October 30, 2020

ructing Matthew: How 30-mile ‘wobble’ spared area

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screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-9-39-50-amBy Seth Robbins From The News-Journal

As Hurricane Matthew churned north toward Florida’s coast, emergency officials were ready for the worst: terrifying winds that would rip apart houses, rushing water that would lay waste to everything in its path, and flooding that would leave only rooftops visible.

Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Judge said he was “expecting catastrophic damage” and many dead.

“Nothing was going to withstand those winds. You are looking at a large tornado coming over the community,” he said. Adding to the destruction would have been a wall of water surging from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Halifax River, leaving parts of the barrier islands and even cities such as Edgewater underwater.

“You would have been able to go fishing,” he said, “from the I-95 overpass.”

The storm’s eye, however, passed just east of Volusia and Flagler counties, sparing the area from what , a Colorado State University research scientist, described as a “ludicrous amount of destruction.”

That’s likely small consolation to the families of the five people killed locally or those who lost their homes; 57 are destroyed and more than 10,000 were impacted. Officials have tallied the hurricane’s cost to homeowners and businesses at $568 million — more than any other single storm in the history of the two-county area.

Yet weather experts say the storm’s slide of about 30 miles to the east, roughly the distance from DeLand to Daytona Beach, was a narrow escape.

So what kept the area from getting clobbered?

Various factors could have been at play, including Florida’s northern coast caving slightly inward; steering winds from a nearby high pressure system; the eye reforming and widening. Even the presence of Hurricane Nicole in the east could have redirected the storm’s path.

The answers probably won’t come for a year or two as researchers study models of the storm, said Klotzbach, who has family in Cocoa Beach. Few hurricanes, he said, have trundled up Florida’s coast.

“It was a dramatic moment to watch unfold,” he said. “It was exciting in that it was happening and scary for these people and their lives. This was a very serious storm.”

‘NO WAY OUT’

Tropical Storm Matthew emerged in the east , surviving an area known as “the Hurricane Graveyard” as it moved rapidly west. Once halfway through the Caribbean, its warm waters fed the hurricane, strengthening it as it stalled there. In just 24 hours, it ramped up from Category 1 to a Category 5 hurricane.

At that point, Klotzbach said, the storm “was going to hit somebody.” It can either head west, where it will hit Central America, or move north, as Matthew did, striking the islands.

“There really is no way out,” he said.

On Oct. 4, the National Weather Service, which had been putting out alerts since Sept. 28, sent out a warning that the Category 4 Hurricane was “bearing down on ,” with sustained winds of 130 mph.

Chris Landsea, the National Hurricane Center’s Science and Operations Officer, said that Matthew had the classic appearance of a strong hurricane, “a perfect circle.”

The storm pummeled the southwest peninsula of the Caribbean island, moving ashore with howling winds and torrential rain. Mud slides and flash floods snapped trees, leaving them as bare as twigs. Homes were leveled, turned into rubble and shards of tin roofs. Officials say at least 500 people were killed by the immediate effects of the storm, but other reports have the death toll higher, above 900.

Landsea said people in Haiti would have likely seen “sideways rain so hard that you wouldn’t be able to see a few feet in front of you and winds over 100 mph.”

“The types of structures there can’t stand that kind of beating,” he said. “The roofs go and the walls cave in. I’m sure it would be terrifying.”

‘TRACK … RIGHT OVER US’

Even before the hurricane struck Haiti, emergency officials and weather experts in both Volusia and Flagler counties were keeping a watchful eye on Matthew as far back as Sept. 28 when it was named a tropical storm. Modeling and forecast information poured in from various sources.

At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Associate Professor of Meteorology Randy Barry was tracking the storm on a series of maps, including one showing steering winds and pressure systems in colored, wavy lines. On Monday Oct. 3, it looked as though the storm would stay away from Florida’s coast as a deep trough in the northern part of the country was going to push out a high pressure system east of the storm.

“With that deep trough in place,” he said, “it was going to just ride up offshore, and it looked like it could be a non-event.”

But as the week progressed, the track began to change. The trough moved out to the northeast and the high pressure system pushed west, nudging the storm farther inland. By Thursday, forecasts had the storm headed straight at Volusia and Flagler counties.

