Looking back at Hurricane Gustav's record 211 mph wind gust

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 04:28 AM GMT die 30o December, anno 2008

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As we look back at the weather events of 2008, perhaps the most impressive record set during the year occurred during Hurricane Gustav, which pounded Cuba as a Category 4 hurricane in August. Gustav set a new world record for highest wind gust ever measured in a hurricane. As Gustav passed over the Paso Real de San Diego meteorological station in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, on the afternoon of August 30, 2008, a wind gust of 211 mph (94.4 m/s) was recorded (it was originally pegged at 212 mph, but has been "downgraded" to 211 mph after an official review by the World Meteorological Organization). The powerful winds blew down the anemometer, and it is possible that higher gusts occurred after the instrument failed. Not only is this the highest wind speed ever measured in a hurricane, it is the second highest wind gust ever measured at a non-mountain location on Earth, and is the third highest wind gust ever measured on the surface of the planet. The highest wind gust in recorded history is the amazing 253 mph reading recorded on Barrow Island, Australia, during Tropical Cyclone Olivia in 1996. The second highest wind speed ever measured was 231 mph (370 km/hr) on the top of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, on April 12, 1934, during passage of an extratropical storm. The fourth highest wind gust on record was the 207 mph gust measured in Greenland at Thule Air Force Base on March 6, 1972. The previous highest wind gust measured in a hurricane was 186 mph at Blue Hill Observatory, Massachusetts, during the notorious 1938 "Long Island Express" hurricane.


Figure 1. Anemometer used to measure the record 211 mph gust in Hurricane Gustav. Gustav's powerful winds flattened the instrument against the roof of the observing station. Image credit: Jose M. Rubiera Torres, Instituto de Meteorologia of Cuba.

Is this a believable record?
The instrument used for the measurement in Gustav was a Dines pressure tube anemometer mounted on the roof of the weather office. According to Jose M. Rubiera Torres of Cuba's Instituto de Meteorologia, "The graph is neat and the instrument was in perfect technical working condition. The wind peaked up to 340 km/h and then the anemometer mast fell over the concrete roof of the station's building, sharply interrupting the measurement. The graph [Figure 2], shows that wind gusts were increasing at a regular pace with time, until the instrument broke down when it got to the 340 km/h mark." Dines anemometers have a proven track record of reliability, and have been used in Cuba for over 60 years. A formal committee under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) certified the record in 2009.


Figure 2. Trace of the Dines anemometer used to measure the record 211 mph gust in Hurricane Gustav. Image credit: Jose M. Rubiera Torres, Instituto de Meteorologia of Cuba.

How did such a strong gust occur?
At the time Hurricane Gustav moved over the Paso Real de San Diego meteorological station, the storm was rated a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 mph, gusting to 185 mph. When the peak wind gust of 211 mph was measured at 22:35 GMT, the western eyewall of Gustav was over the anemometer site, as seen on Cuban radar (Figure 3). The town of Paso Real de San Diego is at an elevation of about 40 meters, and lies 25 km inland, about 12 km south of a rugged line of mountains up to 700 meters high. The counter-clockwise flow of air around Gustav's eyewall meant that the winds arriving at Paso Real de San Diego were forced to pass over these mountains first. The mountains probably focused and accelerated the winds through gaps between the peaks, and the air accelerated further as it rushed downhill under the force of gravity. Strong downbursts due to collapsing precipitation cores inside Gustav's eyewall probably contributed to the extreme gusts. When hurricanes make landfall, the intense thunderstorm cells that comprise the eyewall sometimes collapse suddenly, sending a downward cascade of intense winds to the surface. When this rush of wind hits the ground, it spreads out in all directions, forming a strong surface wind event known as a downburst. It has been theorized that some of the extreme damage noted in Florida during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 may have been associated with downbursts from collapsing eyewall thunderstorm cells. This behavior may also be responsible for some of the extreme damage in Mississippi from Hurricane Katrina. Animations of infrared satellite imagery available from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS Satellite Blog show that the eyewall of Gustav collapsed during passage over the high mountains to the north of Paso Real de San Diego, but this occurred after the world record wind gust was measured.


