How Hurricane Matthew could impact New England

Category 4 Matthew will move north throughout the rest of the week.

Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Matthew is continuing its movement north, just off the tip of Cuba. Later Tuesday evening, the storm will cross that part of Cuba and then continue on to the Bahamas, getting very close to the east coast of Florida.

Hurricane Matthew's position as of late Tuesday morning
Hurricane Matthew’s position as of late Tuesday morning. —NOAA-Taunton

Currently, the predicted path of the storm has resulted in tropical storm watches and warnings for portions of Florida and the Bahamas. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced that’s she’s planning to issue an evacuation order. The storm has already caused widespread flooding and destruction in Haiti.

You may be wondering how it could impact our weather late this weekend.

Hurricane watches are issued for parts of Florida
Hurricane watches are issued for parts of Florida. —Dave Epstein/NOAA Data
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A difference of 50 miles in the track of the storm can be the difference between damaging wind or just strong winds.

The image below shows how tight the hurricane force winds are with Matthew, and that they’re only about 35 miles from the center of the storm. This wind field can and will expand as the storm moves northward, but for the next few days, it will remain quite tight. This is important because, even if the storm is offshore when it reaches our area, the wind can still be a factor, mostly along the coast.

Surface wind field of Hurricane Matthew.
Surface wind field of Hurricane Matthew. —National Hurricane Center

There are still pieces of the atmosphere—think of them as weather puzzle parts—well into Canada that will ultimately influence how Matthew plays into our forecast this weekend. Rainfall and storm surges typically do more damage than the wind because they can cover a wider area. These elements are always of concern, even if the storm loses hurricane strength as it moves into colder waters closer to New England.

No one can predict with a high level of certainty what Hurricane Matthew will do this weekend because the computer models aren’t reliable so far out into the future, but one viable working scenario right now is that a trough of low pressure to the west and the hurricane (or tropical storm, if it has weakened) will interact in such a way as to bring a period of rain late Saturday and or on Sunday. Much colder air and, therefore, clearing should take place on Columbus Day.

Even if Matthew stays off the coast some of its moisture will likely impact southern New England
Even if Matthew stays off the coast, some of its moisture will likely impact southern New England. —Tropical Tidbits
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I don’t see a direct hit from Matthew in the cards for New England. The European model has always kept the storm off of our coast rather than reaching the shore, and the latest version of the American model is now leaning that way. Another possibility is that the entire system never reaches New England and stays south. The moisture would never get here, and the drought would continue to increase.

Remember, all of this is still five days away, so be prepared for a changing forecast, and follow my latest thinking on Twitter @growingwisdom.

The latest European Model keeps Matthew from ever reaching New England
The latest European Model keeps Matthew from ever reaching New England. —Tropical Tidbits

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