After reaching Category 5 strength last night, Hurricane Matthew has weakened slightly but is still a strong Category 4 hurricane inching towards Jamaica, threatening Haiti, Cuba and The Bahamas along its way.
Matthew was a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday and Category 3 by early yesterday, before strengthening into Category 4, then 5 later in the day.
The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami reported at 11 p.m. last night that Matthew’s winds had reached 160 miles per hour, making it the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since Felix nine years ago.
By this morning, wind speed had dropped to near 155 miles per hour and the NHC said some fluctuations in intensity are possible this weekend, but Matthew is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through Monday.
Jamaica’s Meteorological Service warned that the hurricane was “extremely dangerous”, placing the island under a hurricane watch.
Residents have been stocking up on drinking water and supplies in preparation for a violent period of weather, which could include storm surges, flooding and landslides.
Since yesterday, Jamaica’s Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie said the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) had started deploying the necessary items to shelters island wide.
He urged citizens to comply with evacuation notices and said that transportation would be in place to take people to shelters.
“We are putting in place all the necessary arrangements so that we can respond to the needs. We know the critical areas in Jamaica, places like Rocky Point, Port Royal, New Haven, Taylor Lands, we know these critical areas across the country…All shelters, across the country will come into operation by [today]. All shelters will be provided with the necessary resources,” McKenzie added.
Before the storm was downgraded, meteorologist Eric Holthaus said: “Should Matthew stay on its current projected path, it would be a near-worst-case scenario for Jamaica. No hurricane as strong as Matthew has ever made landfall in Jamaica in recorded history.”
The storm has drawn comparisons to Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, which killed 49 people and caused widespread destruction in Jamaica.
Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the hurricane centre in Miami, told AP: “Hurricane Matthew could rival or possibly exceed Gilbert if the core of the strongest winds does actually move over Jamaica. There is no certainty of that at this point.”
At 8 a.m., Matthew was about 400 miles southeast of Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, and 365 miles south of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and moving westward near 7 mph.
A turn toward the west-northwest is forecast later today, followed by a turn toward the north-northwest tomorrow. On the forecast track, the NHC said, the centre of Matthew will move across the central Caribbean Sea today and tomorrow, and approach Jamaica tomorrow night and Monday.
Hurricane conditions could spread into the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday into Wednesday.
In addition to Jamaica being under a hurricane watch, a tropical storm watch is in effect for Haiti from the southern border with the Dominican Republic to Port-Au-Prince. Interests in Hispaniola and eastern Cuba have been advised to also monitor Matthew’s progress.
Tropical storm conditions will begin affecting Jamaica by late tomorrow, with hurricane conditions moving in on Monday. Tropical storm conditions are possible in the watch area in Haiti by late tomorrow.
Rainfall totals of 10 to 15 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches are expected across Jamaica and southern and southwestern Haiti. These rains may produce life-threatening flash flooding and mud slides.
Swells generated by Matthew are also expected to affect portions of the coasts of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Venezuela, Colombia, and eastern Cuba during the next few days.
“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the NHC warned. (Caribbean360)