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Hurricane Matthew Develops Concentric Eyewalls on Its Way Toward Florida

The structure of Hurricane Matthew changed on Thursday as it strengthened on its way toward Florida.  A second larger outer eyewall formed around the small tight inner eye and eyewall.   At 5:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 26.2°N and longitude 78.6°W which put it about 25 miles (40 km) south-southeast of Freeport, Bahamas and about 100 miles (160 km) east-southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida.  Matthew was moving toward the northwest at 13 m.p.h. (20 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 140 m.p.h. (220 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 165 m.p.h. (270 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 938 mb.  Hurricane Matthew was a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Golden Beach, Florida to South Santee River, South Carolina including Lake Okeechobee.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast South Santee River, South Carolina to Surf City, North Carolina.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Anclote River, Florida to Suwanee River.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Chokoloskee to Golden Beach, Florida and for the Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge eastward including Florida Bay.  A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the portion of the coast from Chokoloskee, Florida to Anclote River.  A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Andros Island, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence.

Hurricane Matthew began to strengthen early on Thursday morning.  The minimum surface pressure decreased from 961 mb at 11:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday night to 940 mb at 8:00 a.m. EDT on Thursday morning.  A decrease of 17 mb in nine hours is a very rapid pressure fall, but the maximum wind speed only increased from 115 m.p.h. ((185 km/h) to 125 m.p.h. (205 mk/h) during that time period.  The rapid decrease in pressure and the increase in the pressure gradient force around the center of Hurricane Matthew contributed to the reformation of a small circular eye at the center of the hurricane.  Once the new eyewall was established, the wind speed increased to 140 m.p.h. (225 km/h) within three hours.

The structure of the circulation of Hurricane Matthew continued to improve during the day on Thursday as the hurricane moved over the very warm water around the Bahamas.  A circular inner eye with a diameter of 18 miles (29 km) was surrounded by a ring of strong thunderstorms.  A rainband wrapped all the way around the original eye and eyewall and a second outer eyewall formed.  The outer eyewall has a diameter of 70 miles (105 km).  The strongest winds in Hurricane Matthew are occurring in the inner eyewall.  Hurricane Matthew has maintained a double eyewall structure in recent hours.

Matthew is moving through an environment that is favorable for hurricanes.  The Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  There upper level winds are weak and there is not much vertical wind shear.  Hurricane Matthew is likely to maintain its current intensity as long as the inner eyewall remains intact.  If the inner eye starts to dissipate, then the strongest winds would be found in the outer eyewall, but those winds are not as strong as the winds in the inner eyewall.  So the intensity of Hurricane Matthew would decrease if that happened.  However, the wind field of a hurricane typically gets larger if the outer eyewall becomes the strongest part of the circulation.

Hurricane Matthew is moving around the western end of a subtropical high pressure system which is steering it toward the northwest and that general motion is expected to continue until the hurricane gets close to the coast of Florida.  When Hurricane Matthew gets close to the coast, it will be at the western end of the high and the hurricane will turn north.  It is still unclear if the turn will occur just before Matthew reaches the coast or whether it will occur after the center of Matthew moves on shore.  Eventually, when Hurricane Matthew moves farther north, an upper level trough approaching form the west will steer it toward the northeast, but the timing of that turn is still uncertain too.

The future track of Hurricane Matthew will be a critical factor in determining the damage it causes.  If Matthew turns north before it reaches the east coast of Florida, the the strongest winds would stay over the Atlantic Ocean.  The same holds true for the turn toward the northeast.  If the turn occurs before Hurricane Matthew reaches Georgia and South Carolina, then the strongest winds would stay offshore.  A much more destructive scenario would unfold if Hurricane Matthew reaches the coast of Florida and then turns north.  If Matthew grinds its way north along the coast, the strongest winds and highest storm surge would occur.  Matthew could move over cities like Daytona Beach and Jacksonville.  If the turn to the northeast is delayed, then Matthew would also move near Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.

