Early Friday morning, Hurricane Matthew was downgraded to a Category 3 before brushing along the coast of Cape Canaveral. As of 12pm ET, the eye is less than 30 miles east-northeast of Daytona Beach, Florida. According to the National Hurricane Center, sustained winds have been reported up to 73 mph with gusts of 91 mph in Daytona Beach. However, the storm has yet to make an official landfall but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our chance. The eyewall of Matthew is currently brushing along the Florida coast. With one slight wobble to the west in the next hour or two, we could see a U.S. landfall.
Matthew has already made a few landfalls in the Caribbean. The first landfall came October 4th around 7am ET near Les Anglais, Haiti. The storm slammed into the coast as a Category 4 with winds of 145 mph leaving behind mass destruction. The death toll continues to rise as the total climbed above 500 Friday morning. The storm was the first Category 4 hurricane to hit Haiti since Hurricane Cleo in 1964. Matthew made a second landfall nearly 12 hours later at 8pm ET near Juaco, Cuba. With winds of 140 mph, the storm was the first to make landfall in Cuba of that strength since 2008.
As Matthew continues his northward trajectory, a few global models hint at a possible landfall in South Carolina over the weekend. The HWRF (Hurricane Weather Research and Forecast) model, a model known for its skill in forecasting intensity and track, is indicating a South Carolina landfall Saturday morning. The latest run of the ECMWF is also indicating a landfall near Charleston along the Carolina coast. Model guidance shows Matthew pushing east back into the Atlantic on Sunday before looping back to the Bahamas by Wednesday. There have been inconsistent model runs hinting at a possible track into the Gulf of Mexico however all models now remain in the Atlantic.
Regardless of landfall or not, Matthew is already bringing widespread damage along the Florida coastline. Close to 600,000 were without power, according to Florida Governor Rick Scott Friday morning, and more outages to come the next 24-48 hours. Hurricane warnings have been extended into North Carolina as far north as Surf City. Even if the core of Matthew remains offshore, life-threatening inundation from storm surge will occur along the East Coast. The National Weather Service in Charleston has issued a high threat to life and property around the Charleston area down through Edisto Island. There is potential for the storm surge to reach 4-7 feet above ground, with an additional 10-14 inches of rain. Model guidance continues to indicate hurricane force winds along the Georgia coast beginning early Saturday morning.
Matthew will be the headliner heading into the weekend. With just a few miles offshore, the storm is currently as close to landfall as it gets. Regardless if Matthew does get the official call, devastating impacts will be felt along the East Coast for days to come.