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

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:28 AM GMT on December 30, 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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1184. aspectre
5:32 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
New blog is up.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
1183. pottery
5:03 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
It is still overcast, windy, scattered showers. Those conditions will persist for a few days at least.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24314
1182. pottery
4:55 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
There are rough sea warnings here for the past 15 days. Seas to 3 meters in open water. Surf at the North coast beaches are 15 to 20 feet, according to Lifeguards.
Have not been able to confirm this with my surfer-son. I wonder where he is ??
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24314
1181. pottery
4:52 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Greetings.
Off Topic >> but,
Gisele Salandy, Trinidadian Boxer, holder of 7 World Titles, was killed in a traffic accident here yesterday.
She was an incredible athlete, and a very good Ambassador.
She also held the record for most titles in 1 fight. 5 !
She will be missed, especially in these times when Boxing seems to need some heroes in good standing......

Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24314
1179. CajunSubbie
4:35 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
2008 Arctic Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979.

Rapid growth spurt leaves amount of ice at levels seen 29 years ago.


Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close.

http://www.dailytech.com/Article.aspx?newsid=13834


Member Since: August 18, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 12
1178. Cotillion
4:30 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
On a different weather site on the Premium version, there is the CFS 300 Day Forecast (Coupled Forecast System from the NOAA, goes off trends). Now, I don't see how anyone takes it seriously but a nice bit of fun anyway. (Probably not terribly inaccurate - forecasts rain 2/3 of the time for the year... well it IS Britain, can't go far wrong with that one...)

But I had a giggle when it came to midway September especially. Winds around 0-15mph for a few days then... 143mph for a day or two, equivalent of a Cat 4. Then 140mph for the rest of September and October.

Wasn't aware that Earth was going to create its own Red Spot on top of us. Lol.



Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
1177. TampaSpin
4:04 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
SEVERE WEATHER AREA POSSIBLY DEVELOPING..

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
1176. Patrap
4:00 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Flash Flood Watch

Statement as of 7:16 AM CST on January 05, 2009

... Flash Flood Watch in effect until 4 PM CST this afternoon...

The National Weather Service in New Orleans has issued a

* Flash Flood Watch for a portion of southeast Louisiana...
including the following areas... Assumption... lower Jefferson...
lower Lafourche... lower Plaquemines... lower St. Bernard...
lower Terrebonne... Orleans... St. Charles... St. James... St.
John The Baptist... upper Jefferson... upper Lafourche... upper
Plaquemines... upper St. Bernard and upper Terrebonne.

* Until 4 PM CST this afternoon

* a stationary front extending from southern Mississippi to south-
central Louisiana will be focusing warm moist air off the Gulf
of Mexico over southeast Louisiana. Recent heavy rains have
saturated soils across the watch area and 2 to 3 inches of
rainfall will result in some urban and small stream
flooding... possibly extensive if the rates should exceed 2
inches per hour.

* The primary concerns will be periods of street flooding due to
poor drainage or periods of very heavy rainfall with high rates
of 2 inches or more per hour. Should the rains persist then some
vehicles... homes or businesses in low lying areas may become
threatened.

A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead
to flash flooding. Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation.

You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action
should flash flood warnings be issued.

In traveling around the Metro area today... do not enter streets
that are covered with water. Do not enter underpasses that have
water in them as the water will be deeper than it would appear and impassible.




Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
1175. NEwxguy
3:40 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Quoting TampaSpin:


Yep it could be a very big also, and a secondary low develops behind it that could be worst as the cold air will already be in place.


yep,early season predictions said this could be a very stormy winter and so far its true
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
1174. TampaSpin
3:30 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Quoting NEwxguy:
Looks like the year of ice,wednesday storm looks like snow to sleet and ice


Yep it could be a very big also, and a secondary low develops behind it that could be worst as the cold air will already be in place.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
1173. NEwxguy
3:24 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Looks like the year of ice,wednesday storm looks like snow to sleet and ice
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
1172. SWFLDigTek
2:51 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
NEW OUTLOOK POSTED:
South Florida StormWatch
Member Since: August 31, 2008 Posts: 117 Comments: 398
1171. TampaSpin
2:51 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
I just updated my Weather Blog if anyone would like to view.......

TampaSpins Weather Blog Link
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
1170. NEwxguy
2:48 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Press,
If we could only get that resolution passed on to a blod resolution,lets hope everyone follows your lead
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
1169. conchygirl
2:46 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Quoting presslord:
conchygirl....

