Hurricane Matthew Brings Wind, Rain and Surge to Northeast Florida

Hurricane Matthew brought gusty winds, heavy rain and storm surges to northeast Florida as the center of the hurricane moved northward just east of Florida on Friday.  A weather station on the tip of Cape Canaveral reported a wind gust to 107 m.p.h. (170 km/h) when the western side of the eyewall moved over that location.  Wind gusts to 71 m.p.h. (115 km/h) were reported at Daytona Beach.  A wind gust to 86 m.p.h. (139 km/h) was reported by a C-MAN station in St. Augustine, Florida.  Some wind damage and numerous power outages were reported in conjunction with the strong winds.  Easterly winds pushing water toward the coast were generating storms surges along the coast.

At 5:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 30.2°N and longitude 80.7°W which put it about 40 miles (65 km) east of Jacksonville Beach, Florida and about 135 miles (215 km) south of Savannah, Georgia.  Matthew was moving toward the north at 12 m.p.h. (19 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 110 m.p.h. (175 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 130 m.p.h. (210 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 948 mb.  Hurricane Matthew was a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from the Flagler/Volusia County line in Florida to Surf City, North Carolina.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Surf City to Duck, North Carolina including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.  A Tropical Storm Warning is also in effect for the portion of the coast from the Brevard/Volusia County lie to the Volusia/Flagler County line in Florida.

The eye and the core of Hurricane Matthew remained over the Atlantic Ocean as Matthew moved parallel to the east coast of Florida.  Occasionally, the western side of the eyewall would move over the coast and bring stronger winds to those areas.  The remnants of the smaller inner eyewall dissipated during the afternoon.  Once the eyewall cycle was completed the remaining outer eyewall began to contract.  Thunderstorms around the eye generated enough upper level divergence to pump out mass and limited the increase of the surface pressure.  As a result, a strong pressure gradient force is still producing winds of over 100 m.p.h. (160 km/h) in the north and northeastern parts of the eyewall.

Hurricane Matthew has been moving around the western end of a subtropical high pressure system which steered the hurricane toward the north on Friday.  An upper level trough over the Central U.S. will move east and southwesterly winds with the trough will start to steer Matthew toward the northeast later tonight.  It is not clear exactly when the turn will occur and the exact timing of the turn to the northeast is very important.  If Hurricane Matthew continues to move north, the northern eyewall which contains the strongest winds could reach Savannah and the coast of South Carolina in 6-10 hours.  If those winds reach the coast, then the damage will be more severe.  If Hurricane Matthew turns northeast before the northern eyewall reaches the coast, then the damage will be less.

Even though Hurricane Matthew weakened slightly to a Category 2 hurricane and is no longer officially a major hurricane, it is still capable of causing regional serious damage.  Matthew will cause wind damage and widespread power outages along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, even if the center of the eye does not officially make landfall.  If the center of the eye brings the northern eyewall over the coast, the winds will be much stronger and the damage will be greater.  In addition, easterly winds on the northern side of Hurricane Matthew will drive water toward the coast and create serious storm surges.  In places where the shape of the coast funnels water into smaller areas, the surges will be even more dangerous.