Hurricane Matthew may currently have Haiti and Cuba in its cross-hairs, but it’s only a matter of time until the storm lifts north on a path bound for the east coast of the United States. As of Monday evening the storm was a powerful category 4 storm with sustained winds of 140 mph. The storm will reach the east coast of Florida by Thursday afternoon as it is quite the slow-mover. Over the past 24 hours, the cone of uncertainty for the storm track has shifted westward, and you can now see that a land-falling hurricane along the East Coast is in the range of possibilities.
It is not a done deal, though, as the most impressive and greatest track-record forecast model (the European) is still keeping the bulk of the storm just off the coast and then taking it out to sea following the curvature of the North Carolina coast. There is still a lot of time between now and the end of the week to determine the path, and large storms like this often influence the weather pattern around them, rather than being influenced or steered in a different direction by such patterns. Regardless, almost all of the forecast models plot the storm to be very close to the coast late in the week.
In fact, the storm won’t even have to make landfall for damaging winds and rain to have an impact. Just a brush up the coast will still bring tropical storm or hurricane force winds from Miami all the way up to Virginia. The image below shows expected tropical storm winds in yellow by Thursday evening across eastern Florida.
As for our impacts here in Central PA, we are looking at a very long time before we would see anything here. It likely wouldn’t be until Saturday night that wind and rain would develop here in Pennsylvania. There are still a couple of forecast models that keep our region high and dry through the whole weekend. Others bring rain and gusty winds for a 24 hour period Saturday night through Sunday. If anything, the trend has been to slow this storm even more. If that happens, Saturday may end up completely dry. Damaging winds and flooding rains are not out of the question for us, but I would consider them to be unlikely at this time due to our region being far enough inland to be sheltered. Given the strength of the storm, it’s just too soon to issue the all-clear just yet. Check back for updates and details as we move toward the weekend.