Jamaica, Haiti brace for ‘catastrophic’ flash floods

Kingston, Jamaica, started to feel the early impacts of Hurricane Matthew on Sunday evening. - Photo: AP

UPDATE: Please go here for an update to this story. 

UPDATE (10am MONDAY): Hurricane Matthew is barreling toward Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba Monday morning and is expected to bring “catastrophic” storm surge, flash flooding and mudslides as early as tonight.

The dangerous hurricane is forecast to approach southwestern Haiti Monday night, according the latest update by the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Matthew is moving north at 6 mph. The storm’s maximum sustained winds have decreased slightly to 130 mph.

The Category 4 hurricane is about 275 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti; 205 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica; and less than 450 miles southeast of the Sister Islands.

Hurricane Warnings are still in effect for Jamaica, Haiti, eastern Cuban provinces and the Southeastern Bahamas.

Allan Ebanks, duty forecaster with the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, said the storm’s closest point of approach to the Cayman Islands was expected to be 340 miles east of the sister islands on Tuesday morning.

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Water Vapor imagery provided by the NOAA Sunday, Oct. 3.
Water Vapor imagery provided by the NOAA Monday, Oct. 3.

UPDATE (10pm SUNDAY): Matthew started to move north over the past several hours, according to the latest update by the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Forecasters say the cyclone is now expected to maintain a general northward direction and approach Jamaica and southwestern Haiti on Monday and into Tuesday, bringing “life-threatening” storm surge, flash flooding and mudslides.

Tropical storm conditions are expected to first reach Jamaica and Haiti tonight.

The hurricane is about 325 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and 255 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. The storm is maintaining maximum sustained winds of 145 mph.

Hurricane Warnings are in effect for Jamaica, Haiti, eastern Cuban provinces and the Southeastern Bahamas.

Sign up for our free newsletter to get breaking news alerts. See our weather page for updates to this storm. 

The NOAA's coastal watches, warnings and five-day forecast cone, as of 8 a.m. Monday.
The NOAA’s coastal watches, warnings and five-day forecast cone, as of 8 a.m. Monday.

UPDATE (7pm SUNDAY): Matthew is still barely moving toward the northwest and is maintaining maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, according to the latest update by the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

It’s expected to turn north tonight.

The hurricane is about 335 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and 265 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. On the current forecast track, the center of Matthew will approach southwestern Haiti and Jamaica Monday.

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UPDATE (1pm SUNDAY): Powerful Hurricane Matthew moved slowly across the Caribbean Sea Sunday on a track that is expected to stay clear of the Cayman Islands but that authorities warned could trigger devastation in parts of Haiti.

The storm had winds of 140 mph (220 kph) as it moved northwest and the center was expected to pass across or very close to the southwestern tip of Haiti late Monday before reaching Cuba, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti.

Forecasters in the Cayman Islands remain watchful as the storm, a category 4 hurricane according to the National Hurricane Center’s update on Sunday at 1 p.m., edges northwards.

Allan Ebanks, duty forecaster with the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, said the storms closest point of approach to the Cayman Islands was expected to be 340 miles east of the sister islands on Tuesday morning.

He said residents could expect cloudy conditions and possibly heavy showers but more severe impacts are not currently anticipated.

Forecasters said the southern Haitian countryside around Les Cayes could see the worst of the storm.

The National Hurricane Center's Marine Graphicast as of Monday morning.
The National Hurricane Center’s Marine Graphicast as of Monday morning.

“Wherever that center passes close to would see the worst winds and that’s what’s projected to happen for the western tip of Haiti,” said John Cangilosi, a hurricane specialist at the center. “There is a big concern for rains there and also a big concern for storm surge.”

Matthew is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history and briefly reached the top classification, Category 5, becoming the strongest hurricane here since Felix in 2007. The hurricane center said it appeared to be on track to pass east of Florida through the Bahamas, but it was too soon to predict with certainty whether it would reach the coast United States.

The government of Haiti opened 1,300 emergency shelters across the country, enough to hold up to 340,000 people. Authorities broadcast warnings over the radio and across social media, trying to counter a common tendency for people to try to stay in their homes to protect them during natural disasters.

ORIGINAL (8am SUNDAY): : As Matthew continued turning north Saturday evening, preparations are under way in Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba for what could be a devastating category 4 hurricane.

NOAA's GOES-East satellite captured a visible-light image of Hurricane Matthew on Sunday, Oct. 2. Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
NOAA’s GOES-East satellite captured a visible-light image of Hurricane Matthew on Sunday, Oct. 2.
Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

Matthew packs 150 mph winds and is expected to produce up to 25 inches of rain parts of southern Haiti, eastern Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba, according to the latest forecast by the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Storm shelters are opening in Jamaica and government agencies are preparing to support evacuations.

The last major hurricane to hit the country was Gilbert in 1988.

Storm surge is expected to be severe. The southern coast of Cuba could see water levels rise as much as 11 feet; the south coast of Haiti could see a 6 to 9 feet increase; and Jamaica up to 5 feet.

The U.S. Navy said Saturday it is evacuating about 700 staff and family members of troops from Guantánamo Bay to Pensacola, Florida, ahead of Hurricane Matthew.

Hurricane conditions are expected to reach Jamaica and Haiti on Monday, and eastern Cuba Monday night. Tropical storm conditions are expected to first reach Jamaica and Haiti Sunday evening, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Matthew is currently moving toward the northwest near 5 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported Sunday morning. This general motion is expected to continue today, followed by a turn toward the north tonight.

On the forecast track, the center of Matthew will approach southwestern Haiti and Jamaica on Monday.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Jamaica, Haiti and the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Granma, and Las Tunas.

Imagery provided by the NOAA Sunday, Oct. 3.
Imagery provided by the NOAA Monday, Oct. 3.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for the Cuban province of Camaguey; Southeastern Bahamas, including the Inaguas, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, and Ragged Island; and Turks and Caicos Islands.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Dominican Republic, from Barahona westward to the border with Haiti.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the Dominican Republic from Puerto Plata westward to the border with Haiti.

Matthew briefly reached Category 5 status at 11 p.m. on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at 5 a.m., making it the strongest hurricane to form in the Atlantic in nearly a decade.

The Cayman Islands National Weather Service, as of Saturday morning, warned boaters to be cautious in small craft Monday through Wednesday.

Grand Cayman will see little impact other than gusty winds and rough seas, they said.

The Sister Islands will likely see high winds and rough seas early next week as the storm passes to the north.

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