The National Hurricane Center classified Matthew as a Major Hurricane earlier today, reporting that its maximum sustained winds intensified to 120mph. As a Category 3 Hurricane (on a 1-5 scale), Matthew is being compared to Hurricanes Edouard, Sandy, and Felix. While comparisons will be drawn, it is important to note that all storms are different, with different tracks, sizes, and intensities.
The last major hurricane in the Atlantic in any September was Edouard in 2014. While it triggered numerous rip current warnings along the US East Coast, it remained over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, impacting no landmass as it did so. Unlike Edouard, Matthew is expected to make a significant impact to land.
Hurricane Matthew is the first major hurricane in the Caribbean since 2007’s Hurricane Felix. While Matthew and Felix were upgraded to major hurricane status in nearly the same location, they are very different storms. While Felix continued marching west into central America, making an eventual landfall between Nicaragua and Honduras, Hurricane Matthew is forecast to turn north and impact Jamaica and Cuba and possibly more places to the north.
Which brings us to the next comparison: Hurricane Sandy of 2012. Hurricane Sandy formed south of Jamaica in October of 2012 and eventually moved north, bringing significant death and damage to Jamaica and Cuba before doing more of the same on the US east coast. While Sandy is better known for its devastation in New Jersey and New York, it was quite the destructive event in the Caribbean. And Hurricane Matthew is forecast to be far worse than Sandy was for this area.
Jamaica was the first country directly affected by Sandy. Sandy was the first hurricane to make landfall on Jamaica since Hurricane Gilbert, 24 years prior. Trees and power lines were snapped and homes throughout the island were heavily damaged, both from the winds and flooding rains. More than 100 fishermen were stranded in outlying Pedro Cays off Jamaica’s southern coast. Stones falling from a hillside crushed one man to death as he tried to get into his house in a rural village near Kingston. The country’s sole electricity provider, the Jamaica Public Service Company, reported that 70 percent of its customers were without power. When the storm was done, most buildings in the eastern portion of the island lost their roofs and damage was assessed to be approximately $100million in Jamaica alone. Hurricane Sandy hit Jamaica as a Category 1 storm; Hurricane Matthew is forecast to strike the island nation at least as a Category 3 storm; the potential exists for it to be even stronger.
Haiti was also hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Still recovering from a massive earthquake that struck 2 years earlier and a widespread cholera outbreak, 54 people were killed and more than 200,000 were left homeless due to rains associated with the hurricane. Most of the tents and buildings in the city’s sprawling refugee camps and the Cité Soleil neighborhood were flooded or leaking, a repeat of what happened earlier in the year during the passage of Hurricane Isaac. Damage in Haiti was estimated at $750 million, making it the costliest tropical cyclone in Haitian history. Even when Sandy was long gone, its destruction was still felt there: in the month following Sandy, a resurgence of Cholera linked to the storm killed at least 44 more people and infected more than 5,000 others.
Hurricane Sandy was also a deadly, expensive storm for Cuba. More than 55,000 people were evacuated prior to Sandy’s arrival. In addition to producing waves up to 29′, Sandy pushed a 6′ storm surge inland that caused extensive coastal flooding. Santiago de Cuba was hardest hit where more than 130,000 homes were damaged and 15,300 were destroyed. 11 deaths in Cuba were blamed on Sandy while the damage toll was calculated at $2billion, ranking it into the top 5 costliest disasters for the country. Hurricane Sandy hit Cuba as a Category 2 hurricane; as with Jamaica, Hurricane Matthew is forecast to hit as an even stronger Category 3 or stronger hurricane.
While Hurricane Matthew is expected to be the first hurricane to strike both Jamaica and Cuba since Hurricane Sandy, and Hurricane Matthew will be far stronger than Hurricane Sandy was there, it is still far too soon to know what impacts Matthew will have further out in time.
