“Conditions will deteriorate across South Florida late tonight.”
That’s a line directly from an advisory sent out Wednesday by the Miami branch of the National Weather Service warning about the impact of Hurricane Matthew, which is slowly lurching toward Florida and is expected to dump sweeping rain and wind into the region early Thursday.
But what exactly does that deterioration entail?
To start, the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Florida is already churning, making conditions hazardous for swimmers and boaters. Offshore, there is a high risk of rip currents at all Atlantic beaches through the weekend and boaters should stay on land.
“It is not advised that mariners go out,” said Robert Garcia, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
Garcia said the outermost bands of the storm will start to dump rain on Miami-Dade and Broward counties by about lunchtime Thursday. With these bands come lightning and increased risk of tornadoes. Winds will pick up by the afternoon, with tropical storm force speeds blowing in through the night.
Communities along the mainland coast and on the barrier islands will bear the brunt of the wind more than inland areas, but everybody should feel Matthew.
“We’re looking at 39 to 73 mph sustained winds possible across most of populated South Florida,” Garcia said.
Stronger hurricane-force winds are anticipated in Palm Beach County and possibly north Broward. These conditions could last up to 12 hours.
Pounding waves along the Atlantic beaches will lead to serious erosion. Marinas, docks and piers could be damaged. Low-lying land and roadways will likely flood.
“Matthew is an extremely dangerous hurricane that has the potential for widespread to extensive damage over most of southeast Florida,” read the 6 p.m. Wednesday advisory from the National Weather Service. “Devastating impacts are a concern for portions of Palm Beach County.”
In Miami Beach, flooding began before the storm arrived, when several pumps had issues. In South Beach, water entered businesses, flooding restaurants and shops. At a Sunset Harbour wine shop on Tuesday, cases of pinot grigio stacked on the floor showed several inches of water had pooled.
City officials were also concerned with potential flooding in Mid-Beach and North Beach, areas that haven’t seen the kind of pump upgrades as Sunset Harbour has.
On Thursday and Friday, it will be important to stay on top of weather updates, so stay vigilant and keep battery-powered radios on hand.
The bottom line for residents: Finish your preparations by the end of the night Wednesday.