Hurricane Matthew became a rare Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph. The hurricane followed the western edge of a subtropical ridge to inflict catastrophic damage to Haiti as a Category 4 hurricane before crossing eastern Cuba, and turning to the northwest through the Bahamas towards Florida.
After approaching the Florida Atlantic coast, Matthew followed a track closely offshore of the Florida and Georgia coastline, before making landfall near McClellanville, South Carolina. Before moving away from the North Carolina coast, the hurricane dropped significant rainfall amounts over the Carolinas and Virginia over a short period of time, to produce severe flooding and flash-flooding over the eastern Carolinas. The flood threat remains active in the Carolinas.
Hurricane Matthew track and position reports. Source: Guy Carpenter, National Hurricane Center.
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Hurricane Matthew has rendered impacts to the southeast United States to include light to moderate wind damage, storm surge and heavy rainfall with significant flooding and flash-flooding. Media reports indicate that insured losses are on the order of USD 4 billion, as estimated by Kinetic Analysis Corporation. CoreLogic has also released insured property loss estimates on the order of USD 4 to 6 billion (without auto, business interruption or inland rainfall). It will take time to fully assess the scope and severity of impacts.
At least 20 have been reported dead in the United States as a result of the hurricane, according to media reports. Further south, impacts from Matthew have been especially severe in the Bahamas, Cuba and especially Haiti where at least 372 are confirmed dead, along with the threat of disease.
Our first thoughts and concerns are with those lost and directly affected by this event, those under active threat and with those facing especially difficult post-hurricane conditions in Haiti.
Matthew originated from a strong tropical wave (elongated area of low pressure) that was first classified as a tropical storm by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) at 11 a.m. EDT, September 28, while moving through the Windward Islands. A period of rapid intensification then followed, and Matthew was classified by the NHC as a hurricane at 2 p.m. EDT on September 29, about 190 miles northeast of Curacao.
A period of remarkable intensification then followed over warm waters and with abundant moisture, despite the presence of notable wind shear. Hurricane Matthew strengthened to carry maximum sustained winds of 160 mph, with a central pressure of 941 millibars (mb) at 11 p.m. EDT, September 30, located about 80 miles northwest of Punta Gallinas, Colombia. With this advisory from the NHC, Matthew became a rare Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the first to occur in the North Atlantic Basin since Hurricane Felix (2007).
Matthew then weakened slightly while approaching Haiti and Cuba, after turning to the north in response to the western edge of a subtropical ridge. According to NHC advisories, Matthew made landfall near Les Anglais, Haiti around 7 a.m. EDT, October 4. Maximum sustained winds at this time were 145 mph, a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. In addition to the destructive winds of a Category 4 hurricane, Matthew also brought significant rainfall to Haiti, with widespread unofficial rainfall amounts of four to five inches, and some local amounts to 22 inches, according to media reports, to produce flash-flooding and mudslides.
After clearing Haiti and moving through the Gulf of Gonave, Matthew approached eastern Cuba, while maintaining intensity with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. The hurricane then made landfall near the eastern tip of Cuba around 8 p.m. EDT, October 4, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, still a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Matthew cleared Cuba a few hours later while losing strength due to land and topography interaction. Matthew saw a reduction in maximum sustained winds to 115 mph by the morning of October 5, still a major Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Matthew then moved from southeast to northwest along the western edge of a subtropical ridge, crossing the Bahamas as a major hurricane. The hurricane gained intensity during this time due to warm waters and reduced wind shear. Matthew passed within 25 miles of Nassau at 11 a.m. EDT on October 6, and five miles south of Freeport, Grand Bahama at 7 p.m. EDT, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph. As Matthew approached Florida, an eyewall replacement cycle (outer eyewall forms while the inner eyewall dissipates) caused slight weakening of the hurricane.
