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Hurricane Gustav hits Haiti and aims for Gulf of Mexico

This hurricane season's seventh storm, Gustav, has already had a bigger impact than all the storms that preceded it. It hasn't killed anyone or done any damage—though it may unleash flooding and mudslides in Haiti—except to drive oil prices above $117 a barrel (a feat the recent war in Georgia did not even accomplish).

The storm is strengthening, having reached Category 1 status—above 74 mile-per-hour winds—and the warm waters of the Gulf could give it a further boost. Forecasters are predicting it could be as strong as Category 4 by the time it churns through the heart of the oil and natural gas producing platforms in the Gulf—responsible for 20 percent of present U.S. oil production.

If the storm is that strong by the time it makes landfall, it would be as strong as Hurricane Katrina, which infamously destroyed the city of New Orleans.

Gustav continues an active hurricane season—forecasters have predicted as many as 16 "named" storms—but would be the first to reach major hurricane status: wind speeds of more than 111 miles per hour.

Credit: NASA/JPL

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