TIME weather

Hurricane Matthew Could Make a U-Turn and Hit Florida Twice

A second hit could hamper recovery efforts

Most hurricanes that hit the East Coast barrel north from the Caribbean, make landfall, and then eventually drift out into the Atlantic Ocean. But that may not be the case with Hurricane Matthew, which could be poised to pull a rare U-turn and hit Florida twice, wreaking even more havoc as the region tries to recover.

Forecasters say Matthew will likely hit the eastern edge of Florida Thursday night as a powerful category 4 storm and will continue up the coast through Saturday. But then, instead of shifting toward the Atlantic and slowly dying off, several models show the storm circling back to land and hitting Florida a second time next week.

The “double-whammy” of Matthew hitting twice appeared to be an outlier projection just a few days ago, but the forecasters’ models have changed since then. Though hurricanes are powerful storms, their direction is often determined by other weather patterns. In this case, a high-pressure area in the Atlantic may block Matthew from moving eastward, and other winds might push it back toward Florida, forecasters say.

Still, forecasters noted that storm models carry significant uncertainty, particularly several days in advance of an expected event. And forecasters also pointed out that Matthew would likely have weakened significantly before hitting Florida again. “That possibility is there and needs to be taken seriously,” says Sean Sublette, a meteorologist at Climate Central. “But for the short term we need to get past Friday and Saturday.”

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