Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hurricane Watch: Gustav Slams into Haiti. And: What history tells us about where Gustav's headed

First up, Wunderblog:
Hurricane Gustav plowed into Haiti as a Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds around 1 pm AST today. The encounter with Haiti's high mountains has weakened Gustav to a tropical storm, according to the latest data from the Hurricane Hunters. At 1:56 pm EDT, the Hurricane Hunters measured a central pressure of 992 mb in Gustav's eye--an increase of 11 mb from the previous reading. Gustav's top winds have decreased to tropical storm strength, according to the SFMR instrument, which measured winds of 65-70 mph at the surface, just south of Haiti's southwest peninsula. The eye of Gustav is still over Haiti, moving west-northwest along this peninsula. This longer than expected track of the eye over Haiti is bad news for that country, but good news for Jamaica and eastern Cuba....GO for the pictures but come back for SciGuy.

From the Houston Chronicle:
As we're at least a few days from knowing where Hurricane Gustav ultimately will go, it's appropriate to glean what we can from climatology.

That is, where have storms that formed in the northern Caribbean during August typically wound up?

I'm going to approach the question from a couple of ways, but the bottom line is that -- historically -- Texas is generally the likeliest target for such storms at this time. Mexico and Louisiana are the second likeliest areas to be struck by August storms located near Gustav.


One way to study the question is to use NOAA's historical hurricane tracks tool. Using this database I compiled a list of major hurricanes (category-3, -4 and -5) that struck Mexico and the U.S. Gulf Coast in August between 1851 and 2006. They're plotted on the map below: