MIAMI, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Hurricane Matthew has unexpectedly grown again to become a dangerous Category 4 “major” storm expected turn north soon toward Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and possibly the Southeast U.S.
Matthew is forecast to brush just east of Jamaica, where a hurricane watch went into effect Friday afternoon, as a major hurricane with 120 mph winds on Monday morning. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the southwestern coast of Haiti.
Matthew is expected to make landfall in eastern Cuba near Guantanamo Bay late Monday and early Tuesday, emerging as a Category 2 hurricane over the Bahamas east of South Florida on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a tropical storm warning remains in effect for the Colombia/Venezuela border to Riohacha, Colombia, where rough surf and periodic heavy rains are an issue.
The National Hurricane Center reports Matthew’s maximum sustained winds grew to 140 mph late Friday afternoon, with gusts to 165 mph. The storm is moving west-southwest at a speed of about 10 mph and is expected to turn west-northwest Saturday night followed by a turn northwest early Sunday.
Matthew was not expected to strengthen Friday, but rapidly grew from a Category 2 storm. Category 4 storms are capable of causing widespread major damage.
Hurricane-force winds extend up to 35 miles from Matthew’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 195 miles from the center. A “major” Category 4 hurricane is capable of severely damaging well-built homes, uprooting trees and cutting off electricity and water to affected areas for weeks or months, according to the NHC.
Rain of 1 to 4 inches with isolated higher amounts are expected to fall on Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and the northern coasts of Colombia and Venezuela through Saturday.
Matthew is projected to reach the Bahamas on Tuesday after passing through Jamaica and Cuba.
It is uncertain whether it will hit Florida or any other part of the U.S. coast, but even if it remains well off shore it will generate dangerous surf conditions as it passes.
Some long-range computer models have Matthew making landfall in the mid-Atlantic U.S. as a powerful hurricane mid- to late next week, though forecasts that far out in time are not very reliable. Still, residents everywhere from Jamaica to New England should continue to monitor Matthew’s progress.