hurricane matthew case study a level geography

Five Years Later, Five Lessons Learned from Matthew

It’s a rare storm that now stands out more for its similarities to, rather than its differences from, others in its era.

Five years ago today, Hurricane Matthew brushed the North Carolina coastline but still caused incredible inland impacts. It wasn’t our first modern hurricane to produce significant freshwater flooding — Floyd in 1999 held that distinction — but it also isn’t the latest, with Florence in 2018 inundating many of the same areas affected by its predecessors.

As has become clear over the past five years, if Floyd was our nightmare, then Matthew was the wake-up call, reinforcing the drenching danger posed by tropical systems far from the coastline.

With the benefit of hindsight, and through the voices of those who experienced Matthew and its impacts first-hand, here are five lessons learned from and since that storm.

Skip Ahead: Forecast Messaging | Inland Flooding | Infrastructure | Agriculture | Future Planning

Track and intensity don’t tell the full story.

On its way to North Carolina, Matthew sent forecasters for a loop — and it nearly went for one itself.

After crossing the Bahamas at Category-4 strength, some model forecasts showed Matthew grinding up the Southeast coastline before looping out to sea and eventually doubling back toward the same areas, effectively boxed in by high pressure developing to the north.

While it avoided such an unusual track, its actual track and evolution didn’t make things any easier for National Weather Service offices in the path of the storm.

Despite weakening to a Category-1 and being projected to remain mostly off the North Carolina coast, Matthew still carried the threat of significant impacts far away from its center.

“Matthew was a great example of why we have to constantly reiterate in our messaging to not focus on the skinny black line on the forecast map and understand that the forecast cone is not an impact cone,” said Steve Pfaff , the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

A map of precipitation totals from Hurricane Matthew in the Southeast US

Indeed, while Matthew’s eroding eye never made landfall in North Carolina, a foot of rain fell up to 100 miles inland in areas that may have assumed themselves safe from the worst of the storm.

Predicting exactly where the heaviest rain — and the worst flooding — would occur also created a forecasting and communications challenge.

“I remember that while excessive amounts were expected, the distribution of the axis of heaviest rainfall was still in question since it would not take much of a shift in the storm’s track to make huge differences in where the rain fell,” said Pfaff. “Subsequently, that would have an impact on which river basins would be hardest hit with the subsequent flooding.”

The nuances of which regions could have seen such extreme totals can be difficult to display, especially when users are accustomed to seeing only one forecast amount for their location.

“We convey that uncertainty in our briefings to emergency management and the media, but getting the message about the uncertainty to the public is a challenge, especially when deterministic information is readily available on our websites and in some of our products,” said Rick Neuherz , the Service Hydrologist at NWS Wilmington.

A photo of a flooded road in Fair Bluff, NC

Even after the rain had ended, the meteorological threat posed by Matthew wasn’t over. A period of strong winds on the back edge of the storm knocked down trees and power lines in the rain-weakened ground, leading to more hazards.

“Anyone who was tracking the radar could have easily assumed that the wind threat would be diminishing as the precipitation exited,” said Pfaff. “We had to issue several messages to advise that the situation was not improving, and in fact winds were going to be worse at the end of the event.”

With impacts far from the center of the storm and hours after it had stopped pouring on eastern North Carolina, Matthew demonstrated a difficult lesson in communicating potential hurricane havoc.

Inland and urban flooding demands more attention.

On September 29, 2016, a long-lived thunderstorm dropped up to 10.5 inches of rain over Cumberland County , surging the Cape Fear River and its branches. Excess water breached the river banks and control structures like the Rhodes Pond Dam, then cascaded into downtown Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, and surrounding communities.

At that time, Matthew had just reached hurricane strength over the Caribbean, more than 1,500 miles to our south.

Nine days later, when the storm made its rendezvous with North Carolina, the additional 14 inches of rainfall it brought to the Fayetteville area sent the Cape Fear rising once again.

The September 29 thunderstorm had set a new record high crest of 31.20 feet on the Little River at Manchester , breaking a long-standing high water mark from 1945. On October 10, the floods from Matthew quickly eclipsed that peak, hitting 32.19 feet.

At least 17 dam failures were noted in North Carolina after Matthew, according to the News & Observer , and 13 of those were in the Cape Fear basin, urged along by that antecedent rainfall a week before the hurricane hit.

A photo of a flooded and washed-out roadway after Matthew

For the National Weather Service in Raleigh, which covers some of the hardest-hit locations along the Cape Fear and Neuse rivers, the inland and urban flooding impacts in places like Fayetteville weren’t necessarily a surprise, but they were unexpected for some people in the affected areas.

“The perception was that it was always going to be a southeastern North Carolina event,” said Jonathan Blaes , the Meteorologist-in-Charge at NWS Raleigh. “A lot of things pointed to this being a rainfall problem, but it’s not going to be cataclysmic. Fayetteville had a lot of rain before; hopefully, they’re going to dodge it this time.”

They didn’t, of course, and one reason for that was a shift in the forecasts ahead of the storm. A service assessment conducted by NWS noted that while official forecasts were generally accurate, “the forecast issued 48 hours prior to the storm’s closest approach to both South and North Carolina… indicated that the storm would move eastward and away from the coast.”

“That’s a big deal,” said Blaes. “The rainfall forecast that the public and the River Forecast Center uses is based on the official National Hurricane Center track forecast, so that meant it was shifted 120 miles to the south.”

When those rainfall bullseyes eventually repositioned as the forecast was adjusted, they targeted not the coastal counties but those farther inland. That potential for impacts away from the coast, especially amid an uncertain forecast, was one of the main lessons learned from Matthew.

