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Tropical Cyclone Report

Hurricane Gustav

8 - 12 September 2002

Jack Beven
National Hurricane Center
14 January 2003

Hurricane Gustav was a category 2 hurricane of subtropical origin. The cyclone passed near the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a tropical storm, then passed over the eastern end of Nova Scotia and western Newfoundland as a category 1 hurricane.

a. Synoptic History

An area of showers developed between the Bahamas and Bermuda on 6 September in association with a developing upper-level trough and a weak surface trough. The upper-level trough amplified over the next two days in response to upstream ridging enhanced by Tropical Storm Fay over the Gulf of Mexico. As this occurred, convection increased in both coverage and intensity and the surface trough became better defined. A broad surface low formed in the system late on 7 September. By 1200 UTC 8 September, the cyclone had developed sufficient organized convection to qualify as a subtropical depression about 440 n mi south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Later that day, an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft investigated the cyclone and found it had become Subtropical Storm Gustav. The "best track" chart of the tropical cyclone's path is given in Figure 1, with the wind and pressure histories shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3, respectively. The best track positions and intensities are listed in Table 1.

Gustav moved erratically west-northwestward on 9 September as it slowly strengthened. On that day, the cyclone had a large area of light winds near the center with multiple low-level cloud swirls, and aircraft and satellite position fixes often differed by 30-50 n mi. Gustav turned north early on 10 September as convection became better organized near the center. Based on this and the development of a band of strong winds closer to the center, it is estimated that the cyclone transformed into a tropical storm around 1200 UTC. Maximum sustained winds reached 55 kt while the center passed between Cape Hatteras and Diamond Shoals, North Carolina about 2100 UTC that day. It should be noted that while the circulation center stayed offshore (not a "landfall"), the radius of maximum winds (RMW) passed over portions of the Outer Banks and thus counts as a "strike" for this area.

Gustav turned northeastward when it reached the Hatteras area, then accelerated northeastward on 11 September in southwesterly flow caused by baroclinic cyclogenesis over the New England states and southeastern Canada. In a complex process similar to that seen in Hurricane Michael in 2000, the tropical cyclone intensified as it gradually began to merge with or absorb the non-tropical low. Gustav became the 2002 season's first hurricane just before 1200 UTC and reached a maximum intensity of 85 kt near 1800 UTC. After that, the cyclone began to weaken. Gustav made landfall over the southern part of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia near 0430 UTC 12 September as an 80-kt hurricane. Satellite, surface, and radar data indicated the cyclone was becoming extratropical as it made a second landfall over southwestern Newfoundland near 0900 UTC. Gustav lost all tropical characteristics by 1200 UTC as it continued northeastward while decelerating across Newfoundland. The remnant extratropical low moved into the Labrador Sea, where it turned northwestward late on 13 September and dissipated on 15 September.

b. Meteorological Statistics

Observations in Gustav (Figure 2 and Figure 3) include satellite-based Dvorak technique intensity estimates from the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB), the Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB) and the U. S. Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA), as well as flight-level and dropwindsonde observations from flights of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the U. S. Air Force Reserve Command. Additionally, there were many observations from ships, buoys, and land stations.

The maximum winds reported in Gustav were flight-level winds of 104 kt from both Air Force Reserve (at 850 mb) and NOAA (at 700 mb) hurricane hunters around 1900-2000 UTC 11 September. Using standard flight-level to surface reduction for eyewall conditions, the NOAA report would yield a surface wind estimate of 90-95 kt (Figure 2). However, neither aircraft reported an eye or eyewall, so a more conservative reduction for convective bands would yield a surface wind estimate of 85-90 kt. This is in better agreement with the 80-85 kt estimated surface wind from the Air Force aircraft and with an 83 kt surface wind measured by the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer instrument on the NOAA aircraft. The minimum aircraft-reported pressure on a formal fix was 969 mb at 1701 UTC 11 September. However, a dropsonde released later that day near the flight-level wind maximum southeast of the center reported a surface pressure of 964 mb. This suggests that the rapid northeastward motion displaced the wind center of the cyclone to the northwest of the pressure center.