The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Hurricane Matthew is 28.2.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) is 18.4 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) is 46.6  The indices indicate that Hurricane Matthew is stronger than Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne were when they hit southeast coast of Florida in 2004.  Matthew is smaller than Frances and Jeanne were in 2004.  The HWISI for Matthew is similar to the ones for Frances and Jeanne, which would suggest that Matthew is capable of causing similar damage.  Hurricane Frances cause 11 billion dollars of damage in 2004.  Hurricane Jeanne caused about 8 billion dollars of damage.  So, Hurricane Matthew has the potential to be a very destructive hurricane, but the damage it does will be determined by its ultimate path.  Matthew will do much less damage if the core of the hurricane stays offshore.

Hurricane Matthew will bring gusty winds and heavy rain to the southeast coast of Florida on Thursday night.  It will do the same to the northeast coast of Florida on Friday.  Strong easterly winds on the northern side of the center of circulation will drive water toward the shore and create dangerous storm surges as Hurricane Matthew moves along the coast.  The heavy rain is likely to cause fresh water flooding in some locations.  Hurricane Matthew could have the greats impact on the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Friday night and Saturday.

Hurricane Matthew Moves Across the Bahamas Toward Florida

Hurricane Matthew moved away from Cuba and across the Southeastern Bahamas on Wednesday.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 23.4°N and longitude 76.4°W which put it about 125 miles (205 km) south-southeast of Nassau, Bahamas and about 325 miles (525 km) southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida.  Matthew was moving toward the northwest at 10 m.p.h. (16 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 115 m.p.h. (185 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 135 m.p.h. (220 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 961 mb.  Hurricane Matthew was a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Golden Beach, Florida to Fernandina Beach including Lake Okeechobee.  A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the portion of the coast of Florida from Fernandina Beach to Edisto Beach, South Carolina.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Chokoloskee to Golden Beach, Florida and for the Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge eastward including Florida Bay.  A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the portion of the coast from Chokoloskee, Florida to Suwanee River.  Hurricane Warnings are also in effect for the Southeastern Bahamas including the Inaguas, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, Ragged Island, and for the Central Bahamas including Long Island, Exuma, Rum Cay, San Salvador and Cat Island.  A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Andros Island, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence.

Hurricane Matthew weakened after it passed over southwestern Haiti and the eastern end of Cuba.  The structure of the eyewall deteriorated on Wednesday morning, when the core of Hurricane Matthew started to move north of Cuba.  After a few hours over the warm water around the Bahamas, a circular eyewall began to reform around the center of circulation.  The eyewall appeared to weaken for a time on Wednesday afternoon, but it then became much more well organized around a distinct eye appeared on Wednesday night.  The loss of organization around the eye resulted in a decrease in the maximum sustained wind speed to 115 m.p.h. and an increase in the  minimum surface pressure to 964 mb.

Hurricane Matthew appeared to be intensifying on Wednesday night.  A reconnaissance aircraft observed a minimum surface pressure that was several millibars lower and the structure of the core of the hurricane was displaying more organization.  Thunderstorms around the eye of Hurricane Matthew were beginning to generate stronger upper level divergence which was pumping mass out in all directions.  The divergence was allowing the surface pressure to decrease as measured by the recon plane.

Hurricane Matthew is moving through a very favorable environment.  It is moving over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  The upper level winds are light and there is little vertical wind shear.  As the minimum pressure decrease, the pressure gradient force will accelerate the air faster and the wind speeds will increase.  Hurricane Matthew could become a Category 4 hurricane on Thursday and there is a chance it could get near Category 5.

A ridge of high pressure is steering Matthew toward the northwest and that general motion is expected to continue on Thursday.  The center of strong hurricanes sometimes wobble a bit from side to side in response to bursts of thunderstorms in the eyewall, but the general motion is likely to be toward the northwest.  The center of Hurricane Matthew is passing just west of the Exumas in the Bahamas.  Matthew is likely to pass near Nassau on New Providence and near Andros Island on Thursday morning.

