Saturday, April 17, 2021

Hundreds die in Haiti from Hurricane Matthew


Hurricane Matthew, now a Category 4 storm, makes its way toward the US coast, leaving in its deadly wake at least 283 people dead in Haiti, the New York Times reports.

Various relief agencies are reporting that the high winds and rain laid waste to entire fields of crops, destroying the food supply for tens of thousands of people, who will now require humanitarian assistance. For example, Mercy Corps said that in the largest banana-growing area of the country, more than 80 percent of the crops that feed 20,000 families were destroyed.

President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida and South Carolina earlier today. This declaration means the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency can move in to coordinate relief efforts. Gov Rick Scott of Florida urged about 1.5 million people to evacuate, and he also activated about 3,500 National Guard troops to help with the evacuations and with search-and-rescue operations.

The National Weather Service projected that Matthew’s eye would hit Cape Canaveral at about 8 AM Friday and pass near Jacksonville about 12 hours later.

  • If they say get out, get out. Property can be rebuilt, not your life.
  • Listen for updates on radio or visit
  • Fill up with gas, and ensure a healthy car battery.
  • Get propane for gas gills or stoves to stay warm in the event of power failure.
  • Make sure anything battery-powered (radio, cellphone, etc.) is working.
  • Make arrangement with family members on a place (or, better, two places) to meet.
  • One place should be outside your neighborhood in case it gets wiped out.
  • Make sure your prescription medications are refilled.
  • Collect important documents, medical or immunization records, etc.
  • Locate shut-off switches or valves for electricity, water, gas.

The latest from the National Hurricane Center

At this time, the storm is forecast to move out to sea before traveling too far north of the North Carolina-South Carolina border. Some rain could be heavy ashore, but no damaging effects are expected to spread into Maryland at this time.

But thousands of people were being evacuated from colleges along the Space Coast, and K-12 schools generally cancelled all activities, including after-school football games and such, for Friday in preparation for the storm.

The anticipated deflection of Hurricane Matthew to the east is known as the Coriolis effect. North of about the 30th parallel, an object, like Hurricane Matthew, that is moving along a south-north path will appear to deflect to the east. This happens in part because the Earth is rotating eastward and in part because the velocity of a point on the Earth during the rotation depends on that point’s latitude. At the North Pole, for example, the tangential velocity is basically zero while a point on the equator would reach the maximum tangential velocity.

So, if you shoot a canon headed due north from Miami, the canon ball would land at a point a bit to the east of the point that would be found on the straight northward path from the place you fired the canon. That’s because the eastward velocity of the canon ball when you fired it was greater than the eastward velocity of the point on the Earth where the canon ball landed.

The same sort of apparent deflection happens at latitudes south of the 30th parallel, but the deflection is so small that it doesn’t get noticed or greatly affect the hurricane path forecast.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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