“I had butterflies in my stomach,” Barry said. “This was a major hurricane and its center line track was sitting right over us.”

Emergency operation centers in both counties were in full gear, sending out alerts on mandatory evacuations, fielding thousands of phone calls from worried residents, and preparing emergency crews for deployment. Cars lined gas stations, and water and canned goods were picked clean from grocery stores.

Bob Pickering, who tracks hurricanes as an emergency management technician in Flagler County, said he was “bracing for a historic storm.”

Palm Coast’s C-Section, a community sliced by canals just west of the Intracoastal Waterway, was primed to flood. Parts of Flagler Beach and The Hammock would be underwater also, he said.

“If that had happened,” he said, “you would have some places where you would only have seen the top parts of buildings.”

Rain squalls and strong winds lashed the area early Friday morning as gray skies settled over the area. A sense of relief, however, spread over those tracking the storm. Overnight forecasts showed that its eye had slid, or wobbled in weather speak, to the east. The storm’s western edge, where its strongest winds and rain reside, was not going to make landfall. Also the hurricane developed a dual eyewall, made up of an inner and outer ring. The interaction of those rings widened the storm and reduced the force of its spin, much like a figure skater with outstretched arms.

Wind speeds in Volusia County topped out at 97 mph, much less than the 120 mph winds predicted.

“We were very lucky,” said Embry-Riddle’s Barry, as he clicked through three separate models issued the day before the storm struck. All showed the hurricane as a black dot, a bull’s-eye that hooked directly towards us.

“A slightly different track,” he said, “and we would have been talking about this storm for decades because of the destruction.”

IMAGE: As late as Thursday, Oct. 6, the day before Hurricane Matthew struck Volusia and Flagler counties, local emergency officials were fearing a ‘catastrophic’ event. While the area sustained record damage costs, a 30-mile ‘wobble’ to the east spared the two counties from far worse, experts say. IMAGE COURTESY OF NOAA via AP
Saturday

For more on this story go to:

By Seth Robbins From The Daytona Beach News-Journal

As Hurricane Matthew churned north toward Florida’s coast, emergency officials were ready for the worst: terrifying winds that would rip apart houses, rushing water that would lay waste to everything in its path, and flooding that would leave only rooftops visible.

Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Judge said he was “expecting catastrophic damage” and many dead.

“Nothing was going to withstand those winds. You are looking at a large tornado coming over the community,” he said. Adding to the destruction would have been a wall of water surging from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Halifax River, leaving parts of the barrier islands and even cities such as Edgewater underwater.

“You would have been able to go fishing,” he said, “from the I-95 overpass.”

The storm’s eye, however, passed just east of Volusia and Flagler counties, sparing the area from what Phil Klotzbach, a Colorado State University research scientist, described as a “ludicrous amount of destruction.”

That’s likely small consolation to the families of the five people killed locally or those who lost their homes; 57 are destroyed and more than 10,000 were impacted. Officials have tallied the hurricane’s cost to homeowners and businesses at $568 million — more than any other single storm in the history of the two-county area.

Yet weather experts say the storm’s slide of about 30 miles to the east, roughly the distance from DeLand to Daytona Beach, was a narrow escape.

So what kept the area from getting clobbered?

Various factors could have been at play, including Florida’s northern coast caving slightly inward; steering winds from a nearby high pressure system; the eye reforming and widening. Even the presence of Hurricane Nicole in the east could have redirected the storm’s path.

The answers probably won’t come for a year or two as researchers study models of the storm, said Klotzbach, who has family in Cocoa Beach. Few hurricanes, he said, have trundled up Florida’s coast.

“It was a dramatic moment to watch unfold,” he said. “It was exciting in that it was happening and scary for these people and their lives. This was a very serious storm.”

‘NO WAY OUT’

Tropical Storm Matthew emerged in the east Caribbean Sea, surviving an area known as “the Hurricane Graveyard” as it moved rapidly west. Once halfway through the Caribbean, its warm waters fed the hurricane, strengthening it as it stalled there. In just 24 hours, it ramped up from Category 1 to a Category 5 hurricane.

