Hurricane Matthew now strongest Hurricane since Felix in 2007
Hurricane Matthew became a major storm earlier on Friday and quickly intensified through the day. Matthew is now a Category 5 storm and has become a threat to Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas.
"Many land areas are at least threatened by the system," said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center. "Hurricane hunters are going to be flying in and out of Matthew for days to come."
At 11:00 p.m. Matthew was located about 440 miles (710 kilometers) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and 80 miles (125 kilometers) northwest of Punta Gallinas, Colombia. The storm's present movement is in a westerly direction at 7.0 mph (11 kph).
Data from an Air Force Hurricane Hunter mission indicates maximum sustained winds have increased to near 160 mph (260 kph) with much higher gusts. Hurricane-force winds are extending outward for up to 45 miles (75 kilometers) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds are extending as far as 205 miles (335 kilometers) from the center.
Forecasters are still undecided if Matthew will hit Florida square-on or pass on the Atlantic side of the coast, even though some weather models have the storm scrapping by. But by late Sunday or Monday, the dangerous storm should be knocking on Jamaica's door.
Closures and travel warnings
IBC Airlines has already canceled flights into and out of the American naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on Monday because of the approaching storm. American and Delta Airlines have issued travel warnings to customers, so it is best to call ahead for cancellations.
The Jamaica Observer is warning fishermen to evacuate the Cays and return to the mainland. Estimated rainfall amounts for Jamaica are in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 inches with 25 or more inches expected in some areas. Southern and southwestern Haiti can also expect to get drenching rainfall amounts. Expect flash-flooding and mudslides.
Matthew will be generating some huge ocean swells and expected to affect portions of the coasts of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Venezuela, and Colombia during the next few days. Expect life-threatening surf and riptide conditions.