“There were no flooding fatalities in a county in North Carolina that touches saltwater,” said Blaes. “The news and the public focuses so much on the dunes and the surf zone, but in this case, so much of the damage and death happened inland.”

Of the 29 deaths attributed to the storm in North Carolina , 24 were due to drowning. In that regard, Matthew helped shift the focus for the National Weather Service in terms of hurricane impacts.

That started at the local office level. The damage in Cumberland County led NWS Raleigh to increase their involvement in areas like that during later storms.

“Matthew was one of the steps in realizing things we needed to do in a service aspect,” said Barrett Smith , the Senior Service Hydrologist at NWS Raleigh. “In Florence, we were sending people to places like Fayetteville to help.”

A photo of a flooded mill building near Fayetteville

That increased coordination — with local municipalities, NC Emergency Management, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and others — has helped the National Weather Service and its partners better understand and respond to flooding threats, such as the dam failures during Matthew.

“Relationships with the National Weather Service helped people understand the risk, such as Wilmington and Morehead City using wording like ‘potential for the worst flooding since Hurricane Floyd in 1999’,” said Diana Thomas , a Meteorologist and Planner with NC Emergency Management.

“Groups huddled to discuss hot spot locations that would experience flooding, areas that may require evacuation, and pre-positioning resources in anticipation of major impacts that would affect life and property. These activities were improved in future storms including Hurricane Florence.”

At a larger scale, the National Hurricane Center has changed how it messages hurricane impacts on its website . 

“It used to focus mostly on the wind field and the track. Now on those web pages, rainfall is promoted more,” said Blaes.

In addition, the National Weather Service’s hydrology component has taken a step forward with the launch of the National Water Model , which can predict streamflow levels and velocities using high-resolution forecasts. 

While inland flooding may never get the attention that it deserves, the improved forecasts and coordination should increase awareness for the next storm, and that’s thanks to the lessons learned from Matthew.

Our infrastructure was due for an upgrade.

Some of the most unbelievable scenes during Matthew — and later, in Florence — were stretches of major highways and interstates completely under water, effectively turned into new river branches by the overwhelming flood waters.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) manages roadways across the state, and the sheer scale of Matthew’s impacts presented a major response and recovery challenge.

First, there were the local roads that became impassable due to the flooding.

“That single storm had the most pipe washouts of any that DOT has dealt with,” said Stephen Morgan , the State Hydraulics Engineer.

In total, 728 drainage pipes were washed out during Matthew and more than 2,100 roads required repairs, per a USGS report about the storm. And that was only the start of the infrastructure impacts.

Rising flood waters in Fayetteville and Lumberton eventually reached the travel lanes of Interstate 95, closing a 60-mile stretch of the road for the weekend after Matthew, with some sections shut down for as many as 10 days.

A photo of a damaged road with drainage pipes exposed

That made a hypothetical successor to Floyd a reality for DOT, and much sooner than anyone may have expected given the statistical rarity cited for a storm like that.

“It’s one thing to talk about a 50-year, a 100-year, or a 500-year event, but when I-95 is closed for a week, it puts you in a different frame of mind,” said Morgan. “You’re telling people moving from north to south or south to north to avoid North Carolina or find a different way around.”

Flooding on the interstate in Lumberton was only one sign of a much larger problem in that area. Morgan said Interstate 95 effectively acts as a levee for the city, so as water spilled over the highway and through a railway underpass, it created the worst flood to that point in Lumberton’s history.

“There’s a transect of how our roadway system can move people and goods and services, but it also has some responsibility with protecting the public,” Morgan added. “The same thing happened with Floyd. A lot of places flooded that hadn’t flooded before, especially in vulnerable and less-affluent communities.”

Even as the water was subsiding and pipes were being replaced, DOT was already at work planning for the next storm, whether on the ground, in the office, or even in the cloud, technologically speaking.

An aerial photo of flooding along Interstate 95 in Lumberton

Those organizational improvements started with better tracking DOT’s assets — a necessity, given the number that were damaged and needed to be replaced.

“The way we report, collect, and share that information has changed tremendously after Matthew,” said Andy Jordan , the State Hydraulics Operations Engineer. “The number of eyes on our current inventory has improved since Matthew. We know what we have on the ground, and we know what we have in our yards.”

Their move from spreadsheets into platform-based collaborative software now allows for simultaneous editing by multiple users and more easily sharing information and recommendations within divisions and with executive leadership.

Matt Lauffer , the State Hydraulics Design Engineer, said Hurricane Matthew also precipitated the development of new partnerships and tools for tracking flood-prone areas.

“We needed to be in the joint operations center with emergency management, so we went there during Florence and started the development of FIMAN-T,” said Lauffer, referencing a version of the Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network tool designed for transportation. It’s shown below visualizing the extent of flooding in Kinston from Hurricane Florence.

A screenshot of the FIMAN-T tool showing the extent of flooding along the Neuse River in Kinston

That collaboration has also included the development of three river basin studies of the Lumber, Neuse, and Tar rivers, with each outlining recommended mitigation strategies for the most flood-prone areas.

A separate partnership with the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) and the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has produced a tool called DamWatch to help monitor potential dam failures like the ones seen after Matthew.

For areas such as Lumberton that were inundated in that event, changes are coming to reduce the likelihood of significant roadway closures during future storms.

“When those designs are completed and constructed by 2026, we will have raised I-95 high enough to maintain its mobility and connectivity during a storm like Florence,” said Lauffer.

