I would like to start by acknowledging the events of 3 years ago. Hurricane Katrina by this point in the day, currently 9A MDT, had made landfall and was in the midst of catastrophically damaging one of America’s major cities. That city still hasn’t recovered from the storm. Neither have the areas along the Gulf coast that were similarly affected. The Army Corps of Engineers has since worked to repair the levee system and even announced that they were rebuilt to withstand another Category 3 storm. Let’s hope the residents of New Orleans don’t have to find out whether that’s true or not. My opinion is that the levees aren’t strong enough. It will require elected officials that actually care about their fellow citizens to take serious action in the Gulf coast region. It will require yet more time and money to prepare the region for the next major storm.
We’re edging closer to the time when Gustav could directly impact the U.S. He slowly made his way across Jamaica overnight and now has nothing but warm oceans and marginally unfavorable wind shear to contend with. Let’s begin by looking at his vitals:
Center located at 18.6N, 78.8W; maximum sustained winds of 65mph; moving WNW @ 8mph; minimum pressure of 988mb.
Gustav should strengthen to hurricane status sometime today. There were readings yesterday even while over Jamaica that Gustav could have wobbled around that threshold, but the NHC decided to stick with a Tropical Storm designation. Regardless, Gustav should assume a more northwesterly heading by the end of the day, takind aim at Cuba’s west coast tomorrow afternoon/evening as a Category 2 storm. By Sunday morning, Gustav should enter the Gulf of Mexico, regardless of whether he makes landfall over Cuba or not. Further strengthening is forecasted throughout this time frame and by the time we wake up Sunday, Gustav could be a Category 3 storm (major hurricane). By Monday morning, Gustav should be taking aim at a smaller portion of the Gulf Coast. It really won’t be apparent where he should make landfall until Sunday/Monday.
Gustav’s track should take him just to the right of the warmest portion of the large extra-warm pool of water that is WNW of Jamaica, the Gulf Loop Current. Despite missing the warmest portion of the pool, Gustav could quickly strengthen over the next 24 hours. The official track forecast would put Gustav over another very warm pool currently located northwest of Cuba. That could be the time when we see the most explosive growth of this system, if such a thing does occur. After passing this pool, there shouldn’t be any other factos that drastically alter Gustav’s strength. He will of course experience eye-wall replacement cycles, which will cause his intensity to oscillate. The current official forecast calls for Gustav to make landfall along the Louisiana coast west of the Mississippi River as a Category 3. But do not be surprised if he is stronger at landfall. Also, the exact landing site is quite frankly irrelevant. A storm of this magnitude will affect a large area.
In fact, Louisiana has already declared a state of emergency. A handful of residents along the Gulf coast have announced that they’re evacuating now, no doubt remembering the chaos of evacuating ahead of Katrina, when it was too late to do so. If you live along the coast or know someone who does, make sure you’re aware of the development of this system. It has the potential for significant to catastrophic damage. Stock up on food, water and other emergency supplies now.
Tropical Storm Hanna looks pretty good this morning. Outflow is stronger on the eastern side of the storm, indicating that the west side is ingesting some drier air. As she gains strength, her appearence should become more symmetric. Here are her vitals:
Center located at 21.3N, 62.7W; maximum sustained winds of 50mph; moving WNW @ 11mph; minimum pressure is 1000mb.
T.S. Hanna is forecasted to move WNW, then NW over the next couple of days. She should slowly strengthen during the same time period, likely to hurricane status in the 2-3 day time period. Beginning Sunday morning, Hanna should begin moving toward the SW as she responds to an evolving large-scale flow which includes a building ridge over the southeast U.S. If she does so between 70W and 75W, her track will take her away from yet another large pool of high energy water located north of the western Bahamas and east of Florida. All that means is that explosive growth is unlikely, which is consistent with a suite of model output.
After the 3 day forecast, model solutions widely diverge. A couple indicate she could make a loop, eventually slowly heading back toward the northeast. A couple of solutions continue her southwestward path, possibly impacting either northern Haiti or northern Cuba. That discrepancy signifies the low level of confidence in any of the solutions. The larger message is that she could affect some Caribbean islands, but at this time is unlikely to affect the continental U.S.
Invest-96 has more or less moved over the Mexican coast. The NHC has dropped any potential watch area for the disturbance.
Invest-97 has been identified off the west coast of Africa, currently moving toward the Cape Verde islands. Model forecasts are somewhat useless at this point. The track forecasts vary over 10 degrees latitude and 8 degrees longitude in five days time. Similarly, the intensity forecast is unreliable. All season, waves entering the Atlantic were forecasted to strengthen to tropical storm, then hurricane status within the five day period and it hasn’t happened yet. I expect I-97 to continue to make its way across the basin. Once it passes 40W, which is 20W of where it is now, we should know more about its future. The NHC has given this disturbance a 20-50% chance of development within the next 24-48 hours.
The last disturbance of interest is almost halfway between Africa and the Windward Islands. It’s currently at a fairly high latitude, which could assist any cyclonic circulation, but is in the midst of a relatively dry environment with some unfavorable wind shear. As such, the NHC has only given it a 20% chance of development.