After reaching major hurricane status and prompting the evacuation of some 2 million people from the Gulf coast of Louisiana, Hurricane Gustav has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane as it nears landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.
But even a weakened Hurricane Gustav is "extremely dangerous," according to the center.
Hurricane Gustav is expected to produce a storm surge of 10-14 feet; six to 12 inches of rain, and as much as 20 inches in some spots, across Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas; and isolated tornadoes.
Hurricane-force winds extend out 70 miles from the storm's center, which is just a few hours from landfall near New Orleans. Already, Louisiana is being battered by the outer bands of winds and rain from the hurricane.
The response to the hurricane is a political issue not only for Bush Administration, which was criticized for inept response to Hurricane Katrina three years ago almost to the day, but also for the major party presidential candidates. The Republicans suspended most activities for their national convention, where they will nominate John McCain as their official candidate, in deference to the storm, and Barack Obama has called on his volunteers to respond to devastation in the Gulf.
Gustav, which peaked at Category 4 strength, has been blamed for dozens of deaths in the Caribbean. It is the fourth hurricane, and the second major hurricane to form in the Atlantic this year. The Atlantic is just entering the peak of its hurricane season, and the activity in the basin demonstrates it. In addition to watching Gustav, Tropical Storm Hanna, the season's eighth named storm, is battering the Caicos Islands and is expected to move through the Bahamas before reaching hurricane strength and battering the U.S. east coast, near the Georgia-South Carolina border. In addition, four other weather patterns show some potential for tropical storm formation across the Atlantic, including one that may be forming a tropical depression imminently.
National Hurricane Center
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center have predicted that conditions will spawn a below-average storm season in the eastern Pacific, with 11-16 named storms, including five to eight hurricanes, as many as three of them major (Category 3 or greater) storms. Five of the 10 named storms in the eastern Pacific have formed hurricanes so far in 2008. There is currently no tropical cyclone activity in the eastern Pacific.
1. Tropical Storm Arthur formed quickly on May 31 off Belize, lost tropical storm strength in fewer than 24 hours, and brought punishing rains of 10-15 inches to parts of the Yucatán Peninsula, including Mexico and Guatemala.
2. Hurricane Bertha formed as a tropical storm July 3 in the far eastern Atlantic, then debuted as the Atlantic's first hurricane July 7 and quickly grew to major hurricane status. By the time it affected land, July 14 in Bermuda, it was a strong tropical storm, causing rough surf and 3-5 inches of rain. It broke the record for longest-lived July storm and on July 18 reformed into a hurricane.
3. Tropical Storm Cristobal formed on July 19 off the coast of the Carolinas. The first named storm to threaten the U.S. coast, Cristobal threatened 3-5 inches of rain and strong storm surges across South and North Carolina.
4. Hurricane Dolly reached Category 2 strength in the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall near the Texas-Mexico border July 23, 2008. Heavy rains and wind led to at least one death, flooding and damage in Texas and in neighboring states that may exceed $1 billion.
5. Tropical Storm Edouard formed August 3 in the Gulf of Mexico and though forecasters predicted strengthening and it passed by critical oil infrastructure, it was largely welcomed for relieving drought conditions in some parts of Texas and Louisiana.
6. Tropical Storm Fay formed August 15 off the coast of the Dominican Republic and killed 35 people there and in Haiti before making a record five landfalls in Florida, where it killed 11 before moving on as a tropical depression, killing at least one in Georgia.
7. Hurricane Gustav formed August 25 off the coast of Haiti and reached hurricane strength Aug. 26 before making landfall there. It has been blamed for dozens of deaths in the Caribbean, making it the deadliest tropical storm of 2008 in the Atlantic to date, even before it reached the Gulf Coast, where 2 million evacuated in preparation.
8. Tropical Storm Hanna formed August 28 in the Central Atlantic. Forecasters expected it to reach hurricane strength as it approaches Bermuda and, ultimately, the U.S. East Coast.
Ike - Josephine - Kyle - Laura - Marco - Nana - Omar - Paloma - Rene - Sally - Teddy - Vicky - Wilfred
1. Tropical Storm Alma brought heavy rains and winds to the Central American nations of Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala after forming May 29.
2. Hurricane Boris formed near Baja California and headed west into the Pacific, before reaching hurricane strength July 1.
3. Tropical Storm Cristina formed near Hawaii June 29 but dissipated before making landfall.
4. Tropical Storm Douglas formed July 2 and threatened to dump heavy rains on portions of southwest Mexico.
5. Hurricane Elida formed July 12 as a tropical storm and became the season's second Pacific hurricane July 14 when it became a weak Category 1 storm tracking westward from Mexico.
6. Hurricane Fausto formed as a tropical storm July 16 off the coast of Mexico. Like other 2008 Pacific hurricanes, the third of the year did not affect land.
7. Hurricane Genevieve formed in the Pacific Ocean, more than 580 miles off the coast of Mexico, on July 25, 2008. The fourth hurricane in the eastern Pacific, it did not affect land.
8. Hurricane Hernan formed August 6 hundreds of miles from Baja California and reached hurricane strength Aug. 8. On Aug. 9, it reached Category 3 status, the first major hurricane of 2008 in the Pacific. It lost hurricane Strength Aug. 11 and dissipated Aug. 12.
9. Tropical Storm Iselle formed August 13.
10. Tropical Storm Julio formed August 23 and made landfall in Baja California Aug. 24.
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