Gustav Weakens But Could Become Hurricane Again

As reported by Jonathan M. Katz on Associated Press.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Tropical Storm Gustav stalled in the Caribbean early Wednesday a day after hitting Haiti as a hurricane.

But the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm could regain hurricane strength later in the day or on Thursday once it moves away from Haiti.

As of 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Gustav’s maximum sustained winds were near 60 mph (95 kph) with higher gusts. The storm was centered about 80 miles (125 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince. The storm had not moved much during the last few hours, the hurricane center said. But it was expected to continue moving toward the west-northwest.

Jamaica issued a tropical storm warning Wednesday and also remained under a hurricane watch along with the Cayman Islands. A watch means hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours.

A hurricane warning was in effect for parts of Cuba including the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay. A warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours.

As a hurricane, Gustav caused a killer landslide and dumped torrential rains on southern Haiti on Tuesday before weakening to a tropical storm.

Rising water threatened Haiti’s crops amid protests over high food prices, and oil prices rose on fears the storm could batter oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm lingered into the night over Haiti’s poor, deforested southern peninsula, and water levels were rising in banana, bean and vegetable fields. One man was killed in a landslide in the mountain town of Benet, civil protection director Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste told Radio Metropole.

Cars pushed through standing water in the streets of Port-au-Prince, as fallen trees and landslides blocked a major road out of the capital.

Hundreds of people in coastal Les Cayes ignored government warnings to seek shelter, instead throwing rocks to protest the high cost of living in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Witnesses said U.N. peacekeepers used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Haiti is a tinderbox because of soaring food prices, which in April led to deadly protests and the ouster of the nation’s prime minister. It was difficult to ascertain the extent of the damage from the hurricane to the nation’s crops on Tuesday because of Haiti’s poor infrastructure and faulty communications.

“If the rain continues, we’ll be flooded,” U.N. food consultant Jean Gardy said Tuesday from the southeastern town of Marigot.

Forecasters said Gustav could become a Category 2 hurricane with winds topping 96 mph (154 kph) Thursday as it moves between Cuba and Jamaica.

After Haiti, a strengthening Gustav was projected to sideswipe Cuba’s southern coastline all week before entering the central gulf on Sunday.

Forecasters were reluctant to predict the storm’s path beyond the weekend, the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Thunderstorms associated with Gustav were already bringing downpours to some parts of eastern Cuba late Tuesday night. In Houlgin province, communist officials evacuated residents from low-lying areas and set up shelters and emergency food distribution centers in schools and municipal buildings.

Forecasters said the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be spared a direct hit. Base spokesman Bruce Lloyd said the base was preparing for emergencies in any case.

For the full story head to Associated Press.