All the attention in the tropics is on powerful category 4 Hurricane Matthew currently hammering parts of Haiti and Cuba early this afternoon. The storm is lifting north with sustained winds near 145 mph, and gusts over 175 mph! At the same time, Tropical Storm Nicole has developed farther to the east and will have no impacts on land as it also lifts north.
Matthew is expected to slip through the channel between Cuba and Haiti and maintain a lot of its strength as it moves toward the Bahamas and eventually just off the east coast of Florida. It may weaken a bit due to some wind shear, but very warm ocean water temperatures will counter-act that shear. It is expected to maintain category 4 hurricane strength through Thursday evening as it comes close to Georgia.
The latest forecast track pulls the storm even closer to the coast, bringing damaging winds and heavy flooding rain onshore. Typically the strongest part of the storm is on the western edge, so that is at least one saving grace. This storm may not make landfall until it reaches the Carolinas, where the coast naturally juts out to the east. Even then, the strongest part of the storm may stay out to sea. That said, a major hurricane will bring life-threatening conditions to areas from Florida northward through the week.
By Saturday, the storm will be along the Outer Banks. Due to its slow movement, a front dropping down out of the Great Lakes will turn the storm back to the east and slide it out to sea. The slower the storm moves, the less impacts we’ll likely see here in Central PA. By Saturday night and into Sunday we should see some tropical rain showers with a strong breeze, but we do not anticipate damaging winds this far inland. In fact, much of our rain will come from interactions between the approaching front from the west joining forces with the northern parts of Matthew.
Of course, tropical forecasts are subject to change, and our region is within the cone of uncertainty for this storm. Check back throughout the week for updates.