Hurricane Gustav (2002)

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Hurricane Gustav
Category 2 hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
A view of Hurricane Gustav from Space on September 11, 2002. The storm is located over the open ocean, and is approaching landfall in Canada. New England is seen on the left side of the image.
Hurricane Gustav near peak intensity off the New England coast on September 11
FormedSeptember 8, 2002
DissipatedSeptember 15, 2002
(Extratropical after September 12)
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 100 mph (155 km/h)
Lowest pressure960 mbar (hPa); 28.35 inHg
Fatalities4 total
Damage$340,000 (2002 USD)
Areas affectedEast Coast of the United States, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Atlantic Canada
Part of the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Gustav was a Category 2 hurricane that paralleled the East Coast of the United States in September 2002 during the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the seventh named storm and first hurricane of the season. Initially a subtropical depression north of the Bahamas, Gustav passed slightly to the east of the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a tropical storm before moving northeastward and making two landfalls in Atlantic Canada as a Category 1 hurricane. The storm was responsible for one death and $100,000 in damage, mostly in North Carolina. The interaction between Gustav and a non-tropical system produced strong winds that caused an additional $240,000 (2002 USD) in damage in New England, but this damage was not directly attributed to the hurricane.

Gustav spent the early part of its existence as a subtropical storm, and was the first such storm to be named from the current lists by the National Hurricane Center. Previously, subtropical storms were not given names.[1] The cyclone was also the latest-forming first hurricane of the season since 1941.

Meteorological history[edit]

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

An area of disturbed weather in association with a weak surface trough and a stronger upper-level trough between the Bahamas and Bermuda developed on September 6.[2] High pressure ridging strengthened by Tropical Storm Fay caused the trough to become more organized and close off into a broad non-tropical low on September 7.[2] By September 8, the system had developed enough convection near its center of circulation to be classified Subtropical Depression Eight while located southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.[2] Later that day, data from a Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance aircraft indicated that the system had strengthened into a subtropical storm, and the depression was upgraded to Subtropical Storm Gustav.[3]

Gustav moved erratically to the west-northwest toward the North Carolina-South Carolina border over the next two days, it slowly strengthened, acquiring more tropical characteristics. On September 10, a poorly organized band of stronger winds developed around the center, and Gustav was designated a fully tropical storm[4] shortly before turning toward the north and brushing Cape Hatteras, then accelerating toward the northeast and away from the coast.[2] On September 11, while under the influence of a non-tropical system over New England, Gustav quickly strengthened into a hurricane, in a process similar to the intensification of Hurricane Michael in 2000.[2] Gustav reached its peak intensity of 100 mph (160 km/h) later that day.[2]

The hurricane began to slowly weaken and lose tropical characteristics on early September 12 as it moved over colder waters and encountered increasing wind shear. However, the storm was moving quickly enough to make landfall over Cape Breton, Nova Scotia as a Category 1 hurricane on September 12.[5] Later that morning, Gustav made a second landfall in Newfoundland and became extratropical shortly after.[6] The extratropical low continued moving slowly to the northeast before dissipating over the Labrador Sea on September 15.[2]


Tropical Storm Gustav near the Outer Banks on September 10

On September 8, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center predicted that Gustav would approach the North Carolina coast, and issued a tropical storm watch from Cape Fear to the North Carolina – Virginia border. The tropical storm watch was upgraded to a tropical storm warning on September 9, and a new tropical storm watch was issued later that day for areas of southeastern Virginia, from the North Carolina – Virginia border to New Point Comfort. The new watch was upgraded to a tropical storm warning on September 10. As Gustav began to turn to the northeast and away from the Mid-Atlantic coast, the tropical storm warnings were gradually discontinued. The last warning was discontinued on September 11.[2]

As Gustav approached Atlantic Canada, Environment Canada and the Canadian Hurricane Centre issued heavy rain and wind warnings for southern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.[7]


The Carolinas and Virginia[edit]

Total rainfall map of Gustav in North Carolina

Although the center of Gustav passed just to the east of Cape Hatteras, areas of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia experienced heavy rain and tropical storm force winds. Parts of the Outer Banks received 2–5 inches (50–125 mm) of rain and winds of up to 50 mph (80 km/h), and the Coast Guard station at Cape Hatteras reported a wind gust of 78 mph (125 km/h). The storm produced storm surges of 3–6 feet (1.8 m) along the Outer Banks, and 1–3 feet (0.91 m) along the southeastern coast of Virginia. These surges, combined with strong winds and high sea swells, resulted in minor flooding, mainly in Ocracoke and Hatteras Village, North Carolina.[8] A weak waterspout also touched down on Silver Lake near Ocracoke and moved onshore, but only minor roof damage was reported.[9] Sporadic power outages were also reported.[10] One person died at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina after suffering injuries in the high surf, and 40 other people had to be rescued from riptides and storm surges.[2] Damage in North Carolina amounted to $100,000 (2002 USD).[2]

New Jersey[edit]

Although the center of Gustav remained well offshore, the difference in pressure between it and a high pressure area over the central United States caused strong winds in areas of New Jersey on September 11. Wind gusts ranged from 35–45 mph (55–70 km/h), with stronger winds reported near the coast.[11] A maximum wind gust of 60 mph (100 km/h) was reported at Keansburg.[11] The strong winds downed trees and power lines throughout the eastern half of the state, damaging homes and blocking streets. At least 14,000 homes in the vicinity of Burlington and Ocean Counties were left without power.[11] In West Windsor Township, a man was killed when the upper section of a concrete wall he was working on blew over and crushed him. The other death occurred in West Amwell Township, where a tree limb fell on two elderly women, killing one and injuring the other. Elsewhere, while there were reports of trees falling on vehicles, no other serious injuries or deaths were reported.[11]

