Gustav stalled offshore Wednesday and poured more misery onto Haiti after landslides and flooding killed 23 people.
The storm was blamed for at least 15 people's deaths on Haiti's deforested southern peninsula, where it dumped 12 inches or more of rain. A landslide buried eight people, including a mother and six of her children, in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
Gustav weakened to a tropical storm over Haiti but was expected to become a hurricane again as early as today over the warm Caribbean waters between Cuba and Jamaica. Its expected track pointed directly at the Cayman Islands, an offshore banking center where residents boarded up homes and stocked up on emergency supplies.
Gustav is particularly worrisome because there are few surrounding wind currents capable of shearing off the top of the storm and diminishing its power, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. “Combined with the deep warm waters, rapid intensification could occur in a couple of days.”
By late Wednesday afternoon, Gustav had top winds of 50 mph and was south-southeast of Guantanamo.
A hurricane warning was in effect for parts of Cuba, including the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, where base spokesman Bruce Lloyd predicted “a really wet night.”
Nearly 30,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas in eastern Cuba, and state television showed muddy, waist-high water damaging homes.