On its anticipated track Hurricane Matthew could be very near the southeast coast of Florida by Thursday evening.  Matthew could make landfall in the portion of the coast between Fort Lauderale and West Palm Beach or the center could stay just offshore.  The center of Hurricane Matthew is forecast to move along the east coast of Florida on Friday.  An upper level trough approaching from the west is expected to turn Hurricane Matthew toward the northeast on Friday night or Saturday.  However, the timing and location of that turn is still uncertain.  It could occur near the coast of Georgia and South Carolina or it could occur a little sooner and move the center of Matthew back over the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane Matthew poses a serious potential risk to the southeast coast of the U.S.  The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) is 20.6.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) is 15.7 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size index (HWISI) is 36.3.  Those indices indicate that Matthew will be capable of causing regional wind damage.  Matthew could get bigger and stronger before it reaches Florida, which would increase the risk.  If Matthew tracks along the coast or just inland, will bring hurricane force winds to the populated areas on the east coast of Florida.  In addition, strong easterly winds north of the center of Hurricane Matthew will blow water toward the coast and create the potential for dangerous storm surges.  Matthew will move slowly enough that locally heavy rain could fall and fresh water flooding could also create problems.

Hurricane Matthew Crosses Southwest Haiti, Watches Issued for Florida

Hurricane Matthew crossed the western end of the Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti on Tuesday morning.  The eye emerged intact over the Golfe de la Gonave and the center of Hurricane Matthew is about half way between Haiti and the eastern end of Cuba.  At 2:00 pm. EDT on Tuesday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 19.4°N and longitude 74.3°W which put it about 65 miles (105 km) east-southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba.  Matthew was moving toward the north at 10 m.p.h. (16 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 145 m.p.h. (230 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 170 m.p.h. (275 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 949 mb.

A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the portion of the coast of Florida from Deerfield Beach to the Volusia/Brevard County line.  A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued from Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys to Deerfield Beach.  Hurricane Warnings are in effect for Haiti and the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Granma and Las Tunas.  Hurricane Warnings are also in effect for the Southeastern Bahamas including the Inaguas, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, Ragged Island, and for the Central Bahamas including Long Island, Exuma, Rum Cay, San Salvador and Cat Island.  A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Andros Island, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence.  A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the Cuban province of Camaguey.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Turks and Caicos and the south coast of the Dominican Republic from Barahona to Haiti.  Tropical Storm Watches have been issued for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic from Puerto la Plata to Haiti.

Even after passing over the mountains of the Massif de la Hotte on the southwestern peninsula of Haiti, the structure of Hurricane Matthew remained well organized.  Matthew has a circular eye with a diameter of 24 miles (39 km).  The eye is surrounded by a ring of strong thunderstorms.  The wind field around Hurricane Matthew actually expanded after it crossed southwestern Haiti.  Winds to hurricane force extend out about 60 miles (95 km) from the center of circulation.  Thunderstorms around the eye are generating upper level divergence which is pumping out mass in all directions.  Additional rainbands are rotating around the core of Matthew.

Hurricane Matthew is moving through a very favorable environment.  It is moving over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is 30°C.  The winds in the upper levels are weak and the is little vertical wind shear.  Hurricane Matthew could weaken slightly when the center passes over eastern Cuba, but it will likely restrengthen when it moves over the very warm water around the Bahamas.  Matthew is likely to remain a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. and it could become a Category 5 hurricane while it is moving over the Bahamas.  Hurricane Joaquin almost reached Category 5 while it was near the Bahamas in early October last year.

Matthew is moving around the western end of subtropical high pressure system, which is steering the hurricane toward the north.  That general motion is expected to continue for another 12 hours or so.  The high is expected to strengthen and extend west on Wednesday.  When that happens, Hurricane Matthew will be steered more toward the northwest.  On its anticipated track Hurricane Matthew will move across the eastern end of Cuba later on Tuesday and across the Bahamas on Wednesday.  Hurricane Matthew could be very near the east coast of Florida on Thursday.  Matthew could come very close to the coast of South Carolina on Friday and it could be near the coast of North Carolina on Saturday morning.  It is still not clear if the eye of Hurricane Matthew will reach landfall in any of those places.

The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Matthew is 29.8.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) is 19.5 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) is 49.3.  Those indices mean that Hurricane Matthew is capable of causing regional significant wind damage.  Matthew will also generate a significant storm surge over eastern Cuba and the Bahamas.  Water level rises will occur along the southeast coast of the U.S. where easterly winds push the water toward the shore.  Hurricane Matthew is stronger, but a little smaller than Hurricane Jeanne was in 2004, when Jeanne made landfall on the coast of Florida.

