Tropical Storm Gustav may regain hurricane status

A woman works in a flooded street caused by Tropical Storm Gustav at a market Wednesday in Haiti.
A woman works in a flooded street caused by Tropical Storm Gustav at a market Wednesday in Haiti.

Posted by Rachel Leigh email

(CNN) - Tropical Storm Gustav dumped torrential rainfall over parts of Haiti early Wednesday, and forecasters warned of potentially dangerous weather for parts of Cuba, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Forecasters say the storm is likely to dump up to a foot of rain in parts of those countries, possibly sparking life-threatening flash floods and mud slides. They say it may strengthen back into a hurricane Wednesday or Thursday.

At 5 a.m. ET Wednesday, the storm has stalled about 80 miles (125 km) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and about 155 miles (250 km) southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. Its winds blew up to 60 miles an hour, the center said.

Tropical Storm Gustav was a Category 1 hurricane when it crossed onto Haiti's southern peninsula earlier Tuesday.

The storm triggered a landslide near the Haitian town of Brazillienne that killed a man, according to Pinchinat Pierre Louis, deputy director of civil protection in Haiti. Pierre Louis also said that flood waters had split the southern town of Jacmel in half.

The storm is expected to gain strength and could become a Category 2 hurricane when it passes between Cuba and Jamaica. A Category 2 hurricane has sustained wind speeds of at least 96 mph (154 km/h).

Carrying winds of up to 90 mph (145 km/h), the storm made landfall Tuesday afternoon about 10 miles (16 km) west of the southern town of Jacmel, Haiti, the hurricane center said.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, meanwhile, authorities warned residents of a state battered by Hurricane Katrina to be prepared for another possible strike by a major storm.

"We all hope this will be a false alarm," Gov. Bobby Jindal told reporters. "Now would be a good time, however, for families to review their evacuation plans."

Katrina killed more than 1,800 people when it struck on August 29, 2005, flattening towns on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and flooding more than three-quarters of New Orleans.

Jindal said Louisiana is "better prepared than before," with hundreds of buses and tens of thousands of shelter beds lined up in preparation for another storm.

He said forecasts showing Gustav headed toward the Gulf Coast as a major hurricane were "extremely tentative," but urged residents to fill up their cars, lay in stores of food and water for three days and refill prescriptions in case evacuations become necessary.

As a precaution, Shell Oil Company said it was making arrangements to evacuate staff not essential to production or drilling from the Gulf of Mexico.

"Evacuations could begin as early as Wednesday," the company said.

However, hurricane movements are erratic, and long-range forecasts often miss. The National Hurricane Center "track forecast cone" estimates the center of the storm could be anywhere between Key West, Florida, and the eastern end of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula by Saturday.

A hurricane warning, meaning that sustained winds of at least 74 mph (119 km/h) are expected within a day, remained in effect for the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba and Granma, but the Dominican Republic discontinued the warning for the eastern part of Hispaniola, the island it shares with Haiti.

Hurricane watches, which means hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area in 36 hours, were in effect for the Cayman Islands; Haiti from Le Mole St. Nicholas to the northern Haiti-Dominican Republic border; the Cuban provinces of Las Tunas and Holguin; and Jamaica.

Gustav prompted several flight cancellations on Tuesday, most to Haiti, airport spokesmen said. An American Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Florida to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and another going the opposite direction were canceled, Fort Lauderdale airport spokesman Greg Meyer said.

Miami International Airport spokesman Greg Chin said six additional flights had been canceled -- four to and from Haiti and two to and from Belize.