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Posted at 11:30 PM ET, 08/31/2008

Gustav Closing in on Louisiana Strike

By Jason Samenow
Gustav satellite image at 11 p.m. Sunday night. Courtesy NASA.

Overnight Storm Monitoring: Latest satellite | Latest radar | Interactive Tracking Map

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....

By Jason Samenow  | August 31, 2008; 11:30 PM ET
Categories:  Tropical Weather  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Gustav Set to Engulf Louisiana
Next: NatCast: Fine Weather for Phillies


What about Hanna? Is she likely to affect the DC metro region, and if so, will she be a hurricane when she arrives? A tropical storm? Just a lot of rain?

Posted by: Worried about Hanna | September 1, 2008 12:02 AM | Report abuse

If you're up at this our, try tuning in (online) to WWL, a New Orleans radio station that's weathering the storm from within the studio. Some interesting commentary, especially from the people calling in to report why they're staying. (Click on the "Listen Live") link.

I've been listening for about an hour and have been surprised to hear just HOW FEW people are actually in the city. Some reports put the number as low as 10,000 for a city of 180,000.

Posted by: mcleaNed | September 1, 2008 12:15 AM | Report abuse

We'll have more on Hanna tomorrow, but it may be landfall threat from Florida to the Carolinas by late in the week. Some intensification is forecast, but only up to about a Category 1 hurricane.

Posted by: Jason, Capital Weather Gang | September 1, 2008 12:19 AM | Report abuse

mcleaNed, good looking out for that website/station. I just started listening and so far it is very interesting. It definitely is looking as though New Orleans will be spared from the worst of this storm, which is a good thing to hear. Although it is hard to say still, the satellite pictures definitely seem to show the storm strengthening a bit. Also, it is an absolutely beautiful night, and the stars are very clear tonight, I only wish I could get away from all the light pollution from the cities.

Posted by: arnoldkh | September 1, 2008 1:02 AM | Report abuse

Just listening on WWL now to a guy whose family evacuated... WITHOUT HIM. He sounds optimistic, though. (Hope they make it back together after the storm.)

Radio weather reports say the eye is beginning to strengthen again...

Posted by: mcleaNed | September 1, 2008 1:14 AM | Report abuse

"How would you like to sit in a car for 13 hours driving 15 miles an hour?"
"I wish I would have stayed home."
-"Virginia," who's been driving since noon--or so it seems.

Pretty harrowing stories on the radio station. It sounds like more than one person has gone broke paying for gas and now has nowhere else to go. People walking outside of their homes in New Orleans are now subject to arrest.

Horrible situation on some of the highways... I-59 North has been mentioned at least a dozen times by irate callers.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 1, 2008 1:26 AM | Report abuse

124 mph winds being reported from oil rig in the gulf..

Posted by: arnoldkh | September 1, 2008 1:40 AM | Report abuse

Note that the oil rig's anemometer is 400 feet above the surface of the Gulf. Not a true representation of the SURFACE winds of the storm.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 1, 2008 3:17 AM | Report abuse

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