Models in the latest forecast show Hurricane Matthew’s track has shifted east and moving farther out to sea, but much uncertainty remains with the storm’s path and level of impact on the Carolina coast, so weather authorities advise keeping a guard up.
Gov. Haley rescheduled the evacuation for Horry and Georgetown counties until Thursday morning; however, evacuations scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday for Charleston and Beaufort counties will still take place. A slowdown in the churning storm has led the governor to push back evacuations for Horry and Georgetown County.
“A lot of uncertainty exists with the track and the subsequent level of impacts so please do not let your guard down as the track could change,” said Steve Pfaff, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C. in a threat assessment released Wednesday morning.
The potential for an atypical storm track is likely the result of a trough lifting away sooner than anticipated, Pfaff said.
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He cautioned that the Carolina coast is not out of the woods, and people should continue to brace for the storm’s fury. Matthew is forecast to be a Category 2 when it enters into Grand Strand area waters.
“The track adjustment has led to changes in potential impacts. Do not let your guard down as any adjustment to the west would support greater impacts,” said Pfaff in the threat assessment.
Many current models now show Matthew making a right turn after getting very near to the S.C. coast, he said.
An uptick in showers is expected to start Thursday as a large onshore flow pushes moisture in ahead of the storm. Rain tied to the hurricane is expected to start drenching the Grand Strand and surrounding areas Friday night. Heavy rainfall is also possible with the potential for flash flooding, especially Saturday when the storm is expected to make its closest approach to the Carolina coast.
Rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches are projected for the area, especially along the coast with lesser values anticipated farther inland.
Wind impacts that include damage to roofs/sidings, porches, car ports, and sheds are possible. Large limbs and poorly-rooted trees could also topple, and scattered power outages may occur.
Given the current track, moderate storm surge is possible and could cause coastal inundation enhanced by large breakers along the barrier islands, Pfaff said. Damage to vulnerable oceanfront buildings is also a possibility.
“Model consistency has decreased leading to greater uncertainty on expected outcomes regarding any surge and wind impacts. A track farther off the coast would imply lower surge and winds impacts,” said Pfaff.
Roads could be washed out, and rivers may overflow from their banks if heavy rainfall pounds the area.
But uncertainty remains as weather authorities continue to track the churning storm that was about 65 miles from the eastern tip of Cuba early Wednesday morning, headed toward the Bahamas.
“In general, low confidence exists until the computer models gain a consistent resolution of the track with successive runs,” said Pfaff in the threat assessment.
Powerful Hurricane Matthew weakened to a Category 3 Tuesday night as the storm passed over the eastern tip of Cuba and headed north toward the Bahamas.
The storm, which sustained 125 winds and higher gusts, is traveling at about 10 mph and is expected to blast through the Bahamas Wednesday through Thursday before making his way north toward the east coast of Florida by Thursday evening, weather authorities said.
A Hurricane Watch along the east coast of Florida has been extended northward to Fernandina Beach.
While the storm has weakened in strength, some slight strengthening is expected during the next couple of days, weather authorities said.
Ahead of the storm, Gov. Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency Tuesday and said that evacuations in coastal communities will begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Evacuations for people residing in Horry County between U.S. 17 Business/Kings Highway and the Atlantic Ocean (Evacuation Zone A) will being Thursday. Government offices and schools will be closed beginning Wednesday through Friday.
The governor said she hasn’t heard of any price gouging yet and said gas stations are in good shape with supplies so far. She said hotels in the Midlands area are pretty full, but stated hotels in the Upstate area have more room. She recommended those traveling check hotel bookings online.
She stressed the importance of leaving to those within ordered evacuation areas and warned those who stay behind are potentially jeopadizing the lives of first responders who may have to go back for them.
“We’re trying to be extremely cautious. We do not want any lives lost,” she said.
The governor will hold another press conference this afternoon to update the public.