Boomerang Effect: Could Hurricane Matthew Hit the US Twice?
By James Thompson
Contributor, In Homeland Security
With residents of Florida and Southeastern coastal states jamming evacuation routes as Hurricane Matthew approaches, the inevitable question for the fleeing masses is when will it be safe to return? That depends on whether atmospheric and oceanic conditions will cause the Category 4 storm to perform a dreaded 360-degree loop—and head right back toward the U.S. East Coast.
The National Hurricane Center is predicting the eye of the hurricane will follow along the curvature of Eastern Florida, north through the Carolinas and then head East to sea over the Gulf Stream by Sunday morning. Experts also warn that the hurricane may change to a south-by-southwest position by Tuesday morning, potentially setting the stage for a repeat landfall on the Eastern seaboard if the hurricane were to maintain its form or even strengthen while located over the warmer Gulf Stream water.
Boomerang Hurricanes Aren’t Unprecedented
In 2005, Hurricane Ophelia—which attained “hurricane phase” three times—completed a loop off the Southeastern coastal states, eventually clipping Cape Fear and North Carolina’s Outer Banks region before heading Northeast toward the Atlantic. Although the impact of Ophelia was significantly less than what’s predicted for Hurricane Matthew, the loop pattern raises genuine concern for a potential repeat direct hit or “boomerang effect.”
Hurricane Matthew is Extremely Dangerous
What makes Hurricane Matthew particularly dangerous is that it’s predicted to closely hug the edge of Florida’s East Coast, following the bend of Georgia and South Carolina leaving it partially over land, while still being fueled by the Atlantic. Current tacking by the National Hurricane Center shows that roughly half of the hurricane would position over the Atlantic Ocean while the other half would pummel beaches and inland areas—with the potential for a strong storm surge up the coast into the low country of South Carolina.
A boomerang hit by Hurricane Matthew—especially from a storm that would have likely reformed and become just as strong—would put a huge strain on federal and state emergency services that may have to transition from post-storm cleanup back to a readiness stature.
It’s too early to tell whether a second major impact will or won’t occur, but current “spaghetti” tracking models aren’t ruling out the possibility of a another Hurricane Matthew October surprise.
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