Hurricane Matthew has spared Florida the worst. A mighty Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds when it devastated Grand Bahama Island on Thursday, Matthew underwent a collapse of its inner eyewall on Thursday evening, which resulted in the hurricane weakening dramatically. Now a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds as of the 11 am EDT Friday advisory, Matthew has yet to generate sustained winds of hurricane force anywhere in Florida, though a gust of 107 mph was recorded on Cape Canaveral this morning. Matthew’s center came within 30 miles of Cape Canaveral, but the western eyewall of the storm has, for the most part, remained barely offshore today.
Intensity forecast: a slow weakening of Matthew
Satellite loops on Friday morning showed a solid but not spectacular major hurricane, with plenty of heavy thunderstorms with cold cloud tops in the eyewall. However, the eye had gotten less prominent since Thursday, and the intensity of the thunderstorms had decreased. Matthew will encounter steadily more unfavorable conditions for intensification over the next three days. Wind shear, now a moderate 15 knots, will rise to the high range, above 20 knots, by tonight. The ocean temperature will cool as Matthew progresses to the north, and dry air will be attacking from the west. The combination of cooler ocean temperatures, high wind shear and dry air should act to significantly weaken Matthew to a Category 1 hurricane by Saturday night, when it will make its closest approach to North Carolina.
Track forecast: landfall risk is greatest in South Carolina
Matthew is tracking right along the coast of Florida today, and we can expect that portions of the coast may occasionally see the west eyewall of the storm move over. This will bring hurricane-force wind gusts, but not sustained hurricane-force winds of 74+ mph. There is perhaps a 20% chance that Matthew will take a wobble to the west that would take the core of the hurricane ashore over the coast between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, bringing sustained hurricane-force winds to the coast, though. The greater danger of hurricane-force winds at the coast is to South Carolina. The 00Z Friday runs of our four top models for forecasting hurricane tracks—the GFS, European, UKMET and HWRF—showed that Matthew will track very close to the coast of Florida and Georgia today and early Saturday morning, then potentially make landfall on the coast of South Carolina Saturday morning near 6 am EDT. The 06Z Friday runs of the GFS and HWRF model showed this, as well. The range of solutions for these various model runs was to take the storm inland by up to 30 miles or keep it offshore by about 30 miles, just south of Charleston. In their 11 am EDT Friday Wind Probability Forecast, NHC gave highest odds of hurricane-force winds in South Carolina to Charleston (45%.) The highest odds in North Carolina were at Bald Head Island (22%), and the highest odds in Georgia were at King’s Bay (37%).
While it’s going to be a close call whether or not Matthew makes landfall in South Carolina, this drama is not going to be the major factor controlling how much total storm damage occurs there. Matthew is likely to be a weakening Category 2 storm when it makes its closest approach to the South Carolina coast, and the amount of wind damage the storm can deliver to the state will be modest, even if it makes a direct hit on Charleston....MOREEarlier:
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