Landfall of Hurricane Matthew Becoming More Likely for U.S. East Coast.
Some impacts along the U.S. East Coast now appear to be more likely as we look toward the weekend, although there is a large amount of uncertainty. While there is more suggestion of a coastal scrape than a landfall at this time, a U.S. landfall certainly isn’t out of the question.
Matthew’s maximum winds are back up to 140 mph after falling slightly overnight. It is expected to maintain that intensity until land interactions start to affect it.
Hurricane warnings are in effect for Jamaica, Haiti, eastern Cuba and the eastern Bahamas. It is tracking due north at 6 mph, and that slow forward motion will unfortunately keep the high wind and heavy rain over the same areas for an extended amount of time. Some places may be battered for perhaps two days.
Although tropical storm force winds extend about 135 miles from the center, hurricane-force winds only extend out to roughly 30 miles.
If the center stays far enough from Jamaica, that nation could avoid the worst of the winds, although heavy rain is still a big concern.
The storm surge along Haiti’s and Cuba’s southern coasts is predicted to be 7 to 11 feet. This is a very real danger that must not be overlooked or underestimated. The rainfall forecast for Haiti is especially ominous, but eastern Jamaica and eastern Cuba are not far behind. Parts of Haiti could receive up to 40 inches of rain. This is likely to produce terrible flash floods and mudslides.
At approximately 2 a.m. EDT Monday, Matthew’s eye passed almost directly over a buoy (National Data Buoy Center Station 42058) in the central Caribbean and recorded a 943 millibar surface pressure in the eye, with 74 mph sustained winds and 92 mph wind gusts in both sides of the eyewall.
It is extraordinary to have a major hurricane pass right over a buoy – and as a bonus, the buoy survived! Extreme wind speeds reported by buoys can be tricky to interpret though, because the buoy bobs up and down with the swells and waves, so when the buoy is on the crest of a wave it is fully exposed to the winds, but when it is in a trough between waves, it is blocked somewhat. In this case, the “significant wave height” was 34 feet, or about 20 feet higher than the anemometer.
Haiti has been hit or grazed by numerous very strong hurricanes over the centuries, but even weaker storms that pass nearby have produced devastating floods and mudslides.
Direct landfalls on Haiti, by major hurricanes, include David (1979), Inez (1966), Cleo (1964), Flora (1963) and Hazel (1954). Several other extremely intense storms passed very close, such as Allen (1980). Other recent natural disasters include the 2008 hurricane season when hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike all ravaged the country, and then the infamous 2010 earthquake. It currently seems unfortunately likely that Matthew will become an addition to that grim list.
Looking beyond the next three days of continuous island encounters, Matthew’s longer-range track still keeps the U.S. East Coast in play.