New Hurricane Center analysis of Matthew highlights close call for Florida

Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew rips through the northwestern Bahamas on October 6. (Credit: NASA via NHC)

The National Hurricane Center released its detailed analysis of Hurricane Matthew on Monday, and the report reveals just how close South Florida’s East Coast came to experiencing a major hurricane.

The eastern edge of the eyewall clipped West End on Grand Bahama Island late on October 6, bringing Category 3 winds to the island just 67 miles from Palm Beach. Although the barrier island was roughed up as Matthew churned north-northwest toward the East-Central Florida Coast, a few miles inland at Palm Beach International Airport the highest winds were clocked at 50 mph.

Elsewhere highest winds were 45 mph at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International and 35 mph at Miami International. Matthew edged closer to the coast in Central and North Florida, where Daytona Beach recorded winds of 71 mph.

Vero Beach recorded a gust of 74 mph, according to the NHC, St. Augustine had an 86 mph gust, and New Smyrna Beach had an 83 mph gust.

“Much of Florida east of Interstate 75 and U.S. Highway 27, and north of Lake Okeechobee and West Palm Beach experienced downed trees, trees falling on to homes, roof damage, and downed powerlines, along with stripped off awnings, siding, and other non-structural building features such as billboards and facades,” the NHC’s Stacy Stewart noted in the report.

“The combination of high storm surge and wave action eroded beaches along coastal areas of east-central and northeastern Florida, and washed away boats and automobiles. Beach erosion was described as moderate from Palm Beach County northward to Indian River County, and was moderate to severe in many locations from Brevard County to the St. Mary’s River. Damage to beaches and dunes are estimated to be $29 million in
Palm Beach County.”

The World Meteorological Organization last week retired the name Hurricane Matthew, as well as Hurricane Otto, which means neither will be used again for Atlantic storms.

Matthew reached Category 5 status on September 30 in the Caribbean and killed 585 people — more than 500 of them in Haiti — as it pushed north toward the Bahamas. It was expected to brush South Florida’s East Coast, but a last-minute jog toward the northeast as it approached Grand Bahama Island saved the day.

Matthew made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane on October 8.

Otto was a late November storm in the southern Caribbean that made landfall in Nicaragua as a Category 3. It later made it to the Pacific as a tropical storm after causing 18 deaths in Central America.


COMING COLD SNAP: Saturday’s forecast high in West Palm Beach is only 73, which would be just 4 degrees off the all-time record cool temperature for the date of 69, set in 2009.

Saturday morning’s forecast low of 58 would be well off the record low of 45 set in 1971.


Author: jnelander

Freelance writer and editor

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