As of 5pm EDT, Hurricane Watches have been issued from just east of Galveston Bay in Texas to the Florida/Alabama border.
More imminently, Cuba is about to get clobbered by a high-end Category 4 hurricane — now up to 150 mph sustained winds, with a pressure of 942 millibars. (Category 5 begins at 156 mph.) Pray for the people in its path; the affected areas will be devastated. Dr. Jeff Masters writes:
This will be a massive disaster for Cuba, as portions of the stretch of coast to the right of where Gustav will make landfall are heavily populated. Furthermore, Gustav’s hurricane-force winds extend out 60 miles from the eye, meaning that the western reaches of the capital city of Havana will receive a formidable blow. Havana’s construction is fairly dilapidated, and Category 1 hurricane winds will do heavy damage. Adding to the catastrophe will be rainfall amounts of up to 25 inches, causing dangerous fresh-water flooding. Gustav is likely to be one of the five most damaging hurricanes in Cuban history.
Below, you can see what a slightly broader view looked like at 4:15 PM EDT:
Beyond Cuba, forecasters are getting more confident in Gustav’s track through the Gulf, according to the latest NHC discussion:
THE VARIOUS MODELS HAVE COME INTO BETTER AGREEMENT ON A TRACK INTO THE NORTH-CENTRAL GULF COAST WITHIN THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS. THE HWRF…UKMET…AND NOGAPS…WHICH HAD PREVIOUSLY FORECAST A STALL JUST OFFSHORE…HAVE COME INTO THE FOLD WITH THE GFS…GFDL…AND ECMWF…RESULTING IN A CONSENSUS TRACK THAT FALLS VERY CLOSE TO THE PATH OF THE PREVIOUS ADVISORY. THIS AGREEMENT HAS ALSO RESULTED…HOWEVER…IN A CONSENSUS TRACK THAT REACHES THE COAST A LITTLE FASTER. THE NEW OFFICIAL TRACK IS ALMOST EXACTLY ALONG THE PATH OF THE PREVIOUS ADVISORY…BUT MAINTAINS THE CURRENT HEADING AND SPEED ALL THE WAY TO THE COAST…ARRIVING THERE A LITTLE SOONER THAN BEFORE [i.e., Monday afternoon instead of Monday night]. WHILE THERE IS INCREASED CONFIDENCE IN BOTH THE PATH AND SPEED OF THE TRACK THROUGH ABOUT 48 HOURS…THE MODEL SPREAD IS STILL SUFFICIENTLY LARGE TO SERVE AS A REMINDER THAT WE CANNOT SPECIFY EXACTLY WHERE OR WHEN THE CENTER OF GUSTAV WILL MAKE FINAL LANDFALL.
Here’s the current forecast track:
Again, for the latest on Louisiana’s preparations, visit the Times-Picayune‘s New Orleans Hurricane Center.