Gustav affected many ships and buoys between North Carolina and Nova Scotia, with selected observations given in Table 2. The most notable observations were from the ship Tellus (call sign WRYG), which reported 88 kt and 90 kt winds at 1500 and 1600 UTC 11 September. While these winds are not totally inconsistent with the strength of Gustav at the time, the ship was far enough from the center that the speeds appear somewhat suspect. The oil rig WCY533 near Sable Island reported 74 kt winds and a 965.0 mb pressure at 0300 UTC 12 September. Other noteworthy ship and buoy reports include a 55 kt wind reported by the Columbus Canterbury (call sign ELUB8) near the North Carolina coast at 1900 UTC 10 September and a 964.3 mb pressure from Canadian buoy 44142 at 2300 UTC 11 September.

Gustav brought tropical-storm winds to portions of the North Carolina coast and eastern Nova Scotia. In North Carolina, the Coastal Marine Automated Network station at Diamond Shoals reported 52 kt sustained winds with a gust to 61 kt at 1400 UTC 10 September and a 984.8 mb pressure at 2000 UTC. The Cape Hatteras Coast Guard station reported a gust of 68 kt at 2130 UTC. In Nova Scotia, Sable Island reported 48 kt sustained winds with a gust to 66 kt at 0414 UTC 12 September, while Hart Island reported a pressure of 961.4 mb at 0345 UTC. Tropical-storm winds were also reported on Prince Edward Island as the wind field of Gustav expanded during extratropical transition.

Storm surge flooding of 5-6 ft above normal tide levels occurred along the inland side of the Outer Banks in Hyde and Dare counties. This occurred during a period of strong northwesterly winds following the passage of the center of Gustav. Storm tides of 3-4 ft above normal were reported in Cedar Island and along the Neuse River. Tides were 1-2 ft above normal elsewhere along the coasts of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. A 4-5 ft storm surge occurred at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Above normal tides were also reported along the coasts of northern and eastern Nova Scotia and eastern New Brunswick.

Storm total rainfalls were 2-5 in over portions of the Outer Banks, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. This included a 4.90 in total at Ocracoke, North Carolina and a 4.25 in total at Lyon's Brook, Nova Scotia. One tornado occurred during Gustav near Ocracoke.

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

Gustav directly caused one death - a swimmer at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina who suffered injuries from high surf and died two days later. Forty people had to be rescued from storm surge in Hatteras at the height of the storm.

Damages from Gustav were minor. Damages to property and vehicles in North Carolina is estimated at about $100,000. In Canada, the worst damage occurred on Prince Edward Island, where whole trees were toppled and local flooding occurred. In Nova Scotia, some docks were damaged and trees were blown down.

d. Forecast and Warning Critique

Average official track errors (with the number of cases in parentheses) for Gustav were 50 (13), 70 (11), 66 (9), 112 (7), and 239 (3) n mi for the 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72 h forecasts, respectively. These errors are lower than the average official track errors for the 10-yr period 1992-2001 (43, 81, 115, 148, and 222 n mi, respectively) for 24, 36, and 48h, and higher than the 10-yr average at 12 and 72 h. (link table="4"/>).

Several of the numerical guidance models performed well during Gustav. The National Weather Service Global Forecasting System model (AVNO) had overall best performance, with average track forecast errors of less than 60 n mi through 48 h and a 110 n mi error at 72 h.

Average official intensity errors were 5, 7, 9, 12, and 22 kt for the 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72 h forecasts, respectively. For comparison, the average official intensity errors over the 10-yr period 1992-2001 are 7, 11, 14, 16, and 19 kt, respectively. The largest intensity forecast errors occurred during Gustav's northeastward acceleration, when the intensities were underforecast.

Table 5 lists the U. S. watches and warnings associated with Gustav. A tropical storm watch was issued for portions of the North Carolina coast at 2100 UTC 8 September, while a tropical storm warning was issued for much of the watch area at 0300 UTC 9 September. This was 48 and 42 h, respectively, before the closest approach of the center to the Cape Hatteras area. In addition to the warnings in Table 5, the Canadian Hurricane Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia issued warnings for wind rain and storm surge for large portions of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island.

