September 30, 2016


Hurricane Matthew gives Southwest Florida something to watch this weekend

Eric Staats


A sharp northward turn could spare South Florida the brunt of Hurricane Matthew, which swirled into a major Category 3 storm Friday morning.

Hurricane forecasters, though, said computer models disagree about when Matthew will make the turn; the further west the storm gets before heading north, the closer it could get to Southwest Florida. National Hurricane Center forecast tracks can be off, on average, 175 miles at day 4 and 230 miles at day 5, according to the NHC's 11 a.m. forecast.

"Therefore, it is too soon to rule out possible hurricane impacts from Matthew in Florida," the forecast statement said.

As of the 11 a.m. statement, Matthew, with winds of 115 mph, was located about 800 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and was moving west-southwestward at 12 mph.

The storm's forecast track map showed Matthew turning north by Sunday morning, nearing Jamaica by Monday morning, over Cuba by Tuesday morning and then offshore of Florida's east coast Wednesday morning.

Computer models show the storm weakening, even before any interaction with land, but forecasters said they were reluctant to decrease the storm's official intensity.

As for the official track, forecasters cited a "large amount of spread" in the guidance, with some models predicting a slower turn north and other predicting a quicker turn north.

Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters reported in his blog Friday that one forecasting model suggests that the trough of low pressure expected to pull Matthew north will weaken next week, high pressure will build in and force Matthew on a more northwesterly course through the Bahamas and toward South Florida.

"NHC has put the 5-day cone of uncertainty for Matthew very close to Miami, and it appears likely at this point that South Florida will experience at least the fringes of Matthew, with some heavy rains, if not a direct hit," Masters wrote in his blog.