Monday, October 3, 2016

Persistent Matthew Bearing Down On Haiti, Still Confounding Forecasters

The outer effects of Matthew were starting to hit
Jamaica and Haiti Monday morning, as this visible
satellite image shows. 
Today's the day Hurricane Matthew will really start to affect humans dangerously.

We've been watching it for days, churning erratically across the Caribbean Sea.

Now, the weather is just beginning to get bad in Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba. Between now and Tuesday, we really need to hope for the best for the people in these countries.

There's already some flooding in Jamaica as the outer effects of Matthew hit that island. Things will go downhill all day today and tonight.

Hurricane conditions will reach Jamaica and Haiti tonight, eastern Cuba by Tuesday, and the Bahamas by Tuesday evening.

It's unusual for a hurricane to maintain Category 4 strength or higher for four days as Matthew has. The longest streak of being at continuously Category 4 or higher was Ivan in 2004, but most Atlantic hurricanes, if they get up to Category 4, only stay that strong for a couple days.

Category 4 hurricanes have sustained winds of 130 to 156 mph  Category 5 storms are 157 mph or more.

As of this morning, Matthew had "weakened" to a storm with top sustained winds of 130 mph. The National Hurricane Center says fluctuations in strength almost always happen in powerful hurricanes like this, so that's not surprising.

Land interactions with Haiti and Cuba will sap Matthew's strength a little more, but it will still be a dangerous hurricane by the time it hits the Bahamas.

They're still predicting up to 40 inches of rain in Haiti, with 10 to 25 inches common in the hurricane zone in the three countries I mentioned.

As I said yesterday, this is guaranteed to cause devastating floods and mudslides, especially in Haiti, where hillsides are now devoid of trees. (They've all been cut down for firewood.)

Storm surges could reach up to 11 feet in Cuba, 10 feet in Haiti, and 10 to 15 feet in the Bahamas, says the National Hurricane Center.

This will totally devastate coastal areas, and hope those areas have been fully evacuated.  However, Reuters reports that a lot of people in Haiti and to some extent Jamaica have not exactly been rushing away from danger zones. These people are in big trouble.

Winds of 130 mph are devastating and dangerous, obviously, but the greatest loss of life from this storm will probably come from storm surges, flooding and mudslides.

As has been the case for days, we still don't know what Matthew will do once it gets to and past the Bahamas.

Computer forecasting models have been going back and forth like windshield wipers in a downpour. Depending on what run of models, and which models we're talking about, Matthew is a threat for anyone between Florida and Labrador, or it might not hit anything at all in the United States and Canada.

It's a slow moving slog for Matthew, so we'll be watching its path for days. At this point, it'll only get as far north as off the central Florida coast Friday, and east of Georgia Saturday. So us folks here in New England will be watching Matthew closely into early next week.

As I cautioned yesterday, don't take any one forecast for Matthew's track to heart. There will continue to be wide swings in the expected path of the hurricane, depending on what other weather systems surrounding Matthew decide to do.

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