At that point, Klotzbach said, the storm “was going to hit somebody.” It can either head west, where it will hit Central America, or move north, as Matthew did, striking the islands.

“There really is no way out,” he said.

On Oct. 4, the National Weather Service, which had been putting out alerts since Sept. 28, sent out a warning that the Category 4 Hurricane was “bearing down on Haiti,” with sustained winds of 130 mph.

Chris Landsea, the National Hurricane Center’s Science and Operations Officer, said that Matthew had the classic appearance of a strong hurricane, “a perfect circle.”

The storm pummeled the southwest peninsula of the Caribbean island, moving ashore with howling winds and torrential rain. Mud slides and flash floods snapped trees, leaving them as bare as twigs. Homes were leveled, turned into rubble and shards of tin roofs. Officials say at least 500 people were killed by the immediate effects of the storm, but other reports have the death toll higher, above 900.

Landsea said people in Haiti would have likely seen “sideways rain so hard that you wouldn’t be able to see a few feet in front of you and winds over 100 mph.”

“The types of structures there can’t stand that kind of beating,” he said. “The roofs go and the walls cave in. I’m sure it would be terrifying.”

‘TRACK … RIGHT OVER US’

Even before the hurricane struck Haiti, emergency officials and weather experts in both Volusia and Flagler counties were keeping a watchful eye on Matthew as far back as Sept. 28 when it was named a tropical storm. Modeling and forecast information poured in from various sources.

At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Associate Professor of Meteorology Randy Barry was tracking the storm on a series of maps, including one showing steering winds and pressure systems in colored, wavy lines. On Monday Oct. 3, it looked as though the storm would stay away from Florida’s coast as a deep trough in the northern part of the country was going to push out a high pressure system east of the storm.

“With that deep trough in place,” he said, “it was going to just ride up offshore, and it looked like it could be a non-event.”

But as the week progressed, the track began to change. The trough moved out to the northeast and the high pressure system pushed west, nudging the storm farther inland. By Thursday, forecasts had the storm headed straight at Volusia and Flagler counties.

“I had butterflies in my stomach,” Barry said. “This was a major hurricane and its center line track was sitting right over us.”

Emergency operation centers in both counties were in full gear, sending out alerts on mandatory evacuations, fielding thousands of phone calls from worried residents, and preparing emergency crews for deployment. Cars lined gas stations, and water and canned goods were picked clean from grocery stores.

Bob Pickering, who tracks hurricanes as an emergency management technician in Flagler County, said he was “bracing for a historic storm.”

Palm Coast’s C-Section, a community sliced by canals just west of the Intracoastal Waterway, was primed to flood. Parts of Flagler Beach and The Hammock would be underwater also, he said.

“If that had happened,” he said, “you would have some places where you would only have seen the top parts of buildings.”

Rain squalls and strong winds lashed the area early Friday morning as gray skies settled over the area. A sense of relief, however, spread over those tracking the storm. Overnight forecasts showed that its eye had slid, or wobbled in weather speak, to the east. The storm’s western edge, where its strongest winds and rain reside, was not going to make landfall. Also the hurricane developed a dual eyewall, made up of an inner and outer ring. The interaction of those rings widened the storm and reduced the force of its spin, much like a figure skater with outstretched arms.

Wind speeds in Volusia County topped out at 97 mph, much less than the 120 mph winds predicted.

“We were very lucky,” said Embry-Riddle’s Barry, as he clicked through three separate models issued the day before the storm struck. All showed the hurricane as a black dot, a bull’s-eye that hooked directly towards us.

“A slightly different track,” he said, “and we would have been talking about this storm for decades because of the destruction.”

IMAGE: As late as Thursday, Oct. 6, the day before Hurricane Matthew struck Volusia and Flagler counties, local emergency officials were fearing a ‘catastrophic’ event. While the area sustained record damage costs, a 30-mile ‘wobble’ to the east spared the two counties from far worse, experts say. IMAGE COURTESY OF NOAA via AP

Saturday

For more on this story go to: http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20161015/deconstructing-matthew-how-30-mile-wobble-spared-area

 

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