Hurricane Matthew could build historic swell for East Coast

Historically, the height of hurricane season is Sept. 10, but the real tropical drama of 2016 may just play out in October.

Right now, there are 20-foot seas building between South America and Hispaniola.

Computer guidance on this swell was all over the map, literally, earlier this week, when Mathew was still a tropical storm. Photo: Courtesy Underground.com
Computer guidance on this swell was all over the map — literally — earlier this week, when Matthew was still a tropical storm. Photo: Courtesy of Underground.com

On Wednesday, a tropical wave that had moved all the way across the ocean and into the Southern Caribbean was named Tropical Storm Matthew. Within about 48 hours, and contrary to what the forecasts had called for, Matthew had become a major hurricane with winds of 115 mph.

Through all last week, meteorologists, coastal residents and surfers were keeping an eye on Matthew, even before it was given hurricane status. Prior to the storm having formed a center of circulation, predictions for intensity and track were literally all over the map.

RELATED: Hurricane Hermine proves a blessing not a curse for East Coast

Now that it has organized, Matthew is predicted to make a sharp turn to the north later this weekend, pulled up by a low-pressure system that has been pummeling the East Coast for a few days, and push into the Western Atlantic, where it has the potential to create a rare massive swell from Florida to Newfoundland.

“As of now, it looks to stay off Florida a bit,” Central Florida surfer and competitive vet Bryan Hewitson told GrindTV.

“These storms start off with northeast winds and building swell. Then the wind goes offshore as it moves north.

“Tentatively, my plan would be to start at South Beach when the wind shifts and follow it to North Florida.”

But Hewitson is just as aware of the perils of this storm as the advantages for surf.

Florida's Bryan Hewitson has seen both sides of hurricanes, the good and the bad. Photo: Chris Wilson.
Florida’s Bryan Hewitson has seen both sides of hurricanes, the good and the bad. Photo: Chris Wilson.

“It all depends on how much energy the islands suck out of the storm, but these things can go from a Cat 2 to a Cat 5 in a matter of hours,” he said. “After seeing what happened during Superstorm Sandy, I don’t think anyone is totally safe.

“While East Coast surfers, who study and track these storms with great interest, might normally just be taking the pintail out of storage, they are also taking note of the dangers of this storm.”

RELATED: Relive the goodness that was Hurricane Hermine in New York and New Jersey

“I’ve stayed in my house for a Cat 3 and told myself ‘never again,'” added Hewitson. “My house started leaking and I was in the rafters with my roof creaking and things blowing into the side of my place.

“Now I have kids, too, so never again.”

First and foremost, the storm could serve a severe blow to Jamaica, Cuba, possibly Haiti and then the Bahamas. The impact on these islands will be related not only to the strength of the storm when it hits — and it’s already a Category 4 — but also the speed at which it moves.

The East Coast dodged a bullet with Hurricane Hermine in early September, scoring great surf instead of a direct hit. New York tubes. Photo: Patrick West/Flickr
The East Coast dodged a bullet with Hurricane Hermine in early September, scoring great surf instead of a direct hit. New York tubes. Photo: Courtesy of Patrick West/Flickr

A fast-moving storm can produce problems, but a slow-moving storm can be catastrophic.

While a Florida landfall is not out of the question, the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic, New England and the Canadian Maritimes are all in possible danger next week. These areas dodged a major bullet already this season, getting epic surf from Hermine instead of storm-surge misery.

Waves or not, the East Coast surfing community has weathered many storms and doesn’t want to see suffering in the Caribbean or on the US coast.

What was predicted to be an average season has been that by the numbers for the most part. But 2016 has seen record warm sea-surface temperatures all summer.

GrindTV will keep an eye on Hurricane Matthew, with additional reporting as things develop.

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