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Hurricane Gustav: The Essential Time Line

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
September 2, 2008
 
Follow Gustav's path from its formation in the eastern Caribbean to its eventual landfall as a Category 2 hurricane on the Louisiana coast.

All times given in eastern standard time

MONDAY, AUGUST 25, 2008

9 a.m.: The weather system that will become Hurricane Gustav forms as a tropical depression in the eastern Caribbean Sea.

Noon: The tropical depression quickly strengthens over warm Caribbean waters and becomes tropical storm Gustav, with maximum winds of 60 miles (96 kilometers) an hour.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 26

3 a.m.: Gustav becomes a Category 1 hurricane with winds of about 85 miles (137 kilometers) an hour.

Later the same day Gustav strikes Hispaniola—the island that includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic—killing 84 people. But passage over the island disrupts Gustav's organization and weakens it to a tropical storm.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 27, TO THURSDAY, AUGUST 28

Gustav continues moving across the Caribbean Sea as a tropical storm.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 29

Late morning: The storm begins strengthening, and by Friday afternoon it is again a Category 1 hurricane with peak winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) an hour. Later in the day Hurricane Gustav moves over Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 30

3 a.m.: After passing the Caymans, Hurricane Gustav continues to rapidly gain strength, and by early Saturday morning its strongest winds have reached 110 miles (177 kilometers) an hour, making it a very strong Category 2 storm on the verge of becoming a Category 3.

9 a.m.: Gustav's winds have increased to 125 miles (201 kilometers) an hour, making it a major Category 3 hurricane. The storm is now moving northwest through the Caribbean Sea and is about 135 miles (217 kilometers) south of Havana, Cuba.

Noon: Hurricane Gustav is over very warm water in the Caribbean Sea and is encountering no upper-level winds to disrupt its development. Its winds reach 145 miles (233 kilometers) an hour, making it a Category 4 hurricane.

"It's in bathtub-warm water now, and it's exploding," Keith Blackwell, a meteorologist at the University of South Alabama's Coastal Weather Research Center in Mobile, told National Geographic News.

During the afternoon and evening: Hurricane Gustav strikes the Isla de la Juventud off the Cuban coast with winds of about 150 miles (241 kilometers) an hour. The storm crosses the tip of western Cuba during the evening, where high mountains disrupt the storm and cause it to lose energy.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 31

3 a.m.: Hurricane Gustav emerges from Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico. Its trek across Cuba has weakened it to a Category 3 hurricane with winds of about 125 miles (201 kilometers) an hour.

During the day Sunday: Hurricane Gustav does not regain strength as forecasters had expected and instead gradually weakens as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico.

Still, forecasters expect Gustav to come ashore as a major hurricane somewhere on the U.S. Gulf Coast. In New Orleans, officials are very worried about whether the city's levee system will stand up to the hurricane.

Fearing a repeat of the catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, evacuation orders are issued for New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. About two million people begin moving inland as Gustav approaches landfall.

LABOR DAY MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

9 a.m.: Gustav has crossed cooler water as it nears the Louisiana coast, and its strongest winds have weakened to 110 miles (177 kilometers) an hour, making it a very strong Category 2 hurricane.

10:30 a.m.: Hurricane Gustav's eye comes ashore at Cocodrie, Louisiana, a small town on the Gulf Coast about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans. The storm's eye begins moving roughly parallel to the Louisiana coast.

During the day: Hurricane Gustav pushes a storm surge of about 12 feet (3.6 meters) into the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Canal. The surge rolls into downtown New Orleans and raises the water level in the Industrial Canal, which failed during Hurricane Katrina and caused catastrophic flooding in the city.

Wind-driven water sloshes over the canal, causing some minor flooding in the city's Lower Ninth Ward, but the levee holds and New Orleans is spared a repeat of the 2005 catastrophe.

Meanwhile, Gustav's eye continues to move westward along the Louisiana coast and gradually inland, weakening as it goes.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2

10 a.m.: Gustav has weakened to a tropical depression and is bringing rain and gusty winds to Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. The remnants of the storm are centered 21 miles (34 kilometers) southeast of Shreveport, Louisiana.
 

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