Tense few days ahead for Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas as Matthew closes in

UPDATED: 2:40 AM ET Oct 6

I am in Florida now to cover the impacts of hurricane Matthew. After an exhausting several days keeping up with the latest model changes, it is now time to think landfall. Obviously the Bahamas are experiencing the worst from Matthew tonight and through the day Thursday but after that time, it is Florida’s turn. How strong Matthew becomes and exactly where the center moves inland, if it does, remains to be seen though it seems poised to get stronger in the hours ahead.

I have posted a video discussion from the hotel here in Florida. I will be out and about tomorrow setting up equipment to monitor the effects. I will have another video post around 11am ET.

M. Sudduth 2:40 AM ET Oct 6

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Matthew moving over Haiti today, headed for Bahamas tomorrow

Latest track map from the NHC showing a threat from Matthew to many locations in the southwest Atlantic over the coming days.

Latest track map from the NHC showing a threat from Matthew to many locations in the southwest Atlantic over the coming days.

Matthew has seemingly become better organized overnight with a classic hurricane shape and excellent outflow in all quadrants. While it may look spectacular on satellite images, the results are very unpleasant at the surface. No doubt there is terrible destruction and loss of life in Haiti as the hurricane moves across this morning and throughout the rest of the day.

Top winds are 145 mph and this will likely fluctuate with time as Matthew encounters land. Once in the southeast Bahamas tonight, the hurricane has a chance to go full throttle and could reach category five intensity over the very warm, untapped water of the southwest Atlantic. Yes, I said category five and we all know how intensity forecasting can go. After all, Matthew reached category five soon after it became a “minimal” hurricane the other day. The water in the Bahamas is so warm with plenty of upper ocean heat content – I worry very much for the people along the track.

Once we get to about 48 hours out, Matthew will turn fairly sharply to the northwest towards the southeast coast of Florida. Just how close the core winds come to the peninsula remains to be seen. A lot will depend on the structure of the hurricane and how far out to the west the hurricane force winds extend. Beyond that, we will be watching for tropical storm force winds which will almost certainly reach Florida by Friday.

Before Matthew makes its closest approach, swells and rough seas will be the first signs of the hurricane’s arrival. Boaters and beach goers will need to heed the warnings which will be posted soon I am sure. This will be a very dangerous situation for coastal interests, no matter how close Matthew tracks to Florida. Surfers will have excellent waves to work with for several days but the conditions will become dangerous quickly and only the most experienced surfers should venture out in my opinion.

Once Matthew reaches the vicinity of Florida, it is expected to turn north around the western side of the Bermuda High. When this turn takes place and how sharp it is will determine which locations from Georgia up through North Carolina and southeast Virginia receive the brunt of the impacts. Again, it’s impossible to know even within the next four to five days. Any deviation east or west from the forecast track could bring the core of the hurricane on shore. I think it is safe to say that a large swath of coastline from Florida to North Carolina is at risk of seeing hurricane conditions between Thursday and Sunday. We will just have to wait and see if the eye ever actually crosses the coast.

As it stands now, all of the usual impacts can be expected as Matthew tears through the Bahamas and around the Southeast region of the U.S. High waves, dangerous surf, heavy rain, hurricane wind and possible storm surge are all matters that need to be considered. Determining exactly who gets the worst of it is impossible – everyone needs to be ready and take this threat seriously. The intensity could vary greatly depending upon how much land interaction there is as Matthew turns north and eventually northeast. The more it moves over the warm water of the Gulf Stream, the stronger it will likely be farther north in places like North Carolina. Hate to say it yet again, but we just have to watch and be ready.

As far as impacts up the remainder of the East Coast, everything depends on the angle of the track. A more northerly track will obviously bring tropical storm conditions to the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast with very heavy rain possible as Matthew interacts with a cold front. A more easterly component to the final track will mean less effects from Virginia north. We can deal with this and how to best prepare in a couple of days once we know how far west Matthew tracks and what the eventual turn north and northeast will look like from there.

I am preparing to head down to the Florida coast tomorrow. My goal is to set up one weather station to capture wind and pressure data from the hurricane. My target area is New Smyrna beach and I have good contacts there. I will set out the weather station and probably one live camera unit right on the ocean front to monitor the conditions in real time. I will discuss the field mission plans in more detail in a later blog post but for now, this is the first idea for an intercept with Matthew along Florida’s east coast.

I’ll post a video update within the hour so be sure to check our app and YouTube channel for that.

M. Sudduth 8:10 AM ET Oct 4

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Matthew headed for Greater Antilles, Bahamas and then???

The latest info from the NHC shows Matthew moving through the Windward Passage area between Cuba and Haiti tonight and tomorrow. From there, a track through the Bahamas is likely bringing strong hurricane conditions to the region for a second year in a row. The 5-day forecast now indicates a direct threat to the Carolinas. I cover the very latest in this video update:

M. Sudduth 5:45 PM ET Oct 3

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