Thursday, October 6, 2016
FLORIDA: A Monster Approaches
Hurricane Matthew (above) is now a Category 4 storm, but could well yet strengthen into a Super Hurricane. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew (right) a Category 5, made landfall over Homestead, Florida, a suburb of Miami, totally obliterating the town, leaving mostly concrete foundations. At $44 billion (2016 dollars), this was at that time the most destructive hurricane in the U.S., until Katrina over New Orleans. Andrew was still a Category 3 when he reached Morgan City, Louisiana, and spawned 28 tornadoes. The death toll was 65.
Global warming? Andrew is now "only" the fifth costliest Atlantic hurricane, for greater devastation came with Katrina and Wilma in 2005, Ike in 2008 and Sandy in 2012. Not sure what the debate is all about, but scientists Chris Landsea (yes, real name, left) of NOAA is a doubter and Kerry Emanuel (MIT, has the most definitive study) are divided over the link between the Greenhouse Effect and cyclonic storms. To me, this is a slam dunk. As the ocean surface warms, of course there will be more and larger hurricanes. Hint: during the winter when the oceans cool, there are no hurricanes!
Matthew is strange, indeed. First, the eye is not expected to contact Florida, although a shift to the west can certainly occur. From Melbourne to Jacksonville and on to Georgia, this eye will be right at the coastline.
Next, Matthew will move east and avoid Georgia and the Carolinas, taking a circulatory track currently projected to, after weakening into a tropical storm, crossing its own path, roll over Florida, and end up in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Note the uncertainty. This past summer, Typhoon Lionrock also made a complete circle, taunting Japan, before turning around and hitting Japan, then went on to Russia:
So about that monster known as Hurricane Matthew, keep in mind that Hurricane Katrina only made landfall as a Category 3 at 125 MPH. Matthew is, at this posting, at 140 MPH, and in position for a worst case scenario. The eye is projected to remain in the ocean, so will not weaken, with the strongest winds and surf from its noon to 3pm quadrant buffeting communities after communities along the Florida/Georgia east coast. If evacuation warnings are not heeded, not only will there be considerable property and infrastructure damage, but many deaths.
Interesting that more than a decade after Katrina, the fatalities are given as a range: 1245 to 1836. I've never seen this kind of uncertainty so long after a catastrophe. Hard to believe Hurricane Hermine earlier this year was the first to make landfall over Florida in eleven years, especially when you see this hurricane map.
By the way, as you might have noticed, there is another hurricane, Nicole, just east of Matthew, not expected to cause any problems to the USA: