Hurricane Gustav was the seventh named storm and first hurricane of the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season. Gustav formed on September 8 as a subtropical depression while located northeast of the Bahamas. The subtropical depression quickly strengthened into a subtropical storm, receiving the name Gustav. This was the first time in the history of the Atlantic basin that a subtropical storm became named. Gustav moved eratically west-northwest, then north, coming within miles of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Gustav then turned to the northeast, strengthening into a Category 2 hurricane as it did so. Gustav became extratropical on September 12. Also, Gustav was the latest forming hurricane in the Atlantic basin since 1941.

Gustav caused $340,000 (2002 USD) in damage and killed 4 people; 1 direct and 3 indirect.

Satellite image of Hurricane Gustav
FormationSeptember 8, 2002
Dissipation September 12, 2002
Highest winds 100 mph
Lowest pressure 960 mbar
Deaths 1 direct, 3 indirect
Damages $340,000 (2002 USD)
Areas affected North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, New England, Atlantic Canada

Meteorological History


An area of disturbed weather in association with a weak surface trough as well as a stronger upper-level trough between the Bahamas and Bermuda developed on September 6. High pressure ridging from Tropical Storm Fay caused the trough to become more organized, and the trough closed off into a non-tropical area of low pressure on September 7. By September 8, the system had developed enough convection near its center to be classified as Subtropical Depression Eight while located southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Later that day, data from hurricane hunter aircraft indicated that the subtropical depression strengthened into Subtropical Storm Gustav. This was the first time in the history of the Atlantic basin that a subtropical storm had been given a name. After forming, Gustav moved eratically to the west-northwest over the next few days, and moved towards the North Carolina/South Carolina border. During this time, Gustav slowly strengthened and began acquiring tropical characteristics. Gustav became a tropical storm on September 10 as a poorly organized band of stronger winds developed around the center of circulation. Shortly thereafter, Gustav turned north, brushed Cape Hatteras, then accelerated northeast and out to sea, away from the East Coast of the United States. On September 11, while under the influence of a non-tropical system over New England, Gustav quickly strengthened into a hurricane, in a process similar to the way Hurricane Michael of 2000 had intensified. Later that day, Gustav reached its peak intensity of 100 mph. Early on September 12, Gustav began to weaken and lose tropical characteristics, since it began moving over cooler waters and encountering increased vertical wind shear. Nevertheless, Gustav was moving fast enough to make landfall in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia on September 12 as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Later that morning, Gustav made a second and final landfall in Newfoundland ane became an extratropical cyclone shortly thereafter. The extratropical low continued moving slowly to the northeast before dissipating over the Labrador Sea on September 15.


North Carolina

On September 8, the National Hurricane Center predicted that Gustav would near the coast of North Carolina. Because of this, a Tropical Storm Watch was issued from Cape Fear to the North Carolina/Virginia border. On September 9, the Tropical Storm Watch was upgraded to a Tropical Storm Warning. Also, a new Tropical Storm Watch was issued later that for areas of southeastern Virginia, from the North Carolina/Virginia border to New Point Comfort. The new watch was upgraded to a warning on September 10. As Gustav turned northeast away from the U.S. East Coast, the warnings were gradually discontinued. The last warning was discontinued on September 11.


Gustav approaching the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Atlantic Canada

As Gustav approached Atlantic Canada, Environment Canada and the Canadian Hurricane Centre issued heavy rain and wind warnings for southern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.


North Carolina and Virginia

Although Gustav passed just to the east of Cape Hatteras, areas of North Carolina as well as southeastern Virginia received heavy rain and tropical storm-force winds. Parts of the Outer Banks received 2-5 inches of rain from Gustav. In addition, winds of up to 50 mph occured in the Outer Banks, and the Coast Guard station at Cape Hatteras recorded a wind gust of 78 mph. Gustav produced storm surges of 3-6 along the Outer Banks, and it produced a storm surge of 1-3 feet across southeastern Virginia. The surge, combined with high winds and high swells, resulted in minor flooding, mainly in Ocracoke and Hatteras Village, North Carolina. In addition, a weak watersprout touched down on Silver Lake near Okracoke and moved onshore, but only minor roof damage was reported in association with the waterspout. In addition, sporadic power outages were also reported. One person was killed after suffering injuries in high surf caused by the cyclone, and 40 other people had to be rescued from the rip currents and storm surge associated with the storm. Total damage in the region was $100,000 (2002 USD).

