Hurricane Matthew will almost certainly crawl up Florida's eastern coastline as at least a Category 3 storm this weekend. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) confirmed this yet again in its 5 p.m. update today, which keeps Miami-Dade under a tropical storm warning and most of the state north of Broward under a hurricane warning.
But Matthew might not be done with South Florida after it swings through by Friday afternoon. Multiple weather models are predicting that the storm could loop back down and strike Florida again Monday as a Category 1 or 2 storm.
Those projections are still far out and could definitely change. But even the NHC's own models are beginning to hint at the possibility: The center's new 5 p.m. update shows the storm rolling along the Georgia and South Carolina coast before hooking down toward the Bahamas and/or Cuba and/or Haiti again.
Though the NHC hasn't gone as far as to predict the storm will hit Florida a second time, multiple hurricane models have predicted this, leading Weather Underground's Dr. Jeff Masters to shout "multiple very bad words" at his computer screen this morning when he saw the models.
"I’ve been a meteorologist for 35 years, and am not easily startled by a fresh set of model results: situations in 2005 and 1992 are the only ones that come to mind," he wrote today. "However, this morning’s depiction by our top models — the GFS, European, and UKMET — of Matthew missing getting picked up by the trough to its north this weekend and looping back to potentially
He then added, "The bottom line is that it currently appears that Matthew will not recurve out to sea early next week, and the Bahamas and Florida may have to deal with the storm again next week."
The Associated Press asked both Masters and University of Miami meteorologist Brian McNoldy about the possibility of the "loop scenario." They didn't exactly dismiss it:
Chuckling — because meteorologists have a dark sense of humor about storms — both Masters and McNoldy acknowledge that one trusted computer model even sees a possible loop-de-loop that curls Matthew back around to South Florida for a second time.
Masters is far from the only meteorologist online to notice this possibility. Normally, a storm such as Matthew would drift out to sea or dissipate over the mainland — but a second tropical storm, Nicole, is standing right in Matthew's way and will likely prevent the first storm from leaving the area.
One California scientist tweeted out a GIF of the hurricane loop last night — some meteorologists dismissed the scenario as a computer glitch, and Snopes even dismissed the GIF as "not very likely," and just the product of viral web speculation:
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But today, more models have predicted that the loop might happen. Here's one from the folks running the Hurricane Tracker app:
So, yeah, there's now the possibility that Florida will have to deal with a second round Monday after Matthew buzzes the coastline this weekend. In an even more improbable scenario, some models say the hurricane could even make its second landfall in Palm Beach County again.
There's only one logical answer to all of this: Some thunder deity is trying to destroy Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, which sits on the barrier island that is Palm Beach. But we aren't saying that. Some people are. Other people. So many people you wouldn't believe it.