Hurricane Matthew slams Haiti, targets Southeast US

hurricane matthew haiti october 4 2016
Hurricane Matthew is making landfall in southwest Haiti Tuesday morning with 145 mph winds.

Hurricane Matthew is making landfall in southwest Haiti Tuesday morning with 145 mph winds.

Hurricane Matthew Makes First Landfall

Tuesday morning, Hurricane Matthew is making landfall in southwestern Haiti with winds of 145 mph and higher gusts. This is a Category 4 Hurricane, with wind equivalent to a EF-3 tornado.

In addition to the destructive winds, which are strongest on the right side of the eye of the storm, catastrophic rain is occurring over Haiti. Locally, up to 40 inches of rain could fall over parts of Haiti.

Tropical storm force winds will cover all of Haiti, clipped eastern Jamaica, and will buffet eastern Cuba. Hurricane force winds may clip the eastern top of Cuba, which could see upwards of 20 inches of rain locally.

Matthew is predicted to remain a major (Category 3+) hurricane as it heads into the Bahamas Wednesday into Thursday.

Major Shift West in Track

hurricane matthew track
The Official National Hurricane Center track for the eye of Matthew. Impacts will extend far outside of the eye. Click to enlarge. [National Hurricane Center]
Most major computer models had a major shift west yesterday in their simulated tracks of Matthew. There is now a fairly good agreement in the path of Matthew along the east coast. Small difference and uncertainties remain. Unfortunately, a slight shift in the track could mean the difference between a glancing blow and a significant strike for Florida and the Carolinas.

The current National Hurricane Center track lies along the average of the major models, keeping the center just off the coast of Florida Friday before moving over the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Saturday. This track will likely continue to be adjusted with time.

Matthew is a large storm, however. Even if the eye of the storm stays off shore, strong winds, torrential rain and life threatening storm surge are likely along the southeast coast.

Residents from Florida to the Outer Banks should be preparing for the worst.

Impacts to the Finger Lakes

The impacts Matthew may have in the Finger Lakes are still uncertain. There are only a few model members that bring the center of Matthew- which would be much, much weaker- over the area. The vast majority of models curve Matthew out to sea after striking the Outer Banks, while a handful bring the storm into New England.

However, the forecast for the Finger Lakes is not that simple.

A cold front will be moving through the area on Saturday. Some computer simulations develop a connection between this front and Matthew, resulting in the development of heavy precipitation over our region, even as Matthew remains centered over the Outer Banks.

The uncertainty in this development is extreme. Such a rare set up, combined with the time still to pass before this would happen, and the computer models’ likely inability to accurately forecast such an event all muddle the picture.

Significant flooding from Matthew is unlikely in our area. Damaging winds are extremely unlikely in the Finger Lakes. At most, a 2 to 5 inch rain storm would be possible. This could cause some slight flash flooding problems, but would be a huge help to the drought.

The biggest messages are 1) the catastrophic impact of Matthew elsewhere, 2) the uncertainty for our region and 3) the unlikeliness that this will be a serious event for the Finger Lakes.

 

Meteorologist Drew Montreuil
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Meteorologist Drew Montreuil has been forecasting the weather in the Finger Lakes region since 2006 and has degrees in meteorology from SUNY Oswego (B.S. with Honors) and Cornell (M.S.).

When not forecasting, he can be found working at the local library, making goat milk soap, running until his legs burn, or playing with his three young boys.