Acknowledgments

Much of the U. S. data in this report was contributed by the National Weather Service forecast offices in Wilmington, North Carolina, Morehead City, North Carolina, and Wakefield, Virginia. Peter Bowyer of the Canadian Hurricane Center and Chris Fogarty of Dalhouse University contributed much of the Canadian data.



Table 1: Best track for Hurricane Gustav, 8 - 12 September 2002.
Date/Time
(UTC)
PositionPressure
(mb)
Wind Speed
(kt)
Stage
Lat.
(°N)
Lon.
(°W)
08/ 120029.071.0100930subtropical depression
08 / 180030.271.1100735subtropical storm
09 / 000030.572.3100440"
09 / 060031.272.6100340"
09 / 120031.673.6100240"
09 / 180031.974.5100240"
10 / 000032.175.599645"
10 / 060033.075.599050"
10 / 120033.775.498750tropical storm
10 / 180035.075.498555"
11 / 000035.574.798355"
11 / 060036.873.097760"
11 / 120038.070.897170hurricane
11 / 180040.366.896485"
12 / 000043.162.896280"
12 / 060046.559.696075"
12 / 120048.657.796560extratropical
12 / 180050.155.596760"
13 / 000051.054.096855"
13 / 060052.552.596850"
13 / 120054.551.497245"
13 / 180056.049.597645"
14 / 000057.051.598240"
14 / 060058.052.598435"
14 / 120059.553.598930"
14 / 180061.054.099230"
15 / 000062.554.599820"
15 / 0600dissipated
12 / 040045.360.896080minimum pressure
12 / 043045.660.496080Landfall near Kelpy Cove, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
12 / 090047.658.696365Landfall near Rose-Blanche-Harbour le Cou, Newfoundland


Table 2: Selected ship and drifting buoy reports with winds of at least 34 kt for Hurricane Gustav, 8 -12 September 2002.
Ship Name or Call SignDate/Time (UTC)Lat.
(°N)
Lon.
(°W)
Wind dir/speed (deg/kt)Pressure (mb)
Buoy 4165208 / 162030.068.8150 / 43 1012.9 
Buoy 4153709 / 030027.470.8210 / 41 1015.4 
Buoy 4165209 / 062030.068.4170 / 52 1014.6 
Buoy 4153709 / 080027.570.8180 / 56 1014.6 
P&O Nedlloyd Sydney09 / 150034.076.2010 / 45 1010.5 
P&O Nedlloyd Sydney09 / 180034.675.2030 / 37 1007.5 
Star Inventana10 / 180032.672.3250 / 35 1012.4 
Charles Island10 / 180033.972.8140 / 35 1003.0 
Columbus Canterbury10 / 190035.575.0090 / 55 N/A 
Charles Island11 / 000033.074.1250 / 40 1001.5 
WAAH11 / 060035.872.5220 / 52 988.5 
Nedlloyd Holland11 / 150037.866.9210 / 54 990.5 
Tellus11 / 150038.068.1150 / 88 978.0 
Tellus11 / 160038.068.2240 / 90 982.3 
Swan11 / 180035.071.5240 / 39 1003.7 
P&O Nedlloyd Jakarta12 / 000037.259.8220 / 47 1005.0 
Majestic Maersk12 / 000040.761.6220 / 40 988.0 
WCY53312 / 030044.060.3190 / 74 965.0 
Choyang Zenith12 / 060037.059.9230 / 41 1004.5 
YJRX212 / 060044.259.6240 / 55 978.7 
Albatros12 / 120044.163.8320 / 48 993.2 
Algofax12 / 120046.659.5290 / 43 976.0 
3FPK712 / 120046.648.0210 / 38 995.6 
HP603812 / 150046.448.4190 / 40 994.7 
Kometik12 / 180043.453.9230 / 55 992.0 
Atlantic Concert12 / 180046.350.2160 / 36 990.9 
Buoy 4460212 / 210044.552.8250 / 39 N/A 
HP603813 / 030046.448.4230 / 45 999.5 
Atlantic Concert13 / 060045.653.4260 / 50 1004.2 
3FPK713 / 090046.648.0250 / 39 1005.7 
Canmar Success13 / 120049.745.7200 / 42 1002.5 
Canmar Success13 / 180050.047.4210 / 45 1005.8 