Figure 3. Radar image of Hurricane Gustav (top) at 22:25 GMT on August 30 2008, five minutes before the world record 211 mph hurricane wind gust was measured. The site of the Paso Real de San Diego meteorological station where the record was set is marked with a red dot. A topographic map (bottom) shows the line of mountains up to 1200 meters high that lies just north of the town. The counter-clockwise flow of air around the eye of Gustav brought the strongest winds of Gustav across the mountain range then downhill to Paso Real de San Diego. Radar image credit: Instituto de Meteorologia of Cuba. Topographic map image credit: Wikipedia.

Note: this post was updated in 2010 to reflect the official WMO review of Gustav's wind gust, plus the addition of the new World Record wind gust set in TC Olivia in 1996.

Jeff Masters

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984. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Brisbane Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Outlook
Forecast for areas between 142E-160E
2:30 PM AEST January 4 2009
===========================================

A subtropical low is expected to develop over the Coral sea south of New Caledonia by Wednesday, but no tropical cyclones are expected further north in the forecast period.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45628
983. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
that is interesting no wonder they raised the advisory.

Can't figure out why Australia didn't experience some of those waves.

Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45628
HGW, they had some small tsunami in Japan.

Link
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Quoting SevereHurricane:
The water is starting to go down
That's good to hear. I hope u don't get more rain tonight :o(
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980. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tsunami Warning/Advisory
15:45 JST 04 Jan 2009 (6:45am UTC)

*******************Text********************
Canceled; Tsunami Advisory

IZU ISLANDS
OGASAWARA ISLANDS
SAGAMI BAY AND MIURA PENINSULA
SHIZUOKA PREF.
PACIFIC COAST OF AICHI PREF.
SOUTHERN PART OF MIE PREF.
WAKAYAMA PREF.
TOKUSHIMA PREF.
KOCHI PREF.
MIYAZAKI PREF.
EASTERN PART OF KAGOSHIMA PREF.
TANEGASHIMA AND YAKUSHIMA AREA
AMAMI ISLANDS AND TOKARA ISLANDS
Pay attention when fishing, swimming etc. at the above coasts as there may be still sea level changes for the time being.

*******Tsunami forecast now in effect********
All tsunami warnings and advisories have been cancelled.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45628
The water is starting to go down
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we dryed up the front room with towels and clogged the little hole, hopefully the water goes down soon if the pumps are on...
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Storm Totals seem to agree ...twas a soaker .

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5.33 inches has fallen.
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the rain is letting up a bit, but we have a little water in my front room now, :'[

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well the door damms is being tested right now,
the water is trying to get in.

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They've had a bunch of earthquakes in Indonesia in the last 24 hrs, including two 7.0+ shocks.

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Quoting atmoaggie:


I hope it doesn't get in.

Hopefully this will be your saving grace. I see that the strongest of radar returns keep weakening about when they get to I-310. A sliver of good news for ya...


Well, that idea worked for a little while, but I see that the wishful thinking wore off.
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Bad news, its now pouring outside!
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Quoting SevereHurricane:
This gives a pretty good idea of what my street looks like right now exept dark, lightning, and rain



I hope it doesn't get in.

Hopefully this will be your saving grace. I see that the strongest of radar returns keep weakening about when they get to I-310. A sliver of good news for ya...
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Quoting atmoaggie:
I wonder if Dr. Master's will be attending this (I am): Link

2 day symposium on hurricane wind measurements, analysis methods, and modeling at LSU.

From NHC, I know Jack Bevin will be there, and I see Mark Powell is scheduled to talk.

An extensive collection of university researchers will be there. Should be very interesting. I'll take some notes and maybe post a summary of the event (in my own blog space, of course).
Sounds interesting. Don't forget to link to your blog when you do this.
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I wonder if Dr. Master's will be attending this (I am): Link

2 day symposium on hurricane wind measurements, analysis methods, and modeling at LSU.

From NHC, I know Jack Bevin will be there, and I see Mark Powell is scheduled to talk.

An extensive collection of university researchers will be there. Should be very interesting. I'll take some notes and maybe post a summary of the event (in my own blog space, of course).
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Hey, youse guys . . .