Late on October 6, Hurricane Matthew approached within 65 miles of West Palm Beach, Florida at 10 p.m. EDT, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. Palm Beach International Airport reported a wind gust of 50 mph, while an automated weather station on West End on Grand Bahama reported a sustained wind of 73 mph. During the overnight hours, Matthew passed within 45 miles of Vero Beach, Florida at 2 a.m. EDT, October 7, during which time wind gusts of 70 mph and 60 mph were reported at Vero Beach and Melbourne, Florida, respectively. Maximum sustained winds of 120 mph were reported at this time by the NHC. At 6 a.m. EDT, October 7, the hurricane passed within 25 miles of Cape Canaveral, Florida with wind gusts of 107 mph reported by the NHC for Cape Canaveral, and 68 mph for Daytona Beach.
At 10 a.m. EDT, Friday, October 7, the outer portion of the eyewall of the hurricane was brushing the Florida Atlantic coast near Daytona Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph and a central pressure of 945 mb. After this time, Matthew turned into a northerly course toward Savannah, Georgia before turning to the northeast in response to a weakening ridge. Hurricane Matthew was downgraded to Category 2 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale at 11 p.m. EDT, Friday, October 7, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Matthew began to weaken more rapidly through early Saturday morning.
While following the Atlantic U.S. coast, a storm surge was inflicted for the northeast Florida coast and coastal Georgia, to then extend into the Carolinas. Surge levels reached 7.8 feet for Fort Pulaski, Georgia. Other unofficial surge levels reached 6.4 feet, 6.1 feet and 4.5 feet for Fernandina Beach, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina and Mayport, Florida, respectively. The Saint Johns River in Florida saw a significant surge, but remained within its banks, greatly reducing the degree of impacts for northeast Florida.
Hurricane Matthew made landfall around 11 a.m. EDT, Saturday, October 8, southeast of McClellanville, South Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and a central pressure of 967 mb (a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale). Matthew then followed a northeasterly track very close to the South Carolina coast, passing very near or over the Myrtle Beach area. After this time, Matthew approached and moved just offshore of the Outer Banks, passing east of Cape Fear, North Carolina and southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
During this time, Matthew brought very heavy rainfall to areas well inland in the eastern Carolinas and Virginia, to produce significant flooding and flash-flooding. Rainfall amounts exceeded ten inches over a widespread area, with local amounts exceeding 15 to 17 inches. Matthew also brought hurricane force wind gusts reported in near-coastal areas.
Matthew maintained intensity as a 75 mph hurricane, while undergoing extratropical transition. With the extratropical transition process, the wind field expanded, the heaviest rainfall shifted well away and to the northern flank of the center of circulation, with a change in storm characteristics to resemble a nor’easter instead of a hurricane. Following extratropical transition, the NHC classified Matthew as a post-tropical cyclone at 5 a.m. EDT, Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, at which time Matthew had started moving in an easterly direction away from the coast.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), Post-Tropical Cyclone Matthew then continued to move away from the coast while interacting with another frontal system. Matthew was then absorbed by this frontal system with remnants expected to pass Atlantic Canada on Monday.
As of Monday, extensive inland flooding over eastern North Carolina remains an ongoing threat, due to excessive rainfall from Matthew. The flood threat will remain over the coming days as storm waters continue to overwhelm affected watersheds. Flood warnings remain active for areas of the eastern Carolinas and southeast Virginia.
Nearly 1,000 people are believed to have been killed in Haiti, with 372 confirmed dead according to media reports. More than half of the fatalities were in the department of Grand’Anse. The hurricane was the strongest to hit the region in a decade. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, leaving more than 60,000 people stranded in temporary shelters.
Media reports indicate that according to aid officials, up to 90 percent of some areas have been destroyed. Miles of homes were flattened along a coastal road leading to the center of the City of Jérémie, with population around 30,000. In Jérémie, the roof of the St. Louis King of France Cathedral was torn off by high winds. On the Rue Stenio Vincent, dozens of business and sidewalks on the main commercial strip were destroyed. Downed power lines, tree branches, and building debris littered the streets of the city.
