The latest forecast shows Hurricane Matthew nudging closer to South Carolina’s coast as it approaches the Grand Strand later this week; and a possibility exists that the storm could hit the area as a powerful Category 3 storm, forecasters said.
“It could possibly be near our coast as a category 3 in some of the more worse case scenarios that are out there,” said Steve Pfaff, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C. during a Tuesday morning conference call.
Although initial reports said that the storm would likely be a strong Category 2 when it neared the area, Pfaff said that the possibility of it retaining more strength is possible, but also said hurricane intensity is very difficult to forecast and preparing for a storm degree higher than 2 isn’t a bad idea just in case.
One thing is certain though, and that’s that the potential of impacts from Matthew are increasing for the Carolinas.
“It is plausible that high wind, surge, and flood impacts could occur at the end of the week as Matthew makes its closest approach to the area. Impacts would be greatest on Saturday given the current forecast,” Pfaff said in a threat assessment Tuesday morning.
Matthew remained a formidable storm at a category 4 as it lashed Haiti with heavy rainfall early Tuesday morning. The storm is expected to travel over Cuba next then turn north hitting the Bahamas Wednesday, weather authorities said.
Forecasters said it was still too soon to say just how much the Grand Strand coast will be impacted by Matthew this far in out, but wind, dangerous surf, and rainfall are expected over the weekend at the least.
“Specific details on impacts are difficult to determine at this time given the uncertainty in the track, however, given the latest advisory a possibility exists for high impacts. Impacts [for the Carolinas] would begin Friday and persist into Saturday before improving Sunday,” Pfaff stated.
Wind and rain from the storm is likely to be felt in the Grand Strand Friday night, with the worst of the storm’s impacts hitting Saturday, but clearing out Sunday, Pfaff said Tuesday morning.
Although the storm could weaken as it interacts with land Tuesday, warm waters and a favorable upper-level wind pattern should keep Matthew churning, and it will still be a strong hurricane during the next couple of days and will likely continue as a hurricane for the next five days, forecasters said.
It’s possible the storm could hit the Carolina coast directly or sideswipe it. A direct, or close hit, would being high surge impacts to the area with potential for storm surge inundation, heightened by large, battering waves, Pfaff said.
“Any inundation would impact vulnerable low-lying homes along the coast,” he said in the assessment.
Roads could become flooded, and the delivery of drinking water and sewer services may be impacted, Pfaff said.
Many areas remain saturated from recent heavy rainfall, so additional heavy rainfall could lead to flash flooding and cause rivers to swell from their banks.
Damaging winds could also whip the area, and could potentially cause some structural damage to buildings, downed trees, and power lines with widespread power outages. But wind impacts would be less if the storm tracks farther from the coast, weather authorities said.
Tornadoes are also a possibility, but confidence of impactful tornadoes was low Tuesday morning.
However, confidence for marine impacts is high and large waves and dangerous conditions are projected.
“All persons in southeast N.C. and northeast S.C. should take preliminary actions starting today to prepare for potential impacts from Hurricane Matthew’s approach at the end of the week,” Pfaff said in the assessment.
Horry and Georgetown County officials announced Sunday that they had shifted operating conditions to level 4, indicating an “alert” status in preparation for a possible threat, and county, as well as state officials are continuing to monitor the storm.
Georgetown County officials stated Tuesday morning they intended to shift their operating conditions to level 3 at noon, indicating a disaster or emergency situation is likely or imminent.
“We’re not saying board up at this time. Certainly, that would come a little bit later if the track holds. But we’re beginning initial preparations today, and we’re advising that people be ready to ramp up preparations tomorrow and the next day,” said Pfaff.
Matthew is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history and briefly reached the top classification, Category 5, becoming the strongest hurricane in the region since Felix in 2007.
Georgetown County officials said emergency supply kits should contain:
• Non-perishable food
• Drinking water (two gallons per person per day)
• Flashlights with extra batteries and bulbs
• First aid kit
• Non-electrical can opener
• Necessary medications and prescriptions
• Needed supplies for any children
• Needed supplies for any pets
• Important documents (insurance policies, photo ID, tax records, bank information, etc.)
• Toiletries and other personal hygiene items
• Cash and credit cards
• Weather radio with extra batteries