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This is a 'very, very risky situation,' says meteorologist of Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew's current path and intensity are pointing to a worst case scenario for Florida and could result in "many billions" of dollars in damage, said Paul Walsh, business analyst and meteorologist for The Weather Company.

In fact, it's expected to be a "top five" storm, ranking up there with Sandy, Katrina and Andrew, he told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Thursday.

Part of the issue is the fact that about 4 million more people are living in the area than when the last big storm hit in 2005, he explained.

"The area is much more built up. It's much more populated. So the exposures are that much higher," Walsh said. "This is a very, very risky situation."

Locals scramble to fill sandbags with the last of a supply at the Road and Bridge Department in Kissimmee, Florida, in preparation for the landfall of Hurricane Matthew.
Gregg Newton | Getty Images
Locals scramble to fill sandbags with the last of a supply at the Road and Bridge Department in Kissimmee, Florida, in preparation for the landfall of Hurricane Matthew.

Hurricane Matthew is expected to be a Category 4 level when it hits land. President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency for Florida and the state's Gov. Rick Scott has begged residents to evacuate.

The devastation expected from the storm is hard to predict right now, said Chuck Watson, a hurricane modeler at Enki Research. Normally, he can estimate losses and damages of a storm within 20 percent about 24 hours prior to landfall.

He expects "huge" losses if Matthew follows its current track, but a little bit of a "wobble" in the storm's direction can change things.

"Right now our models are showing everything from $10 [million] or $15 million to an eye-watering $120 billion. At this point it just depends on the wobbles," Watson told "Power Lunch."

As far as damages are concerned, he believes the hurricane will wind up in the top 10, and gives it a 20 percent chance of going over $50 billion and breaking into the "rarified" levels of Sandy and Katrina losses.

"It wouldn't surprise me if this set the record, to be honest," he said.


Planalytics president Scott Bernhardt, who helps companies assess and address weather impacts, agrees the economic impact on the area will be significant.

"The economic impact of Matthew has already begun." Bernhardt said. "It's begun quite a few days ago, with people hitting the stores, going to the DIYs, getting their wood to board up their windows … buying their bread, and we've seen the lines at the gas stations."

He urged residents and businesses in the area to listen to the authorities.

"This is a very serious, very aggressive storm. The evacuations are critical," he told "Power Lunch."

Walsh thinks once the storm blows through, the initial recovery period could last for weeks.

"Generally after a storm like this there is an economic rebound, but in some cases it can take years to get back to where they were before," he added.