Hurricane Matthew, raking Haiti and poised to slam into the Bahamas on Wednesday, could bring wind and heavy rain to the Mid-Atlantic this weekend. It’s too soon to say how severely the storm will affect the region, but serious effects could occur, especially in eastern and southeastern areas.
Over the past several days, computer models have edged the track of the storm closer to the East Coast.
Between Thursday and Saturday, the model consensus is that the storm will track perilously close to the Southeast U.S. coast from Florida to the Carolinas. This region is bracing for hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
After Matthew makes its closest approach to the Carolinas, it may hug the Mid-Atlantic coast or turn more out to sea over the weekend.
Hurricane track forecasts have big error margins beyond three days, so this is why it is very difficult to know exactly how Matthew will impact the Mid-Atlantic this weekend. But, as of Tuesday, two main scenarios have emerged, each equally likely.
Scenario 1: Matthew tracks near the coast of the Carolinas and turns northeast out to sea; Minor impacts for Interstate 95, moderate impacts for the Delmarva coast
In this scenario, supported by the European model (and its ensembles), Matthew’s shield of wind and rain would barely graze the D.C. area or even miss it entirely.
However, the Maryland, Delaware and Virginia beaches would get hit by a period of wind and rain Saturday night into Sunday, and experience heavy surf and some minor coastal flooding. The effects would be similar to those of tropical storm Hermine, which affected the area the Saturday before Labor Day.
Areas along the southern Delmarva coast and especially toward Virginia Beach would probably be hardest hit in this scenario.
Scenario 2: Matthew tracks near the coast of the Carolinas and hugs the Mid-Atlantic coast; Moderate impacts for Interstate 95 corridor, major impacts for the coast
In this scenario, supported by the GFS model (and its ensembles), heavy rain and wind would affect the entire D.C. area and could be intense near the Chesapeake Bay and the Delmarva — mainly during the day Saturday and Saturday night.
Tropical storm conditions would be possible near the Bay and perhaps hurricane conditions at the Maryland, Delaware and Virginia beaches. Damaging winds and moderate to major coastal flooding could also impact the coast.
Areas well west of D.C., toward the Interstate 81 corridor, would probably just get grazed in this scenario — with minor impacts, if any.
No two storms are exactly alike, but the closet historical analog to this scenario would be Hurricane Floyd from 1999. It produced four to eight inches of rain along the Interstate 95 corridor but substantially more near the Chesapeake Bay.
Although the origins and evolution of Matthew eerily resemble those of Hurricane Hazel, it is unlikely to come inland and unleash the same kind of fury over D.C., which experienced wind gusts to 98 mph in 1954.
The above scenarios are necessarily vague given the number of days away the region is from feeling any effects from this storm.
As we get a better idea of the storm track and intensity, we will provide more specifics on the possible effects that different parts of the region may face from this storm — including rainfall amounts, wind speeds and coastal impacts.
If you have property at the Maryland, Delaware and Virginia beaches or are planning to be there this weekend, you should closely monitor forecasts and have a plan to protect your property and evacuate if necessary.