Hurricane Matthew Moves Toward Haiti, Threat to U.S. Increases

Hurricane Matthew moved toward Haiti on Monday and the threat to the U.S. increased.  At 5:00 pm. EDT on Monday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 16.3°N and longitude 74.7°W which put it about 140 miles (220 km) south of Tiburon, Haiti.  Matthew was moving toward the north at 7 m.p.h. (11 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 140 m.p.h. (220 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 165 m.p.h. (265 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 940 mb.

Hurricane Warnings are in effect for Haiti and the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Granma and Las Tunas.  Hurricane Warnings are also in effect for the Southeastern Bahamas including the Inaguas, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, Ragged Island, and for the Central Bahamas including Long Island, Exuma, Rum Cay, San Salvador and Cat Island.  Hurricane Watches have been issued for the Cuban province of Camaguey and the northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Andros Island, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence, and for the Turks and Caicos.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Jamaica and the south coast of the Dominican Republic from Barahona to Haiti.  Tropical Storm Watches have been issued for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic from Puerto la Plata to Haiti.

The structure of Hurricane Matthew is well organized.  It has a circular eye with a diameter of 18 miles (29 km).  The eye is surrounded by a ring of strong thunderstorms.  Winds to hurricane force extend out about 40 miles (65 km) from the center of circulation.  Thunderstorms around the eye are generating upper level divergence which is pumping out mass in all directions.  Additional rainbands are rotating around the core of Matthew.

The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Matthew is 28.2.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) is 15.1 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) is 43,3.  These indices suggest that Hurricane Matthew is capable of causing regional significant wind damage to Haiti.  Hurricane Matthew is very similar in size and intensity to what Hurricane Dennis was when Dennis hit northwest Florida in 2005.  Hurricane Matthew is stronger and a little bigger than Hurricane Sandy was when Sandy was over the northwestern Caribbean Sea in 2012.

Hurricane Matthew is moving through a very favorable environment.  It is moving over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  The upper level winds are weak and there is not much vertical wind shear.  Matthew is likely to maintain its intensity as it moves toward Haiti.  If a rainband wraps around the eye, then an eyewall replacement cycle could cause temporary fluctuations in intensity.  The future path of Matthew could have a big impact on the intensity of the hurricane.  If the center of Matthew moves over southwestern Haiti, then the Massif de la Hotte could seriously disrupt the lower levels of the circulation.  Mountains in Massif de la Hotte extend up to 7700 feet (2347 meters).  On the other hand, if the eye and eyewall move just west of Haiti, then the inner core is likely to remain intact.  The water around the Bahamas is very warm and if the core of Hurricane Matthew is reasonably intact when it gets there, Matthew will likely regain its intensity.

Hurricane Matthew is moving around the southwestern end of a subtropical high pressure system, which has allowed the hurricane to move just east of due north.  That general motion is expected to continue for another day or so.  In about 24 hours the subtropical high is expected to strengthen and extend westward.  If the high does strengthen, it will force Hurricane Matthew to move more toward the northwest.  Guidance from numerical models has supported this scenario today.  The northwest motion could take Hurricane Matthew over the Central and Northwestern Bahamas during the middle of the week.  A northwesterly track could bring Hurricane Matthew close to Florida on Thursday and near the Mid-Atlantic Coast on Friday.  Based on guidance from the forecast models, the threat to the U.S. increased significantly on Monday.

Hurricane Matthew has the potential to cause regional significant wind damage to Haiti.  Even if the center moves west of Haiti, Matthew will produce very heavy rain and the potential for devastating flash floods and mudslides exists.  There will also be significant storm surges along the coasts of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba.

Hurricane Matthew Moving Slowly North Toward the Greater Antilles

Powerful Hurricane Matthew was moving slowly north over the Northwestern Caribbean Sea on Sunday night.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 14.7°N and longitude 75.0°W which put it about 255 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.  Matthew was moving toward the north at 5 m.p.h. (8 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 145 m.p.h. (230 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 170 m.p.h. (275 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 943 mb.

Hurricane Warnings are in effect for Haiti, Jamaica, the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Granma and Las Tunas.  Hurricane Warnings are also in effect for the Southeastern Bahamas including the Inaguas, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay and Ragged Island.  A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the Cuban province of Camaguey, the Central Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the south coast of the Dominican Republic from Barahona to the border with Haiti.  A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Puerto la Plata to the border with Haiti.

