The Eric Factor: The biggest weather disaster of 2016 happens today

Matthew, a powerful and potentially catastrophic "category 4" hurricane is coming ashore in Haiti this morning. Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, is still rebuilding from the powerful 7.0 earthquake that struck in 2010 killing almost a quarter of a million people. Cholera struck the nation later that same year killing 6,000.

Now Haiti wakes up to the strongest part of Hurricane Matthew: the right-front quadrant.

Steady wind of 145 mph is battering the western tip of the island with wind gusts near 175 mph. That's equivalent to an EF-4 tornado, but instead of happening in a single place for a minute, this destructive wind can happen for hours!

But this hurricane isn't just producing wind, there's a high storm surge expected today. With category 4 hurricanes, a storm surge may rise up to 18 feet above the normal tide level. That could inundate beach towns and villages.ssscale

The third issue for Haiti will be the geography. The tallest mountains on Haiti are some 8,000 feet above sea level. Imagine the wind and rain on these mountainsides. Not only will the wind topple trees, those trees could literally turn into battering rams, sliding down the steep terrain in mudslides.

All are likely with Hurricane Matthew. Also likely is a high death toll. Bill Read, former Director of the National Hurricane Center, posted this context to his Facebook page yesterday.

"Haiti and hurricanes spell disaster," he says.

Judy Owen Castillo posted a first-hand account of the preparations "When you tell them to seek safety - where are they going to go? It’s not like in the states where we set up shelters in churches & schools…most of the churches and schools aren’t any safer than the huts they live in."

We're probably at the very beginning of a humanitarian disaster this morning. The storm is expected to maintain major hurricane status as it approaches the East Coast of Florida by Thursday night. In the coming days, it's my hope that the people in our country help ease the pain of those trying to cope in Haiti.

-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen

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