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Hurricane Gustav now extremely powerful Category 4 storm, 3pm 8/30 August 30, 2008 at 3:20 pm

In the last 24 hours Gustav has gone from being a high-end Tropical Storm with winds of 70mph to being an extremely powerful and dangerous category 4 hurricane with winds of 145mph.

That is just an incredible jump in intensity in such a short amount of time.

Saying that Hurricane Gustav’s satellite appearance is impressive would be a bit of an understatement:

The National Hurricane Center has an amusing 2pm forecast discussion:

SO MUCH FOR A SLOWDOWN IN THE INTENSIFICATION RATE OF GUSTAV. YESTERDAY AT THIS TIME WE CONVEYED THAT RAPID INTENSIFICATION OVER THE NORTHWESTERN CARIBBEAN WAS POSSIBLE…BUT THIS IS A LITTLE MORE THAN WHAT WE HAD IN MIND IN SUCH A SHORT TIME. THE HURRICANE HAS REACHED CATEGORY FOUR STATUS WITH AN INTENSITY OF 125 KT…HAVING BEEN A STRONG TROPICAL STORM JUST ABOUT 24 HOURS AGO.

GUSTAV COULD INTENSIFY SOME MORE DURING THE NEXT FEW HOURS OVER WATER…AND ONE CANNOT RULE OUT CATEGORY FIVE INTENSITY BEFORE CROSSING CUBA. THE FORECAST NOW CALLS FOR A PEAK AT 140 KT…CATEGORY FIVE INTENSITY…OVER THE SOUTHERN GULF WHERE OCEAN HEAT CONTENT WILL STILL BE HIGH…FOLLOWED BY A VERY GRADUAL WEAKENING OVER THE NORTHERN GULF WHERE OCEAN HEAT CONTENT IS LESS.

If Gustav does indeed make landfall in Cuba as a category 5 storm, not only will it cause major damage and loss of life, but it will join a very small club of Atlantic hurricanes that have made landfall as Category 5 storms. Off the top of my head I can only think of Hurricane Camille in 1969, Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Dean in 2007. Wikipedia reminds me of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, as well.

The storm is very impressive both on Cuban radar and on NWS Key West radar.

Ah, forecast time. Here’s the latest plot of the computer forecasting models:

(Live updating map.)

Now, as you can see (if you’re reading this in the afternoon of 8/30 anyway) most of the models bring the storm inland in Central Louisiana, but some of them being the storm more toward Texas, or just turn the storm around (huh?). The NHC is rightly discounting some of the more wild outliers (like the model that brings Gustav right up to the coast and than turns it around) but I think the fact that some of the models are showing a more leftward track perhaps needs to be considered.

I’m not making any final precise landfall predictions right now, but I will narrow my landfall area: somewhere between the Mississippi/Alabama state line and Lake Jackson, TX on Monday or Monday night. This is about a 500 mile area. When and if the forecasting models come into better agreement I’ll narrow this a bit more. I should point out that I don’t really think a landfall west of Houston is very likely at all, but it’s not out of the question, in my opinion.

As for intensity, I have no idea. The NHC is predicting that the storm will be a category 5 for a little bit over the Southern Gulf of Mexico, but that type of intensity is hard for storms to maintain for long periods of time. Plus there’s the possibility of some shear impacting the storm just before (US) landfall. I think a landfall as a major hurricane (category 3 or above) is most likely, but I don’t feel comfortable making any more precise predictions at the moment.

This is an extremely dangerous storm and if you’re in the possible path of it I encourage you to keep a very close eye on it and stay safe. Also, please remember that these are just the thoughts and opinions of a 19-year-old who is so far untrained in forecasting. In other words, listen to the NHC more than you listen to me.

Check the Gustav tag for all my posts on this storm.

Stay safe y’alls.

-jimmy

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