Why Hurricane Matthew is so dangerous

Hurricane Matthew's eyewall miles off Florida coast
Hurricane Matthew's eyewall miles off Florida coast

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    Hurricane Matthew's eyewall miles off Florida coast

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Hurricane Matthew's eyewall miles off Florida coast 02:27

Story highlights

  • The storm could cause the worst damage to area in more than 20 years
  • Unpredictable elements could pose further dangers

(CNN)We've heard the dire warnings. We've seen the devastation that Matthew has left in its wake in the Caribbean. So why is this storm so dangerous?

    • It's the strongest storm to hit the US in over a decade: As of Friday morning, Matthew was threatening the Florida coast as a Category 3 storm, the most powerful hurricane to hit the state since Wilma in 2005. The National Hurricane Center defines a Category 3 storm as one with winds from 111-129 mph. That is, in definition and application, a "major" storm that has the potential for what Florida Gov. Rick Scott called "massive destruction" on a scale not seen since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
    • The landfall will be unpredictable: While the general path of the storm has been predictable, the times and places where it will make landfall have been harder to pin down. On Thursday, it appeared the storm was coming straight toward Grand Bahama, but the eye of the hurricane "wobbled" instead, veering left. Hurricanes don't usually move in a straight path, they wobble like a spinning top, moving abruptly left or right a few miles. So, if it is within a few miles of the Florida coast, Matthew could easily wobble onshore at any point.
    • It could stay strong for a while: Generally, storms lose strength once they move inland. If Matthew stays along the coast, it could cause damage while remaining fairly strong.
    • It could hit some areas twice: Matthew is expected to make landfall or at least hit the central Florida coast soon. Most models have it moving up the coast and some models even have it turning back toward Florida.
    • There's the potential for storm surges: A storm surge is sudden coastal flooding brought on by a hurricane. This not only represents a danger to people in the area, but a particular danger to areas that may not be prepared for the sudden rise of water. In low-lying parts of coastal Georgia, the storm surges are predicted to be between seven and 11 feet.