(This post has been updated.)
The track forecast for Hurricane Matthew has shifted dramatically since Tuesday, and the storm no longer appears to be a significant threat for the Mid-Atlantic north of Virginia Beach.
The computer model consensus is that Matthew will hug the Southeast coast between Thursday night and Saturday before retreating to the east. It poses a serious threat from the east coast of Florida to near the South Carolina-North Carolina border.
Although its core will miss the D.C. area, some of its moisture could still stream north Friday night into Saturday, interacting with a front moving into the region and offering some occasional showers.
Why is Matthew likely to largely miss us? A trough of low pressure (or dip in the jet stream) headed toward the Northeast, which was supposed to pull Matthew northward, is now forecast to be displaced too far to the north and too weak to connect with the storm.
For days, we had been mentioning the similarities between the track of Matthew and Hurricane Hazel from 1954. Hazel had a massive impact on the D.C. area and Northeast United States because it hooked up with a deep trough approaching the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. While Matthew and Hazel have taken almost identical tracks up to this point, the lack of a strong trough sweeping toward the East Coast is likely to be the key difference-maker in Matthew’s case, and our savior from a serious storm.
Interestingly, after Matthew scrapes the Southeast coast — from Florida to South Carolina — between Thursday and Saturday, some models forecast it to make a partial or complete loop offshore and could move back toward the Bahamas or even Florida in about a week. Crazy stuff.
Hurricanes are fickle, and even though models are more or less unanimous in keeping it away, we cannot totally rule out some change in the forecast that could bring back the chance for some impacts in parts of the region (especially the farther south and southeast you go).
If you’re headed to the Mid-Atlantic beaches this weekend north of Virginia Beach, it has become unlikely you will have to deal with tropical storm or hurricane conditions. However, expect rough surf and rip currents due to the storm’s proximity to the south.
Areas from Virginia Beach and southern Delmarva Peninsual south through the North Carolina Outer Banks could still feel the effects of this storm, depending on its exact track and should pay close attention to the forecast.
Even to the north, it would be wise to stay plugged into forecasts over the next few days in case the situation changes.