Matthew is a very well organized symmetrical hurricane.  There is a circular eye with a diameter of about 14 miles (22 km).  The eye is surrounded by a ring of strong thunderstorms.  Numerous bands of thunderstorms are rotating around the core of the circulation.  The thunderstorms are generating well developed upper level divergence which is pumping out mass.

The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) is 29.9.  The Hurricane Size index (HSI) is 10.4 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) is 40.3.  The indices indicate that Hurricane Matthew is as strong as Hurricane Dennis was in 2005, but Matthew is a little smaller than Dennis was.

Hurricane Matthew will be moving through a very favorable environment.  Matthew will be moving over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  The upper level winds are weak and there is little vertical wind shear.  There could be some fluctuations in intensity, especially if eyewall replacement cycles occur.  Matthew is likely to remain a powerful hurricane.

Hurricane Matthew has reached the western end of a subtropical high pressure system.  Matthew is likely to continue to move north around the western end of the subtropical high.  On its anticipated track Hurricane Matthew could be near Jamaica and western Haiti on Monday night.  Matthew could reach eastern Cuba on Tuesday and it could be over the Bahamas on Wednesday.

Hurricane Matthew is capable of causing region significant wind damage.  It will bring locally heavy rain to parts of Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba.  Matthew will also create dangerous storm surges along the coast.

Powerful Hurricane Matthew Turns Northwest

After completing a tight slow cyclonic loop near the northern coast of Colombia, Hurricane Matthew started moving toward the northwest on Saturday night.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 13.8°N and longitude 73.6°W which put it about 360 miles (580 km) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.  Matthew was moving toward the north-northwest at 7 m.p.h. (11 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 150 m.p.h. (240 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 175 m.p.h. (280 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 940 mb.

A Hurricane Warning has been issued for Jamaica.  A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the coast of Haiti from the southern border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas.  A Hurricane Watch is in effect from Le Mole St. Nicholas to the northern border with the Dominican Republic.  A Hurricane Watch is also in effect for Cuba from Camaguey province to Guantanamo province.

Matthew is a compact hurricane.  It has a circular eye with a diameter of less than 10 miles (16 km).  The eye is surrounded by a tight ring of strong thunderstorms and the strongest winds are occurring in that ring.  Additional rainbands are rotating around the core of the circulation.  Thunderstorms in the core are generating upper level divergence which is pumping out mass to the east of Hurricane Matthew.

The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) is 31.6.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) is 10.3 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size index (HWISI) is 41.9.  The indices indicate that Hurricane Matthew is as intense and a little smaller than Hurricane Dennis was when Dennis was over the northwestern Caribbean Sea in 2005.

Hurricane Matthew will continue to move through a favorable environment on Sunday.  It will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°.  An upper level trough west of Matthew will generate southwesterly winds which will blow near the northwestern part of the hurricane.  Although there will be some vertical wind shear, it may not have a significant impact on Hurricane Matthew.  If one of the rainbands wraps around the existing eye, then an eyewall replacement cycle could cause a temporary weakening of Hurricane Matthew.

Hurricane Matthew is moving around the western end of a subtropical high pressure system.  The combination of the subtropical high and the upper level trough to the west of Matthew should steer the hurricane toward the north-northwest on Sunday.  On its anticipate track Hurricane Matthew could reach Jamaica and southern Haiti on Monday afternoon.  Matthew could reach eastern Cuba on Monday night and it could be over the southeastern Bahamas on Tuesday.

Hurricane Matthew is a dangerous hurricane.  The indices suggest that it is capable of causing significant regional wind damage.  It could also bring flooding rains to parts of Haiti.  Hurricane Matthew could also produce dangerous storm surges on the south coasts of Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba.

Hurricane Matthew Becomes the First Category 5 Atlantic Hurricane Since 2007

Hurricane Matthew continued its rapid intensification on Friday night and it became the first Atlantic hurricane to reach Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale since Hurricane Felix did so in 2007.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 13.3°N and longitude 72.3°W which put it about 440 miles (710 km) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.  Matthew was moving toward the west at 7 m.p.h. (11 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 160 m.p.h. (260 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 190 m.p.h. (305 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 941 mb.

