Matthew: Messaging a Rare and Historic Event to East Central Floridians
David Sharp, NOAA/National Weather Service, Melbourne, FL
William Ulrich, NOAA/National Weather Service
In early October 2016, Hurricane Matthew brought significant impacts to East Central Florida. It brought extreme winds and considerable storm surge to coastal sections, as well as flooding rain which also spread across inland locations. The return frequency for landfalling major hurricanes for the Space Coast (Brevard County; 36 years) is nearly twice that as compared to the Treasure Coast (Indian River, Saint Lucie, and Martin Counties; 19 years) located farther south. This climatological variation in coastal risk and vulnerability offered unique challenges when messaging the threat for wind and surge associated with Matthew. This was especially true since small variations in Matthew’s forecast track and intensity yielded large variations in the potential impacts. As a result, addressing forecast uncertainty became a deliberate component within decision support briefings delivered to county emergency management. Succinct use of probability guidance and uncertainty products was employed at various stages of the event to accommodate key decisions relative to respective hazards. For simplicity, scenario-based language was used to situationally depict the most likely scenario, the most likely alternative scenario, and the reasonable worst case scenario. This presentation will describe the observed conditions and realized impacts to East Central Florida brought about by Hurricane Matthew. It will then examine briefing methods used to confidently articulate the forecast uncertainty for wind and surge as Matthew moved through the 5-Day forecast toward its moment of impact in East Central Florida. Use of certain probability-derived products for community decision-making will be highlighted along with subsequent public safety messaging.