My New year's resolution....

I don't care if the ground beneath my feet comes to a boil...I ain't discussing YouKnowWhat....

I like it! :)
Member Since: June 11, 2008 Posts: 24 Comments: 5910
1168. zoomiami
2:43 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Meerkats are loose again! Thought you were suppose to find them a place to stay Orca?

Good Monday morning (have to at least try to think positive)

Really enjoyed a four day weekend, no more for a long time to come.
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 4158
1167. StormJunkie
2:42 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Good morning and Happy New Year all. Hope it is going well for everyone.

Highlight video of the Christmas party for the residents of Bridge City, Tx is now up for those that missed the live feed.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16605
1165. whatwhat1
2:35 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Quoting conchygirl:
Good Morning Orca/All: I've been staying away from the blog as the GW stuff just isn't any fun - some way too serious and take away from the off-season fun! Love the merkats! LOL


Alright, I will follow you and Presslord's lead. My lips are zipped.
1164. TampaSpin
1:54 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Quoting presslord:
conchygirl....

My New year's resolution....

I don't care if the ground beneath my feet comes to a boil...I ain't discussing YouKnowWhat....



I Salute you......and Ahmen......LOL
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
1163. TampaSpin
1:53 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Morning everyone......looks like Colder Weather coming South on Thursday with snow in the Ohio Valley more likely now.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
1162. Aloysius
1:49 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Good morning all! He must be asleep, no string of charts at the mere mention of subject!!! I have found that if I hit the "hide" button when it looks like a tirade is starting it saves much wear and tear on the scroll button and the scroll finger.
Member Since: November 26, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 393
1161. presslord
1:47 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
conchygirl....

My New year's resolution....

I don't care if the ground beneath my feet comes to a boil...I ain't discussing YouKnowWhat....

Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10490
1160. biff4ugo
1:42 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Are there warnings that the upward circulations in the thunderstorm cells have shut off? If we have dopplar sweeps of the cells every few seconds, it may be possible to give some warning as the huge amounts of water begin their fall from thousands of feet.
It would be cool to see the radar signatures at a finer temporal scale and observe the circulation collapse.
I take it that this is a microburst on a much grander scale.

P.S. HAPPY and Prosperous New Year and epiphany.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 114 Comments: 1570
1159. surfmom
1:38 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Conchy -- looks like some cooler running weather ahead-- good for the horses... not so much for me
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1158. conchygirl
1:29 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Quoting Orcasystems:
MissNadia, BF and RTLSNK, looking for a way out of the Blog before the next GW lecture..

Good Morning Orca/All: I've been staying away from the blog as the GW stuff just isn't any fun - some way too serious and take away from the off-season fun! Love the merkats! LOL
Member Since: June 11, 2008 Posts: 24 Comments: 5910
1157. KEHCharleston
12:56 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Good morning, afternoon

Fog here in Charleston, 55 F (might get as high as 72 F). Rain will probably hold off til this evening.

Need coffee and to get over my grumps (going into work on my day off - yck). Fog fits my mood.

Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 2490
1156. pottery
12:17 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Good Morning. Happy Monday !!
Lovely weather-
76 F
Bright sky, gentle N/E breezes, 40% chance of showers, and loads of work to do.
Hope everyone has a Good one...
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24314
1154. surfmom
12:03 PM GMT on January 05, 2009
Lovely 62 degrees in SWFL - light fog - dawn - and the first Monday of the New Year greets us
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1153. surfmom
11:31 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Thanks Aquak9 -- California - while I love it -- has always been Shake & Bake (fires) to me
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1152. RTLSNK
11:27 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Gives new meaning to the phrase shake rattle and roll!
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 20978
1151. aquak9
11:25 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 166 Comments: 25938
1150. surfmom
11:22 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Post 1138 Orca - Amazing --
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1149. surfmom
11:20 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Greeted this morning by a misty fog here in SWFL.

SWFL Surfers - Yeaaa Baby Here come the Waves - A kink in the jet will bring low pressure to the south --first with South West then WEST winds (my favorite wind -Zephyr) across the Gulf. Fun surf mid week..starting Tuesday pm 1-3ftrs @ south facing beaches -- Wednesday showers then waist high building to chest --till Thursday **** 3ft @8-9 seconds west beach swell.

now how am I going to get off of work????? this is what i have been waiting so patiently for................
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1148. aquak9
11:18 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
g'morning all you fine well educated folks in here.