Those advancements and modernizations to keep people and goods moving around the state might not have been possible — or necessary — if not for a storm like Matthew.

Flooding on farms can turn feasts to famines.

The agriculture industry in North Carolina has a can’t-live-with-them, can’t-live-without-them relationship with hurricanes.

In some areas, rainfall from tropical systems makes up nearly a fifth of the average warm-season precipitation — a figure that has almost certainly increased in the past decade thanks to storms like Matthew.

Years without that moisture can plunge into droughts, and farms tend to bear the brunt of that damage. During our 2007 drought that saw only one minor tropical storm in Gabrielle , the ag industry in North Carolina suffered losses of more than half a billion dollars.

But when a season’s worth of rain falls in less than a week, as in Matthew and Florence, farmers face a different set of challenges that can yield the same result: a loss of their livelihoods.

Matthew’s timing in early October effectively wiped out a summer’s worth of productivity for many crops in eastern North Carolina.

“The biggest impact that I can remember is the loss of whatever crops were in the field,” said Dalton Dockery , the Columbus County Extension Director for NC Cooperative Extension. “We still had crops like sweet potatoes, soybeans, cotton in the ground, and had just begun harvesting peanuts.”

Crop production data from the US Department of Agriculture shows the sort of hit that North Carolina farmers took that year. Compared to the drought-free 2014 growing season, the tobacco harvest was down by 27% in 2016 and the cotton harvest was 64% lower than two years prior.

A photo of a flooded road in Bladen County, NC

In total, crop and livestock losses in the state due to Matthew were estimated at $400 million . That included 1.8 million chickens killed by the flooding.

Richard Goforth , a Specialized Area Poultry Agent with NC Cooperative Extension, was on the ground at poultry farms in Matthew’s wake to help with composting the mortalities. He said the lay of the land limited the steps farmers could take to protect their flocks.

“Down east, it’s so flat and low and level that we’re talking a foot to 18 inches of water is all it took to get inundated, and the birds are right on the ground level in the shavings on the floor,” Goforth noted.

After what had already been a wet summer in eastern North Carolina thanks to rain from tropical storms Hermine and Julia , soils were saturated and the additional water from Matthew had few places to go but piling up in the fields, poultry houses, and barns.

In advance of the storm, some poultry producers moved birds to houses or farms less likely to flood, while Dockery said other farmers prepared by doing “things like making sure ditches were clean, consulting with NRCS Soil & Water about what they could do in terms of addressing any drainage problems they may have.”

Those were lessons learned from Floyd, which was a billion-dollar disaster for North Carolina agriculture . However, Dockery notes that truly mitigating for storms of that magnitude is difficult.

“It’s basically the same land that is being planted on a rotational basis and there is no way to reshape all of that land for better drainage, or it would be extremely expensive to do,” he said.

“Even if they could, with that much water, I’m not sure that the results would have been any different.”

A satellite image of sediment from the Cape Fear River reaching the Atlantic Ocean

One way that Matthew was different than Floyd was in the spillover from wastewater lagoons — or the relative lack thereof. The Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado notes that 50 lagoons flooded and six were breached after Floyd, sending a surge of sludge into nearby waterways and, eventually, into the ocean.

During Matthew, flooding was limited to six lagoons and two breaches, both on a hog farm in Greene County, according to NC DEQ . Much of that reduction was thanks to measures taken since Floyd, including buyouts of 42 farms and the decommissioning of 103 lagoons located in floodplains, supported by the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Following Florence, Goforth said cost-share funding became available to help poultry farmers relocate outside of floodplains, and some were taking advantage of it, especially on farms too old or too damaged to rebuild in the same spots.

The spate of recent storms has also taught hog farmers preventative steps to help reduce the risk of lagoon flooding.

“Efforts are made to lower the liquid levels of lagoons in a safe and approved method prior to hurricane arrivals, especially if they know in enough time to do so,” said Dockery.

But that’s the critical part: time . And there often isn’t enough of it for farmers.

After Floyd, they learned to run their tractors 24/7 to harvest as much of their crop as possible prior to a storm.

In the 48 hours before Matthew, the forecast shifted, leaving vulnerable farmers even less time to prepare.

For farmers — and others across North Carolina — the new question is what they’ll do in the time before the next storm hits.

It was a sign of things to come.

The wait for Matthew’s meteorological successor didn’t take 500 years or 50 years or even 17 years, like after Floyd.

Only two years later, Florence stripped away Matthew’s title as our worst flooding hurricane, with more than double its rainfall amounts and more than triple its damage bill — an estimated $17 billion , compared to $4.8 billion from Matthew.

For some even in the weather forecasting community, the accelerated rate at which these inland flooding hurricanes is occurring — now three within a 20-year period, from Floyd to Florence — has come as a shock.

“I was confident after Matthew I’d see no more huge floods like that one in my career, but after Florence I no longer have that confidence,” said Neuherz with NWS Wilmington.

“I guess the lesson was that even though you just had the big one, it doesn’t mean there isn’t another big one coming soon.”

From rain to river crests to costs, broken record after broken record, and big one after big one, flooding hurricanes are our future. And that future is happening now.

A photo of flooding along the Tar River

The North Carolina Climate Science Report , which summarizes changes in our climate and their impacts statewide, notes that “tropical cyclones are expected to produce heavier precipitation, and the strongest storms are projected to be even stronger in the future.”

Because of that, they establish that it’s likely — or at least a two-in-three chance of occurring — that increases in extreme precipitation will lead to increases of inland flooding in North Carolina. (The uncertainty is down to the circumstances of individual flooding events, such as the land over which the rain falls and the presence of antecedent moisture as with Floyd and Matthew.)

