Florida could get pummelled twice by the same storm

Hurricane Matthew, now making its way through the upper Caribbean toward Florida, could strike the state twice if certain models turn out to be accurate.

The storm, threatening severe impacts in three states and mandatory evacuations as far north as South Carolina, is expected to make landfall early on Friday and then turn out to sea Saturday and Sunday. After that point, the projections are looking more than three days in the future, when weather models tend to get pretty hazy, as a general rule.

But, as Jason Samenow of the Washington Post reports, one major model (known as GFS) predicts Matthew will inscribe a full circle off the coast before returning to strike Florida again later next week. This GIF from the Post’s Capital Weather Gang illustrates the possibility:

Part of what’s happening here is that Tropical Storm Nicole, hot on Matthew’s heels, has the potential to interfere with the larger storm’s route. You can see it approaching from the East in the above animation.

As Samenow reports, it’s very difficult to predict exactly how tropical cyclones will interact with one another, especially so far into the future. But typically they either repel one another or “orbit” one another due to an phenomenon known as the “Fujiwhara effect.”

A few other storms have turned loops before, but it’s rare. The most recent example of the Fujiwhara effect was in 1995, when Hurricane Iris interacted with Hurricane Humberto and then absorbed Tropical Storm Karen.

If Matthew does strike twice, it will likely return as a much weaker storm.

At this point, Floridians should prepare for one major strike Friday and continue to follow weather reports as the storm gets closer.

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