It’s that time of the year, yet again. My heart goes out to all those who live in the tropics. And as Tropical Storm Gustav gathers strength and heads west across the Caribbean, many hearts in the Cayman Islands will remember Ivan and sink a little, and many, many more in New Orleans will think of Katrina and drown.

Gustav isn’t a monster, thank God. It’s currently cruising along westward at about 4 kts with a pressure of 983 mb and winds gusting at 75 kts. Expected to reach hurricane stage soon after arriving over Jamaica, Gustav should unleash sustained winds of 80 kts on Grand Cayman – which is smack on its current projected path – some time tomorrow night. Little Cayman probably will be all right as the storm will be passing by to the south, just like Ivan had done so.

Later on, and keeping in mind that long range forecasts yield a wider error margin, it should make landfall on the Continental US a touch west of New Orleans, as a category 2 hurricane with 100 kts sustained winds. Nothing like Katrina but enough to stir up trouble and reopen fragile, barely healed wounds.

Here are the current track, the infrared satellite and NOAA’s Environmental Visualization at 14:15Z Aug. 29, as well as Significant Event imagery. Fingers crossed.

[Aug. 29 update: Well, as of noon Cayman time, Gustav still hasn’t matured into a hurricane but has slipped to the north and is just about to run right over the Sister Islands. Now that it has cleared Jamaica, its path over open water will allow the storm to strengthen rapidly and the wind and seas should pick up. That’ll ruin diving for a while… I hope those coconuts have been cut down from the trees in front of the Hungry Iguana! Hopefully the seas won’t pick up to the point where they relocate docks. Good luck guys.]