Storm surge forces residents to flee as Matthew pounds Bahamas
MIAMI - A rapid storm surge in southern New Providence forced residents to evacuate their homes on Thursday morning as Hurricane Matthew battered The Bahamas.
Ebony Thompson, a 15-year resident of the area, spoke to The Nassau Guardian just minutes after she and her family fled to safety.
“At one point there wasn’t anything, just a lot of breeze,” Thompson said. “Then all of a sudden, the water went from nothing to two feet of water.”
This is the first time since 1929 that New Providence has been directly hit by a major hurricane.
Reports were received of roofs blown off by the category four storm in other islands, many of which were without power on Thursday.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, at 5:00 pm EDT on Thursday, the eye of Hurricane Matthew was about 25 miles (40 km) south-southeast of Grand Bahama and about to hit Freeport. Maximum sustained winds were near 140 mph (220 km/h) with higher gusts.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 km) from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles (295 km).
A hurricane warning is in effect for northwestern Bahamas, including the Abacos, Andros Island, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama and New Providence.
The hurricane is moving toward the northwest near 14 mph (22 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue Thursday night with a turn toward the north-northwest early Friday.
However, on the five-day forecast track, Matthew may double back and approach The Bahamas again from the north, this time as a tropical storm.
Hurricane conditions were expected to continue over portions of the northwestern Bahamas on Thursday evening. The combination of a dangerous storm surge and large and destructive waves could raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet in the northwestern Bahamas.
Matthew is expected to produce total rainfall amounts of 8 to 12 inches, isolated 15 inches, in the central and northern Bahamas.
Rainfall should diminish across central and eastern Cuba with isolated additional amounts of 1 to 2 inches possible through Thursday evening.
Swells generated by Matthew will continue to affect portions of the north coast of Cuba and The Bahamas during the next few days. These swells will likely cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.