It's the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, and it's getting scary out there.
Tropical Storm Gustav, which as a hurricane already made deadly landfall in Haiti, is set to regain hurricane strength in time for its landfall in Jamaica Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm has already been blamed for 22 deaths 14 in Haiti and eight in the Dominican Republic.
From there, Gustav is expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico, and the current projection has it making landfall Monday in Louisiana, well west of New Orleans, but nearly on the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, whose devastation is not long from the minds of anyone in the region or nation.
New Orleans and Louisiana officials were wasting no time preparing for the coming storm, even six days ahead of time.
Gustav, which has already sparked an increase in oil prices on the futures market, is almost sure to continue to send oil prices rising. There is an abundance of offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico along the Louisiana coast.
Hundreds of oil workers have been evacuated, and many more are preparing to leave before what Bloomberg calls a hurricane "forecast to become the worst Gulf of Mexico hurricane since Katrina." The U.S. depends on oil from the Gulf of Mexico.
Forecasters have been warning for days that Hurricane Gustav, once re-forming, could reach major hurricane status as it churns over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In recent years, storm watchers have witnessed several storms rapidly gain strength right before landfall.
Meanwhile, while all eyes are on Gustav, Hanna appears to be brewing, and the remnants of Fay continue to drench the mid-Atlantic.
Tropical Storm Fay and its remnants dropped astounding amounts of rain more than 27 inches in some areas of Florida and Georgia, more than 15 in parts of Alabama, and more than 11 in parts of North Carolina. The storm has produced rain in at least 12 states so far, and continues to track northeast, relieving drought conditions in many areas along the way.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say that a tropical depression in the Atlantic is expected to form the season's fourth hurricane, after Bertha, Dolly and Gustav, this weekend. The early forecast shows the storm curving, as a hurricane, toward Florida but the forecast doesn't yet project out far enough to say whether it will make landfall, or at what strength. (UPDATE: Tropical Storm Hanna formed Thursday.)
In the Atlantic, forecasters have predicted an above-average hurricane season. They predicted 14 to 18 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes and as many as six major hurricanes.
If Gustav reaches major hurricane status, it would be the season's second, after Bertha.
The Atlantic is just entering the peak of its hurricane season, and the activity in the basin demonstrates it. In addition to watching Gustav, the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay, and the incipient Hanna, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are watching two other low pressure systems in the Atlantic with some potential for forming tropical storms.
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 blamed for at least 22 deaths, and after losing strength over land, it is expected to regain hurricane status as it nears Jamaica, then heads for the Gulf of Mexico.
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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