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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 08/27/2008

Gustav: Katrina Reincarnated?

By Jason Samenow

One model projection on August 31, 2008 for Gustav (left, courtesy Penn State). A satellite image of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2005 (right, courtesy NASA).

For the record, it is much too early to speculate about where Tropical Storm Gustav -- which at 11 a.m. was west of Haiti with winds near 60 mph, and expected to strengthen as it moves west-northwest and passes between Jamaica and Cuba tomorrow -- may eventually make landfall and how strong it may become. The entire of Gulf Coast is "in play" for this storm and intensity forecasts are wrought with uncertainty. While most computer models suggest Gustav will re-intensify, interaction with land has already taken a toll on this storm.

One lone computer model (known as the GFDL) forecast raised my eyebrows not because I believe it will necessarily be right, but because its resemblance to Katrina is so uncanny. The model simulates Gustav as a Category 4 hurricane (with maximum winds of 140-145 mph) bearing down on New Orleans three years after Katrina almost to the date. The left panel is a simulation of Gustav at 7 a.m. ET Sunday, August 31, 2008. The right panel is a satellite image of Katrina at 10 p.m. ET Sunday, August 28, 2005.

Will history repeat itself?

For local weather, see our full forecast through the Labor Day Weekend, NatCast for tonight's game at Nationals Park, and SkinsCast for Thursday's preseason game at FedEx.

By Jason Samenow  | August 27, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Tropical Weather  
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I hope and pray that Cuba takes enough out of Gustav and maybe it takes a course through the sparsely populated areas of Mexico's gulf coast. This could be a devastating forecast if it comes to fruition.

Posted by: HokieAnnie | August 27, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

"Katrina Reincarnated?"
"Giant" Gustav?
Could we please have some more hysterical hype? The National Hurricane Center says that there is an equal probability that this thing could be a Category 1, 2, or 3 in 5 days.


Posted by: CapitalClimate | August 27, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Even if Gustav isn't the storm that takes out New Orleans, its only a matter of time before another one does.

Posted by: Brian in Alex | August 27, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

CapitalClimate -- Did you read the first paragraph? ... think that pretty much puts a realistic perspective on things. As for the headline, it's got a question mark, and matches perfectly with the model graphics showing an uncanny similarity between the two storms, even if it's just one of many scenarios.

Posted by: Dan, Capital Weather Gang | August 27, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

So you agree that the headline misrepresents the text? Apparently last night's Valley of the Trolls didn't sell enough wrinkle cream ads for Donny G to buy as many houses as John McCain.


Posted by: CapitalClimate | August 27, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree this time with Capital Climate: the hype is totally uncalled for - at this time.

Not withstanding the necessary caveats in the post, the headline - even with the question mark - is sensationalism that should be avoided.

To my CWG compatriots, sorry, but I feel strongly that my opinion on this be stated publicly.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | August 27, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

So now rival weather blogs are taking up residence in the comments section here? Wouldn't it be classier to pay for banner advertising than to post links every five minutes?

As for the headline, I'm with Dan. Anyone who has been here for more than a few days (sorry, capitalclimate) knows that the CWG staff disdains Accuweatherism. One headline, in isolation, is hardly "hype" or "sensationalism," especially when a look at the article emphasizes that we're talking about one model out of a dozen.


Posted by: Dave | August 27, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I think we (weather watchers as a whole) have been waiting for the "next Katrina" since Katrina and many storms have failed to cut it.

It's worth watching out for New Orleans, but plenty a Gulf storm threatens that area. If they are the target 5 days out history would say there's a decent chance that target will shift.

I'm still interested to see what happens to the storm in the next 24 hours... Hispaniola interaction, as it often does, seems to have caused a good bit more uncertainty with the storm over the last 24.

Posted by: Ian, Capital Weather Gang | August 27, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I hope this post doesn't end up at the top of today's Google News search. Yikes!

Posted by: Laura in NWDC | August 27, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Steve(s): It seems your issue is with the headline. With any and all headlines, I try to do two things: 1) Convey the essence of what the post is about, 2) Engage the readers.

