HOUSTON - MIAMI - When you think Florida do you think, "hurricanes"? Or, since it's an election year do you think, "swing state"? (I know, I know. But, for meteorological perspective there have been two entire presidential election cycles since Florida was last slammed with a major hurricane, back in 2005. There are many folks there -- like here -- that haven't ever experienced a hurricane and may not be ready. That in itself could make this an even more life threatening event. Some who've never experienced one try to ride it out. While I won't talk politics, I will show you why miles matter with Matthew -- especially this time.
Cameras outside the space station captured views of major Hurricane Matthew as it flew 250 miles over the massive storm today. pic.twitter.com/XoLpXvfkKd— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) October 4, 2016
Hurricanes are generally huge. They typically span about 1,000 miles. The core of heaviest winds usually extend outward from the center about 50 miles. This represents only a sliver, or 5% of the storm's total footprint. If the forecast track is wrong by just 5%, it's still a 95% accurate forecast but the difference can mean, "huge disaster", or non-event. In the eyes of the public it's the difference between a, "truth" and a "lie". It's a, "good job at doing your job", or, "how do you have a job?" Adding to the chaos, big hurricanes can, "wobble" left or right by 30-40 miles with no warning. So with Matthew, a dead-on forecast is probably nothing short of dumb luck. This is a huge responsibility because it can make the difference between people listening to you or ignoring you. If they choose not to evacuate after hearing of the "dire" or, "hyped" forecasts, they could die. The kicker? 50 miles is completely within the margin of error. If we're wrong about where this is going by 50 miles, it's still statistically a good forecast in the scale of a hurricane.
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) October 5, 2016
As of today, the cone of uncertainty spans about 150 miles. The most intense winds of the eye wall could stay just offshore, or they could slam the I-95 corridor. Only time will tell. Evacuations have been ordered and State of Emergencies have been declared. Better to be safe than sorry, even if reputations are on the line.
What you can do from Houston:
1) If you have friends or relatives who live in the hurricane warning zone along the east coast of Florida (roughly Miami to Daytona Beach), please urge them to evacuate if they were planning to, "ride it out." The storm surge could be higher than 4 feet, inundating many coastal areas.
2) Even if you're not directly affected by Matthew, let this event remind you to have your hurricane kit ready if you live in a hurricane zone.
We hope this thing misses Florida, but the latest models suggest a direct hit. Miles matter. Stay tuned for updates through the week, as Matthew inevitably makes its mark.