Hurricane Matthew continues to move slowly toward Florida on Thursday evening and while it won’t have any impact here in Maine, there are many of us who have concerns.

Of course there is a large number of Mainers who winter in Florida and also a large number of us who have friends and relatives living there.

There is some good news this evening for residents and those who have interests in extreme southern Florida from about Boca Raton southward. That is a rough estimate of where the likelihood of major damage could occur.  I’d even venture to say the area from the Palm Beaches to about Port St. Lucie will not see major damage as well.  The entire west coast of Florida will also escape Matthew’s destruction.

The eye of Hurricane Matthew is forecast to hug the Florida coastline

The eye of Hurricane Matthew is forecast to hug the Florida coastline.

The reason for the optimism for southernmost Florida is that the storm is very compact.  A town would need to be within roughly 50 miles to feel hurricane-force winds and much closer to the eye to see winds of Category 2, 3 or 4 hurricane strength.

This isn’t to diminish the potential impact, only to point out that areas south of the hurricanes path just won’t see the worst of the storm. It’s not on a track for that.

There will be thunderstorms, wind and rain, but more like the typical nor’easters that we experience here in Maine.

The latest track of Matthew as of Thursday evening

The latest track of Matthew as of Thursday evening.

Flooding from rain will also mostly be confined to the immediate coastline north of the Palm Beaches.  You will no doubt see flooded parking lots in other areas, but this is due to the low elevation of that region and more typical of what happens in heavy rains.  Again, not major.

With that said, if you have interests from Port St. Lucie north, including Melbourne, Titusville and Daytona Beach, that is where some of the damage could be severe or catastrophic.

The storm surge, a wall of water created by the winds and pressure of the hurricane, could reach 4 to 8 feet in those areas. This would mean homes along the immediate shore could be inundated with a lot of water. Winds will likely reach hurricane strength there, and if the storm comes onshore, that is when the most damaging winds will happen.

Category 4 winds can cause major structural damage to many homes and with the high number of mobile homes in that area, you can expect a lot of losses if this storm hugs the coastline.

Areas north of Port St. Lucie have the highest risk of major damage

Areas north of Port St. Lucie have the highest risk of major damage.

Storms of this size and magnitude are impossible to predict to the exact mile.  A difference of 25 to 40 miles in the position of the center of Matthew is the difference between a very windy rainstorm and catastrophic damage.

If the storm did stay off the coast just far enough, the damage and loss of life would be much less than the maximum potential being talked about so much with this hurricane.

The government, media and forecasters all have an obligation to make people aware of a storm’s potential effects and worse case scenarios, but don’t be surprised if the headlines in parts of Florida on Friday afternoon are that they dodged a bullet. Unfortunately, this is less likely for the rest of those in Matthew’s path.

Finally, while we have seen a drought in New England this year, the southeastern United States has been very wet.  If the rainfall expected across parts of eastern Georgia and South Carolina materializes, the biggest story from this system might be the flooding that occurs this weekend.

Torrential rain will cause flooding up through the Carolinas

Torrential rain will cause flooding up through the Carolinas

You can follow my updates on Matthew and the Maine weather on Twitter @growingwisdom


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