Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Heads Toward the U.S.

Hurricane Matthew as it was
making landfall in Haiti on October 4, 2016
In my last post I mentioned Tropical Storm Matthew which at that time was in the southern Caribbean and moving west. Now, a week later, Matthew is a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) that has already caused widespread destruction in Haiti and eastern Cuba, and is now taking aim on the Bahamas, Florida and the southeastern U.S. The last time a major hurricane made landfall in the U.S. was in 2005 when Wilma made landfall in southwestern Florida. Wilma was the fourth major hurricane to make landfall that season, along with Dennis, Katrina, and Rita. The nearly ten years since Wilma is a new record for time between major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. The average is about two major hurricanes making landfall every three years. It has been almost nine years since any hurricane has made landfall in Florida. Matthew is likely to end that streak and Florida will become intimately familiar with a hurricane again. Nine years between hurricanes is a very long time in Florida. hen you think about it, many people now living in Florida haven't yet gone through a hurricane, preparing for it, making plans for evacuation, or cleaning up in the aftermath.

The forecast of Matthew's track has been challenging to say the least. Matthew re-intensified after losing some strength crossing over Haiti and Cuba, and as of 11:00 p.m. EDT tonight was a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. The current thinking is that Matthew will travel parallel to the coast from Florida, possibly briefly making landfall, to South Carolina and then turn east into the Atlantic - temporarily. Models are indicating that beyond that time the hurricane could loop around west and make landfall in Florida for possible a second time. It's one of several possibilities but one that certainly could happen.

Landfall or not, Matthew is going to be a handful to deal with. Flooding from storm surge and heavy rain will be likely along the coast.

72-hour rainfall expected from Hurricane Matthew. A small change in the path of the storm could result in significant changes to expected rainfall.

The impacts from high winds will partly depend on Matthew's track. If the storm center stays offshore so will the worst of the winds. Should the eye of the storm make landfall, winds and damage will be much worse. Here is one graphic from the NWS Jacksonville, FL office showing maximum winds gusts possible through Saturday.

At the Exuma International Airport in the Bahamas tonight winds were already gusting over 140 mph.

Hurricane Matthew approaching the Bahamas at 9:45 p.m. EDT October 5.

Fortunately, community officials and governments are taking this situation seriously. Evacuations were announced yesterday and are in progress from South Carolina south through Georgia and Florida.

By the time many of you read this conditions and the forecast for Matthew will have likely changed. This storm will be affecting the southeastern U.S. for perhaps the next seven days or more. Please check the latest information at the National Hurricane Center, and if you are in the southeastern U.S. be sure to also check with your local National Weather Service Office.

This storm will affect many of our CoCoRaHS observers from the Bahamas to the Carolinas. Remember that your safety is priority - don't risk your safety for a rainfall observation. Remember, too, that you can also send Significant Weather Reports at any time.