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Hurricane Gustav will intensify to Category 4 strength day before landfall

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08/30/2008 01:53 AM
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Hurricane Gustav will intensify to Category 4 strength day before landfall
Hurricane Gustav will intensify to Category 4 strength day before landfall

by Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune
Friday August 29, 2008, 10:36 PM

Hurricane Gustav is expected to dramatically intensify as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico over the next three days, and now will arrive at the central Louisiana coast with strong Category 3 winds after briefly reaching Category 4 strength.

The rapid intensification is linked in part to the "loop current" just northwest of Cuba, a deep pool of warm water that has broken off from the Gulfstream and floated into the central Gulf. Warm surface temperatures across the rest of the Gulf will keep Gustav revved up until it makes landfall at about 1 a.m. Tuesday south of Morgan City and Houma.

Gustav will still be a strong Category 1 hurricane with 92 mph winds when it arrives at Eunice in west central Louisiana at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and will still be a strong tropical storm with winds greater than 50 mph when it reaches the Shreveport area 24 hours later.

The forecast path is moved slightly west right at landfall, which will place both Morgan City and Houma in Gustav's northeastern quadrant, and subject to a growing threat of storm surge. Even before this increased intensification estimate, early surge modeling by Louisiana State University indicates a chance of water 15 feet deep in the Houma area.

A variety of computer models being relied on by the National Hurricane Center are grouping their predictions along lines near the official forecast.

In his 10 p.m. message discussing the latest forecast, Senior Hurricane Specialist Richard Knabb warned that the forecast path still depended on the uncertain future of a ridge of high pressure building eastward over the United States and a trough of low pressure that extends into the Gulf and seems to be enticing Gustav northward.

[link to www.nola.com]
"There are important differences among the models, however, in how much ridging will extend southwestward from that high toward Texas, and in how strong the upper-level trough currently over the central Gulf will be over the western Gulf in a few days," Knabb wrote. "These varying solutions lead to different tracks over the northern Gulf."

Some models still push the storm farther west toward Texas, while others move it farther east, he said. One model actually has Gustav making landfall on the Louisiana coast and then looping back over Houston before re-emerging into the Gulf of Mexico with the potential to strengthen again.