RMS, AIR Tracking Gustav

August 29, 2008

“Gustav looks set to make landfall early next week as it continues to intensify along its path. Forecasts suggest that it will strike on the US Gulf coast on Tuesday morning, potentially as a category 2 or 3 hurricane,” according to Neena Saith, catastrophe response manager at Risk Management Solutions. “However, the landfall timing all depends on the location, with a hit to the east likely to occur earlier than one to the west. The intensity will also be driven by the location and timing, and at this point is even more uncertain,” she added.

According to catastrophe risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide, as of this morning Gustav is located about 80 miles (126 kms) east of Kingston, Jamaica. “Maximum sustained winds are estimated at near 70 mph and the storm is moving to the west-southwest at 6 mph,” stated Dr. Peter Dailey, director of atmospheric science at AIR Worldwide.

AIR noted that the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) were somewhat surprised when a reconnaissance plane discovered that the center of the storm had shifted considerably southward. According to the NHC, “Gustav has either reformed to the south or been moving more to the south-southwest overnight.” The new forecast track takes Gustav south of Jamaica, rather than to the north between Jamaica and Cuba.

RMS’ Saith noted: “Gustav is expected to still be a category 1 hurricane as it passes along the south coast of Jamaica and the south of Grand Cayman – unlike Ivan in 2004 which was a cat 4 when it took a very similar path and caused substantial damage to these islands from wind and storm surge. As it passes along its track Gustav will experience the optimal conditions for intensification found anywhere in the Atlantic basin at this time, with weak wind shear and the warmest sea surface temperatures.

“The uncertainty in the forecasts means that everyone along the Gulf coast should be on alert – from Texas to Florida. Some oil rigs have already been evacuated, and if Gustav reaches category 3 status or above they could incur some structural damage, leading to a longer-term impact on oil production and potentially triggering a soar in oil prices. The markets are already over-sensitized and showing a high degree of volatility due to a fear of a repeat of the 2005 hurricane season.”

The NHC is also tracking another tropical storm, Hanna, currently located about 245 miles (400 kms).north-northeast of the northern Leeward islands.

Source: Risk Management Solutions – www.rms.com and AIR Worldwide – www.air-worldwide.com

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