New York and New England[edit]

The interaction between Gustav and the non-tropical system caused strong winds that affected areas of coastal New England, mainly in eastern New York and Massachusetts. Some areas reported storm-force wind gusts of over 55 mph (90 km/h), and a maximum wind gust of 67 mph (108 km/h) was reported by a weather spotter in Catskill, New York.[12] Wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80 km/h) were reported in areas of Massachusetts.[13] The winds downed trees and power lines, and several homes and cars were damaged by fallen trees. Over 29,000 homes were left without power in eastern New York,[12] and 19,000 homes lost power in Massachusetts.[13] In all, the winds caused $240,000 (2002 USD) in damage,[13] but this damage was not directly attributed to Gustav in the National Hurricane Center's analysis.[2]

In the New York City area, a peak wind gust of 60 mph (100 km/h) was reported at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The winds caused some minor roof damage to buildings, and forced officials in New York City to cordon off parts of Manhattan as debris ranging from wrapping paper to crushed soda cans was blown about. This debris injured four people, one critically,[14] and disrupted a 9/11 memorial service, though it continued as planned.[15]

Sustained winds of 25–35 mph (40–55 km/h), with gusts up to 55 mph (90 km/h), were reported throughout Long Island.[14] Damage on the island was mainly limited to downed trees and power lines, although the Long Island Power Authority reported that at least 93,000 homes lost power during the day on September 11. One person was killed when his boat capsized in the Long Island Sound.[14]

Hurricane Gustav near its first landfall in Nova Scotia on September 12

Atlantic Canada[edit]

Despite gradually losing its tropical characteristics, Gustav brought heavy rain, storm and hurricane-force winds, and storm surges to areas of Atlantic Canada for several days. Strong winds knocked down trees and damaged docks in Nova Scotia,[2] and a wind gust of 75 mph (122 km/h) was reported on Sable Island. Gusts to over 60 mph (100 km/h) were reported in Newfoundland for several days after the center of Gustav moved out of the area. Rainfall amounts generally ranged from 0.3–2.7 inches (10–70 mm), with a maximum of 4 inches (102 mm) in Ashdale, Nova Scotia. Several locations set new daily rainfall records.[5] Localized flooding was reported in areas of Prince Edward Island, and 4,000 people in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island were left without power. Despite the heavy rain and wind, there were no reports of deaths or significant damage in Atlantic Canada.[16]

Naming and records[edit]

Gustav was the first subtropical storm to be given a name from the current name lists by the National Hurricane Center. Prior to the 2002 season, Atlantic subtropical storms were either not named or given a number from a separate numbering list than tropical cyclones.[1]

When Gustav attained hurricane status on September 11, it became the latest first hurricane to form in any season since the 1941 season, when the first hurricane developed on September 16. According to climatology, an average of three hurricanes form by September 11 of each year.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chris Landsea. "NOAA Hurricane FAQ: What is a subtropical cyclone?". NOAA Atlantic Oceanic and Meteorological Laboratory. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011. Retrieved September 26, 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Jack Beven (January 14, 2003). "Hurricane Gustav Tropical Cyclone Report" (PDF). National Hurricane Center. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  3. ^ National Hurricane Center (September 8, 2002). "Discussion #2 for Subtropical Storm Gustav, 5 p.m. EDT, Sept. 08 2002". NOAA. Retrieved October 22, 2006.
  4. ^ National Hurricane Center (September 10, 2002). "Discussion #9 for Tropical Storm Gustav, 11 a.m. EDT, Sept. 10 2002". NOAA. Retrieved October 22, 2006.
  5. ^ a b c "Hurricane Gustav Storm Summary". Canadian Hurricane Centre. October 7, 2002. Archived from the original on September 27, 2005. Retrieved September 26, 2006.
  6. ^ National Hurricane Center (September 12, 2002). "Discussion #16 for Hurricane Gustav, 5 a.m. EDT, Sept. 12 2002". NOAA. Retrieved October 22, 2006.
  7. ^ Miles Lawrence (September 11, 2002). "Hurricane Gustav Public Advisory #12". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved September 27, 2006.
  8. ^ "NCDC Event Details, Event #475830". National Climatic Data Center. September 10, 2002. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  9. ^ "NCDC Event Details, Event #475831". National Climatic Data Center. September 10, 2002. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  10. ^ "Hurricane Gustav heads toward Nova Scotia". CNN. September 12, 2002. Archived from the original on November 13, 2007. Retrieved September 26, 2006.
  11. ^ a b c d "NCDC Event Report, Event #474063". National Climatic Data Center. September 11, 2002. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  12. ^ a b "NCDC Event Details, Event #475001". National Climatic Data Center. September 11, 2002. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  13. ^ a b c "NCDC Event Details, Event #467548". National Climatic Data Center. September 11, 2002. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c "NCDC Event Details, Event #474999". National Climatic Data Center. September 11, 2002. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  15. ^ Keith Olbermann (September 12, 2002). "An ill wind". Archived from the original on September 15, 2008. Retrieved September 26, 2006.
  16. ^ "Newfoundland hit with heavy rain, Gustav leaves land". CTV. September 12, 2002. Archived from the original on December 24, 2002. Retrieved August 12, 2012.