Gustav Closing in on Louisiana Strike
The 11 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center indicates Hurricane Gustav remains a low-end Category 3 storm with maximum winds of 115 mph. Gustav has become somewhat better organized in the past six hours or so. The more symmetric appearance on satellite imagery along with higher, colder cloud tops and more defined eye support this. So Gustav may become a little stronger before landfall, but has only a very low probability of reaching Category 4 levels.
Keep reading for more on Gustav. See our full forecast for the local weather outlook through the coming week.
Landfall should occur between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday morning between Houma and Grand Isle, Louisiana. Houma is about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, Grand Isle is about 30 miles away, almost due south. The closer to Grand Isle Gustav strikes, the worse the impacts will be for New Orleans as it moves inland (to the northwest). Fortunately, most models bring Gustav ashore closer to Houma, which would spare New Orleans of the strongest winds and highest storm surge.
The Weather Nerd believes the risk of a calamity in New Orleans has diminished significantly:
New Orleans will most likely dodge a bullet, avoiding catastrophic flooding, unless the levees perform worse than expected. This will not be the "mother of all storms." The media should, at this point, be ramping down the hype. Twenty-four hours ago, the hype was justified, but now, anyone who is still treating Gustav like some sort of unprecedented apocalypse is just ignoring the data. Thanks to the storm's totally unexpected post-Cuba weakening and failure to intensify significantly over the Loop Current, this will be a run-of-the-mill, low-end Cat. 3 event, at worst. There will be death and destruction, yes, but certainly not on a "storm of the century" scale.
While landfall is less than twelve hours away, I think it's premature to say New Orleans has dodged the bullet. There remains the possibility (20% chance) of strengthening to a high-end Category 3 storm and a Grand Isle landfall.
Jeff Masters at Wunderground seems to agree:
Gustav is intensifying again, and threatens to bring a destructive storm surge that will offer a significant test to New Orleans' rebuilt levees when it strikes Louisiana on Monday.
A significant element of this storm which I haven't discussed much is the copious rains it will bring as it moves inland. The storm is essentially going to die and rain itself out over western Louisiana and eastern Texas. One to two feet of rain will be possible....
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