Meanwhile, as all the attention has been focused on Gustav, a low pressure area which has made its way to a position about 375 miles east northeast of the northern Leeward Islands has shown high potential for development. It could become a tropical depression as early as tonight or tomorrow. If it develops further, it would become Tropical Storm Hanna.
Later PM Update: Showing the limitations of intensity forecasting, even at short time scales, Tropical Storm Gustav has weakened further this afternoon from its interaction with Haiti. A reconnaissance flight has found that maximum winds at 5 pm are down to 50 mph.
It has also slowed to a forward speed of only 3 mph, which should delay its reintensification. Conditions are very favorable for strengthening, and it is likely to be back to hurricane force south of Cuba by late tomorrow or Friday. However, there is still a wide disagreement among intensity models.
After an early jump based at least in part on news of the storm, natural gas prices have closed somewhat lower, but still up 2.7% for the day.
PM Update: Cuban radar early this afternoon, displayed to the right, is showing Tropical Storm Gustav's center of circulation moving away from the southwestern tip of Haiti. At 2 pm, the center was about 90 miles east southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba, moving west at 5 mph. The forecast track remains virtually identical to the one in the previous advisory. Maximum winds are still at 60 mph, but the storm is likely to regain hurricane strength in the next day or two.
Natural gas prices have eased from their opening highs; they are now up a little more than 2%.
Tropical Storm Gustav is gradually moving away from Haiti today. The storm weakened from its interaction with the mountainous terrain of Haiti overnight, and the maximum winds are now 60 mph. High-resolution satellite and Cuban radar images show that the storm is again becoming better organized, however.
Current movement is toward the west northwest at 5 mph, and the forecast track continues to aim Gustav toward the Gulf of Mexico as a potentially strong hurricane. Although interests in the Gulf need to be prepared, there is considerable uncertainty in the intensity forecast. The National Hurricane Center said this morning,
THERE IS VERY LITTLE...IF ANY...SKILL IN INTENSITY PREDICTIONS AT THESE EXTENDED RANGES. INDEED...IF ONE LOOKS AT THE LATEST WIND SPEED PROBABILITY PRODUCT INCLUDED IN THIS PACKAGE...IT CAN BE SEEN THAT THERE IS NEARLY AN EQUAL CHANCE THAT GUSTAV WILL BE A CATEGORY 1...CATEGORY 2...OR CATEGORY 3 HURRICANE AT THE END OF THE FORECAST PERIOD.Despite the uncertainty, energy markets have continued to react to the threat. Natural gas prices rose over 4% this morning for a 2-day gain of about 10%.