Inland flooding from Matthew continues as Nicole takes aim on Bermuda

Flooding along the Neuse River in Smithfield as seen from one of our unmanned camera units placed there yesterday afternoon. Watch the LIVE cam here:

Flooding along the Neuse River in Smithfield as seen from one of our unmanned camera units placed there yesterday afternoon. Watch the LIVE cam here: Smithfield, NC along Neuse River

Matthew is gone, part of hurricane history now but its impacts will linger for days, weeks and even years across many locations of the Southeast. As bad as it was, I cannot emphasize enough how close the United States came to seeing catastrophic damage and likely significant loss of life. Matthew managed to keep the core of the strongest winds just offshore of the Florida and Georgia coastlines and was weakening as it did so. Just a 20-30 mile westerly change in its course would have resulted in massive wind damage, a storm surge like we have not seen since Sandy and maybe even Katrina and power outages that would have boggled the mind. To say we were lucky is putting it mildly but what did happen is bad enough and we are dealing with the effects even as skies have cleared and cooler temperatures have moved in.

The most serious threat from Matthew’s relentless rain will be continued river flooding across parts of eastern North Carolina and northeast South Carolina. Several river gauge sites are in major flood stage with more expected to reach that point in the days ahead. Visit the link below to view gauge data and learn more about the expected impacts from the various river systems that are expected to flood as the week progresses:

Southeast River Forecast Center Website

Latest track map for Nicole indicating a threat to Bermuda late week.

Latest track map for Nicole indicating a threat to Bermuda late week.

The next area of concern will be Bermuda as tropical storm Nicole gathers strength in the wake of hurricane Matthew. Upper level winds are forecast to become favorable and this will allow Nicole to become a hurricane again, probably a category two, as it approaches Bermuda late in the week. It’s still too soon to predict just how close Nicole will track to Bermuda but the models are in fairly good agreement on quite a close call, if not a direct hit, by Friday. I will be keeping a close eye on this and may be planning a trip to Bermuda to cover the impacts if in fact Nicole gets close enough to the island.

Beyond Nicole there are no other areas to worry about for the time being but a robust MJO pulse is forecast by the major global models to set up in the Atlantic Basin over the next two weeks or so. This would favor widespread upward motion and period of favorable upper level winds – mainly across the western Caribbean where climatology tells us to look this time of year. As a result, the GFS and ECMWF models both suggest development between seven and ten days out. Something to watch for but nothing appears imminent.

I am back in the office now in Wilmington, NC after quite a saga tracking down Matthew from the east-central coast of Florida and then up through the Carolinas. I covered a lot of ground and captured some useful wind and pressure data along with compelling live video from our unmanned cams. I will post some of the data soon along with video highlights of the field mission.

I’ll have a video discussion posted early this afternoon followed by a blog update this evening concerning Nicole and what the latest trends are regarding impacts for Bermuda.

M. Sudduth 8:15 AM ET Oct 10


New tropical storm likely to develop as 97L moves west towards eastern Caribbean

Invest area 97L poisted to become a tropical depression as it nears the eastern Caribbean this week.

Invest area 97L poised to become a tropical depression as it nears the eastern Caribbean this week.

It is remarkable how well the GFS model in particular has “advertised” what we are seeing now and will see in the coming days. I first mentioned the possibility of something emerging from Africa back on September 21 and ever since then, the GFS has been locked on. Now, several days later, we have invest area 97L with a 90% of becoming a tropical depression or stronger over the next five days.

Right now, the system is still gathering itself over the deep tropics. It has a large area of energy and plenty of moisture to work with. Water temps are warm and the upper level winds are favorable. All of the intensity guidance eventually strengthens this system in to a hurricane but not until the eastern Caribbean Sea.

First up will be impacts for the Windward Islands. While it’s impossible to know exactly where the center will track let’s not focus entirely on that right now. Instead, let’s look at the hazards that are likely headed towards areas such as Martinique, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. At the very least, squally weather will build in by early Wednesday morning it looks like. Heavy rain with gusty winds along with rough surf and larger waves will accompany the system no matter how strong it is at that point. It would not surprise me at all to see tropical storm conditions for portions of the Windward Islands as it appears that the low pressure area will be strengthening as it passes by. This is what people need to be ready for and not focusing on the center of circulation once it develops. The effects will extend well beyond the center – I know most people should know this but a friendly reminder never hurts.

After entering the eastern Caribbean Sea, what should be TS Matthew at that point is likely to intensify and become a hurricane as the week progresses. Upper ocean heat content will increase dramatically for the system meaning that there is ample fuel for it to become a formidable hurricane.

So what happens next? Obviously a lot of people want to know the answer to that question. I simply don’t know at this point. We are faced with yet another challenging forecast period with all kinds of variables thrown in from the possible interaction with northern South America to upper level low pressure areas digging in like we saw last year with Joaquin and almost every other scenario in between.

The model guidance beyond five days has been interesting to say the least. I won’t pretend that people can’t see the output from various social media and other hurricane related websites. One run of a model will show a hurricane moving in to the Gulf of Mexico. Twelve hours later, that same model has it turning north near Hispaniola. Let me make this very clear: we are talking about predicting the movement of a very complex weather system that will be interacting with equally complex pieces of energy, land masses and other unknowns that will ultimately shape the outcome. To think that we will have the solution six to ten days out is not a good idea. The wild swings from the various global models will be very interesting to watch but beyond five days exceeds the grasp of most in the weather community, especially when talking about a potentially powerful hurricane.

For now, let’s see how things develop over the next 48-72 hours and for interests in the Windward Islands especially, it’s time to pay close attention and be ready for impacts by mid-week.

As for how the story ends? I guess we will all find out together.

I’ll have more here later today with my video discussion followed by another blog post late tonight.

M. Sudduth 6:30 AM ET Sept 26