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Central Gulf States a Likely Target for Ike

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Hurricane Ike could have New Orleans in its Crosshairs as the hurricane targets the Gulf states.

The Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Ike remains a major hurricane this morning as it moves west-southwest, more than 200 miles east-northeast of Grand Turk Island. The Category 3 hurricane has sustained winds of 115 mph. Senior Expert Meteorologist Brett Anderson said in an interview, "Ike's path is being influenced by a high pressure system to the north of the storm. Our models indicate that the high pressure system will send Ike directly into the Gulf, where the warm and deep waters are likely to keep the storm strong. Once in the Gulf, it could turn more South and head toward Mexico but it seems more likely to turn northwest once in the Gulf; that could steer it towards the Central Gulf states and New Orleans."

The wild card in this scenario will be a trough moving through the U.S. which may weaken the ridge enough to allow Ike to squeeze northward. This would take the storm into the Atlantic Southeast or possibly even into Florida itself.

By Tuesday morning, Ike is forecast to still be at Category 3 strength as it moves into the Straits of Florida. After passing between Florida and Cuba, Ike will enter the Gulf of Mexico. The warm water in the Gulf could allow Ike to intensify, which is not the news Gulf Coast residents and officials want to hear less than a week after dealing with Hurricane Gustav.

"Ike could lose steam as it passes over Cuba, but if it passes North of Cuba, it will go straight into the Gulf where it could become a monster storm by the middle of next week," Anderson said.

All interests from the Bahamas to Florida and along the Gulf Coast should be monitoring the movement of this potentially devastating storm.

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