This assessment, and these recent storms, have already encouraged some groups across the state to rethink their future plans.

“Intensity is increasing from these events,” said DOT’s Lauffer, pointing to the Climate Science Report, which identified that those trends are expected to continue.

“We’ve learned a lot about climate and how it might be changing,” added Morgan. “Maybe that wasn’t a 100-year storm. Maybe that was a 25-year storm.”

After Matthew and Florence, the state Secretary of Transportation commissioned a flood resilience feasibility study for interstates 40 and 95. Its findings are already being implemented into design plans, such as building bridges to handle a 100-year flood event with an extra foot-and-a-half of freeboard to boot.

A photo of high flood waters in Lumberton

Identifying solutions isn’t as easy for all storm-affected groups across the state, but Matthew and Florence have at least forced folks like farmers to take note of our changing climate.

“I think they have an increased awareness that these storms are playing a major role in the general ag industry,” said Dockery. “They are more concerned about extreme precipitation events and how these events are affecting their farms, but they’re not quite sure what can be done about it, other than trying to fix land drainage issues.”

The widespread flooding and livestock losses in these events has certainly made poultry farmers pay attention.

“They’re keen that these events can strike areas that haven’t historically flooded, that are miles from a stream or river,” said Goforth. “They started being more proactive about knowing where the houses with a higher potential to flood were, and where houses that hadn’t previously flooded were in the floodplains.”

At the state level, more consideration is being given to help agriculture better weather these storms. As reported by the Coastal Review , the General Assembly approved legislation last year “to create an inventory of natural and working lands that could be used in flood control and potential incentives for private landowners to do stream restoration and wetlands enhancement and build flood-stage capacity.”

There’s a good reason for that focus on working lands such as farms and forests. A statewide 2017 greenhouse gas emissions study found that these areas “offset 25% of the state’s current greenhouse gas emissions,” or more than twice the average rate of other states.

The farm fields across North Carolina are our breadbasket, but they may be part of the key to managing and mitigating our future climate risks as well.

A photo of flooding along the Trent River

The recent storms beginning with Matthew have also gotten groups across the state working together more closely, from the Department of Transportation to NC Emergency Management to the National Weather Service to cities and towns that have borne the flooding impacts.

As Morgan from DOT put it, “one event brought together a lot of disparate ideas.”

From an emergency response standpoint, that collaboration has become a necessity.

“Matthew required a whole community approach to recovery,” said Thomas from NC Emergency Management. “The magnitude of the need required federal, state, local, private sector, and non-profit agencies to develop creative solutions to recovery and communication following large disasters. Results from this work include the State Disaster Recovery Task Force and a well-informed North Carolina Hurricane Guide .”

Those new partnerships should ultimately yield improved forecasts, communications, and infrastructure for future flood events.

Resiliency measures take time — there’s that word again, time — to be crafted and implemented, but they represent important steps in securing our state and our livelihoods against the impacts of flooding hurricanes.

Storm after storm, though, the aspects that aren’t as easily repaired are the broken hearts and broken lives of those they affect.

“To go visit a place after it floods is heart-wrenching,” said Blaes from NWS Raleigh. “Tornado surveys are one thing, but the flood water, the mold, the slime, the mud is everywhere. It’s emotional and it lasts so long.”

It has only been five years since Matthew, and parts of eastern North Carolina are assuredly still recovering: financially, structurally, emotionally.

With a little luck, a lot of cooperation, and a memory of the losses and lessons learned from Matthew, we’ll be better prepared to handle the next similar storm when — not if — it occurs.

Section header photos by NOAA via , the Fayetteville Observer , NWS Wilmington , NC DEQ via the Coastal Review , and NC DOT .

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362. Hurricane Matthew 2016


In this Geography Factsheet you will find: • Development of Hurricane Matthew. • Track of Hurricane Matthew. • Examples of preparation for Matthew. • Impact on Haiti. • Timeline of Matthews impact on Haiti.

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Safey Emergency System

Case Study – Hurricane Matthew

hurricane matthew case study a level geography

SAFEY sent alerts to all users in Hati, Bahamas, Cuba, and the east coast of the

United States. Multiple warnings were sent prior to the storm making landfall, and advice was provided. The SAFEY Emergency System sends advice on how to prepare and what to do during a hurricane, as many travelers may not be prepared for hurricane emergency procedures.

Our advice to travelers:

Know the difference.

  • Hurricanes/Typhoon/Tropical Storm Watch – Conditions are a threat within 48 hours. Review your storm plans. Get ready to act if a warning is issued, and stay informed
  • Hurricanes/Typhoon/Tropical Storm Warning – Conditions are expected within 36 hours. Complete your storm preparations and leave the area if directed to do so by authorities

If a tropical storm/hurricane/typhoon is likely in your area, you should:     

  • Monitor news sources and this safety service for information
  • Close storm shutters/windows and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.

You should evacuate under the following conditions:

  • If you are directed by local authorities or advised by this safety service to do so. Be sure to follow the instructions of local authorities.

If you are unable to evacuate, go to a wind-safe room. If unavailable, follow these guidelines:

  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors
  • Close all interior doors – secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm – winds will pick up again.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
  • Avoid elevators.

