Friday, October 7, 2016

Matthew Hammering Florida, Haiti Reeling, Dumb Storm Conspiracy Theories

Radar image of Matthew near
  Cape Canaveral early this morning.  
Winds were starting to gust to near 100 mph around Cape Canaveral, Florida before dawn today as Hurricane Matthew slowly trudged northward along the Florida coast.

So far, the hurricane has been in a position ever so slightly east of where many forecasters thought it would be.

That's great news, because even this slight eastward jog has kept much of the worst winds away from Florida. At least so far.

Still, there's going to be a lot of wind damage and flooding in that area, and in coastal Georgia and South Carolina, too.

Before dawn Matthew was going through what is known as an eyewall replacement cycle. During these cycles, the eye of the storm rearranges itself, either becoming bigger or smaller.

During eye wall replacement cycles, powerful hurricanes like Matthew temporarily weaken a little, and that's what Matthew did, which is also a bit of good news.

 Maximum sustained winds had dropped to 120 mph - still horrible, but a tad less horrible than yesterday.

Once the eyewall replacement cycle is over, Matthew won't have a chance to restrengthen. Interaction with land as it moves along the coast, and increasing upper level winds, will make Matthew slowly weaken further over the next few days as it first makes a run at the South Carolina coast, then heads east offshore, then south.

The really good news is Matthew is tracking northward a little offshore, a bit more than forecasters thought. So things are really bad in eastern Florida, but not as bad as they could have been had Matthew went inland.

As it stands now, it looks like Matthew could hit the Bahamas or even Florida again in a few days as it does a loop off the coast. Only this time it would do so as just a fairly weak tropical storm. We'll see how that turns out. 
Matthew along the Florida coast Friday morning.

Meanwhile, news out of Haiti, the first country Matthew hit, is getting grimmer and grimmer. As of early this morning, the BBC and other news outlets reported more than 300 dead in Haiti, and the death toll is sure to rise as rescuers and aid workers reach hard hit areas.

Matthew lumbered through the Bahamas Thursday, causing extensive storm surge flooding, blowing roofs off homes and hotels, cutting power and prompting several rescues. So far, I haven't heard of any deaths in the Bahamas, which is a good thing.


Another stunning hurricane development that hasn't gotten much attention because of Matthew is Hurricane Nicole. It's south of Bermuda, and peaked last night with sustained winds of 105 mph.

This meant that two hurricanes in the Atlantic simultaneously had sustained winds of at least 100 mph. That's the first time such a thing has happened this late in the season

Luckily, Nicole is not expected to hit any land areas and will gradually weaken over the next few days.

Nicole wasn't supposed to amount to anything more than a piddling tropical storm, because outflow from Matthew would squelch it. But Nicole surprised everyone by becoming a substantial hurricane.


Now, I have to go off on a riff about stupid people, so here goes:

That Hurricane Matthew appears to be sparing Florida as bad a blow as some feared is obviously a very good thing. But some people are making political hay out of this, which could be deadly in future storms. People like Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh might have blood on their hands in the future.

Matt Drudge came up with this wackadoodle conspiracy theory yesterday that government officials, including the National Hurricane Center, are exaggerating the strength and risks from hurricanes like Matthew to scare people into fearing climate change.

Drudge tweeted: "The deplorables are starting to wonder if gov't has been lying to them about Hurricane Matthew intensity to make exaggerated point on climate."

He also tweeted: "Hurricane Center has monopoly on data. NO way of verifying claims. Nassau ground observations DID NOT match claims. 165 mph gusts? Where?"

As Vox noted, Drudge's conspiracy dumbness is dangerous:

"The implication of Drudge's tweet is that resisting evacuation isn't a bad, self destructive move but a brave way for 'deplorables' to stand up to the government. That's not just stupid - it could very well be deadly," Libby Nelson wrote in Vox.

For the record, the National Hurricane Center is nonpartisan, and its data is public record. So anybody could look at their data and find out if there's any funny business.

The National Hurricane Center has also repeatedly cautioned that you can't blame climate change on a single storm, though scientists there have said that climate change might, MIGHT make stronger hurricanes more likely.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who has not embraced the science of climate change, strongly urged people to evacuate ahead of Matthew.  So Matt Drudge, what's Rick Scott's problem.

I agree with meteorologist Joe Bastardi, an outspoken climate change skeptic on his Tweet this morning: "Flat out ignorant to believe NHC exaggerating data for climate change. What, so they can look bad if it doesn't happen? 40 mile error explains."

The 40 mile error Bastardi referred to is the mere fact that Matthew is as much as 40 miles further east than many forecasters predicted. It's that simple.

Drudge is just dumb. By the way, Rush Limbaugh was making similar silly claims as Drudge yesterday, too.

I think the two of them should rent a nice beachfront cottage in a location about to hit by the next strong hurricane.

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