Matthew strengthens into Category 3 hurricane as it heads for Jamaica, Cuba

MIAMI, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Hurricane Matthew has become a Category 3 “major” storm expected to generate life-threatening swells to islands in the Caribbean, as well as Colombia and Venezuela before turning north toward Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and possibly Florida.

Matthew is expected to brush just east of Jamaica as a major hurricane with 115 mph winds on Monday morning, making 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.

Meanwhile, a tropical storm warning has been issued Colombia/Venezuela border to Riohacha, Colombia. A hurricane watch may be issued for Jamaica later Friday. A tropical storm watch was cancelled for the Curacao and Aruba islands.

“Swells generated by Matthew are expected to affect portions of the coasts of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Venezuela and Colombia during the next few days,” the NHC said in a statement early Friday. “These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”

The NHC reports Matthew has maximum sustained winds of 115 mph with stronger gusts. The storm is moving west-southwest at a speed of about 12 mph and is expected to turn west-northwest Saturday night followed by a turn northwest early Sunday. It’s not expected to strengthen in the next 48 hours.

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 3 hurricane is capable of severely damaging well-built homes, uprooting trees and cutting off electricity and water for days or weeks to affected areas, 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.

This automatically updated infrared satellite animation shows Hurricane Matthew moving through the Caribbean.

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