The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Matthew was 35.0.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) was 13.7 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 48.7.  These indices indicate that Hurricane Matthew is not as intense and slightly smaller than Hurricane Wilma was, when Wilma was a Category 5 hurricane over the northwestern Caribbean Sea in 2005.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Jamaica.  A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the portion of the coast from the Haiti/Dominican Republic border to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from the Colombia/Venezuela border to Riohacha, Colombia.

Hurricane Matthew remains in a very favorable environment of minimal vertical wind shear and warm Sea Surface Temperatures.  The intensity may fluctuate as a result of eyewall replacement cycles.

A strong subtropical high is steering Hurricane Matthew toward the west.  Matthew is slowing as it approaches the western end of the subtropical high.  It will turn toward the north when it reaches the western end of that high pressure system.  However, the location, time and sharpness of the turn to the north are still uncertain.  That uncertainty means that the longer term track of Hurricane Matthew is also uncertain.  We should get more clarity about the future direction of Hurricane Matthew during the next several days.

Matthew Rapidly Intensifies Into Category 4 Hurricane

Hurricane Matthew intensified very rapidly into a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale as it moved across the southern Caribbean Sea on Friday.  At 5:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 13.5°N and longitude 71.6°W which put it about 75 miles (120 km) north of Punta Gallinas, Colombia.  Matthew was moving toward the west-southwest at 9 m.p.h. (15 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 140 m.p.h. (220 km/h). and there were wind gusts t0 165 m.p.h. (265 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 949 mb.

The Hurricane Size Index (HII) was 28.3.  The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) was 13.2 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 41.5.  The indices mean that Hurricane Matthew is very similar in size and intensity to what Hurricane Ike was when Ike was northeast of the Leeward Islands in 2008.  The indices also mean that Hurricane Matthew is capable of producing regional significant wind damage.

Hurricane Matthew is very well organized and it efficiently extracted energy from the warm water of the Caribbean Sea to intensify rapidly on Friday.  It has a circular eye with a diameter of about 15 miles (24 km).  The eye is surrounded by a ring of very tall thunderstorms.  The thunderstorms are pumping out large quantities of mass which allowed the surface pressure to decrease by 44 mb during the past 24 hours.  There additional bands of thunderstorms, mainly in the eastern half of the circulation.

Hurricane Matthew will remain in a very favorable environment while it is over the Caribbean Sea.  It could intensify further.  When hurricanes become as strong as Matthew strong, they sometimes undergo eyewall replacement cycles.  During an eyewall replacement cycle, a hurricane first weakens and then strengthens again when the innermost eyewall dissipates.  If eyewall replacement cycles occur in Hurricane Matthew, then the intensity will fluctuate.

A strong subtropical high pressure system north of Matthew is steering the hurricane toward the west-southwest.  That general motion is expected to continue for another 24 hours.  When Matthew reaches the western end of the subtropical high, it will start to move toward the north.  Guidance from numerical models is still divergent about the details of the turn toward the north.  If the turn is sharper, it could mean that Hurricane Matthew moves toward Haiti.  If the turn is more gradual, it could mean that Matthew heads for Jamaica and eastern Cuba.  The uncertainty is the reason why watches have been posted for both Jamaica and Haiti.

Matthew is a very powerful hurricane.  It is capable of causing regional significant wind damage.  In addition Matthew will produce very heavy rain and the potential for dangerous flash flooding.  There is also the possibility of a significant storm surge along the coast.

Matthew Becomes a Hurricane Over the Eastern Caribbean Sea

Tropical Storm Matthew strengthened into a hurricane on Thursday as it moved over the eastern Caribbean Sea.  At 8:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 14.2°N and longitude 68.1°W which put it about 150 miles (240 km) north-northeast of Curacao.  Matthew was moving toward the west at 15 m.p.h. (24 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 90 m.p.h. (145 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 987 mb.

Tropical Storm Watches are in effect for Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba.  The government of Columbia has also issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the portion of the coast from the Columbia/Venezuela border to Riohacha.

