UPDATED (10pm FRIDAY): The U.S. National Hurricane Center upgraded Matthew to Category 5 Friday night, the strongest category on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The Miami-based Hurricane Center said it is the strongest storm since Felix in 2007.
Forecasters say Matthew has maximum sustained winds of 160 mph and has slowed significantly, now moving west at 7 mph.
The Hurricane Center, in its final forecast for Friday, states, “Some fluctuations in intensity are possible this weekend, but Matthew is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through Sunday.”
The current path puts Matthew making a turn to the north Saturday and crossing over eastern Jamaica Monday, bringing 10 to 15 inches of rain.
UPDATED (7pm FRIDAY)
The big Category 4 storm is moving at 9 mph and forecasts still predict it will turn to the north over the weekend. The Hurricane Center predicts: “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
UPDATED (6pm FRIDAY)
The Cayman Islands National Weather Service is expected to issue a Severe Weather Bulletin for the Sister Islands for Monday, according to a statement from the Cayman Islands Hazard Management. This is due to the fact that Hurricane Matthew, which is now a Category 4 Hurricane, is expected to pass within 240 miles of Cayman Brac.
The Sister Islands are expected to experience cloudy to overcast skies with intermittent showers and some thunder. Showers will be locally heavy at times leading to localized flooding of low lying areas. Winds are expected to be North to Northwest 25 to 30 knots with higher gusts and seas are forecast to be very rough with wave heights of 7 to 9 feet, with possible storm surge of 1 to 3 feet.
UPDATED (4pm FRIDAY): Matthew rapidly strengthened Friday to Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, according to data from an NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft.
Additional strengthening is possible tonight.
The government of Jamaica has issued a Hurricane Watch.
UPDATED (1pm FRIDAY): Hurricane Matthew has strengthened to Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, according to data from an NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft.
UPDATED (10am FRIDAY): Hurricane Matthew is now a considered a major hurricane with winds upwards of 115 mph, according to the latest update from the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Little change in strength is forecast during the next 48 hours.
On the forecast track, the center of Matthew will pass north of the Guajira Peninsula later today and tonight, and remain over the central Caribbean through early Sunday.
Matthew is currently moving toward the west-southwest near 12 mph. The National Hurricane Center forecasts a westward motion at a slower forward speed later today. A turn toward the west-northwest is forecast by Saturday night, followed by a turn toward the northwest by early Sunday.
The forecast path and maps below are updated as of 1pm Friday.
ORIGINAL (5pm THURSDAY): Forecasters say Hurricane Matthew will turn to the north and any impact on the Cayman Islands will be minimal.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center upgraded Matthew to a hurricane Thursday. Forecasters with Cayman’s National Weather Service say the islands will likely see rough seas of 4 to 6 feet and winds up to 20 mph from overnight Sunday through Monday, but do not expect any major impacts.
“We are expecting it to slide between Haiti and Jamaica,” said Shamal Clarke of the National Weather Service.
He said the Sister Islands could get some of the outer rain bands from the storm Monday.
Predictions from the Hurricane Center released Thursday give the Sister Islands a 10 percent chance of experiencing tropical storm force winds, defined as at least 39 mph.
Matthew became the 13th named storm of the year Wednesday as it brought heavy rain and winds up to 65 mph to the Windward Islands and crossed into the Caribbean. The airport in St. Lucia, close to the center of the storm, recorded more than 9 inches of rain Wednesday.
As of midday Thursday, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, with higher gusts, and was moving west at 17 mph, according to the Miami-based Hurricane Center.
Tropical storm force winds were extending out more than 200 miles from the center of the system, the Hurricane Center stated Thursday.
Cayman officials watching
Simon Boxall with Hazard Management Cayman Islands said in an email Thursday, “Models seem to be gradually reaching consensus that the system will pass east of Jamaica (but as we know things can change in a big way).”
He said the storm can look threatening for those in Cayman. “As it continues to track west, it will look large, close and intimidating – and the people in the Cayman Islands will be holding their breath waiting for the predicted North turn,” Mr. Boxall said.
That turn to the north is expected over the weekend.
Despite the forecasts that put Matthew passing well away from the Cayman Islands, Mr. Boxall said people should always be prepared and ensure they have their hurricane supplies ready.