Bigger is NOT Stronger

You’ve probably seen headlines that read something like “Haiti Bracing for a Massive Hurricane” or heard one of my colleagues in the news department describe Matthew as a “big” hurricane or a “monster” hurricane.

That’s a bit misleading because while Matthew is a very powerful hurricane, the strongest in this area since 2007, its also one of the smallest.  When it comes to hurricanes, bigger is not always stronger.  In fact, usually its the opposite.  The smaller, more compact, more tightly wound a hurricane is, the more likely it is to produce strong winds.  Hurricane Andrew from 1992 is the textbook example of this.  Think of it like a figure skater…when a figure skater spins around on the ice, she tends to spin slowly with her arms spread out wide and spin faster as she pulls her arms inward.

If you measure the size of a hurricane by how far out the hurricane force winds (74 mph or greater) extend from the center, then in general hurricanes have a radius of about 25 miles to 150 miles or greater, or a total width of 50 to 300 miles.  In a typical hurricane, the eye itself is between 20-40 miles wide.  Matthew is on the low end of that scale.  At last check (11 AM Sunday), the hurricane force winds extend out only about 35 miles from the center of Matthew and Matthew’s eye is only about 17 miles wide.  That is similar to Andrew where the hurricane force winds extended out about 30 miles from the center shortly before landfall in Florida with an eye that was about 11 miles wide.

That could be crucial for Haiti!  Right now the forecast is ominous for Haiti.  With the center of Matthew expected to pass right over the western tip of the island, most of Haiti will be on the right side of the hurricane.  That’s the side with the strongest winds and the highest storm surge.  However, if the track were to shift just 35 miles to the west, the strongest winds stay over the water and Haiti doesn’t see any wind over 74 mph.

[Image of probabilities of 64-kt winds]

As for whether Matthew will have any impact on our weather, it is too soon to tell.  That wouldn’t happen until next weekend or even later IF it were to happen at all.

In the meantime, its the same old story…cloudy, dreary and cool for Sunday.  We aren’t expecting much measurable rain, but we are expecting periods of mist or drizzle, especially for the first half of the day.

There might be some peeks of sun on Monday but clouds still prevail and spotty showers can’t be ruled out, mainly in the afternoon.

The clouds finally part on Tuesday and the middle part of the week looks half decent with seasonable temps and at least partially sunny skies.

Beyond that…stay tuned!