Monday, September 01, 2008

Hurricane Gustav batters Caribbean, threatens US Gulf Coast

Hurricane Gustav is predicted to make landfall on the Gulf Coast, having already caused damage in the Carribean. The storm may be raised to Category 5 according to some sources.

At 5:00 p.m. (eastern time), the National Hurricane Center stated that Gustav had sustained winds at least 150 miles per hour and was moving Northwest at 15 miles per hour. Watches and warnings have been posted from Eastern Texas all the way to Mississippi. It is scheduled to make landfall somewhere in Louisiana on Tuesday. As of 5pm, Gustav was stronger than the hurricane in 2005 Hurricane Katrina which killed over 1,500 people in Louisiana.

At least 80 people in the Caribbean have died from Gustav’s impact. Gustav is currently hitting Cuba and made landfall near the Isle of Youth. Thousands have been evacuated as rain created widespread flooding in the West.

Hurricane Gustav Detailed History and Forecast as of Sunday, August 31, 2008:

Hurricane Gustav is the seventh tropical cyclone, third hurricane and second major hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. It formed on the morning of August 25, about 260 miles (420 km) southeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and rapidly strengthened into a tropical storm that afternoon and into a hurricane early on August 26. Later that day it made landfall near the Haitian town of Jacmel. 85 deaths have been attributed to Gustav as of August 31, 2008. According to the National Hurricane Center it is currently a Category 3 hurricane with a 29% probability of reaching Category 4 and a 2% probability of reaching Category 5 before September 1.

Storm history

At 1500 UTC on August 25, 2008, a tropical wave that had previously produced rain and squalls in the Lesser Antilles, developed well-defined curved bands and briefly exhibited an upper-level eye feature. The National Hurricane Center designated it Tropical Depression Seven and dispatched a hurricane hunter aircraft to investigate the system.] At the time, the system had a well-defined outflow in all but the southeast and southwest quadrant,]] and data from the hurricane-hunter aircraft confirmed that the tropical depression had strengthened into a tropical storm, which was soon designated Tropical Storm Gustav.] A brief period of disorganization] proved to be temporary as a well-defined eyewall formed that same night.] In the early hours of August 26, as the storm approached Haiti’s southwestern peninsula,[ another hurricane hunter aircraft confirmed what forecasters already suspected — that Gustav had strengthened into a hurricane with winds topping 90 mph (150 km/h). Before reaching Haiti, its satellite presentation continued to intensify, a central dense overcast became more prominent, and the minimum central pressure fell.

Hurricane Gustav regained a pronounced eye as it made landfall on Haiti, near the town of Jacmel. As the hurricane moved over Haiti's mountainous terrain its circulation was disrupted and it lost a little strength. Although downgraded to a tropical storm, it still had a pronounced eye in its mid- and upper-level structures. Its outflow improved throughout the night of August 26, and the system was not very disrupted when it moved back over water into the Gulf of Gonâve. However, the storm's movement slowed, and continued interaction with nearby Haiti, combined with the incursion of mid-level dry air from the northeast, resulted in further weakening during the day on August 27. The storm began a west-southwesterly movement that brought it closer to Jamaica. On the morning of August 28 it was found that, overnight, Gustav had either reformed farther to the south or had moved farther to the south than previously thought. The storm was also found to have restrengthened nearly to hurricane status. It then was upgraded to a hurricane again during the late afternoon of August 29. In advisory #23 at 11:00 a.m EDT on August 30, Gustav was upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (described as a "dangerous category three") with sustained winds near 125 mph (195 km/h), as it neared the west end of Cuba (including the Havana section). In special advisory number 24 it rapidly strengthened further into an "Extremely Dangerous" Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 mph early that afternoon

On August 30 Gustav made landfall on Cuba. Firstly, on the island of Isla de la Juventud and then on the mainland near the community of Los Palacios in Pinar del Rio Province. By the early hours of August 31 Gustav entered the Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 135 mph and minimum central pressure of 958 millibars.


Dominican Republic

Immediately upon the storm's designation as a tropical depression it was expected to strengthen into a tropical storm and strike the island of Hispaniola.] Tropical storm warnings were issued from the coast of the Dominican Republic south of Santo Domingo to the Haitian coast south of Port-au-Prince. Furthermore, a tropical storm watch was issued for the Haitian coast, north of Port-au-Prince to the northern border with the Dominican Republic. Hours later, when Gustav was upgraded to a tropical storm, the tropical storm warning was upgraded to a hurricane warning and the tropical storm watch was upgraded to a hurricane watch.


In Haiti, the government ordered emergency shelters to prepare. The country, which occupies the western half of the island of Hispaniola, is particularly vulnerable to floods and landslides as rainfall runs off its largely deforested mountains. The government issued a red alert and advised the population to take precautions, but few Haitians took heed. Fair weather led many to doubt whether a hurricane was even approaching. American Airlines canceled all of its flights into and out of Port-au-Prince on August 26, stranding travelers hoping to escape the storm.