Relief workers have arrived in Haiti, but are struggling to reach the most severely impacted areas of the country, some of which remain inaccessible. Drinking water supplies have been compromised for some areas. At least 13 people have died of Cholera, and there is concern of a larger outbreak similar to the 2010 earthquake which killed nearly 10,000. Aid officials estimate over one million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to media reports, and countries such as France and the United States have pledged to send aid.
Media reports indicate that the Bahamas saw significant to complete roof damage for affected properties, along with downed trees and power lines, with many flooded homes. Residents and tourists were stranded in areas including the capital of Nassau. Survey efforts indicate extensive damage to buildings, homes and electrical and communications infrastructure on Grand Bahama and New Providence, with downed utility poles streets blocked by floodwaters, trees and debris.
Media reports indicate that Hurricane Matthew is responsible for four deaths in Florida. As damage assessments continue, Governor Rick Scott indicates it is still too early to determine the full scope of impacts, according to reports. Beach erosion and washed out roads were reported in Duval County. During the storm, floodwaters affected parts of Jacksonville, Merritt Island, Fleming Island, and other nearby Florida communities. A storm surge exceeding four feet affected some areas.
Emergency officials have warned those returning to Anastasia Island that water and sewer service may not be immediately available. Storm surge and large waves tore off part of the Jacksonville Beach Pier. Local authorities indicate that Jacksonville Beach suffered “significant damage” and flooding through Second Street. Moderate damage to the Daytona International Speedway was also reported, including damage to lights, speakers, signage, fences, gates, awnings, and palm trees.
More than 75,000 homes are still without power as of Monday morning, down from a height of more than one million.
A combination of storm surge and large waves from Hurricane Matthew altered a part of the northeast Florida coastline, producing a new inlet between St. Augustine and Palm Coast, according to media reports.
Three deaths were reported by media in Georgia. The significant storm surge damaging homes and flooding streets and roadways. Strong winds downed trees across southeast Georgia, damaging buildings and blocking roads.
At least 40,000 customers are still without power in southeast Georgia as of Monday morning, according to media reports.
Matthew caused at least three deaths in South Carolina, according to reports. Two deaths occurred in vehicles swept away by flooded roads, according to local law enforcement. Interstate 95 was impassable in both directions due to floodwaters and debris; however, the interstate was reopened by Sunday morning.
Improving conditions have prompted Governor Nikki Haley to lift evacuation orders as of Monday morning, according to media reports.
Media reports indicate that at least ten people have died and five remain missing in North Carolina, according to Governor Pat McCrory.
Floodwaters in the town of Lumberton stranded more than 1,500 people. The Federal Aviation Administration ordered flight restrictions in flooded areas to aid helicopter rescue efforts of those stranded. More than 1,000 emergency rescues took place over the weekend, with the majority in Cumberland County, according to authorities. Eight individuals from the town of Pinetops were rescued from their rooftops by the Coast Guard.
The Tar River is expected to crest at 35.8 feet, more than 15 feet above flood stage. Authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation for parts of Greenville, Goldsboro, Princeville, Tarboro and other nearby towns. Floodwaters have breached dams near Raleigh and Lumberton.
Sections of Interstate 95 were still closed and more than 500,000 customers were still without power as of Monday. At least 38 school districts have cancelled classes, in some cases for the entire week.
According to the National Weather Service, “life-threatening” flooding is expected to continue on Monday across eastern portions of the state.
Many roads in affected areas of Virginia are impassable, according to reports. About 200 vehicles were abandoned due to floodwaters. Nearly 55,000 customers are still without power as of Sunday night.
A state of emergency was declared in Norfolk and efforts are underway to clear debris and abandoned vehicles from streets. City offices, libraries, and recreational offices are scheduled to re-open Monday, according to media reports.
Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, CNN, BBC, The Miami Herald, The Wall Street Journal, National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service, The Weather Channel.
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