10.05.16

Thoughts on Hurricane Matthew

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 4:51 pm by gmachos

Another Powerful October Storm to Worry About

Over the last week, I have been watching developments in the Tropical Atlantic with interest as Matthew grew into a threat for the East Coast of the United States although I hadn’t blogged about it until now.

For the second year in a row, and for the third time in five years, we have a hurricane that is menacing the Caribbean, Bahamas, and the East Coast of the United States. Once again, a hurricane spins up amidst a fall like circulation pattern in the Western Atlantic.

Four years ago, it was Hurricane Sandy, which many in New Jersey are still trying to recover from today. Last year, it was Hurricane Joaquin, which combined with another area of low pressure to produce gusty winds and heavy rains as far north as New Jersey.

This year, it is Hurricane Matthew. At one time, Matthew was a Category Five Hurricane with winds near 160 mph. Matthew was the first Category Five Hurricane in the Atlantic in 9 years. The last one was Hurricane Dean, which made landfall in the Mayan Riviera section of Mexico in August 2007. Dean was ranked as a Top Ten Atlantic storm in terms of intensity at the time.

Matthew’s path has so far been a bit eerily similar to Hurricane Sandy. However, Matthew has been much stronger with Sandy only being a Category Three storm with 125 mph winds at peak strength. The hurricane developed much earlier in the season than Sandy did. Matthew also was the first hurricane to make landfall in Haiti since 1963. Nevertheless, both storms impacted portions of Cuba.

Ok. Enough of the history and comparisons. Matthew had been interacting with the rugged mountains of Cuba and Hispaniola, which go as high as 7,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level. The interaction tore up Matthew significantly despite the fact that it also produced torrential rains on those islands. Wind speeds dropped from 145 to 115 miles per hour in about 24 hours. Now, the storm is back over water near the Bahamas, where sea surface temperatures run about 86 degrees, and Matthew has already responded to that with some strengthening.

As of 11:00 AM on Wednesday morning, sustained winds with Matthew increased to 120 miles per hour, and it may not be done yet. Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground indicated earlier that the storm is getting better organized. The NHC’s official intensity forecast indicates that Matthew could become a Category Four Hurricane again with 130 mph winds. So, the storm is likely skirt the East Coast of Florida on Friday at major hurricane strength.

The storm will then continue to hug the coast along Georgia and South Carolina, and weaken to a Category Two storm with between 100 and 110 mph winds due to a hostile upper level wind environment. Then, things get crazy. The major forecast models: GFS, European, and UKMET are all indicating that Matthew will turn to the east into the Atlantic, and then turn south and towards the Bahamas and Florida again early next week.

Why is that you ask? First, the trough that was much hyped earlier this week, didn’t pan out since it wasn’t as strong or digged as deep as expected. So, there is nothing to pick up the storm. Hence, Matthew is in a situation much like the cutoff low that affected New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic over the past week. It has nothing to kick it out. There is also a new player in this game: Tropical Storm Nicole.

Nicole is a newly formed tropical system that became a tropical cyclone over the past 24 to 36 hours. The storm is close by in the Western Atlantic, and its circulation is also influencing Matthew’s movement. The combination with the trough that wasn’t and Nicole’s development now brings a bizarre scenario that shows Matthew possibly entering the Florida Straits next week.

This is all good news for now in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, which are now looking at great weather through this weekend. Tropical storms and hurricanes are very fickle though, and things can change so all New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic residents reading this should continue to monitor the progress of this storm.