Table 3: Selected surface observations for Hurricane Gustav, 8-12 September 2002.
Minimum
Sea-level
Pressure
Maximum Surface Wind Speed
(kt)
LocationDate/
Time
(UTC)
Press.
(mb)
Date/
Timea
(UTC)
Sust.
Windb
(kts)
Peak
Gust (kts)
Storm
Surgec
(ft)
Storm
Tided
(ft)
Rain
(storm total)
(in)
North Carolina
Alligator River Bridge  10/2100  56    
Beaufort (KMRH)f10/1900 999.7 10/2033 32 39   1.95 
Cape Hatteras CG  10/2130  68    
Cape Hatteras Fishing Pier10/2112 985.3 10/2112 37 55    
Cedar Island  10/2130  48    
Duck (NOS)10/2324 995.0 10/2248 44 55    
Elizabeth City (KECG)10/2145 999.0 10/2054 26 38   0.61 
Frisco (KSHE)10/1700 987.5 11/0100 25 36   4.72 
Manteo (KMQI)f10/2100 993.5 10/2300 35 47   2.27 
Nags Head  10/2000  53    
Ocracoke  10/2030  64   4.90 
Nova Scotia
Ashdale       4.13 
Hallifax       3.70 
Hart Island (CWRN)12/0345 961.4       
Liverpool       4.02 
Lyon's Brook       4.25 
Middleboro       3.94 
Sable Island (CWSA)f12/0300 969.2 12/0414 48 66    
St. Paul's Island (CWEF)f12/0500 961.6 12/0742  66    
Prince Edward Island        
Charlottetown  12/0245 35 52 4-5  2.76 
Buoys and C-MAN
Buoy 4100111/0600 997.5 11/0310 36e 46    
Buoy 4100210/0500 996.7 10/1500 29 35    
Buoy 4400411/1300 977.5 10/1420 44e 62    
Buoy 4400811/1700 983.1 11/1600 29 35    
Buoy 4401111/1900 972.4 11/2000 44 61    
Buoy 4401411/0400 991.3 11/0500 35 44    
Buoy 4413712/0000 983.6 12/0500 47     
Buoy 4413912/0500 982.8 12/0600 41     
Buoy 4414211/2300 964.3 12/0000 44 60    
Buoy 44145f12/0900 994.8 13/0000 52     
Bouy 4425112/1000 984.7 13/0000 37     
Buoy 4425512/0800 968.1 13/0700 37     
Cape Lookout (CKLN7)10/1700 996.9 10/2010 31e 40    
Diamond Shoals (DSLN7)10/2000 984.8 10/1400 52 61    
Duck (DUCN7)11/0000 997.7 10/2250 46e 57    
Frying Pan Shoals (FPSN7)10/1000 1002.1 10/0100 44 52    
aDate/time is for wind gust when both sustained and gust are listed.
bExcept as noted, sustained wind averaging periods for C-MAN and land-based ASOS reports are 2 min; buoy averaging periods are 8 min.
cStorm surge is water height above normal astronomical tide level.
dStorm tide is water height above National Geodetic Vertical Datum (1929 mean sea level).
e10-min average
fIncomplete record