To accomplish those two things, the headline is what it is. You can call it hype, I consider it the appropriate lead-in to an informative and entertaining post which communicates the range of possible scenarios for Gustav while highlighting a particularly ominous one (which happens to be in smack dab in the middle of current track guidance).

Posted by: Jason, Capital Weather Gang | August 27, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

That model is...scary close to the satellite imagery. And what gets me is the timing of this all, just a few days after the anniversary of Katrina. If the "worst case scenario" does occur, let's just hope that the government response is a wee bit more organized and with-it this time. And let's also hope that more people heed the evacuation orders, and accommodations are made for those who can't leave on their own (and that doesn't mean hoard them into the Superdome).

And, for the record, I don't think the headline was hype either. The headline matches the picture and the text pretty well, actually.

Posted by: weatherdudeVA | August 27, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

My vote: Somewhat to the west of New Orleans.

Posted by: El Bombo | August 27, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I can hardly believe those out there (and not just Capital Climate here, I've seen it elsewhere) who believe the media is overplaying Gustav's potential for ratings. I instead would question those who aren't overplaying the possibilities and don't point out the similarities between the two storms. I watched in horror this morning as the Today show (maybe my horror was just watching the Today show) and Al Rocker spoke of Gustav, showed the predicted track taking it right in the middle of La, but never once mentioned the landfall potential for the Central La area. He discussed (as trained to do I'm sure by the NHC) of the cone of uncertainty between Texas and Florida, but never impact in La (which as the holiday weekend nears, will get pushed out of people's minds). Haven't we seen this movie before?

Capital Weather, as I'm sure many of the long timers remember, was on the potential devastation of Katrina long before the decision makers in La. took attention, and the aftermath centered around why did they not act quicker? Get worried sooner? Here we are, just years later, asking if we are too worried or speaking too soon?

I would be willing to bet a large Dunkin Donuts Coolata that what the models depict today, tomorrow, or even saturday WON'T happen. But if we aren't going to pay attention to them, why even have them? Should we just go back to the 1800's, where the only way you knew a hurricane was coming is when the beach umbrellas blew away or the Cubans gave you warning about the powerful wave that just blew over half the island?

Steve Tracton, I agree that you don't want to over-hype a storm with still much to be considered, but I would rather over-hype than under-hype. I agree with Jason that the question mark, the evidence in the post, and the surrounding comments (including your dissent) is more than enough to frame the entire debate and put the headline into perspective.

Keep the comments coming!

Posted by: Jamie Jones, CapitalWeather Gang | August 27, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I would also note the current Bloomberg headline:

Gustav May Rival Katrina as It Advances Toward Gulf of Mexico

Posted by: Jamie Jones, CapitalWeather Gang | August 27, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

This story is exactly the kind of nerdy detail that (I think) the Capital Weather Gang was intended to bring to the website.

Now, I do wish I could find the groovy past-10, next-10 day temperature trend graph that appears in the dead tree version. That's good grahics.

Posted by: Josey23 | August 27, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Center of Gustav is emerging from Haiti, but strength is still at 60 mph in 2 pm advisory.


Posted by: CapitalClimate | August 27, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Let's just leave it that we can agree to disagree agreeably.

I expect to have a feature article soon on the capabilities and limitations of predicting hurricanes and the respective implications of each for decision makers. A key issue here is how best to communicate the inevitable but varying degree of uncertainties in the forecasts to a variety of users with differing sets of needs and requirements.

It's important to remember that users of forecasts (e.g., owners of oil rigs, emergency managers, general public) make decisions on how/when/where to respond to their specific weather related risks - that's not, or should not be, the role of forecasters. This includes - except in rare, virtually certain situations - to steer decisions purposely or otherwise by what might be considered, even if erroneously so, the equivalent of scare tactics.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | August 27, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

All I will point out is the that the comments section has taken a major nose dive - and impacted my enjoyment of this blog (and I suspect many others) - when another blog (call it competing, a splinter, whatever) started using it for marketing purposes. I think the Post business section had an article earlier this week that noted how such marketing tactics can really hurt a blog.

That's all I'll say. I'm sure I'll now be accused of personal attacks.

