Matthew cancels flight festival

Published 10:42 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2016

While Hurricane Matthew pummeled Haiti on Tuesday and prepared to move on to Cuba and the United States, there was still a lot of uncertainty as to where and how badly the effects of the storm will be felt.

However, event cancellations have started to roll in, including the Festival of Flight that was scheduled in conjunction with the Suffolk Peanut Festival this weekend. The Peanut Fest has not been canceled.

“Things have kind of shifted a little more to the east than what we had last night,” said Alec Butner, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Wakefield. “Some models have been showing maybe even farther to the east. There’s still plenty of uncertainty, but at the moment it does seem like there’s the possibility it might be heading a little more off coast.”

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The storm is currently a Category 4 but is expected to weaken somewhat by the time it reaches Virginia.

Still, he said, “It’s too early to take that out completely. We need to watch it.”

Butner said the storm will most likely affect Suffolk starting Saturday evening and throughout the night.

“It’s moving pretty fast once it gets here,” he said. “It should be moving out of here Sunday morning.”

A Tuesday evening update from the National Hurricane Center said it is too soon to tell how Matthew might affect the East Coast north of North Carolina. The storm is expected to roll toward Florida today and then churn along the coastline.

The National Hurricane Center warned that storms that travel along the coastline become very unpredictable in terms of impacts to land.

“Only a small deviation of the track to the left of the NHC forecast could bring the core of a major hurricane onshore, while a small deviation to the right could keep all of the hurricane-force winds offshore,” the update stated. “It will likely take another day or so for the potential impacts of Matthew in the United States to clarify.”

Even so, the storm’s track is too close for comfort for the Virginia Festival of Flight, which returned this year after a hiatus and was scheduled to combine with the Peanut Festival.

“We hate (canceling), as the combo of the Peanut Festival and the Festival of Flight would have been fantastic,” said Hesham Oubari, president of the Virginia Aviation Council, stated in an email. “We will try again next year.”

No matter what, Butner urged people to be prepared. If Matthew turns out to be a bust, at least they will be prepared for winter, he said.

“There’s never a bad time to start making preparations,” he said. “Start looking at your business plan and your family plan.”