Strengthening Gustav now a Cat. 3 hurricane
As expected, Hurricane Gustav intensified overnight and is now a Cat. 3 hurricane, with top sustained winds of 115 mph. The storm continues on a northwesterly track, headed first for western Cuba, and by early Sunday into the Gulf of Mexico.
That's the 5-day tropical-storm-force wind forecast map above. The winds moving in from the east toward the Bahamas are from Tropical Storm Hanna.
If there is any reassuring news at all this morning, it is that the storm, once it moves into the Gulf, will encounter cooler waters and more wind shear. That should limit its further intensification. But it's not exactly going away. Here's more, from this morning's tropical weather discussion at the hurricane center:
"BY 48 HOURS...ALMOST ALL OF THE GLOBAL MODELS SHOW AN
INCREASE IN VERTICAL WIND SHEAR NEAR GUSTAV. IN ADDITION...SINCE
THE LOOP CURRENT IS SOUTH OF ITS TYPICAL LOCATION...THE HURRICANE
WILL BE MOVING OVER WATERS THAT ARE NOT NEARLY AS CONDUCIVE FOR
STRENGTHENING AS THEY COULD BE. THESE TWO FACTORS WILL HOPEFULLY
WEAKEN THE STORM PRIOR TO U.S. LANDFALL. HOWEVER...GUSTAV IS
EXPECTED TO BE A LARGE AND DANGEROUS HURRICANE AND THE NHC FORECAST
CONTINUES TO SHOW GUSTAV AS A MAJOR HURRICANE AT LANDFALL."
Want more to worry about? There's another storm brewing in the Eastern Atlantic, and forecasters seem to be giving it good chances for developing into a tropical storm in the coming days. Here's the scoop.
Okay. This too gloomy. The best news I can find this morning is that the remains of Tropical Storm Fay have eased the terrible drought that's persisted for a year in the South, and especially in the western Carolinas. Have a look.
Maybe Gustav and Hanna will do their part, too. On the other hand, things are worse in Maryland - or they were before Fay finally reached us yesterday. Here's our drought map.