Hurricane Matthew restrengthened overnight and is on its way to its encounter with Florida beginning this afternoon as a Category 4 or maybe even a Category 5 hurricane. There are no significant changes in the forecast or the models this morning, but rapid intensification is now taking place as evidenced by the immense drop in pressure since last night.
Conditions will deteriorate first in South Florida this afternoon then move up the coast through the day and night.
Whenever a storm moves parallel to the coast, a slight angle change or a wobble can make a tremendous difference in what happens on land. So even at this late time, the exact impact on coastal cities cannot be known. All of the central Florida coast needs to be prepared for a devastating blow.
But here is what we do know. There is better than a 60% chance that this destructive hurricane will directly impact East-Central Florida tonight. Even if we get lucky and the storm stays offshore, the odds are high that it will be close enough that life-threatening flooding will inundate coastal sections and the winds will cause widespread damage. If the storm makes landfall, severe to catastrophic damage is possible, likely for hundreds of miles.
The bullseye looks to be an area from Cape Canaveral, north through Dayton Beach and then on up to Jacksonville. Ocean inundation of the coastal areas is now forecast to be 6 to 9 feet above the normally dry land at high tide. That’s a deadly storm surge!
I lived in Florida for 3 years – on both coasts – and from what I can gather, there’s has never been a hurricane like this in East-Central Florida. There is nothing to compare it to. If it comes ashore on or south of the Treasure Coast - the counties immediately north of Palm Beach - with the intensity that is forecast, damage will far exceed what was witnessed during Frances and Jeanne in 2004.
In parts of North Florida - from St. Augustine north - the danger from storm surge is even higher than farther south, due primarily to the way the water is funneled into the rivers that extend well inland, Life threatening storm surge will likely occur far up the St. Johns River, for example, and the other rivers as well. Again, hard to believe, as this is an area that RARELY ever has to deal with a land-falling hurricane. Typically, locals watch them 75 miles offshore as they head north to North Carolina.
The islands along the Georgia and South Carolina coast continue to be at risk of life-threatening storm surge. The timing and exact track still brings with a degree of uncertainty at this time, but all indications are that a damaging hurricane will affect the coastal sections of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina Friday into Saturday.
Similar river flooding – perhaps well inland – could create life-threatening flooding in South Carolina as well (similar to North Florida). As such, I believe South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has done the right thing in ordering evacuations of the Low Country Islands, if for no other reason, for the threat of deadly flooding.
Beyond, the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast are not threatened, as Matthew is expected to turn back out to sea – away from the South Carolina coast – Saturday afternoon.
Check on your friend s and family in Florida and coastal sections of Georgia and the Carolinas, as the next 72 hours are going to be very rough.