New Jersey

Even though Gustav remained well offshore, the pressure gradient caused by Gustav's low pressure and a ridge of high pressure over the central United States produced strong winds in the state of New Jersey on September 11. Wind gusts ranged from 35-45 mph, with higher winds reported near the coast. At Keansburg, a peak wind gust of 60 mph was reported. The high winds downed trees and power lines throughout the eastern half of the state, damaging homes as well as blocking streets. At least 14,000 homes in the vicinity of Burlington and Ocean Counties were left without electricity. In West Windsor Township, a man was killed when the upper section of a concrete wall he was working on blew over and crushed him. The other death occurred in West Amwell Township, a fallen tree limb fell on two elderly women, killing one and injuring the other. Elsewhere in New Jersey, there were reports of trees falling atop vehicles, but no serious injuries or deaths were reported because of it.

New York and New England

The interaction between Gustav and a non-tropical system caused strong winds that affected coastal areas of New England, mainly in eastern New York and Massachusetts. Some areas reported winds of over 55 mph, and a peak wind gust of 67 mph was reported by a weather spotter in Catskill, New York. In Massachusetts, wind gusts of up to 50 mph occured, blowing down trees and power lines as well as damaging several cars and homes because of fallen trees. Over 29,000 homes in eastern New York were left without power, and 19,000 homes lost power in Massachusetts. In all, the strong winds caused $240,000 (2002 USD) in damage, although this damage was directly attributed to Gustav in the National Hurricane Center's analysis.

In the New York City area, a peak wind gust of 60 mph occured at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The strong winds caused some minor roof damage to some buildings, and forced officials in New York City to cordon off parts of Manhattan as debris ranging from wrapping paper to crushed soda cans were blown about in the storm. This flying debris injured four people, one critically, and disrupted a 9/11 memorial service, although it continued as planned. Throughout Long Island, sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 55 mph were reported. Damage on the island was mainly limited to downed trees and power lines. However, the Long Island Power Authority reported that at least 93,000 homes lost power during the day on September 11. In addition, one person died when his boat capsized in the Long Island Sound.

Atlantic Canada


In spite of gradually losing tropical characteristics when it struck, Gustav managed to bring heavy rain, hurricane-force, as well some storm surge to areas of Atlantic Canada for several days. The high winds knocked down trees and damaged docks in Nova Scotia, and a wind gust of 75 mph was reported at Sable Island. Gusts of over 60 mph were reported in Newfoundland for several days after Gustav's center moved out of the area. Rainfall amounts generally ranged from 0.3–2.7 inches, although a maximum amount of 4 inches did occur in Ashdale, Nova Scotia. In addition, several locations set new daily records for rainfall. Also, localized flooding was repoted in areas of Prince Edward Island, and 4,000 people in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island were left without power. Although heavy rainfall and strong winds occured in Atlantic Canada, there were no reports of deaths or significant damage.

Naming and Records

Gustav was the first subtropical storm to ever be given a name in the Atlantic basin using the current name lists by the National Hurricane Center. Prior to the 2002 season, subtropical cyclones were either not named or given names from a separate naming list. When Gustav became a hurricane on September 11, it became the latest-forming hurricane in the Atlantic basin since 1941, when the first hurricane developed on September 16. According to climatology, by September 11, an average of three hurricanes have developed in the Atlantic basin.

Because damage was not extreme, the name Gustav was not retired in the Spring of 2003 by the World Meteorological Organization. It is on the list of names to be used for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.

See Also

2002 Atlantic hurricane season


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