On August 25, Carnival Cruise Lines diverted one of its ships from Montego Bay, Jamaica, to Mexico in order to avoid the storm. Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) readied response systems in anticipation of Hurricane Gustav affecting the island.

Cayman Islands

Hazard Management Cayman Islands declared a hurricane watch at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening and upgraded that to a warning on 6 p.m. Thursday evening. Banks and non-essential government services were closed Friday to allow residents to prepare. Extra flights were organised to get tourists off the island and, per usual practice, further visits are banned until the All Clear is given. Stores and gas stations were busy and each district office offered free plywood to protect windows and residents hurried about to secure their business interests and property.


60,000 were evacuated overnight on August 29 from Cuba’s western coasts. Gustav was projected to impact Cuba on the afternoon of August 30. Additional evacuations were ordered on the afternoon of August 30 as Gustav strengthened to a strong Category 4 hurricane, particularly in the low-lying Pinar del Río Province where 190,000 were evacuated.

United States


On the morning of August 26, with Gustav still over Haiti, Louisiana emergency preparedness officials met several times to discuss predictions that Gustav would reach the state as a major hurricane in three to five days. Several areas of Louisiana planned for evacuations. Several parishes in the New Orleans area announced plans for voluntary evacuations beginning Saturday, August 30: city mayor Ray Nagin said that it was possible thousands of people who need city help could start leaving on Saturday, as the first wave of a full-scale evacuation. Later, he ordered the mandatory evacuation of the whole of New Orleans commencing on the morning of August 31, calling Gustav “the storm of the century … the mother of all storms”.

Officials had finalized evacuation plans, which proposed assisted evacuations as early as August 29: Contraflow lane reversal on all major highways, and 700 buses to help move evacuees. For those evacuees in need of shelter, the state government secured tens of thousands of shelter beds. Unwilling to repeat the mistakes of Hurricane Katrina, authorities chose not to use the Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center as emergency shelters.

The following day, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency, activating between 3,000 and 8,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard.

Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin shortened his appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado to assist in preparations. In Harris County, Texas, Judge Ed Emmett has said that the Reliant Astrodome will not be used as a shelter for evacuees if Hurricane Gustav hits New Orleans, because Houston is also vulnerable to Hurricane Gustav; according to Emmett, it would make more sense to evacuate to a more inland area.

Tulane University officials reported that the university will be closed on August 29 and will resume normal business operations on September 3, with classes resuming a day later. The University of New Orleans, Loyola University New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana also canceled classes and will not resume until September 4. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette also canceled classes for September 3. LSU has also canceled classes for September 2.

The residents of low-lying Grand Isle, Louisiana were under a voluntary evacuation order beginning Friday, August 29. Traditionally, the community is one of the first to vacate when tropical storms threaten. Residents of lower Cameron Parish, Louisiana were also given a voluntary evacuation order on Friday. Mandatory evacuation orders have since been given.

The Mississippi River was shut to all ship traffic between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans as 6 p.m. CDT (2300 GMT) on Saturday. Pilots at Lake Charles in west Louisiana, and Sabine Pass in east Texas, also were making plans as of Saturday to halt traffic.

Local Events


One major sporting event was directly affected by the disaster preparations. On August 30, LSU opened its 2008 football season against Appalachian State. The originally scheduled kickoff time of 4 p.m. CDT would have conflicted with the start of contraflow lane reversal, and Interstate 10 is a key evacuation route through Baton Rouge. Accordingly, LSU moved kickoff to 10 a.m. CDT.

The AAA baseball New Orleans Zephyrs cancelled the final three games of their season due to the impending approach of Gustav and evacuation preparations.

The New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL) proceeded with plans to evacuate from New Orleans and headed to Indianapolis, where they will practice at Lucas Oil Stadium.


Hotel closures related to Gustav had impact on New Orleans’ Southern Decadence celebrations, which were scheduled for August 2through September 1, 2008. All events planned for Southern Decadence from Sunday morning were canceled following the mandatory evacuation according to the site. This is the second time in 3 years that Southern Decadence were interrupted by a Tropical Cyclone. The last time it was interrupted was when Hurricane Katrina was about to make Landfall.


Texas Governor Rick Perry activated 5,000 members of the National Guard on August 29 in response to the possible crisis, in addition to preparations made by other agencies. As of August 29, other preparations in Texas to deal with Gustav and its effects were being implemented. Some evacuees were being placed in Northeast Texas, including in Tyler, Texas Voluntary evacuations of Jefferson and Orange Counties started on August 30 at 12:30 p.m. CDT with mandatory evacuations in the two counties starting on August 31 at 6:00 a.m. CDT. Also, the Texas Governor has deployed other assets to help handle the oncoming disaster.

The city of Tyler, Texas is expecting from 6,000 to 10,000 evacuees starting August 30.


On August 27, requests and orders began for evacuations along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. All schools in Harrison County’s five public school districts were closed until September 2.


Much of the Alabama National Guard was mobilized to assist evacuees from the other states.


Operationally, Gustav went from a tropical depression to a hurricane in 14 hours, tying Hurricane Humberto’s record of 14 hours, although this may be challenged in post-season analysis.


