- Matthew is a weak category-4 hurricane and will likely slowly strengthen today as passes over Nassau, Bahamas.
- Matthew will likely make landfall between Jupiter, Florida, and West Palm Beach, Florida, as a category-4 hurricane. Landfall should weaken Matthew to a category 2 by the time it reaches Daytona Beach, Florida, and then travels up the coastline. I don’t anticipate that the center will track more than 10-20 miles inland.
- There is a very small chance that Matthew will become a category 5 hurricane before it reaches the Florida coastline, as it will likely strengthen until its inner core starts to interact with the Florida coastline.
- Estimating the maximum storm surge is a bit complicated as these forecasts depend on Matthew’s track and strength as it travels up the Florida coast. If Matthew weakens due to land interaction, surge will be less severe; but if Matthew stays off shore, more water may move onto the coast, and this surge could be further complicated by multiple tide cycles that are expected during Matthew’s move up the coastline.
- Given the large amount of exposure along the coast and expected wind gusts of 144 mph, this will no doubt be a significant insured loss event. For specific impacts, each National Weather Service (NWS) office is offering detailed forecasts for Matthew.
- In the longer-range forecast, Matthew will likely loop over or the stall off the southeast coast this weekend or early next week. This will limit insured losses in locations that are north of South Carolina.
Forecasted Landfall Location and Specifics
As I have mentioned, Matthew is tracking over very warm water in the Bahamas. This warm water will continue to fuel Matthew until it starts to interact with the Florida coastline tomorrow morning. Keep in mind that hurricane-intensity forecasting is typically more predictable than hurricane-track forecasting. Matthew already surprised us this past weekend with rapid intensification to a category-5 hurricane in the southern Caribbean. It should be noted that, currently, no model guidance is forecasting further rapid intensification. The intensity guidance below show most models are in the camp that Matthew will be category 4 hurricane at landfall or along the Florida coastline.
For the last week, meteorologists have used the long-range hurricane models to predict Matthew’s track. We are now within what is considered the short-term forecast window where higher-resolution weather models become a bit more useful for providing specific hurricane forecasting.
HRRR (High Resolution Rapid Refresh) is a high-resolution (3K grid resolution) model which shows the details of a hurricane and its impacts. This model is updated hourly and forecasts the next 18 hours. Here is the latest hourly forecasts.
My general expectation is that Matthew will make landfall and track inland 10-20 miles along interstate highway 95. This counters some high-resolution models that suggest Matthew will track along the Florida coastline. Three of these models are the HWRF, GFDL and Verisk Climate model (which is the basis for BMS iVision).
One important point I want to make is no numerical weather prediction model is at a high enough resolution to resolve the details of surface roughness. It is this surface roughness that would likely weaken the winds inland. So many of the modeled forecast plots above are likely overestimating the wind speed. This is particularly apparent in the National Weather Service forecasted wind swath.
At this time, much can be gleaned from the various NWS forecast products because they offer great detail on potential impacts. These details include likely power outages, specific areas that are prone to flooding, tornado threats, etc. Many of these NWS offices offer public video briefings as well. In some cases the wording is quite strong, and for good reason, as Matthew is a dangerous, life-threating storm.
Estimating the maximum storm surge is a bit complicated as these forecasts depend on Matthew’s track and strength as it travels up the Florida coast. If Matthew weakens due to land interaction, surge will be less severe; but if Matthew stays off shore, more water may move onto the coast, and this surge could be further complicated by multiple tide cycles that are expected during Matthew’s move up the coastline. Please utilize the new NHC storm surge forecast guidance. This guidance will change with the NHC track forecast. Right now the worse storm surge will occur in north Florida where the continental shelf extends out into the Atlantic and water will have more time to pile up. Surge values in this general area could be greater than 9 feet in isolated locations.
Another issue that is not being talked about much is the possible flooding of Lake Okeechobee. The lake level is very high right now at 15.78 feet. A risk of flooding starts to occur if this lake reaches 17″. If the lake level goes up to 20″ this could be a major concern as this is a known dike that is dire need of upgrades and if given to much stress it could break if water levels get too high. Matthew will no doubt raise this lake level. The Weather Channel has a good summary of the risk.
Long Range Forecast
As we have seen for over the last week, Matthew’s long-range forecast remains uncertain. But the chance of significant insured loss at locations north of South Carolina is declining. Many global models suggest Matthew will loop off the southeast coast. Some of these model solutions even take Matthew back into the Bahamas or Florida, and in one extreme case, back into the Gulf of Mexico. Most likely, Matthew will sit and stall near the southeast coast and weaken while doing so. Matthew will eventually be kicked out into the Atlantic Ocean. However, as with any long-range hurricane track forecast, a lot of variables are at play, so Matthew’s long-range tracking still requires watching.