Table 4: Preliminary forecast evaluation (heterogeneous sample) for Hurricane Gustav, 8 - 12 September 2002. Forecast errors for tropical storm and hurricane stages (n mi) are followed by the number of forecasts in parentheses. Errors smaller than the NHC official forecast are shown in bold-face type.
Forecast TechniquePeriod (hours)
1224364872
CLP588 (13)202 (11)301 ( 9)421 ( 7)421 ( 3)
GFNI68 (12)106 (10)188 ( 8)338 ( 6)822 ( 2)
GFDN*62 ( 7)103 ( 6)141 ( 5)229 ( 4)725 ( 2)
GFDI74 (13)82 (11)121 ( 9)167 ( 7)422 ( 3)
GFDL*53 (13)88 (11)104 ( 9)161 ( 7)348 ( 3)
AFW1*57 ( 6)104 ( 5)136 ( 4)213 ( 3)404 ( 1)
COAI65 (11)94 ( 9)163 ( 7)293 ( 5)887 ( 1)
COAL*68 ( 6)84 ( 5)116 ( 4)215 ( 3)729 ( 1)
LBAR60 (13)121 (11)203 ( 9)309 ( 7)411 ( 3)
A98E67 (13)91 (11)79 ( 9)168 ( 7)147 ( 3)
A9UK70 ( 6)68 ( 5)84 ( 4)200 ( 3)104 ( 1)
BAMD50 (13)75 (11)99 ( 9)126 ( 7)197 ( 3)
BAMM55 (13)90 (11)121 ( 9)146 ( 7)263 ( 3)
BAMS69 (13)113 (11)157 ( 9)183 ( 7)372 ( 3)
AVNI42 (13)46 (11)55 ( 9)65 ( 7)134 ( 3)
AVNO*29 (13)32 (11)42 ( 9)58 ( 7)110 ( 2)
AEMI53 ( 9)61 ( 7)78 ( 6)92 ( 4)232 ( 2)
AEMN*32 ( 6)45 ( 5)43 ( 4)63 ( 3)187 ( 1)
NGPI81 (13)66 (11)109 ( 9)155 ( 7)307 ( 3)
NGPS*40 (13)61 (11)78 ( 9)124 ( 7)402 ( 3)
UKMI51 (12)61 (10)65 ( 8)80 ( 6)115 ( 3)
UKM*68 ( 6)58 ( 5)74 ( 4)100 ( 3)98 ( 1)
GUNS63 (12)65 (10)78 ( 8)95 ( 6)138 ( 3)
GUNA55 (12)58 (10)67 ( 8)80 ( 6)133 ( 3)
OFCL50 (13)70 (11)66 ( 9)112 ( 7)239 ( 3)
NHC Official (1992-2001 mean)43 (2199)81 (1965)115 (1759)148 (1580)222 (1272)
*Output from these models was unavailable at time of forecast issuance.


Table 5: Watch and warning summary for Hurricane Gustav. The table does not include the various watches and warning issued for Canada by Environment Canada.
Date/TimeActionLocation
08/2100Tropical Storm WatchCape Fear, NC northward to the NC/VA border including the Pamlico and Ablemarle Sounds 
09/0300Tropical Storm WarningCape Fear, NC to Currituck Beach Light, NC including the Pamlico and Ablemarle Sounds 
09/0300Tropical Storm WatchNC/VA border to Parramore Island, VA and southern Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort, VA 
10/0300Tropical Storm WarningCurrituck Beach Light, NC to Parramore Island, VA and southern Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort, VA 
10/1800Tropical Storm Warning discontinuedwest of Surf City, NC 
10/2100Tropical Storm Warning discontinuedwest of Bogue Inlet, NC 
11/0300Tropical Storm Warning discontinuedsouth of Ocracoke Inlet, NC including the Pamlico and Ablemarle Sounds and southern Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort, VA 
11/0900Tropical Storm Warning discontinuedremainder of NC/VA coasts 

Best track positions for Hurricane Gustav

Figure 1: Best track positions for Hurricane Gustav, 8 - 12 September 2002. Track during the extratropical stage is based on analyses from the NOAA Marine Prediction Center.

Selected wind observations and best track maximum sustained surface wind speed curve for Hurricane Gustav

Figure 2: Selected wind observations and best track maximum sustained surface wind speed curve for Hurricane Gustav, 8 - 12 September 2002. Aircraft observations have been adjusted for elevation using 90%, 80%, and 80% reduction factors for observations from 700 mb, 850 mb, and 1500 ft, respectively. Dropwindsonde observations include actual 10 m winds (sfc), as well as surface estimates derived from the mean wind over the lowest 150 m of the wind sounding (LLM), and from the sounding boundary layer mean (MBL). Estimates during the extratropical stage are based on analyses from the NOAA Marine Prediction Center and the Canadian Hurricane Center.

Selected pressure observations and best track minimum central pressure curve for Hurricane Gustav

Figure 3: Selected pressure observations and best track minimum central pressure curve for Hurricane Gustav, 8 - 12 September 2002. Estimates during the extratropical stage are based on analyses from the NOAA Marine Prediction Center and the Canadian Hurricane Center.



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