The latest update from the National Hurricane Center forecasts that Hurricane Matthew will track more eastwardly than initially thought. If that holds, the storm will still bring wind and rain to the coast, but it would dramatically reduce the storm surge in the sounds that frequently causes the most damage.
"At 5:00 last night, for example, we were looking at storm surge just north of Cape Fear and the beaches there, Topsail and Onslow Bay, in excess of 10 to 12 feet,” says Rick Luettich, director of the UNC Institute for Marine Sciences and an expert in storm surge. “Today, we are looking at storm surge of maybe less than half that, maybe 4 to 5 feet.”
Luettich and UNC IMS have developed a website that models the potential storm surge from Matthew.
Luettich said four characteristics of a hurricane determine the potential for coastal and sound-side flooding: the storm’s track, intensity, size and speed.
Yesterday, Matthew looked bad in all four categories.
“The forecast from yesterday, had it stayed with its intensity and size and track and its forward speed, would have been the worst flooding in eastern North Carolina in the 30 years that I’ve been here,” he said.
Luettich warned that another shift westward and Matthew’s predicated storm surge will increase dramatically.
“Even with this current track those in the Wilmington and Topsail Beach area and just north of Cape Fear still need to take it seriously. Because even in this state, they are still going to see significant beach erosion,” he said.