August 27, 2008

Gustav Moves Across Haiti

Hurricane Gustav weakened slightly as it raked Haiti Tuesday night though forecasters warned it had the makings of a meteorological behemoth.

Gustav, a Category 1 hurricane that is the seventh named Atlantic storm of the season, could drop as much as 20 inches of rain on Haiti before it churns toward Cuba, U.S. forecasters in Miami reported. said Gustav was expected to regain strength after passing over Haiti and had the potential to become the first major hurricane to hit the Gulf of Mexico since Wilma in October 2005. It all will depend on how the storm tracks during the next four days, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist John Kocet said.

"The longer Gustav stays over the warm water in the Caribbean, the stronger it gets and the greater the chance that it will become a Category 3 hurricane by Saturday." Kocet said. "The storm will weaken if it moves close to Cuba, but it will strengthen if it tracks farther south across the Caribbean."

If Gustav does that, it could intensify to Category 4 or 5 strength over the warm water in the Gulf, said.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm made landfall in Haiti at 1 p.m., about 10 miles west of Jacmel. By 8 p.m., the government of the Cayman Islands had issued a hurricane watch, while the Dominican Republican had lifted its warning. Cuba's warning was still in effect for Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba and Granma and a watch was in effect for other regions of the country. Jamaica also had a warning in effect.

The center of the storm was about 60 miles west of Port au Prince, Haiti and about 155 miles southeast of Guantanamo, moving northwest at about 7 mph. The storm was expected to turn to the west-northwest Tuesday night, moving near or just south of eastern Cuba Wednesday.

It was carrying winds of about 75 mph with higher gusts.