Posted by: Southside FFX | August 27, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Haiti ripped Gustav apart. Jamaica and Cuba may keep the intensity down as well for the next two days. Right now it is barely a TS. I think all these models will need to reevaluated based on what comes out after all this land interaction. Check back on friday afternoon and then there will be a better idea of the path/intensity. Until then, there is no reason to speculate as to what will take place.

Posted by: Jamming | August 27, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the comment Southside FFX ... we'll take it into serious consideration. In the meantime, would suggest that you try to ignore/skip over comments that you know you aren't interested in or hurt your enjoyment of the blog. Ignorance is bliss.

Posted by: Dan, Capital Weather Gang | August 27, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

It's a good thing our federal government has invested in high-quality infrastructure instead of squandering resources half way around the world for the past five years. The Gulf Coast will surely be safe. Bring it on, Gustav.

Posted by: John W McSame | August 27, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

it's unbelievable to me that "capital climate" continues to criticize cwg any chance he can get. how about some respect for the site that allows you to always post links to your website - and tolerates your inconsiderate & snotty comments/remarks?

Posted by: fed up with "capital climate" | August 27, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

It intrigues me that CapitalClimate would criticize CapWX for suggesting that GusTav might turn out like Katrina, then publishes this picture on the site:
Which shows, not surprisingly, the storm making landfall right near Katrina did.

Posted by: mcleaNed | August 27, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse




Posted by: REBECCA | August 27, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I vote for Gustav to completely wipe New Orleans off the face of the earth, and for it to be all George W. Bush's fault!!!! Let's put Obama in now. Only he can stop the hurricane.

Posted by: sid bluntley | August 27, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Oh no...they found us.

Posted by: Laura in NWDC | August 27, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

In the case of Katrina, it appears that what forecasters say doesn't really matter to emergency managers anyway. I remember reading posts on here about Katrina several days before it made landfall, complete with warnings that it could be disastrous. I'm sure plenty of forecasters on the Gulf were doing the same thing. Nobody seems to have listened.

Seems like whether forecasters cry wolf or downplay an event, bureaucracy takes precedence over science.

Posted by: Laura in NWDC | August 27, 2008 6:54 PM | Report abuse

The GFDL and HWRF did terrible with Fay... both showed a major storm in the Gulf and we didn't get close to that.

Conditions seem optimal in the Gulf for a big storm though, so I don't fully write off these solutions.

Gustav continues to be extremely unimpressive tonight.

Posted by: Ian, Capital Weather Gang | August 27, 2008 9:10 PM | Report abuse

For the record to one previous poster, this site came up number 2 on google for me. As a complete and utter curious, yet oblivious citizen of the southeast LA area, I would much rather freak out about the storm and be ready for the worst. I live over an hour away from New Orleans and I have a pure hatred for Katrina. I live far enough away that we were just trapped by fallen trees and no electricity for a week... so I was lucky but a lot of my friends down the road werenlt so much... so I say Kudos to all the sensationalism... scare my socks off!! I much prefer it over thinking it's just going to be a little rain. Plus, I'm prepared this year... I saved up all my paid time off from work for Hurricane Season! Wish us all luck down here!

Posted by: just call me Rose (LA resident) | August 27, 2008 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh - and Obama CAN stop Gustav... he can and he will!! : - )

Posted by: just call me Rose (LA resident) | August 27, 2008 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Nice Rose, nice. ;-)

Posted by: Peter | August 27, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Gustav is finally free of Hispaniola for the most part and seems to be enjoying the water -- some significant development near the center recently.

Posted by: Ian, Capital Weather Gang | August 27, 2008 11:59 PM | Report abuse

It's hitting a bit west of New Orleans. All the models agree at this point. It will be a hurricane on the next advisory (it is sustained 70mph as of 7:00am CST).

It may wobbled one way or the other but landfall will be somewhere on the LA coast. The earlier New Orleans starts evacuating the better.

All this "too early" stuff is irrelevant. After Katrina's damage and the lagging of the rebuilding process, it is never too early. They will be ready this year I just hope the storm wobbles east of NOLA and spares it. If it hits west of NOLA kiss it goodbye.

Posted by: Andrew (Baton Rouge) | August 28, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

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