Hurricane Matthew could be affecting Delmarva's weather by Saturday.
Delaware residents might want to start thinking about how they plan to react as Hurricane Matthew begins to pose a threat to the Delmarva Peninsula.
As of Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center is forecasting the storm will take a more westerly path than previously expected as it travels up the eastern seaboard. Matthew now is expected to skirt Florida’s east coast Friday morning and reach the South Carolina/North Carolina border by 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8.
A tropical storm watch is in effect from the Florida Keys to Deerfield Beach, near Boca Raton, and a hurricane watch from Deerfield Beach to south of Daytona Beach. This area includes the Kennedy Space Center.
If it continues as projected, the storm will pass off the Delmarva coast this weekend.
“I think as far as certainty goes, we’re pretty confident through Saturday, but after that it gets tricky,” Accuweather.com meteorologist Alyson Hoegg said. “Any impact in Delaware will be in the afternoon hours of Saturday and going into Sunday.”
Forecasters think a high pressure system coming in from the Great Lakes will help push the storm to the east, preventing Matthew’s landfall in Delaware, she said. Along with rain, some of which will be wind-driven, rip currents and higher than normal tides will be a main concern along the beaches and in low-lying areas.
DEMA getting prepared
Delaware Emergency Management Agency spokesman Gary Laing said emergency managers are monitoring the storm. As of Wednesday, it still is too early to issue any emergency warnings, but Laing said Delmarva residents should consider preparations as Matthew heads in our direction.
“At this point, the only thing we can say is to make sure your home emergency kit is stocked and that everyone monitor the weather situation,” Laing said.
Residents along the coastline and in low-lying, flood-prone areas need to know where they have to go in the event of an evacuation, he added.
Emergency evacuation maps, provided by the Delaware Department of Transportation, may be found at https://www.deldot.gov/information/projects/tmt/evac_map.shtml.
“Some of the models are showing it moving to the west, some are not. That’s the problem, the uncertainty,” Laing said. “We don’t have anything definitive yet that makes us think we’ll have a close encounter.”
However, DEMA managers are starting to go through their preparation checklists and are beginning to talk to other emergency responders throughout the state, just in case, he said.
Even if the state avoids a direct hit, rain from Matthew still could cause problems stemming from last week’s rainstorms, Laing said.
“Some areas that didn’t get flooded last weekend will be so saturated there’ll be no place for the water to go,” he said. “People need to be aware of the possibility of flooding in their areas and how they’ll have to respond.”
Delaware hit in 2011, 2012
Forecasters at the Hurricane Center said the storm made landfall on the southern coast of Haiti at about 7 a.m. Tuesday and was moving toward the north at about 9 mph. That path will take it over the northwestern Bahamas Wednesday evening.
Maximum sustained winds are expected to be about 145 mph.
While in the Caribbean, U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft have taken readings that rate the system as a Category 4 storm, and, although there may be fluctuations in wind intensity, it is expected to remain a powerful hurricane over the next several days.
Hurricane-force winds will extend out at least 40 miles from the eye of the storm, with tropical-storm force winds out to about 185 miles from the center. Rainfall totaling up to 10 inches in isolated areas of eastern Jamaica is expected.
Matthew first came into being Sept. 22 as a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa, but strengthened significantly over the following days. It became a Category 1 hurricane, attaining winds of 75 mph on Sept. 29, but quickly ramped up to a Category 5 storm, with winds exceeding 160 mph.
The last major storm to affect Delaware was Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. This late-season storm caused the evacuation of coastal areas in Sussex County after Gov. Jack Markell declared a state of emergency, which also closed roads and highways throughout the state.
In August 2011, Hurricane Irene swept through Delaware, spawning an F-1 tornado that cleared a 3/4-mile long path through a Lewes neighborhood. Two men were drowned in Mill Creek in the Hockessin area.