Can't believe everyone wimped out before 1 a. m. . . . lol

Severe, hope ur house is still OK.
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This gives a pretty good idea of what my street looks like right now exept dark, lightning, and rain

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Just what we dont need to see

Photobucket
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Quoting Skyepony:
Way to make sandbags maverick style:)

Your flood hit the news wires.


thats in orleans parish which is 15 minutes away from here, flooding is worse in jefferson parish
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962. Skyepony (Mod)
Way to make sandbags maverick style:)

Your flood hit the news wires.
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You should see it
The high flooding and the lightning is flashing like crazy. talking about it makes me feel better.
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Actualy were putting the mud from our potted plants inside winn dixie bags and putting them by the doors hopefully it will work if the water goes up another inch.
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Quoting atmoaggie:


No bueno. That cell does not look good for your location...


yea man im on edge, im freaking nervous right now. I didnt think this would happen today. what a suprise
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958. Skyepony (Mod)
Got anything to make sandbags with? cement blocks or 4X4s with stuff packed around. Good luck.
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Quoting SevereHurricane:
yea i just spent the last ten minutes towling up the doors, he water is rising even though its drizzleing. I think the water is moving to the lowest point. im beetween I-10 and the lake. Down to about 1 inch til the house floods.my naighbors are angry at aaron brussard again


No bueno. That cell does not look good for your location...
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If the water dos get in I will update through the my blackberry
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That damm cell is comming right at us. just thundered. This sucks its realy close. WHERE ARE THE PUMPS????????????????????
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yea i just spent the last ten minutes towling up the doors, he water is rising even though its drizzleing. I think the water is moving to the lowest point. im beetween I-10 and the lake. Down to about 1 inch til the house floods.my naighbors are angry at aaron brussard again
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Quoting Skyepony:
I just caught up & are rooting for ya Severe. Sounds close.. block the doorways, stand guard with towels, mops & my fav the shop vac.


I wonder if he lost power or internet. If any of it is underground, then he probably did.
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952. Skyepony (Mod)
I just caught up & are rooting for ya Severe. Sounds close.. block the doorways, stand guard with towels, mops & my fav the shop vac.
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Quoting SevereHurricane:
yea its close hopefully that last cell doesent do the job...


Unless you are really on the lakefront, I think most of that last one might miss you to the north. Hope so, it sounds like your place really cannot take any more rain.
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Quoting MichaelSTL:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_tolerance


Did you just make a joke at yourself by calling yourself intolerant? The funnies tonight must be contagious...
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G'nite all y'all.

Keeping my fingers crossed for ya, severe. (Damn, it is hard to type like this.)
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me too...nite all
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Me too..........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24390
I'm out for the night as well. Good catching up with everyone.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30565
Like Orca, I am out for the night.

Luck to you, Severe.

G'night folks
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 2490
yea its close hopefully that last cell doesent do the job...
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I am done for the night... looking at CNN and watching the pretty fireworks display.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Hope the water gets no higher, Severe.
Good luck to you..........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24390
Quoting SevereHurricane:
alot of my neighbors are flooded. were realy realy lucky right now.


Glad to hear it.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 2490
Quoting presslord:
drak....dude.....those things were HUGE eupemisms....


I guess so... some innuendo
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30565
alot of my neighbors are flooded. were realy realy lucky right now.
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Quoting presslord:
drak....dude.....those things were HUGE eupemisms....
Yep...
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drak....dude.....those things were HUGE euphemisms....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
The rain has stopped for now, the water is in the garage and about 1.5 inches from getting in my home, hopefully this is the last cell coming now. we had 4.97 inches of rain in about 3 hours. wow!
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I dont know about Brad Pitt but I'm sure Ronnie Wood has produced a lot of carbon smoke through the years...
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From The Sunday Times January 4, 2009

EU denounces socialite’s carbon offset projectMichael Gillard and Mark Olden
A PIONEERING climate change project in Africa run by Robin Birley, the socialite, has been accused by the European commission, its main donor, of making unsubstantiated claims about its environmental impact.

The project has received more than £1m in public grants and money from celebrities in the music and film business. They include Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones and Brad Pitt, the actor.

The project attempts to offset an individual’s carbon footprint by paying poor farmers in Mozambique to plant trees, which absorb CO2, and to protect existing forests.

Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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