After a tropical storm/hurricane you should:

  • Continue monitoring Weather news, local news and this security information service for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls

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Rapidly Assessing the Impact of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti


Streets in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew. Photo: MINUSTAH

The Haitian population is one of the most exposed in the world to natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. The number of disasters per kilometer tops the average for other Caribbean countries. The Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index ranked Haiti third in the world in 1995–2014 for impacts from climatic events, and the country is among the ten zones in the world considered most vulnerable to climate change. In 2008, tropical storms and hurricanes caused losses estimated at 15 percent of GDP. The earthquake on January 12, 2010, killed 220,000 people, displaced 1.5 million people, and destroyed the equivalent of 120 percent of GDP. These disasters tend to disproportionately affect the poorest and most marginal populations, those settling in the flood zones and coastal areas particularly affected by tropical storms. Almost 50 percent of damage and losses to the productive sectors have been concentrated in the agricultural sector. Based on available historic data, weather-related disasters are estimated to have caused damage and losses in Haiti amounting to about two percent of GDP on average per year from 1975 to 2012.

Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti on October 4, 2016, as a Category 4 hurricane. The combined effects of wind, coastal flooding and rain caused heavy flooding, landslides, and the destruction of a great deal of infrastructure, agricultural crops and natural ecosystems. In all, 546 people were killed, more than 175,500 people sought refuge in shelters, and about 1.4 million people required immediate humanitarian assistance. An assessment of the damage and losses had to be carried out very quickly to unlock financial resources from the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund to provide the assistance needed by those affected by the disaster.

The WBG, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, closely supported the client through data gathering from field visits, phone surveys, and satellites and drones, as well as simulations through modelling. A full report assessing the damage and losses was delivered less than two weeks after the request, a task that usually takes at least three months. This rapid assessment covered all affected sectors and was the first multi-sectoral evaluation of the socioeconomic impacts of the hurricane as well as of its macroeconomic effects and impacts on individual and household income.

Matthew was a Category 4 hurricane, an event predicted to occur only once every 56 years. It inflicted damage and losses in Haiti estimated at the equivalent of 22 percent of GDP. Specific impacts of the hurricane included the following:

  • The disaster affected over 2 million people, about 20 percent of Haiti’s population, primarily in the poorest regions of the county.
  • The hurricane resulted in flooding, landslides, and extensive destruction of infrastructure and livelihoods.
  • The agriculture and housing/urban sectors were the hardest hit, with up to 90 percent of crops and livestock lost in some areas.
  • Thousands of structures were damaged, and key roads and bridges were washed away.
  • It’s estimated that over 450,000 children were out of school.
  • The vaccine cold chain was destroyed.
  • A sharp increase in suspected cholera cases was recorded in affected departments.

Assessing in record time the damage and losses, as well as identifying the most affected sectors and the potential human costs, led to rapid reallocation of about US$50 million from the Bank’s ongoing portfolio. The enabled responses included:

  • Rehabilitation of roads and bridges, including the major bridge to the country’s south.
  • Schools were repaired and refurnished, semi-permanent school shelters built, school children fed, and water treatment kits and school kits provided.
  • Rapid response to cholera was strengthened.
  • Emergency sanitation and chlorination water systems were implemented.
  • Irrigations systems were rehabilitated, inputs for the next agricultural season were provided and seeds given to 2,500 farmers.
  • Some entrepreneurs received cash transfers to cover damages and losses in the coffee, cocoa, and honey value chains.
  • Portable solar lamps and solar household systems were made available, some distribution grids were rehabilitated, hurricane preparedness was strengthened and energy infrastructure vulnerability was reduced.

These rapid interventions not only helped to minimize losses in the winter harvest and prevent widespread famine, they also helped contain the cholera outbreak and limit migration and violence.

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the International Development Association (IDA), reallocated US$50 million from ongoing projects to the affected sectors. In addition, US$100 million under the IDA Crisis Response Window were mobilized for four additional financings to relaunch heavily damaged agriculture, restore connectivity through transport infrastructure and provide a robust cholera response.

Bank support focused on sectors with limited technical capacity, and particularly those sectors with counterparts in the government. The support promoted local ownership of the assessment by each of the line ministries while ensuring implementation of a standardized methodology. The rapid assessment benefited from joint support from the Inter-American Development Bank teams, FAO, UNICEF, and UNEP. In addition, the IMF mobilized US$ 41 million under their Rapid Credit Facility to help with urgent balance of payments needs in the aftermath of Matthew.


The rapid assessment allowed the identification of populations in need of urgent assistance, including over 30,000 children in affected schools. The assessment also provided information for effective targeting of rehabilitation efforts: about 45 school roofs and school grounds were rehabilitated, 60 semi-permanent shelters were built, and 4,000 pieces of school furniture (benches, desks, blackboards, etc.) were distributed, enabling schools to reopen and to increase their capacity in the short and medium term. In addition, 16,000 student kits (bag, books, notebooks, pens), 900 teacher kits (including dictionaries, compasses, rulers, maps), and 151 school kits (including blackboards and chalk) were distributed. Further efforts included providing 22,000 students in 90 schools in affected regions (Grand’Anse, Sud, and Nippes) with a daily snack and hot meal, as well as water-treatment and sanitation kits, soap, de-worming medication, vitamin A and cholera-prevention hygiene training. 

Subsequent interventions targeted 1.5 million beneficiaries in areas with limited health service delivery infrastructure. Isolated populations in the southern peninsula benefited from the provision of health services through mobile clinics, and in Nippes, Grande-Anse and Sud,

300,000 children benefited from the restoration of basic infrastructure for immunization and vaccine cold chains.

Cash transfers and in-kind support will also be provided to 325 micro, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. The cash transfers and in-kind support will help the beneficiaries recover from losses and continue productive activities in their respective value chain, i.e., coffee (Grand'Anse and Southeast); vetiver (South); and honey (Nippes).