COMPUTER GUIDANCE ON HURRICANE MATTHEW
Computer forecast model guidance remains completely out of agreement with where Matthew may go in the future. The American GFS model, which has been the better performer of tropical cyclones around the US this season, is calling for a landfall of the storm in the northeastern US. The European ECMWF model is suggesting the storm will stall-out over the Bahamas for most of next week, possibly drifting closer to Florida and Cuba as it does so. The Canadian GEM model suggests Matthew will brush the Mid Atlantic and Northeast coasts before heading out to sea, keeping the center of the storm over the open waters during its trip up the east coast. One reason the models are offering up very different solutions (both run-to-run and model-to-model) is because Matthew will be entering a very complicated weather pattern that’ll exist over the United States. This complicated pattern may help draw Hurricane Matthew into the east coast as a major hurricane; it may also push Matthew out to sea, protecting the coast from a catastrophe.
Will Hurricane Matthew become the next Sandy? For residents of Jamaica and Cuba, Hurricane Matthew could very well be much worse than Sandy was. But further north up along the US east coast, it is just too soon to tell what if any impacts from Matthew will come –including whether or not Matthew would be worse than Sandy for some in the US. Because an eventual US landfall remains a possibility, it is important that east coast residents have a hurricane action plan in place.
HURRICANE ACTION PLAN
Residents of -any- state that touches the Atlantic Ocean should have a Hurricane Action Plan. In general, you should completely understand where you live, how to identify it on a map, and understand the risks and threats a tropical cyclone brings to your area. If you live on the coastline or offshore islands, plan to leave. If you live near a river or in a flood plain, plan to leave. If you live on high ground, away from coastal beaches, consider staying. In any case, the ultimate decision to stay or leave will be yours. Study the following and carefully consider the factors involved especially the items pertaining to storm surge. As part of your Hurricane Action plan, learn the storm surge history and elevation of your area; learn safe routes inland; learn location of official shelters. If you have a boat, determine where to move it in an emergency. Well before a storm arrives, trim back dead wood from trees, check for loose rain gutters and down spouts, and check shutters should you have them to protect from storms. If your shutters do not protect windows or you have no shutters for your home, be sure to stock boards to cover glass or at least know the size(s) of boards you’d need should a storm threaten your area.Your Hurricane Action Plan should also inform you on what to do when a Hurricane Watch or Warning is issued for your area.
When a Hurricane Watch is issued for your area, check often for official bulletins from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service. Fuel your car, check mobile home tie-downs, moor small craft or decide to move it to safe shelter, stock up on canned amd bottled provisions, check supplies of special medicines and drugs, check batteries for radio and flashlights, secure lawn furniture and other loose material outdoors, tape, board, or shutter windows to prevent shattering, and wedge sliding glass doors to prevent their lifting from their tracks.
When a Hurricane Warning is issued for your area, stay constantly tuned to National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service bulletins. If your home is sturdy and on high ground away from the coast, stay home and board up garage and porch doors; move valuables to upper floors; bring in pets; fill containers (such as a bathtub) with several days supply of drinking water; turn up refrigerator to maximum cold and don’t open unless necessary. In a Hurricane Warning, use phone only for emergencies; stay indoors on the down-wind side of a house away from windows. Be aware of the eye of the hurricane and where your home is in relation to it. If you’re in a mobile home, leave as quickly and as safely as you can. Leave other areas which may be affected by storm tide or stream flooding. Leave early in daylight if possible. If you’re leaving, make sure water and electricity are shut-off at main strations. Take small valuables and papers but travel light. Make a plan for pets: many storm shelters do not allow pets. If you’re evacuating, drive carefully to the nearest designated shelter using recommended evacuation routes. In evacuations, many roads will be closed while others are turned into 1-way highways away from storm danger areas.
As part of your Hurricane Action Planning now, you should walk yourself and your family through what you’d do if a Hurricane Watch or Warning were to be issued for your area. This practice will help inform you of what you need to do when a storm threat actually arrives. Acting smart and calm will save lives and property and being prepared now well in advance of any threat is the most smart thing you can do.
For the latest on Matthew and the rest of the tropics around the US in the Atlantic and the Pacific, visit our Hurricane & Tropical Weather page here: https://weatherboy.com/hurricanes-tropical-weather/