Gustav 'Likely to Explode into Major Hurricane, Target GOM'

NEW YORK (Dow Jones Newswires), August 28, 2008

Tropical Storm Gustav hasn't deviated from its "very ominous" track toward the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and is likely to strengthen into a major hurricane before making landfall, a private forecaster said Thursday.

"This storm remains likely to explode into a major hurricane as it moves across the northwestern Caribbean and into the Gulf over the weekend," said Jim Rouiller, a senior energy meteorologist with weather forecasting firm Planalytics.

Gustav, currently at tropical storm strength east of Jamaica, is expected to strengthen into a Category 3 or 4 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Government forecasters believe Gustav could make landfall anywhere along the Gulf Coast late Monday or early Tuesday, but Rouiller said the upper Texas or Louisiana coastlines are most in danger.

That course would take Gustav through the main energy-producing region of the Gulf, potentially disrupting a quarter of U.S. oil production and about 10% of domestic natural gas output. The Gulf Coast is also home to about 40% of U.S. refining capacity.

Rouiller has also begun to follow Tropical Depression 8, which he believes is likely to develop into Tropical Storm Hanna over the next few days. Hanna "could become a hurricane early next week and go on to threaten Florida and the eastern Gulf," he said.

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