#Hurricane Matthew passes by Cape Canaveral coastline

Credit: National Weather Service
Credit: National Weather Service

Hurricane Matthew slammed NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, home multiple launch pads and spacecraft assembly facilities, with wind gusts of more than 100 mph early Friday, but there were no immediate reports of significant damage at the spaceport as the storm passed just offshore.

The hurricane made its closest approach 25 miles east of Cape Canaveral around 6 a.m. EDT (1000 GMT) at a Category 3 storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 120 mph.

Radar imagery showed the western eye wall, containing some of Hurricane Matthew’s strongest winds, passed over the eastern tip of Cape Canaveral before moving the north, paralleling Florida’s Atlantic coast.

“The wind is starting to decline but remains near tropical storm strength,” said George Diller, a NASA spokesperson who rode out the storm with emergency crews at KSC’s Launch Control Center, which used to manage space shuttle countdowns.

While a thorough assessment of conditions across the center will not begin until winds die down Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, Diller said there were no obvious signs of significant damage.

“At this time, there is observed to be limited roof damage to KSC facilities,” Diller said. “Water and electrical utility services have been disrupted, and scattered debris is observed.”

But the threat from storm surge, which was forecast to inundate low-lying parts of the space center with up to 9 feet of water, appeared to have diminished after KSC avoided a direct hit. Updated predictions just before Matthew passed by Cape Canaveral indicated the storm surge would raise the ocean level by 1 to 5 feet, with 8 to 12 inches of rainfall expected.

“Storm surge has been observed to be relatively minimal, limited to localized portions of the space center,” Diller said.

According to NASA, Cape Canaveral had top sustained winds of 90 mph, with a gust to 107 mph.

Diller told Spaceflight Now a weather station at the 492-foot-level at KSC clocked a gust to 132 mph. When Hurricane Frances battered the space center in 2004, a sensor in the same location detected a gust to 102 mph.

Military officials in charge of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station reported minor damage Friday morning, before they could start an extensive damage assessment of the base.

“We can see roof damage. We still have flying debris,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, headquartered at Patrick Air Force Base around 20 miles south of Cape Canaveral.

“My concern for Patrick Air Force Base … remains the winds, but also the storm surge from the Banana River,” Monteith said in an interview with the Weather Channel.

As of 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), Monteith said weather stations at 300 feet and above were still measuring winds gusting above 100 mph, even as Hurricane Matthew churned turned northern Florida.

Causeways leading to the barrier islands in Brevard County, where KSC is located, could re-open by early Saturday after authorities complete bridge inspections.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

from Spaceflight Now ift.tt/2dke8j7

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