Hurricane Matthew has already made several marks in the record books, and could make a few more as it hits the coast of Florida with punishing storm surge, winds and rain. According to Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, Matthew ― currently a Category 4 storm with winds of 140 mph ― had the third strongest 24-hourMore
Update 11:03 p.m. ET: As of the 11 p.m. ET advisory, Matthew’s winds have weakened slightly to 105 mph. It is still a Category 2 storm headed northward. Storm surge forecasts remain the same. The hurricane warning from the Flagler/Volusia county line to Fernandina Beach, Fla., has been changed to a tropical storm warning. It is possible Matthew could make landfall on the Georgia or South Carolina coast. The storm should continue to weaken over the next 48 hours.
Update 4:50 p.m. ET: With the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. ET advisory, Matthew’s winds have been lowered to 110 mph, making it a high-end Category 2 storm. The hurricane warning area has been reduced to the region of the coast from Flagler/Volusia county line in Florida north to Surf City, N.C. The storm surge forecast has been reduced slightly, with 6 to 9 feet possible from Flagler Beach, Fla., to Edisto Beach, S.C. and 5 to 7 feet from Edisto to Cape Fear, N.C. Storm surge reportedly reached between 3 and 5 feet in the St. Augustine and Jacksonville Beach area. Matthew has shifted to a northward course, keeping it further from the north Florida coastline.
As the sun rose on Friday morning, Hurricane Matthew was battering the east coast of Florida, with gusts of wind over 100 mph measured just offshore of Cape Canaveral and photos of damage already popping up on social media.
The storm weakened slightly overnight and is a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph. While the eye of the storm has stayed just offshore, sparing the coast the worst winds, the impacts from storm surge were still a significant concern along the northern stretch of coast.
As Floridians hunkered down, officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina continued to urge residents to prepare for the storm to come their way over the weekend, with storm surge and flooding from heavy rains the major concerns.
As Matthew emerged from the Bahamas, it took a few eastward wobbles, which have helped keep the eye of the storm just offshore, Steve Bowen, meteorologist and director of the impact forecasting division at the re-insurance company Aon Benfield, said.
While the main path Matthew is on seems like it will keep the storm from making landfall, wobbles in the other direction are still a possibility and could make it more likely that Matthew’s eye would come over the coastline.
Also affecting that possibility is the larger outer eyewall, which widens the storm’s hurricane-force wind field. An eyewall replacement cycle, where an outer eyewall forms and slowing chokes off the original eyewall, doesn’t seem to have finished, Bowen said. That cycle was the main reason for Matthew’s earlier wobbles, he said.
U.S. impacts from #Matthew far from over, but recognize these three slight wobbles likely saved Florida billions of dollars in damage. pic.twitter.com/hEX6XrsJd5
— Steve Bowen (@SteveBowenWx) October 7, 2016
Even with the worst winds staying offshore, gusts of more than 100 mph were measured near Cape Canaveral. Sustained winds were above the hurricane threshold of 74 mph in the area.
Photos of downed trees, exploding power transformers and other damage and debris have already emerged on social media. Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that more than 600,000 customers were without power and urged residents to stay inside to avoid accidentally encountering any downed power lines. The areas where power outages were widespread were visible via satellite overnight.
Officials were still urging residents to evacuate if local emergency managers said it was still safe to do so. National Hurricane Center director Rick Knabb issued a rare, live plea on The Weather Channel asking people to leave if they still could.
Be careful out there. A viewer from #Sorrento sent us this photo of a downed tree on power lines. #HurricaneMatthew pic.twitter.com/xFRTrYx47x
— WFTV Eyewitness News (@WFTV) October 7, 2016
Emergency officials in the Cape Canaveral area said they were getting calls for evacuation Friday morning from those who had decided to ride out the storm. Because first responders evacuated, they would not be able to reach those people until after the storm had passed, officials said.
The main concern for the remainder of the day was the potentially very damaging storm surge that could still hit northern Florida, particularly in the Jacksonville area. Forecasts predicted that the surge could reach up to 7 to 11 feet along a broad swath of coast from Sebastian Inlet, Fla., to Edisto Beach, S.C., exacerbated by the afternoon’s high tide.
Officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina were also preparing for the storm to reach their shores. Storm surge is a major concern for coastal areas there, but rain could also cause significant problems.
Flooding occurring in the Daytona Beach area #HurricaneMatthew @reedtimmerTVN @ConnorWX #Florida pic.twitter.com/KzcwQmWsA3
— Maria Molina Timmer (@ScienceByMaria) October 7, 2016
The ground in eastern South and North Carolina is already saturated from recent rains, and Matthew was expected to drop another 8 to 12 inches. Some spots could even see up to 15 inches, according to the National Hurricane Center. That raises the risk of inland flooding, as well as compound flooding — or combined storm surge and rain flooding — in coastal areas.
As Matthew lashes the U.S., more information on its catastrophic impacts in Haiti continue to trickle out. The death toll has risen to 478 people, Reuters reported. Details of the storm damage have been slow to emerge because many of the hardest-hit areas of the country were cut off by damaged roads and bridges.