As forecasters have been expecting for several days, a `lowriding' tropical wave that has been making its way across the Atlantic for the past week has entered the Caribbean - and more favorable conditions - and has intensified into a tropical story named Mathew.
Mathew is forecast to grow into a hurricane over the next couple of days as it treks west, and then is expected to make a sharp turn north by the weekend.
While the current track takes it across or near Jamaica and then Cuba, the exact timing of that northerly turn is impossible to predict. This is one that everyone - from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Seaboard, needs to monitor.
The National Hurricane Center's initial discussion states:
Since the center has very recently formed, the initial motion
estimate is a highly uncertain 275/18 kt. A strong deep-layer ridge over the western Atlantic should steer Matthew westward across the eastern Caribbean during the next few days, and the track guidance is tightly clustered through 72 hours. After that time, the tropical cyclone will be approaching the western portion of the ridge and a northwestward turn is expected, although there are significant differences among the track models as to when the turn takes place and how sharp it will be. The GFS takes the cyclone northwestward much faster than the ECMWF with more troughing developing over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. For now, the NHC track lies near a consensus of the faster GFS and slower ECMWF.
Simply put, the storm is too new, and the variables are too great, to put a lot of stock in the models more than 72 - 96 hours out.
I suspect there will be a good deal of press coverage of the models over the next couple of days, since some of them show a threat to the Atlantic Seaboard early next week.
While that could happen, there are other models that put the storm into the Gulf of Mexico or South Florida. We should have a much better idea where Mathew will go by the weekend.
While most people heave a sigh of relief after September when it comes to hurricanes, the season lasts until the end of November, and as Superstorm Sandy proved in 2012 - late season storms can be formidable.
So, if you haven’t already downloaded the updated Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide, now would be an excellent time to do so. You'll find additional preparedness information in my Hurricane Preparedness 2016 post from last May.
When it comes to getting the latest information on hurricanes, your first stop should always be the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. These are the real experts, and the only ones you should rely on to track and forecast the storm.
And if you are on Twitter, you'll want to follow @FEMA, @CraigatFEMA, @NHC_Atlantic, @NHC_Pacific and @ReadyGov.