Hurricane Gustav strengthened from a minimal CAT1 storm to a CAT4 in about 24 hours which is quite unprecedented. As the storm passed over western Cuba the clearly visible eye became disrupted and cloud filled.  Now that the storm is in the Gulf it will likely re-intensify to at least a strong CAT4 or possibly a CAT5 storm with sustained winds over 156 mph.  They have been as high as 150 mph, though interactions with Cuba set them back to 140 mph.  Gustav will be moving over a very warm region of up-welled water from the “loop current”.  This same oceanic feature was in-part responsible for the CAT5 magnitude obtained by both Katrina and Rita in 2005.  The map above highlights winds aloft, which are Southwesterly, flowing around a High to the Northeast.  Gustav will be steered to the NW, traveling around the periphery of the High.



The center is quite visible on water vapor imagery; the bright colors around the high are cold cloud tops of the intense convection surrounding the eye.  This is where the strongest winds are located.  It’s thought that very close to the eye, meso-vortices or smaller scale spins rotate around the eye in larger Hurricanes; it is believed that this where the greatest wind damage stems from.  Hurricane Andrew left visual tracks within the debris field of such features.






The official track has Gustav making landfall sometime during the day on Monday.  The model guidance has only become tighter in consistency, inferring confidence that landfall will be somewhere along the Louisiana coast.  Should the eye of the storm hit to the west of New Orleans, as presently forecasted, the city could see worse damage, destruction and flooding than what was produced by Katrina.  The NE quadrant of the storm, which New Orleans would be subjected to, packs the greatest winds, highest storm surge and often the most rain.



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