Gustav made landfall in Haiti at approximately 1 p.m. EDT on August 26, about 10 miles (16 km) west of the city of Jacmel. While inland, Gustav’s rains triggered a landslide in the community of Benet which killed one person. Two more were killed in southwestern Haiti when their house collapsed. Another two deaths were blamed on an explosion inside a house, thought to be possibly related to Hurricane Gustav. The southern town of Jacmel, where the hurricane made landfall, was bisected by floodwaters. In total, 66 deaths have been blamed on the storm in Haiti.]

Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, a landslide in a rural area killed eight people.


In Jamaica, 11 deaths have been reported when Gustav swept through the area as a tropical storm. Flash flooding was also reported on the island as a result of Gustav’s heavy rains.

Cayman Islands

In the Cayman Islands, Gustav’s heavy rains and storm surge flooded the streets of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the smaller easternmost “Sister Islands” in the chain.

Two people were knocked down by huge waves as they tried to take pictures of the storm on Little Cayman.

More than 1,100 people spent the night in government shelters in the three islands as high waves and heavy winds battered the chain, the National Emergency Operations Center said in a statement. Most people waited out the storm in private homes or hotels.


On Saturday August 30, 2008 Gustav made landfall on mainland Cuba near the community of Los Palacios in Pinar del Rio — a region that produces much of the tobacco used to make the nation’s famed cigars.

At least 300,000 people were evacuated from Gustav’s path as 140 mph (220 kph) winds toppled telephone poles and fruit trees, shattered windows and tore off the tin roofs of homes.

Cuban Civil defense authorities declared there were “many people injured” on Isla de la Juventud, an island of 87,000 people south of the mainland, but no reports of deaths. Nearly all the island’s roads were washed out and some regions were heavily flooded.

United States

Although the storm was still in its formative stages on August 26, fears that Hurricane Gustav might eventually disrupt oil production in the Gulf of Mexico caused oil prices to rise. On August 27, U.S. oil and natural-gas companies began evacuating personnel from their oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico amid continued forecasts that Gustav would strengthen and move into the gulf.

Because of the expected US landfall, governors and some other political leaders from Louisiana and other states are choosing to stay home from the 2008 Republican National Convention. On August 30, the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney canceled their planned attendance at the convention. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain said that he might give his acceptance speech via satellite from the affected area.

Political Implications

Both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are expected to skip the 2008 Republican National Convention to attend to the problems Gustav will cause in the Gulf. In addition, “substantial” changes to the Republican National Convention program will be announced Sunday because of the storm, two Republican officials said. One option is delaying the planned Monday opening of the convention, both sources said, though one of the officials said “that has not been decided. We need a few more hours to look at all of the contingencies. But there will be some substantial adjustments.”

Shaping those decisions will be briefings that McCain, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, has received in the past 24 hours from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director David Paulison and several Gulf Coast governors.

“It’s a dire outlook, and we need to make some changes,” one McCain campaign official said. “But this has never happened before to anyone’s convention, so we need some time to touch all the bases.”

It is still possible that McCain will miss his own convention and speak via satellite.

Both his opponent, Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama, and McCain have encouraged New Orleans residents to evacuate.

Current storm information

As of 10 a.m. CDT (1500 UTC) August 31, Hurricane Gustav is located within 15 nautical miles of 25.3°N 86.0°W, about 325 mi (520 km) southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Maximum sustained winds are 105 knots (120 mph, 195 km/h), with stronger gusts. Minimum central pressure is 962 mbar (hPa; 28.41 InHg), and the system is moving northwest at 15 kt (1mph, 28 km/h).

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 50 mi (85 km) from the center of Gustav, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 200 mi (325 km) from the center.

Forecasted events

Rainfall amounts of 6 to 12 inches (150 to 300 mm) are expected over portions of Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southern Arkansas, with isolated maximum amounts to 20 inches (500 mm) possible. Rainfall amounts of about 1 inch (25 mm) are possible in parts of southern Florida.

Storm surge flooding of 18 to 25 feet (5.4 to 7.6 m) is possible near and to the east of eventual landfall on the Gulf Coast (adding to the tide level, plus higher waves on top). A surge of 1 to 3 feet (<1>

Isolated tornadoes are possible in the northern Gulf coast, mainly on the eastern side of the storm.

On August 30, FEMA chief David Paulison announced that Gustav was expected to turn into a category 5 hurricane by the following morning. However, on August 31, the NHC said there was only about 2% probability that Gustav would turn into a class 5 hurricane.

Hurricane model forecasts: As of 5 a.m. EDT on August 31, three hurricane models (UKMET, BAMS, BAMM) projected the USA landfall to occur in the Greater New Orleans area near Grand Isle, LA, with the BAMD model tracking east of Lake Pontchartrain, near Slidell, LA; however, the LBAR, GFDL and NHC models still projected landfall about 100 miles (160 km) further west, along the south central Louisiana coast.

source: Hurricane Gustav batters Caribbean, threatens US Gulf Coast
Men's News Daily, CA