MIAMI, Oct. 4 (UPI) — Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti on Tuesday with winds of 145 mph while Florida and North Carolina declared states of emergency ahead of the possible landfall of the Category 4 storm system.
The National Hurricane Center said Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, will bring life-threatening wind, surf and rain conditions to Haiti — the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere beleaguered in recent years by natural disasters like the 2010 earthquake.
Monday evening, forecast models shifted Matthew’s track west, making the threat of landfall in the eastern United States a greater possibility. Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated a state of emergency across all counties in the state, while North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory activated a state of emergency for 66 counties.
Meteorologists warned evacuations in the southeast United States were a possibility.
The center of Matthew is expected to pass near or over southwestern Haiti Tuesday morning, moving near eastern Cuba later in the day. The center is expected to move near or over parts of southeastern and central Bahamas Tuesday night and Wednesday — later approaching northwestern Bahamas.
Hurricane-force winds extend up to 40 miles from Matthew’s center and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 185 miles.
Hurricane warnings were in effect for Haiti; Cuba’s Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Granma, and Las Tunas provinces; and southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas.
“Matthew is a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale,” the NHC said in its 5 a.m EST update. “Some fluctuations in intensity are possible during the next couple of days, but Matthew is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through at least Wednesday night.”
The NHC warns outside hurricane preparation will be difficult or dangerous in Haiti, eastern Cuba and southeastern Bahamas on Tuesday.
Matthew is expected to drop 15-25 inches of rain in southern Haiti and southwestern Dominican Republic, where up to 40 inches of isolated rain could fall. Some 8-12 inches of rain is forecast for eastern Cuba and northwestern Haiti, with up to 20 inches of isolated rain.
“Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides are likely from this rainfall,” the NHC added.
Infrared satellite animation shows Hurricane Matthew’s updated position and movement.
Visible satellite animation of Hurricane Matthew, updated every 30 minutes.