Moving Forward

This rapid damage and losses assessment fed into the more thorough Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) undertaken under the leadership of the Haitian Ministry of Planning, with support from the World Bank Group, the European Union, the Inter-American Development Bank, UNDP and various UN agencies. The PDNA was finalized in early January 2017 and launched by the President of the Republic in early February 2017. More importantly, this rapid assessment was instrumental in drawing up the needed framework and quickly moving from emergency response to recovery. Finally, this rapid assessment served as an important input to the preparation of the Bank’s first financing to reach the Board post–Hurricane Matthew. An International Development Agency education grant of US$ 30 million to maintain access to quality education in the areas most affected by Hurricane Matthew, delivered to the Board approximately five weeks after the disaster, was approved in November 2016.


  • Download the compiled data
  • Blog: The farmers, engineers, and health workers helping rebuild Haiti after Matthew
  • Blog: 100 Days After Matthew, Seven Years After the ‘Quake’: Is Haiti More Resilient?
  • A short video of before and after the hurricane

Hurricane Matthew’s Destructive Storm Surges Hint at New Normal

The coastal U.S. is highly vulnerable to rising seas, which are expected to surge in the coming years. Will this storm be a wake-up call?

As Hurricane Matthew pushes floodwaters into seaside towns from Florida to the Carolinas, climate scientist Andrea Dutton wonders if the most powerful hurricane to hit the United States in a decade will serve as a wake-up call to the perils of rising seas .

The vulnerable coast needs to pay attention, says Dutton , who teaches geology at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“Matthew can help to change the conversation, in the way that Katrina did in New Orleans,” she says.

“When all these cities were developed, sea level was very stable. Our whole way of life is set up around the concept of having a stable coastline. We are entering a new normal. We need to redefine our relationship with the coastline and that means rethinking a lot of different things.”

Yet along the eastern seaboard, in some communities, state and federal lawmakers are still debating the existence of climate change, even as the seas rise incrementally higher on their beaches. ( See photos of Matthew’s destruction .)

In Florida, where the streets of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale flood regularly at high tide , Gov. Rick Scott famously avoids the subject of climate change and Marco Rubio, running for re-election to the U.S. Senate, does not accept climate science. In North Carolina, legislators “outlawed” efforts to study the impact of sea-level rise on the ribbon of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks ( which scientists warn are in peril ).

Consequently, most planning that is being done occurs at the local level, where few cities and counties have the money to fund the kinds of big projects needed to adapt to their changing circumstances.

“If you look at Louisiana, post-Katrina, they have a very extensive coastal plan,” says Dutton. “It’s online. They have done different analysis. What projects could they invest in? How long would they last? What benefit would they get out of it? We have nothing like that in the state of Florida and it’s just shocking.”

Rising Water

The ocean along the East Coast is projected to rise one to four feet, according to the National Climate Assessment , while storms are forecast to become more frequent and more destructive—as Hurricane Matthew showed when it grew into a monster storm that forced more than two million people in the southeastern states to flee to high ground.

Matthew, which left a trail of wreckage in the Caribbean and killed hundreds of people in Haiti and four in Florida, is being called a “generational” event. Even as its winds weakened, Matthew’s sheer size and slow-speed trek across the Carolinas saturated the coast with enough rain to cause flooding on top of the storm surge.

St. Augustine, the 511-year-old tourist town in northern Florida, was swamped by a record-breaking nine-foot storm surge, as was Tybee Island off Georgia, where high tide and the storm surge coincided to inundate the low-lying barrier island.

Florida, with 1,350 miles of coastline and more than 18 million people living in coastal counties, remains one of the most vulnerable places on the planet to sea-level rise—and it grows more vulnerable with each successive binge of coastal real estate development.

In the years since Hurricane Wilma rolled across the Sunshine state in 2005, Floridians settled into a kind of hurricane-free complacency. Millions of dollars have been sunk into new coastal development, and nearly 1.3 million new residents have moved to Florida, most having little experience with how damaging hurricane storm surges are to the fragile sandspit on which they now live.

In South Florida, it has been 24 years since Hurricane Andrew hit, leaving the area with a $25 billion tab (in 1992 dollars) to rebuild. Sea-level rise projections there are not only higher than the national figures—six feet by 2100—scientists are trying to determine if the seas are rising even faster than that.

Dutton has been studying sea levels during the Earth’s prior warm periods in search of an answer. The oceans’ last high point occurred during the last warm period, about 125,000 years ago, before the last ice age . When the temperatures at the poles were only a few degrees warmer than they are today, the sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher.

“We’re not going to reach 20 to 30 feet of sea-level rise overnight,” she says. “But when they say we’re going to reach three feet at 2100, it’s not going to stop. This is the first step in what is going to be a very long journey for many centuries. Instead of investing in development on heavily populated coastlines, perhaps we should be investing in development along corridors of retreat.

“It’s a hard concept. But ultimately, the ocean is going to win that battle.”

Planning for Disaster

Few want to talk about retreat just yet. Phil Stoddard, the scientist-mayor of suburban South Miami, says it is human nature to stick too long with bad situations and then act precipitously.

“It’s like a marriage that’s been shaky for a while, and then something upsets that and suddenly, that’s it,” says Stoddard. “Everything that has been wrong before now is really wrong and that’s it. A hurricane makes it all bad.”

Long before the slow creep of sea-level rise remakes South Florida’s geography, Stoddard thinks a direct hit from a hurricane could be the jolt that prompts an exodus. (See Stoddard talk about these issues in the upcoming documentary film Before the Flood , staring Leonardo DiCaprio, on National Geographic Channels October 30.)

