Hurricanes are always serious, and it’s always important to prepare and follow evacuation orders.
So you might be forgiven for hearing the news about Hurricane Matthew and shrugging your shoulders. This happens a few times a year, right?
But here’s the deal: Meteorologists are increasingly saying that Matthew threatens to be a historic, dangerous storm.
There are a number of reasons for this.
Matthew is a Category 4 storm with sustained winds last measured at 140 miles per hour. That’s up significantly from just a day ago when it raked across Cuba. The death toll has already risen to 113, with 108 of those deaths in Haiti.
And the storm is still growing. It could reach Category 5 intensity before Florida landfall.
— Ed Vallee ???? (@EdValleeWx) October 6, 2016
It’s one of just six storms ever to show up in Florida with pressure readings under 940 millibars, a proxy for the energy it’s packing. And, as Pacific Standard meteorologist Eric Holthaus reports, no hurricane with winds over 135 mph has struck Florida north of West Palm Beach since records began in 1851.
The National Weather Service puts the storm’s danger in unusually stark terms:
WIDESPREAD EXTENSIVE TO DEVASTATING WIND IMPACTS WILL BE FELT. AIRBORNE DEBRIS LOFTED BY EXTREME WINDS WILL BE CAPABLE OF BREACHING STRUCTURES, UNPROTECTED WINDOWS AND VEHICLES. EFFECTS SUCH AS THESE RANGING FROM THE COAST TO WELL INLAND HAVE NOT BEEN EXPERIENCED IN CENTRAL FLORIDA IN DECADES.
Because Matthew looks like it will move up along the coastline, it will deliver a severe, sustained combination of storm surge (including along rivers), torrential rain, and extreme winds to Florida over a long period Friday. Georgia and South Carolina are poised to take direct hits Saturday and Sunday.
Florida has gone since 2005 with only one other hurricane (Hermine, earlier this year). In that time, coastal areas of the state have grown by more than 2 million people.
Millions are under evacuation orders, and Florida Governor Rick Scott is urging those who remain in evacuation zones to flee the area, saying “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate … This storm will kill you.”
— Michael Lowry (@MichaelRLowry) October 6, 2016
“Simply put: If Florida’s disaster preparedness officials wanted to script a worst-case scenario for the state,” Holthaus writes, “it would look a lot like Hurricane Matthew. This is a nightmare hurricane.”
There’s also good reason to believe that NASA’s $11 billion Kennedy Space Center complex, which is not built to withstand Matthew-intensity winds, could face severe damage.
Hard to overstate implications of catastrophic damage at @NASAKennedy
SLS ground systems
2 SpaceX pads
— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) October 6, 2016
People in affected areas should play close attention to evacuation and preparedness orders.