5.6 smak dab in between the tip of the baha peninsula and mainland mexico. still being reviewed.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 166 Comments: 25938
1147. all4hurricanes
11:15 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
39Degrees F in Northern VA actually quite warm for now it gets warm just as soon as is was going to snow *sigh*
Bye haf to go
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2373
1146. RTLSNK
11:04 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
52.5*F this morning in Macon,Ga with FOG.
Line of thunderstorms from Montgomery to Atlanta heading East towards us at this time.
Time for more coffee.
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 20978
1145. CybrTeddy
9:37 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
Philippines Atmospherical Geophysical Astronomical Services and Administration

Tropical Depression "Auring" has shifted it course to its northeast away from the country.

Tropical Cyclone Bulletin #8
===============================
At 11:00 AM PhST, Tropical Depression Auring located at 12.8°N 127.5ºE or 300 kms east of Catarman, Northern Samar has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots.


First tropical Cyclone of 2009.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24033
1144. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
9:30 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Fiji Meteorological Services
Tropical Disturbance Summary
TROPICAL DEPRESSION FOUR-F
18:00 PM FST January 5 2009
===============================

At 6:00 AM UTC, Tropical Depression 04F (1001 hPa) located at 16.0S 161.0E. Position FAIR based on multispectral visible/infrared radar/enhanced infrared radar imagery with animation and peripheral observations. Sea surface temperature is around 30-31C.

Cyclonic circulation is from low-mid level in a low to moderate sheared environment. Low level circulation is exposed with convection displaced to the north.

Global models (US/AVN/GFS) expect the system to move southeastwards with little intensification.

Potential for this system to develop into a tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours remains LOW.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45309
1143. Cotillion
9:14 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
More snow here this mornin'. Not a lot, a gentle sprinkling - though it's unexpected.

Snow hinted at tomorrow night also.

Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
1142. Orcasystems
6:41 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
MissNadia, BF and RTLSNK, looking for a way out of the Blog before the next GW lecture..

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
1141. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
5:52 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Brisbane Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Outlook
Forecast for areas between 142E-160E
2:30 PM AEST January 5 2009
===========================================

A weak subtropical low is located over the central Coral Sea. This low is expected to move slowly east, though not expected to develop into a tropical cyclone during the forecast period.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45309
1140. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
4:47 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Philippines Atmospherical Geophysical Astronomical Services and Administration

Tropical Depression "Auring" has shifted it course to its northeast away from the country.

Tropical Cyclone Bulletin #8
===============================
At 11:00 AM PhST, Tropical Depression Auring located at 12.8°N 127.5ºE or 300 kms east of Catarman, Northern Samar has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45309
1139. BtnTx
4:35 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Well it appears the blog has died. I myself head to bed to rest up for what I call Super Monday! I don't like normal Mondays, but the first Monday to get up early for work in several weeks is going to be a challenge! Good Night all!
Member Since: October 12, 2001 Posts: 20 Comments: 890
1138. Orcasystems
3:06 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Quoting surfmom:
Thanks Orca -- more to worry about LOL -- I thought my location was clear of quakes ...maybe a tsunami ...but no quakes


Near St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida
1879 01 13 04:45 UTC (local Jan 12)
Intensity VI

Largest Earthquake in Florida

Plaster was shaken down and articles were thrown from shelves at St. Augustine and, to the south, at Daytona Beach. At Tampa, a trembling motion was preceded by a rumbling sound. Felt from a line joining Tallahassee, Florida, to Savannah, Georgia, on the north to a line joining Punta Rassa and Daytona Beach, Florida, on the south. Two shocks occurred, each lasting 30 seconds.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
1137. futuremet
2:27 AM GMT on January 05, 2009

.
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
1136. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
2:21 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Earthquake Information (Information about Seismic Intensity at each site)
Issued at 10:44 JST 05 Jan 2009 (01:44 AM UTC)

10:36 JST 05 Jan 2009 37.0N 141.7E 40km 4.6 Fukushima-ken Oki
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45309
1135. surfmom
2:15 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Thanks Orca -- more to worry about LOL -- I thought my location was clear of quakes ...maybe a tsunami ...but no quakes
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1134. SevereHurricane
2:11 AM GMT on January 05, 2009
Quoting KEHCharleston:
Raining fairly hard for the moment, but will not last long (not much to show on radar). Glad SevereH is not having a repeat performance of last night.

G'night all


thank you
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 17 Comments: 1604

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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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