The structure of Hurricane Matthew became much better organized on Thursday.  A primary rainband wrapped around the center of circulation.  An eye appears to be forming.  A ring of strong thunderstorms surrounds the eye on all sides except to the south.  Additional bands of thunderstorms developed in the northern and eastern parts of the circulation.  The storms near the eye generated upper level divergence which pumped out mass to the north and east of Hurricane Matthew.  The upper level divergence pumped out enough mass to allow the minimum pressure to decrease by 17 mb during the past 24 hours.

Hurricane Matthew will be moving into an environment that will be favorable for intensification.  It will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  An upper level trough over the western Caribbean Sea and an upper level ridge just east of Matthew are producing southwesterly winds which are blowing across the top of the hurricane.  The vertical wind shear made Hurricane Matthew’s structure asymmetrical earlier today, but the shear has been less in recent hours.  The effect of the wind shear will be to slow the rate of intensification, but it will not prevent intensification.  Hurricane Matthew will pass just north of the cost of South America and drier air could also slow the rate of intensification.

A strong subtropical high pressure system to the north of Matthew is steering the hurricane toward the west and that general motion is expected to continue for about another 48 hours.  When Hurricane Matthew reaches the western end of the ridge, it will turn toward the north.  Guidance from the numerical models continues to be quite divergent about when, where and how sharp the turn will be.  If Hurricane Matthew turns sooner and sharper, it could move over Haiti early next week.  On the other hand, if Matthew turns later and more gradually, it could affect Jamaica and eastern Cuba.  It is too early to know which scenario will eventually occur.

Hurricane Matthew could become a major hurricane over the Caribbean Sea and interests in the Greater Antilles should monitor its progress.

Tropical Storm Matthew Develops Near the Windward Islands

The National Hurricane Center determined that a surface circulation center formed within Invest 97L on Wednesday morning and it designated the system as Tropical Storm Matthew.  At 11:00 a.m. EDT on Wednesday the center of Tropical Storm Matthew as located at latitude 13.4°N and longitude 60.7°W which put it about 35 miles (55 km) southeast of St. Lucia.  Matthew was moving toward the west at 21 m.p.h. (33 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 60 m.p.h. (95 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 1008 mb.

Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for Guadeloupe, Martinique, Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The circulation of Tropical Storm Matthew is still organizing and it appears as if the surface center is located southwest of the mid-level center.  There are many more thunderstorms north and east of the center and there are fewer thunderstorms south and west of the center.  The strongest winds are occurring in the bands of thunderstorms northeast of the center of circulation.  The winds are much weaker in the western half of Tropical Storm Matthew.  The stronger thunderstorms northeast of the center of circulation are generating upper level divergence which is pumping mass out to the north and east of Matthew.

Tropical Storm Matthew will be moving into an environment that is favorable for intensification The Sea Surface Temperatures in the eastern and central Caribbean Sea are near 30°C.  The upper level winds are weak and there is not much vertical wind shear.  Even with those favorable conditions, several factors could slow the rate at which Tropical Storm Matthew intensifies.  First, it is moving west at 21 m.p.h. (33 km/h).  Sometimes tropical cyclones generate low level vertical wind shear when they move that quickly.  Second, the asymmetrical distribution of thunderstorms around the circulation of Matthew could prevent the tropical storm form efficiently using the energy it extracts from the ocean.  In addition, if Tropical Storm Matthew moves too close to the northern coast of South America, it could pull in some drier air, which would also slow the rate of intensification.  Even with those potential inhibiting factors, Tropical Storm Matthew is likely to become a hurricane by the end of the week and it could become a major hurricane while it is over the Caribbean Sea.

A subtropical high pressure system to the north of Matthew is steering the tropical storm toward the west and that general motion is expected to continue for several more days.  Tropical Storm Matthew is likely to slow down over the weekend as it gets closer to the western end of the subtropical high.  Matthew will likely turn toward the north during the weekend.  There is a great deal of variability in how quickly and sharply the models predict the turn will be.  Some models forecast a quick sharp turn toward the north that could eventually carry Matthew near Bermuda.  Other models forecast a later slower turn that occurs over the western Caribbean Sea and could take take Matthew closer to the U.S.  It is too early to know which scenario will be the right one.

Tropical Storm Matthew will bring gusty winds and locally heavy rain to the Windward Islands and southern Leeward Islands.  Interests in other parts of the Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas, U.S. and Bermuda should monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Matthew.