Two weather systems are combining to protect South Carolina from a direct hit by Hurricane Matthew, although heavy rains associated with the storm remain a threat to the state’s Lowcountry through the weekend, weather forecasters said Wednesday.
The latest forecast track, issued at 11 a.m. by the National Hurricane Center, shows Matthew turning sharply toward open water as it approaches Hilton Head Island on Saturday morning and heading well into the Atlantic. By Monday morning, the storm should be about a third of the way toward Bermuda, according to the forecast track
Tropical Storm Nicole, which has formed farther out in the Atlantic, is disrupting steering currents that had originally shown Matthew coming close to South Carolina, and perhaps making landfall near Myrtle Beach, said Ken Aucoin, chief meteorologist with Richland County’s emergency services division.
At the same time, a weather system over the continental United States that was supposed to draw the hurricane toward the Palmetto State has weakened, said Aucoin and Hunter Coleman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“The news is definitely better for the central Midlands, based on the latest information; however, there are still issues for the Lowcountry and coastal areas,’’ Aucoin said.
Forecasters said the track could still change, but for now, Columbia and central South Carolina can expect about an inch of rain Friday and Saturday with gusty winds of up to 35 mph.
Parts of the coast can still expect as much as one-foot of rain over the weekend with winds approaching 70 mph, Aucoin said. That’s because the storm won’t begin to shift east and toward open water until it gets near the Hilton Head-Savannah area. The storm could come as close as 80 miles south-southeast of Hilton Head Island, Aucoin said. Hurricane force winds can be felt for miles, even if a storm does not hit directly.
The heaviest rains are more likely from Charleston to Hilton Head Island. By the time the storm is parallel with Myrtle Beach and the northern coast, it should be farther out to sea as it turns toward open water, Aucoin said.
Coleman said the weather should begin to clear Monday with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s.