29 August 2008

Gustav exits Jamaica, Hanna gaining strength also...

First of all, today marks the 3-year anniversary of the final, historic, and infamous landfall of Hurricane Katrina.  Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane when it came ashore near the LA/MS border.  It was responsible for 1833 deaths, and $81 billion in damage.  Though not in the running for the deadliest landfall, it did set the record for the costliest landfall, and costliest natural disaster for that matter, in US history.

Another bit of history to point out as we look ahead to the holiday weekend is the infamous Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.  This storm mostly affected the Florida Keys, and was the most intense (by pressure) US landfall on record... Camille was #2, Katrina was #3, and Andrew was #4.  It was responsible for over 400 deaths and it basically obliterated Islamorada and other towns/keys in extreme southwest Florida.  Fortunately, residential air conditioning wasn't affordable or practical yet and Florida was barely populated compared to today (during the 1950's, the state's population grew by 79%, largely because of A/C!).

Now back to 2008.  Gustav has completed its trek over Jamaica, but has already caused at least 59 deaths across Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Cuba.  It is now over open, deep, warm water and poised to intensify to a powerful hurricane as it heads WNW toward western Cuba, then into the Gulf of Mexico.  As of 15Z today, the intensity is 55kts and 988mb and is located 165 miles from Grand Cayman.  It has sped up a little and is now moving WNW at 7kts (has been 3-4kts lately).  All conditions and current appearance suggest rapid intensification is primed to take place.  The latest satellite images indicate that an eyewall is forming already.

So of course, the question is what about landfall?  The western tip of Cuba is the next target probably on Saturday evening as a strong hurricane.  Then the US gulf coast is next, probably Tuesday morning as a very strong and dangerous hurricane.  The current NHC forecast track is centered on the middle LA coast, but anywhere from Corpus Cristi, Houston, New Orleans, Panama City is within the 5-day average track error cone.  Coastal residents within this range should at least begin basic preparations.

Hanna is still a tropical storm as well, and like Gustav, is on an intensification trend.  TS Hanna is moving WNW at 10kts and intensity is estimated at 45kts and 1000mb.  It is forecast to continue strengthening, and slowing as it heads WNW... then by the end of the weekend, start turning SW toward the Bahamas.  A long-range model run, shown here, forecasts Hanna to then turn westward, enter the Gulf, and make landfall on LA late next week as a strong hurricane. This plot is valid Friday evening (Sept 5):  http://www.ecmwf.int/products/forecasts/d/getchart/catalog/products/forecasts/medium/deterministic/msl_uv850_z500!Wind 850 and mslp!192!North America!pop!od!oper!public_plots!2008082900!!chart.gif

Elsewhere, the easterly wave that exited the African coast yesterday is now just east of the Cape Verdes and still looks impressive on satellite.  Central pressure of the Low associated with the wave is estimated at 1007mb.  This will likely be the next named storm in a couple days: Ike.

Please visit my tropical Atlantic headquarters.

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