Hurricane Matthew

Florida - Oct. 07 2016
Hurricane Matthew was one of the most complex and difficult hurricanes I've had to forecast and chase. The computer models all seemed to disagree with each other, and the angle of approach that the storm was taking, meant that it was going to scrape the entire southeastern United States, which makes picking one spot to be at extremely difficult.
Before even reaching the U.S. Matthew briefly reached category 5 status near South America, it then made a sharp turn to the north and delivered a devastating hit to Haiti, which is an extremely poor nation that is still recovering from their devastating earthquake in 2010. To make things worse, the nation is very mountainous and has suffered from tremendous deforestation, which leads to deadly landslides. As of writing this, the death toll is over 1000 as is expected to rise.
After Haiti, the storm ripped through eastern Cuba and the Bahamas as a category 4 storm.


YouTube - Hurricane Matthew
The track forecast from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Hurricane Matthew video from Florida.
The plan was to intercept Matthew in Florida. I had some obligations, so I was stuck in Toronto for longer than I'd hoped, plus my initial flight got canceled, but I eventually made it to Orlando, then met up with the rest of the group including: Mark Robinson and Jaclyn Whittal from The Weather Network, Tim Millar from the Cyclone Research Group, and Scott McPartland & Dave Lewison who are storm chasers from New York.
We started off in Melbourne, but the storm refused to come ashore fully. It was sweeping past with the strongest winds just offshore, so the decision was made to try to get as close as possible. That meant driving in the hurricane at night to get to Cape Canaveral, the point of closest approach.



Hurricane Flag
The local RADAR image of the hurricane approaching us, spinning just offshore.
Terrifying satellite image of hurricane Matthew making landfall in Haiti. This was pretty much a worst case scenario for Haiti, and at least 1000 deaths have been reported so far.
Flying the hurricane warning flag in the middle of the storm - Cape Canaveral
Luckily for the people of Florida, the storm never made made a full landfall where we were. If the storm had moved a little more west, the result could have been catastrophic. Having said that, Matthew did end up doing tremendous damage further north in places like Daytona Beach and the Carolinas, where the storm surge and rain induced flooding came together to cause a very serious situation, despite the storm actually being weaker than where we intercepted it.


A representation of the wind field in hurricane Matthew as it makes landfall in Haiti as a category 4 storm.
Matthew peaked out as a category 5 storm and affected Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and the United States.
Some interesting observations about our chase
- Poor Jaclyn had no voice during the whole trip. She was sick and it was frustrating for her to try and do her job of reporting on the storm. She made it home OK, but later found out she had pneumonia. What a trooper!
- The funniest moment was at the Port Canaveral cruise ship terminal when Dave was hit by some debris... A live opossum!
- Thanks to Tim and his portable gas grill, we continued our tradition of having chicken stir-fry. There's nothing as good as a hot meal in the storm.
- Since Matthew never officially made landfall when it was category 3 or higher, the US has now gone over 4000 days since the last major hurricane landfall (Wilma in October 2005).