Hurricane Gustav was a disastrous storm that hit the coast of Louisiana in 2008. It caused billions in damage and significant loss of life. Gustav caused damage and casualties in Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and more. It’s estimated that damages caused by hurricane Gustav total more than $8 billion.
Hurricane Gustav formed in late August 2008 a few hundred miles southeast of Haiti. The storm progressed quickly into a tropical storm and then a hurricane by August 26. Soon after, the storm hit Haiti before progressing on to the Gulf of Mexico and hitting the United States.
The following image was provided by NASA of Hurricane Gustav over Haiti on August 26. It is reported that the storm had sustained winds of 90 miles per hour during the time when this image was captured.
Hurricane Gustav Timeline
- August 25, 2008: Gustav becomes a tropical depression and then a tropical storm quickly after.
- August 26, 2008: Gustav is officially a hurricane. It hits Haiti. While it loses some power during the Haiti collision, it regains its power afterwards and hits Jamaica.
- August 30, 2008: Hurricane Gustav hits Category 4 status before hitting Cuba. Fresh off the devastating Hurricane Katrina just a few years earlier, the mayor of New Orleans orders an evacuation. Upwards of 2 million people evacuated and is one of the largest evacuations in the state’s history.
- September 1, 2008: Hurricane Gustav is a Category 2 hurricane and makes landfall with Louisiana.
- September 2-3, 2008: Slow moving Gustav dumps up to seven inches of rain on Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and other parts.
Hurricane Gustav Damages
Gustav is estimated to have cost the United States up to $7 billion in damages (with more damages outside the U.S.). The death toll of the storm was over 100 people including 11 in the United States. 1.5 million people in Louisiana and surrounding areas lost power.
The hurricane had significant damage to the energy industry which has a major Gulf presence. It’s estimated that between $8 and $10 billion in oil production was lost during the storm and its aftermath. Oil rigs offshore and a number of land facilities were shut down in advance of the approaching storm. Louisiana produces over 20% of America’s domestic crude oil and over 10% of its natural gas, so any disruption to this region has major ramifications on the economy, the markets and energy prices throughout the world.
While New Orleans was evacuated and residents and officials feared the worst, the city itself received only minor damage. Had the storm remained a Category 4 hurricane before hitting the state of Louisiana, the damage and costs associated with the storm would have been much higher. While about 1.5 million people were without power after the storm, by September 4, many had had their power restored. The city of New Orleans officially reopened on September 4. Whole trees and plenty of limbs and debris were down as a result of the storm. Floodwalls along the Industrial Canal which connects Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River had water splash over them, but the walls were not breached during the storm. Many homes suffered wind damage and some had roofs blown completely off.
Gustav is considered to be approximately the 20th worst hurricane with respect to U.S. damages. While the $6.9 billion in damages is significant, it pales in comparison to the costliest storms in U.S. history: Katrina ($160 billion), Harvey ($125 billion), Maria ($90 billion), Sandy ($70.2 billion), Irma ($50 billion) – all numbers adjusted for inflation.
It is suggested that climate change has a contributing effect to storms such as Hurricane Gustav. This argument typically takes the form of rising sea levels making flooding more likely and higher general temperatures make the ocean water warmer and more susceptible to storm formation. While debates continue over climate change in general and its effect on major storms, it’s difficult to doubt the severity of recent storms.
Other recent hurricanes
In the last decade, a number of hurricane names have been retired. Since 2010, the following names have been retired: Igor, Tomas, Irene, Sandy, Ingrid, Erika, Joaquin, Matthew, Otto, Harvey, Irma, Maria, Nate, Florence, Michael. Michael and Florence are the most recent names retired as of writing this article.
Hurricanes are named by the hurricane committee of the World Meteorological Organization. They have essentially six lists of names that are rotated which means every hurricane name is typically re-used each six years. However, if a storm has particularly damaging or severe, the name can get retired and a replacement the starts with the same letter is inserted into the list. Retiring names began back in the 1950s and continues today. On average, one name is retired each year.