Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Continues Extremely Dangerous

Hurricane Matthew south of Jamaica and Haiti
Sunday morning, still packing winds of up to 150 mph.
It seems Haiti is in Matthew's crosshairs now.

Hurricane Matthew is still churning in the Caribbean, packing 150 mph winds.  

It's made its long-anticipated turn to the north, but it's position is just a hair east of where we thought it would be a couple days ago.

Which is sort of good news for Jamaica. That island nation will still get a terrible hurricane with devastating flash floods and horrific winds, but it won't be the direct blow we anticipated.

The very, VERY bad news is Matthew has its sights on the poverty stricken nation of Haiti. Most buildings there are not up to the task of withstanding Matthew's winds, even if the storm weakens ever so slightly, as anticipated.

Worse, the National Hurricane Center expects 15 to 25 inches of rain, with local amounts to 40 inches in Haiti because of Matthew.

To put those amounts in perspective, it normally takes a year for us New Englanders to accumulate 35 to 40 inches of precipitation. Haiti's going to get that amount in a couple of days.

Worse, Haiti is a hilly nation, and everybody has stripped the hillsides of trees in a desperate bid for firewood. (They can't afford fuel)

The lack of trees means there's nothing to hold the hillsides in place during torrential rains and nothing to absorb water. There is going to be horrible, fatal mudslides and flash floods in Haiti. I'm terribly worried about the people who live there.'

Cuba, too. Eastern Cuba is going to be nailed by Matthew, too.  The weather will deteroriate in these areas during the day today, and these nations should expect the brunt of the hurricane Monday into early Tuesday

Matthew is strong, but has had an odd appearance over the past day or more. It's got its traditional small, calm eye with its intense winds circulating around it. The core of Matthew is not huge in size as hurricanes go, but it is wild.

However, Matthew has also hung on to a huge blob of intense thunderstorms just to its east. If that holds together, it could end up prolonging the agony of Matthew in Haiti and neighboring Dominican Republic.

It appears this huge blob of storms on the east flank of Matthew is caused by the collision of trade winds blowing from the east as they normally do, colliding with strong west winds on the southern half of Matthew.

When winds collide like this, they have nowhere to go but up. Intense rising air means intense thunderstorms, and that explains Matthew's eastern blob.

The next port of call for Matthew after Haiti and Cuba is the Bahamas, where hurricane watches are already up. Matthew, once again, will probably have weakened a bit more by the time in reaches the Bahamas, but will still pack powerful winds of 110 mph, says the National Hurricane Center.

Plus, you have to remember: Meteorologists are better at forecasting the path of a hurricane than they are the strength. Matthew could regenerate big time amid the warm waters of the Bahamas. Even the best forecasters at the National Hurricane Center know their strength forecast for Matthew over the Bahamas could be a bust.

On top of that, meteorologists still aren't that great at forecasting the path of hurricanes once you get three days or more out. That's not a slam at scientists, it's just that we still have a lot to learn about hurricanes and other tropical systems.

There's still a LOT of questions as to what Matthew will do once it gets to and past the Bahamas. Will it curve harmlessly out to sea? Slam into North Carolina, then spread heavy rains up into the Northeast. Stay off shore until it gets to the Northeast and crash into New England? Or will it do something else?

All this depends on how Matthew interacts with a strong ridge of high pressure over and east of the Canadian Maritimes, a storm system in the Ohio Valley, and a weak tropical system that might form northeast of Matthew.

Subtle changes in the positions, or forecast positions of all these weather systems will greatly influence the path of Matthew.

For us New Englanders, even if Matthew gets this far north, it would happen a week from now. Which means we have plenty of time to monitor forecasts and act accordingly.

Don't panic now if somebody on social media posts a forecast image of Matthew slamming into New England as a very strong hurricane. There are many computer forecasting models that have dozens of scenarios for Matthew, so we shouldn't hang on to one forecast.

Anyone who tells you now on social media that New England is definitely screwed is a hurricane troll. Don't pay attention. Just listen to reliable weather sources. (The National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service and The Weather Channel are good places to start.)

I'll try my best to relay good information, and I'll try to do it in plain English as we go forward with Matthew.

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