Go ahead and take those hurricane shutters down: Forecasters scrap loopy prediction

Saturday morning, forecasters scrapped a prediction that had worried South Floridians and Bahamians — that Hurricane Matthew could loop around and hit again in the same cycle.

The 8 a.m. forecast showed the possibility of a tropical depression hitting the Bahamas early Tuesday morning. By 11 a.m., the map halted its predictions on Monday, when the center predicts Matthew will sink below a tropical storm.

At that point, “the system is no longer a tropical system,” said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

In the 11 a.m. forceast, NHC said, “although weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, Matthew is expected to remain near hurricane strength while the center is near the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina.” Computer models aren’t sure where Matthew’s path leads after that. They’re split between south toward the Bahamas or north toward Nova Scotia.

Either way, Feltgen said, the system will likely weaken and turn into an area of low pressure, and his organization will stop mapping its path.

He said Matthew’s fall from a Category 4 hurricane that decimated Haiti to a Cat 1 floating offshore shows how important it is for Floridians to be prepared for all scenarios when it comes to storms.

Earlier in the week, “there was an awful lot of uncertainty on days three, four, five,” Feltgen said. “We were very fortunate.”

Although Hurricane Matthew has caused flooding and damage in North Florida, the storm’s eastward turn saved the state from a worse fate. Feltgen said storm watchers need to think about the storm’s damage potential in a broader sense, and not as a single path.

“Even though the eye remained offshore, that doesn’t mean you don’t see effects,” he said. “Hurricanes aren’t a dot on a map. They’re an area of impact.”

Alex Harris: 305-376-5005, @harrisalexc