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Tropical Storm and/or Hurricane Watches are likely to be issued today for the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninsula, as the possibility for direct impacts from Matthew along the U.S. coastline has increased. Here's what you need to know.

Hurricane Matthew: Current hazards and U.S. impact

Michael Carter

Friday, September 30, 2016, 11:50 - Category 4 Hurricane Matthew has made landfall Tuesday morning on the southwestern tip of Hispaniola, bringing devastation and life-threatening impacts to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

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The storm is producing maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, and hurricane force winds as far as 40 miles from the eye. This track along the western edge of the island is particularly dangerous for Haiti, as the nation will bear the brunt of the storm’s more intense "right-front" quadrant.

In addition to wind and storm surge damage, torrential rains will lead to extensive flash flooding and mudslides across the mountainous regions of Hispaniola and eastern Cuba. 

Widespread rainfall totals of 15-25 inches are expected, with some locations receiving as much as 40 inches.

Heavy rains extend far outward from the storm’s point of landfall, particularly to the east across the Dominican Republic which is being impacted by the persistent convective "blob" that has been a feature of Matthew for the past several days.

Hurricane Matthew is expected to continue its northward motion today, emerging back over the Windward Passage before making a second landfall later Tuesday in eastern Cuba.

Tuesday evening the storm is expected to reach the Bahamas, which will continue to see impacts from Matthew through Wednesday and Thursday. 

Though some fluctuations in intensity are expected over the next couple of days, the warm waters off the Bahamas should allow Matthew to remain a powerful hurricane through Wednesday night and beyond.

U.S. Impacts

Tropical Storm and/or Hurricane Watches are likely to be issued on Tuesday for the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninsula, as the possibility for direct impacts from Matthew along the U.S. coastline has increased. 

Though there is still significant uncertainty about both the track and intensity of Matthew later this week, the consensus among the forecast models has shifted westward in the last 24 hours, which is also reflected in the official track forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

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Various model forecast tracks

Residents of the Atlantic seaboard, particularly from North Carolina southward, should already be preparing for potential impacts from Hurricane Matthew. Current model guidance is suggesting that the most likely track for Matthew would be roughly parallel to the Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina coastline late this week, although some solutions do force the storm far enough west to make a direct landfall in Florida.

If the storm were to make a direct landfall somewhere along the coast it goes without saying that damage, ranging from significant to devastating, would be expected. But a track paralleling the coastline would also result in substantial impacts for a very large population, both along the coast and inland. 

Though this "raking blow" scenario would keep the U.S. landmass in the comparatively weaker left side of the storm, Matthew would still batter the beaches with large waves and storm force winds, and produce a swath of heavy rain inland, including the already rain-soaked Mid-Atlantic region.

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Hurricane Matthew wind forecast as of Tuesday morning (NHC) -- high surf could cause coastal flooding.

Looking even further ahead, Matthew is expected to begin a northeastward turn sometime late this week, most likely on Saturday. Exactly how this plays out will be the determining factor for how the storm affects the rest of the U.S. coastline, from North Carolina to Maine. A track closer in-shore could result in a landfall for the Outer Banks, and potentially even New England. A track slightly farther east would still lead to significant impacts up and down the coast, but without the blow from a direct landfall.

Matthew’s ability to maintain its intensity later this week is also an open question, as it will be moving into a more unfavorable environment overall, but could still benefit from the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The forecast will continue to be refined as we move towards the weekend, but the key message is that the entire East Coast should monitor conditions closely over the next several days.

Watch below: Hurricane Mattehw update from South Florida

Be sure to check back as we continue to monitor this storm.
Image source: NHC, NWS, NOAA

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