Gustav Over Western Cuba

As of 5:00pm EDT Gustav was a strong category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds. The NASA visible satellite picture below shows the impressive eye of the storm over western Cuba, roughly 65 miles west-southwest of Havana.

Hurricane force winds extend outward about 70 miles from the eye of the Gustav so Havana is right on the edge of the most powerful part of the storm.

The NOAA visible satellite picture below is a wider view of Gustav and the Gulf of Mexico.

The latest forecast track for Gustav has the storm moving pretty much in a straight line to the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico by Monday afternoon or evening.

The water temperatures around western Cuba and the southern Gulf of Mexico are in the mid 80s based on NOAA weather satellite observations depicted on the picture below.

The lack of strong, high altitude winds and the warm waters are the reason the storm strengthened so rapidly on Saturday. Gustav is expected to gain additional strength once the sorm clears Cuba and starts moving across the Gulf. Hurricane Center forecasts indicate that there will be a period when the storm will reach category 5 with winds around 160 mph. Slightly cooler water (low 80s) may contribute to a slight weakening of Gustav as it approaches the northern Gulf coast on Monday. At that time Gustav would still be extremely dangerous as a category 4 storm with 145 mph winds.

The area of highest danger from landfall is from the northeast Texas coast to the western tip of Florida. The Louisiana coast has the greatest odds for the passage of the eye of the Gustav. This would put New Orleans in the northeast quadrant of the storm where the heaviest rains and highest winds generally occur.

There is another storm worth watching.

The NOAA satellite picture above shows Tropical Storm Hanna in the Atlantic, west of the Bahamas. Hanna is expected to move much more slowly than Gustav. The forecast track has Hanna in the Bahamas on Thursday as a strong tropical storm and moving toward the northwest.

Longer range computer models take Hanna into the southeastern U.S. with either the storm core or the remnants of the storm moving into the Mid Atlantic states by next weekend. This is not totally bad news for Maryland. The area is running about 2 inches short of rain over the past 30 days and some generous rains would provide relief from the parched conditions.

For the latest on Gustav and Hanna check our Hurricane Tracker at http://www.wbaltv.com/hurricanes/index.html

John Collins

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