He is not alone in his view. Two years ago, Miami’s civic leaders invited a team of Dutch architects, engineers, and water experts to town to give them advice about how to prepare for a wetter future. The Dutch proposed an array of concepts to add amenities to the community, while protecting it from flooding—such as the creation of water-storage ponds that also serve as lakes in new public parks.

These projects could help Miami live with its fate for much longer, protected from inundation, while at the same time living with rising seas. The Dutch, who have been dealing with flooding since the Middle Ages, also recognized the more immediate threat posed by hurricanes and advised their hosts to get on with planning and building.

“The flood will definitely kill your business climate,” says Pier Dircke, a water management specialist at Arcadis, the Dutch firm that helped New Orleans recover from Katrina. “The strange thing is, very few people are willing to invest in a protection ahead of the surge. Everybody is willing to do it the day after the flood, which is one day too late.”

Laura Parker previously wrote about rising seas affecting Florida for National Geographic magazine .

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After the Storm – Hurricane Matthew and the Floods

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, USGS crews have been collecting the record number of storm-tide sensors deployed prior to the storm and are now determining high water marks, collecting water quality samples, and assessing the impacts of storm surge on south eastern beaches caused by erosion, overwash and inundation.  

Visit the USGS Hurricane Matthew webpage to learn more. 

Although the is storm over, the flooding continues, as does the  flood work of the USGS. In North Carolina, at least 24 peaks of record were set on local rivers, as heavy rain during Hurricane Matthew fell on ground already saturated just weeks ago by Tropical Storm Julia. As of today (October 14), some rivers were still rising and expected to crest this weekend.

Gathering the Data

USGS crews from Florida north into Virginia have recovered almost all of  the hundreds of storm-tide sensors at almost 300 locations that were deployed to measure and record storm surge impacts. Waves drive most of the physical destruction accompanying storm-surge. Data from the sensors will be used to by USGS to quantify storm-tide dynamics (wave heights, frequencies, speeds, and extent) for various storm conditions, topographies, ecologies, built environments, and land uses. This information will be used by the USGS and other federal, state and local agencies to develop or design better storm-tide models, more accurate flood forecasts. The data can also be used to design more effective flood-protection infrastructure, stronger buildings, and wiser land use policies. Crews are also repairing USGS gauges damaged by the storm.

Measuring the Height of the Water

Hydrologic technician Samantha Kephart.points out a high water mark

The Flood Event Viewer for Hurricane Matthew provides key water-level information at different sites along the coast.  Emergency managers, disaster responders, state and local floodplain management officials and the public can select a data point on the map and learn how high the flood level got during Matthew, and whether a gauge recorded a record-high peak, when, and at what stage. Some rapid deployment gauges (green triangles on the viewer) also provide graphs of the water levels from the time of deployment of the RDG to its recovery.

If there were no sensors to record the flood-level, USGS crews will visit the site afterwards and look for visual clues of peak flood height. They will mark, survey and document those high water marks . These data will also be available via the flood viewer. USGS crews have to date flagged almost 600 coastal locations.

Many streams also experienced record flood and flows and flood heights. For example, in addition to the North Carolina records already mentioned, five peaks of records were recorded in Florida, and three in South Carolina. USGS crews measure flood flows at USGS streamgages to determine the flow rates.  The measurements are generally made using sophisticated acoustic Doppler equipment.  The measured flow rates are used to calibrate the USGS streamgages and ensure that the flood data the gauges collect is accurate and reliable.  Once that is assured, the USGS can estimate the rarity of the flood flows for that location.  Scientists often measure the rarity of a flood flow based on its recurrence interval , which is e s s e n t i a l l y the probability a flood of this level might happen in a given year.  These data will be the basis for the design of future dams, other water-related infrastructure such as water or waste-water treatment plants and highway bridges, and for delineating the Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain maps.

When a field crew is unable to reach a streamgage during the flood, they will use surveying equipment to calculate the height of the high water and the geometry of the channel and determine an estimate of the flood flow.

What’s the Water’s Quality

Graph of Neuse River at Kinston, North Caroina, from ~1987 - 2016

Water-quality samples were collected at long-term sampling sites in the USGS National Water Quality Network in North Carolina and South Carolina and are scheduled to be collected at a long-term network site in Georgia. High-water events on the scale of Hurricane Matthew can cause changes in water quality that affect human health and the environment and result in high constituent water-quality loads by flushing large quantities of nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and bacteria into downstream waters and estuaries. Excessive nutrients in rivers, streams, and coastal areas can cause algal blooms that result in hypoxic conditions and threaten valuable commercial and recreational fisheries.

Sustained monitoring at long-term sites over a wide range of flow conditions, as illustrated in the graph below for the Neuse River at Kingston, North Carolina, can help answer important water-quality questions such as: is water-quality getting better or worse; what natural or human factors are driving observed changes in water quality; and how do extreme hydrologic events, such as a hurricane, affect water quality? Initial results from water-quality sampling after Hurricane Matthew should become available in approximately 2 to 3 weeks from the date of sample collection.

USGS collection and analysis of data during and after hydrologic events, such as floods and major storms, helps science, relief, and health agencies better understand the effects of such events on water quality in the short (days to months) and long term (years to decades), providing important information to emergency responders and long-range planners responsible for managing the resource.

