UPDATED 1 p.m. Tuesday: The powerful Hurricane Matthew made landfall in near Les Anglais, western Haiti, as the storm batters the country with life-threatening rain, wind and storm surge. The full effects of the Category 4 storm will continue to be felt in the coming hours, while tropical storm conditions are expected to persist for the rest of the day.
“Matthew is likely to produce devastating impacts from storm surge, extreme winds, heavy rains, flash floods, and/or mudslides in portions of the watch and warning areas in Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas,” the NOAA said in its latest advisory.
The eye of the potentially “catastrophic” Category 4 storm is expected to hit far eastern Cuba hard later today, it added, while hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane watch area in Florida by late Thursday.
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Meteorological Service downgraded its hurricane warning for the island, replacing it with a tropical storm warning. Tropical storm conditions with sustained wind speeds of 39-73 mph are expected to affect Jamaica through Tuesday.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) pre-positioned relief supplies in the central Caribbean and is providing $400,000 for initial humanitarian assistance in Haiti.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Haiti, eastern Cuba, and most of the Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for western Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos Islands.
UPDATED 4:30 p.m. Monday: In the most recent forecast from the U.S. National Hurricane Center at 4 p.m. Hurricane Matthew still has sustained winds of 140 mph and is slowly picking up speed as it moves north bringing torrential rain to Jamaica and Haiti.
Additional hurricane warnings are now in effect for much of the Bahamas as the storm is expected to cross Haiti and Cuba by Wednesday morning.
Monday afternoon Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin released a statement on Matthew.
“An extremely powerful and dangerous hurricane, Matthew is expected to begin affecting Jamaica and Haiti with full force later tonight or tomorrow and then move north through the eastern provinces of Cuba and on to The Bahamas.
“We, in the Cayman Islands, know only too well the consequences of major storms, as we remember Hurricane Ivan’s destruction on Grand Cayman in 2004, and Hurricane Paloma on Cayman Brac in 2008. Such extreme weather endangers lives and livelihoods, ripping up the environment, homes, schools and businesses.
“With memories of those woes still fresh in our minds, we pray for all who are in Hurricane Matthew’s path. Family and friends in Jamaica, and elsewhere in Matthew’s reach, are in our hearts during the dark hours ahead while the hurricane passes.
“To all of us here, I must remind everyone that we cannot be complacent during hurricane season. Matthew has shown us that storms can blow up quickly and intensify in a matter of hours. Such storms are often erratic and may not follow their projected paths. We cannot let such situations catch us unawares and we must always be prepared.
“I urge all of you to have a hurricane plan in place, make the necessary preparations around your homes and businesses, and stock up on hurricane supplies. Being prepared can mean the difference between life and death in extreme weather situations.”
UPDATED 2 p.m.: Hurricane Matthew, a massive Category 4 storm, is already causing heavy rains and flooding in Jamaica and Haiti.
Local media report flooding is already occurring in Haiti and Jamaica. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and there are hurricane warnings in effect for Jamaica, Haiti, eastern Cuba and parts of the Bahamas.
The massive storm is slowly moving north, and is currently 250 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and 195 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.
Impacts from Matthew on the Cayman Islands should be minimal. Shamal Clarke, a forecaster with the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, said the islands will likely see seas of 4 to 6 feet and 10 to 15 knot winds.
He said the closest point the storm will come, based on Monday morning’s predictions, will be about 345 miles from the Sister Islands sometime Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Clarke said the Brac and Little Cayman could see a little rain and possible thunder from Matthew’s outer bands, but he doesn’t expect much.
He said the Sister Islands could experience a minimal storm surge of 1 to 3 feet.
Forecasters expect Matthew to pass directly over southwest Haiti, bringing torrential rains and damaging winds to Jamaica and Haiti overnight tonight before it moves over southeast Cuba.
The Associated Press reports two Haitian fishermen died Monday in the southwest of the country. One was trying to bring his wooden boat to shore when his boat capsized and the body of another fisherman was found a short time later, according to the AP. The two fishermen bring the death toll to four already from Hurricane Matthew, according to the AP, with earlier deaths blamed on the hurricane in Columbia and St. Vincent.
The Jamaica Observer reports that the government there has been evacuating people from Port Royal and other areas. Photos in the newspaper today show flooding in Kingston Sunday.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicts 15 to 25 inches of rain in southern Haiti, with isolated areas receiving up to 40 inches. Eastern Jamaica will likely see 5 to 10 inches, with some areas getting up to 20 inches of rain, the Miami-based Hurricane Center forecasts.
The Hurricane Center reports, “Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides are likely from this rainfall in southern and northwestern Haiti, the southwestern Dominican Republic, and eastern Cuba.”