Gustav stumbles, still dangerous; Hanna slows
Hurricane Gustav remains a minimal Cat. 3 storm this afternoon after wind shear prevented an orderly ramping up of its power as it moved over warm currents in the Gulf. He is looking a little asymetrical in the satellite photos. Nevertheless, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say the storm is packing top sustained winds of 115 mph, and could restrengthen as it moves on toward landfall in Louisiana tomorrow.
Gustav's winds had slowed to within a couple of miles-per-hour of becoming a Cat. 2. But hurricane hunter aircraft probing the storm's core this afternoon found signs of a slow increase. It's not clear how much it might intensify from here. The waters from where Gustav is now to the coast are cooler (left), with less energy to lend the storm. And the wind shear continues to throttle the heat engines that power the cyclone.
That said, a Cat. 3 hurricane - even a "minimal" Cat. 3 - is still a fearsome thing, and nobody wants to stick around to test it.
The chief issue now is where, exactly, Gustav will go ashore. The forecasters and their computers are all over the place on this. The consensus seems to be that the surrounding atmospherics are shoving the storm track slightly to the west. The hurricane warnings have been moved west to High Island, Tex. On the other hand, the warnings that extend eastward to the Florida/Alabama line have not changed.
There is even more disagreement about where a weakened Gustav will go after landfall. Some models have it stalling out over Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas and dropping a flood on those folks. Other projections send the storm to the southwest. Still others turn it with the westerlies and carry it north and east - toward us!
As for Tropical Storm Hanna, Gustav's little sister seems to be slowing and moving without much conviction in the Atlantic east of the Bahamas. The poor dear is being pummeled by shearing winds from the north, and the outflow from Gustav. So she is having trouble maintaining her strength.
That said, four or five days out, forecasters say, the conditions should improve, and Hanna is expected to strengthen. One forecast track, at least, sends Hanna into the Georgia/South Carolina coast - as a hurricane - by the end of the week. Here's a thought: What if Gustav's rains, and Hanna's rains, converge on the mid-Atlantic by next weekend. That would be some kinda rain. Check your sump pumps.
It's really way too early to put much stock in that. But here's the map, just for the record.