At 1:33 pm EDT, an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft measured a surface pressure of 996 mb at 15.8N, 70.5W, at the center of a closed circulation. Top winds at the aircraft's flight level of 2200 feet were hurricane force, 74 mph. Top winds measured at the surface by the SFMR instrument were 60 mph, on the southeast side of the storm. Large regions of winds in excess of tropical storm force (39 mph) were measured on both the northwest and southeast sides of the storm. Visible satellite loops show a steadily increase in the intensity and areal coverage of Gustav's heavy thunderstorm activity. A cloud-free center (not a true eye) formed late this morning, and Gustav is now starting to build an eyewall of heavy thunderstorms around the cloud-free center. Gustav has an impressive spiral band to its north, and this band has now moved ashore over the southern Dominican Republic, as seen on Punta Cana radar. These rains have also spread to Puerto Rico, as seen on Puerto Rico radar. The Hurricane Hunters have left Gustav, and a new aircraft is scheduled to be in the storm by 2 am Tuesday.
Gustav Now a Hurricane Tom Moore, and Mark Avery, Lead Meteorologists, The Weather Channel 4:00 a.m. ET 8/26/2008 A tropical depression strengthened rapidly in the central Caribbean Sea on Tuesday, and became Tropical Storm Gustav Tuesday afternoon. The Hurricane Hunters found 80 mile per hour winds during a recon mission shortly after 2 am Tuesday, making Gustav a hurricane.
Hurricane Gustav bound for Haiti
MIAMI, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Rapidly strengthening Hurricane Gustav was forecast to hit Haiti Tuesday with winds of at least 85 mph before bearing down on Cuba.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said at 5 a.m., Gustav was centered about 100 miles south-southeast of Port au Prince, Haiti, and about 300 miles southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba.
The system that developed Monday from a tropical depression to a Category 1 hurricane was moving northwest near 9 mph, which forecasters said would lead it to southwestern Haiti Tuesday afternoon and then eastern Cuba on Wednesday.
The other models predict that this trough will be strong enough to turn Gustav northward, and foresee a landfall on the Gulf Coast between the Florida Panhandle and Texas border 6-8 days from now. The GFDL is the fastest, bringing Gustav to New Orleans on Sunday afternoon. This is a plausible forecast, but at this point, virtually any point along the Gulf Coast has a roughly equal chance of a direct hit by Gustav.
Once in the Gulf of Mexico, Gustav is likely to intensify into a major Category 3 or higher storm. I give a 60% chance that Gustav will cause significant disruption to the oil and gas industry in the Gulf.
The latest 12Z (8 am EDT) model runs continue to be in good agreement on the 1-3 day track of Gustav, and we can be confident that Gustav will turn west and pass south of Cuba after leaving Haiti. The trough of low pressure currently exiting the U.S. East Coast and pulling Gustav northwest is expected to move off to the east, allowing a ridge of high pressure to build in and force Gustav due west or slightly south of due west. After three days, there is more divergence in the models. The NOGAPS model no longer foresees landfall on Mexico's Yucatan, and now takes Gustav to a final landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Monday.
The ECMWF is now the only model predicting a landfall in the Yucatan. This model predicts a second landfall in Texas. The GFDL is a little slower than its previous run, but still forecasts a Category 3/4 hurricane hitting Louisiana on Sunday evening. The UKMET prefers a Texas landfall. The GFS is not much help--it dissipates Gustav.
The final landfall location of Gustav depends on the strength and speed of a trough of low pressure forecast to move across the Midwest U.S. late this week. At present, there is no way to guess which location in the Gulf of Mexico is the most likely. Keep in mind that the cone of uncertainty is correct only about 2/3 of the time--1/3 of the time, we can expect the storm's position to be in error by more than what the cone of uncertainty suggests.
Gustav's intensification potential in the Gulf of Mexico As we saw in 2005 with Katrina and Rita, the large amounts of deep, warm water brought into the Gulf of Mexico by the Loop Current can help intensify hurricanes to Category 5 intensity. As explained in my Loop Current tutorial, the Loop Current is an ocean current that transports warm Caribbean water through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico.
The current flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, then loops southeastward through the Florida Keys. The Loop Current commonly bulges out in the northern Gulf of Mexico and sometimes will shed a clockwise rotating ring of warm water that separates from the main current. This ring of warm water slowly drifts west-southwestward towards Texas or Mexico at about 3-5 km per day. This feature is called a "Loop Current Ring", "Loop Current Eddy", or "Warm Core Ring", and can provide a key source of energy to fuel rapid intensification of hurricanes that cross the Gulf. The Loop Current itself can also fuel rapid intensification, such as happened with Hurricane Charley in 2004. When a Loop Current Eddy breaks off in the Gulf of Mexico at the height of hurricane season, it can lead to a dangerous situation where a vast reservoir of energy is available to any hurricane that might cross over.
This occurred in 2005, when a Loop Current Eddy separated in July, just before Hurricane Katrina passed over and "bombed" into a Category 5 hurricane. The eddy remained in the Gulf and slowly drifted westward during September. Hurricane Rita passed over the same Loop Current Eddy three weeks after Katrina, and also explosively deepened to a Category 5 storm. This year, we had another Loop Current Eddy break off in July. This eddy is now positioned due south of New Orleans (Figure 2), and this eddy has similar levels of heat energy to the 2005 eddy that powered Katrina and Rita.
Should Gustav pass over or just to the left of this eddy, we can expect the storm to significantly intensify. There is also a weaker eddy present in the western Gulf; this eddy broke off from the Loop Current in April, and is much cooler then the eddy that broke off in July. Should Gustav pass over the April eddy, it shouldn't make much difference.
If the storm continues to head toward Louisiana, the governor on Thursday would exercise state contracts for up to 700 buses to assist with evacuations.
Assisted evacuations could begin as early as Friday and evacuations from hospitals and medical care facilities would begin Saturday. Evacuations by rail also could begin Saturday.
Contra-flow, in which all lanes of major highways would direct traffic away from the storm impact area, could begin Saturday or very early Sunday, Jindal said.
"These are the timetables as we see them now," Jindal said. "We all hope this will be a false alarm."