Hurricane Matthew has taken center stage in both the weather community and the world at large over the last couple of days, making landfall in Les Anglais, Haiti, Tuesday morning, shortly before 8 AM, as an estimated Category Four Hurricane. With the storm motion continuing north, the lashing wind and rain associated with the well-defined and tightly wound eyewall - or center wall around the core - of Matthew will impact the eastern tip of Cuba before moving into the Southern Bahamas. Thereafter, though the forecast track in the coming days surely maintains some uncertainty, there are also some very clear signals:
- The Bahamas will be hit hard by rain and wind as the storm turns north-northwest, running most of the island chain including Nassau
- Matthew will likely pass close enough to the eastern shore of Florida to deliver lashing wind and rain to the Sunshine State, requiring Hurricane Warnings as we close in on Matthew's arrival
- Matthew is likely to closely parallel the U.S. East Coast heading into the weekend, moving alongside the South and North Carolina coast, passing near or over the Outer Banks by Saturday night
- Around a foot of rain and strong wind are likely in the Carolinas as Matthew passes there Saturday
- Here in New England, as of this Tuesday writing, there is a 70% chance we see some impact - at least in terms of rain - from Matthew
- High surf and beach erosion seems probable in New England, even if the storm were to pass well southeast of us, owing to wave action from the storm
Let's dig in a little deeper...
Matthew has been moving north in a very favorable environment for tropical cyclone growth and maintenance, which has explained his continued status as a major hurricane. Water temperatures beneath the eye of Matthew are exceptionally warm, and winds aloft have been light surrounding the storm, which is necessary for a hurricane to maintain its structure. As a result, Matthew has exhibited characteristics classic to a powerful hurricane - a tight, concentric eye at the center; cyclical replacements of the eyewall structure; and excellent outflow, or evacuation of air aloft. All of these assets contribute to the incredible satellite presentation seen here.
The water ahead of Matthew will continue to be warm - in fact, as Matthew encounters the Gulf Stream, the waters actually get warmer on approach toward the U.S. East Coast, and taken alone, this is a very concerning fact, especially for the Bahamas. By Thursday morning, winds aloft will start to change a bit, introducing what's known as "shear" in the meteorological world - changing wind direction and speed with height that can degrade a hurricane. Having said that, Matthew will continue to be so strong, that changing the wind conditions aloft Thursday morning will only start a very slow weakening process - Matthew will still be an extremely strong hurricane as he moves northwest near the Florida eastern shore late Thursday into early Friday.
While the Southeastern United States will probably take a beating from wind, waves and rain as the storm moves parallel to the coast Friday and Saturday, here in New England we'll see a busy week of waves on the water from unrelated storm centers moving to our south, north of Hurricane Matthew, building our seas 3-6 feet through midweek. Long period swell will begin arriving to New England's South Coast by the end of this week, and just how high our waves build heading into the weekend depends upon Matthew's eventual track, but seas of 25 to 35 feet over the waters south of New England seem quite likely by late this weekend. While waves that big won't make it directly to our New England beaches unless Matthew's track shifts west for a direct hit, surely large waves will result in pounding surf and beach erosion this weekend for New England.
New England's rainfall totals will also depend upon the track of Matthew, but at this point we foresee a swath of heavy rain transitioning to the northwest side of the storm, meaning a path south of New England could still deliver inches of much-needed rainfall, particularly to Southern New England - on the order of one to two inches northwest of Boston, and three to five inches on Cape Cod. Again, a change to forecast track would result in changed rainfall amounts, but this appears the most likely scenario at this early juncture.
One viable question is: what is the remaining uncertainty with this storm, and how does that impact the forecast or what we should do, if anything to prepare? There are a couple of ways to answer that. One method is to quantify the chance we'll see rain out of the storm, and a (largely objective) analysis in-house by our NECN Weather Team puts the chance of rain in most of the Eastern half of New England at about 70%. Of course, this means there is still, as of this Tuesday writing, a 30% chance we don't see any rain at all from Matthew. When it comes to wind or storm surge impact, the stakes are much, much higher. A track southeast of New England would keep the core of damaging wind over the waters south of us, as there are already some indications the wind field around Matthew may weaken on the northwest side of the storm as it makes its closest pass to us. Keep in mind, this is a hypothesis rooted in fiction to some extent - that is, while we're defining what we believe to be the most likely scenario, we are cautiously very aware of the potential for a more northwest track that would expose New England to more significant wind and potential storm surge. As such, while we're posing our most likely, favored scenario at this time, we also are quick to point out the potential for deviations in the coming days.
Finally, we've heard from many: what can or should we do to prepare for Matthew? At this point, even if the core of the storm isn't a direct hit to New England, there are some easy, actionable suggestions we passed along at the start of the hurricane season, and frankly, are helpful actions for any weather wise New England resident, regardless of season:
- Many New Englanders keep batteries, flashlights, bottled water, canned food or dried fruit on hand
- Coastal residents at exposed shores often keep plywood handy if ever a short-notice need to board up windows. Better making room to store them year-round than face a sold-out hardware store when a storm approaches!
- Many inland residents have generators for home, knowing downed trees can take out power for days - remember those 11 days without power for some in our big ice storm!
- Always a great idea to have photos of property - home and otherwise - in case damage is done. These could be used for insurance purposes.
Naturally, we'll continue to keep you posted on-air on NECN and online at NECN.com. We'd encourage one and all to download our mobile app for push notifications to get the very latest, as well.
Matt and the NECN Weather Team