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Gustav headed for current that fuels big storms

‘I hope this thing doesn’t really explode,’ says expert after overflight


WASHINGTON – The difference between a monster and a wimp for Gulf of Mexico hurricanes often comes down to a small patch of warm deep water that’s easy to miss. It’s called the Loop Current, and hurricane trackers say Gustav is headed right for it, reminiscent of Katrina.


Gustav is likely to reach this current late Saturday, experts say. What happens next will be crucial, maybe deadly.


If Gustav hits the Loop Current and lingers in that hot spot, watch out. If the storm misses it or zips through the current, then Gustav probably won’t be much of a name to remember.


The meandering Loop Current, located in the southeastern gulf, provides loads of hurricane fuel. It was a key stopover for nearly all the Gulf Coast killers of the past, including Katrina and Camille, said Florida International University professor Hugh Willoughby, former director of the government’s hurricane research division.


Lynn “Nick” Shay, University of Miami meteorology and oceanography professor, flew over the gulf Thursday in a federal hurricane research plane to measure the Loop Current. He saw Gustav’s forecast track going “right down the throat” of it.


‘Scary’ view


“That’s kind of the scary part here,” Shay said. “You look at this and say, ‘Boy I hope this thing doesn’t really explode,’ but it probably will.”


AP



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