MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Hurricane Matthew is rewriting the history books for several reasons, one of them being the wide swath of storm surge with it.
“We see over and over and over again the majority of deaths in hurricanes are caused by storm surge,” said Dr. Rick Luettich, UNC Institute of Marine Sciences director and a storm surge expert.
As Hurricane Matthew churns up the southeast coast, the storm is creating an unprecedented amount of storm surge.
“The storm will hit areas where it’s at high tide and areas where it’s at low tide,” Luettich said. “So even the same strength of storm as it moves up the coast will have as much as six-feet difference in terms of the storm tide.”
Luettich has spent over 20 years developing a storm surge model that is used by the National Weather Service and local emergency managers. As Matthew inches closer to the North Carolina coast, the exact track of the storm will be crucial.
“If it tracks up to Morehead City or up to Cape Lookout then that north side of the storm, which is pushing the water onto the shore, would reach into Pamlico Sound at that point and be pushing it from east to west across the sound,” Luettich said.
Based on the current track, Luettich said he thinks that people along our coast should only see a surge of around a few feet. That’s because the storm will make its closest pass at low tide. But if the timing changes or the storm tracks closer, the result could be different.
“The areas that were hardest hit by Hurricane Fran, which was the Onslow Bay area north of Cape Fear, that’s the area that’s likely to be impacted by storm surge the most if the track shifts a bit further to the north,” said Luettich.
You can get the latest storm surge forecast from Leuttich’s ADCIRC model here: http://adcirc.org