Coastal Change Portal Hurricane Matthew 2016

Assessing Coastal Change

Hurricane Matthew hugged the southeast coastline from October 6-9 impacting beaches stretching from Florida to North Carolina. Storm surge and run-up caused by large waves elevated water levels at the shoreline and caused beach erosion, overwash of coastal sand dunes, and breaching of a barrier island in Matanzas, Florida.The USGS National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards storm team has started to compare post-storm imagery collected by NOAA to predictions of coastal change made in advance of the storm, and can be seen on the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal .

As predicted, overwash occurred in locations with low dune elevations including multiple areas within Canaveral National Seashore, Florida. This week the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center will be collecting low-altitude aerial photos to document dune erosion that occurred during Hurricane Matthew and field crews will begin surveying some overwash areas on the Florida east coast.  In addition, over the next few weeks airborne-based elevation surveys will be coordinated to eventually quantify the amount of sand eroded from this large stretch of coast.

Check the Maps

The USGS National Geospatial Program has established a Disaster Coordination Preparedness & Response Map for Hurricane Matthew which incorporates both Civil Air Patrol and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration imagery.  Users can see aerial photos for locations affected by the storm, by clicking on the purple and green dots on the map and selecting “image URL.”  The International Charter for Space and Major Disasters has been activated for the United States, Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Satellite imagery and aerial photography from national and international partners will be compiled and distributed on the USGS Hazards Data Distribution System .  USGS also has a Hurricane Matthew’s Water Footprint page, where users can see an animation of the hurricane’s impact on precipitation and streamflow.

To learn more about USGS research and monitoring efforts associated with Hurricane Matthew, visit the USGS Hurricane Matthew webpage .

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hurricane matthew case study a level geography


  1. Case Study

    hurricane matthew case study a level geography

  2. Why Hurricane Matthew Is Difficult to Forecast

    hurricane matthew case study a level geography

  3. Hurricane Matthew tracking map from AccuWeather

    hurricane matthew case study a level geography

  4. New information on Hurricane Matthew

    hurricane matthew case study a level geography

  5. Timeline: How Hurricane Matthew Is Expected to Impact the US

    hurricane matthew case study a level geography

  6. Hurricane Matthew

    hurricane matthew case study a level geography


  1. Hurricane Matthew Case Study- AQA A-Level Geography

    MIllie276. Terms in this set (18) When did it occur? it formed on 28th September 2016 and dissipated on the 10th October 2016. Where did it affect most? Jamaica, Haiti, South America, United States. How did Jamaica prepare for the hurricane? All fishermen were evacuated to the mainland. Country was placed on high alert on 30th September.

  2. PDF Case Studies

    3A: Meteorological Hazards . Case Studies . Moore, Oklahoma 2013 Tornado . Cause . Two days of storms turned into several supercell thunderstorms. One of these thunderstorms which contained strong updrafts of winds soon turned into a tornado. Consequences and impacts .

  3. Hurricane Matthew Case Study- AQA A-Level Geography

    it formed on 28th September 2016 and dissipated on the 10th October 2016. Click the card to flip 👆. Flashcards. it formed on 28th September 2016 and dissipated on the 10th October 2016. Jamaica, Haiti, South America, United States. How did Jamaica prepare for the hurricane? All fishermen were evacuated to the mainland. Quizlet Plus for teachers.

  4. Hurricane Matthew 2016

    . Watch the video from the BBC Weather Centre to the right. i. What are the key ingredients for tropical storm formation? ii. Why is warm sea water (over 27°C) vital to tropical storm growth and expansion? iii. Why is the 'Eye Wall' so dangerous? iv. Outline the different ways that life and property can be under threat during a tropical storm. v.

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    A Level Geography. 362. Hurricane Matthew 2016. Description. In this Geography Factsheet you will find: • Development of Hurricane Matthew. • Track of Hurricane Matthew. • Examples of preparation for Matthew. • Impact on Haiti. • Timeline of Matthews impact on Haiti. Download Type. .PDF (pdf) 1.866 MB. Publication Date. April 2017. ISSN / ISBN.

  7. Hurricane Matthew case study Flashcards

    1 / 11. Flashcards. Learn. Test. Match. Q-Chat. Created by. AThomas1407. Terms in this set (11) how does haiti's island location make it vulnerable to the impact of hurricanes? -surrounded by the sea and hurricanes form there. -by the coat. low lying. -poor country! when did hurricane Matthew hit haiti? october 4 2016. -category 4 hurricane.

  8. Hurricane Matthew

    Connect. Hurricane Matthew. As Hurricane Matthew moves up the Atlantic coast of the U.S., the U.S. Geological Survey has deployed storm-tide sensors, forecast what coastal change to expect, and is ready to measure the extent of flooding likely to result from this storm. Coastal Change Hazards.

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    Cape Romain Wildlife Sanctuary. Matthew was the first hurricane since Hurricane Hazel in 1954 to make landfall in the United States north of Florida duringthe month of October . The center of the hurricane moved back offshore the coast of South Carolina by 1800 UTC, and remained of just offshore of the coast North Carolinaof through 9 October.

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  16. Hurricane Matthew's Destructive Storm Surges Hint at New Normal

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  19. After the Storm

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, USGS crews have been collecting the record number of storm-tide sensors deployed prior to the storm and are now determining high water marks, collecting water quality samples, and assessing the impacts of storm surge on south eastern beaches caused by erosion, overwash and inundation.

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    Created on: 01-01-09 20:43. hurricane mitch case study. Word Document 4.15 Mb. Geography. Case studies. A2/A-level. Effects of hurricanes on humans case study of hurricane Mitch in Honduras 1998. OCR A2 GEOGRAPHY climatic hazard notes. PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY. A2 Physical Geography Revision Guide. Earth Hazards. Teacher recommended.