Hurricane Matthew Bears Down On Jamaica, Cuba, Could Reach Florida By Next Week

Hurricane Matthew weakened slightly from a Category 5 to a Category 4 overnight Friday, but the extremely dangerous storm still poses a major threat to portions of the Caribbean and the Bahamas and my be bearing down on Florida as early as next week, Accuweather is reporting.

Though it was only a Category 5 hurricane for a few hours, Matthew was the first Category 5 storm since Hurricane Felix in 2007.

The Damage So Far

As of this writing, Matthew has claimed only one life: on Wednesday, when it was still designated a tropical storm and not yet full a hurricane, Matthew slammed into the tiny Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. As Barbados Today reported at the time, the unidentified teenager was crushed by a boulder that had been dislodged by the powerful winds and the rain-soaked ground. The teen was trying to clear debris around his home when the boulder pinned him up against the concrete wall of his home.

In nearby Martinique, 63,000 homes lost power, mostly due to downed trees knocking out power lines, according to The Weather Channel. High winds and heavy rains forced schools to close in Barbados, Dominica, and St. Lucia.

Moving Towards Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti

Now a Category 4 Hurricane, Matthew is predicted to turn to the north, and parts of Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti lay directly in its path.

AccuWeather Meteorologist Mike Doll says that such a strong storm making landfall could bring devastating loss of life and property to the islands.

“There is a potential for Matthew to bring devastating winds, a deadly storm surge and flooding rain to parts of Jamaica, far western Haiti and eastern Cuba. Based on the current forecast, most structures across eastern Jamaica and eastern Cuba will sustain some damage from the wind and weaker structures could be destroyed.”

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness has called for an emergency session of the country’s parliament to discuss storm preparations, according to NBC News, and the country’s meteorological service has put the entire nation on high alert.

Portions of eastern Cuba and western Haiti also remain directly in Matthew’s path. And should Haiti receive the worst of Matthew’s wrath, the devastation on the country could be almost unimaginable. The poorest nation in the western hemisphere is plagued by poor infrastructure and an ineffectual government and is ill-prepared for such a powerful storm.

The Bahamas, Florida and Beyond

Fortunately for the places in the northern reaches of Matthew’s predicted path – specifically, Florida and The Bahamas – Matthew’s journey over the mountains of eastern Cuba is expected to weaken the storm from a major, catastrophic hurricane into something slightly more manageable.

Still, even a weakened Matthew could pack quite a punch, and residents of Florida and The Bahamas are urged to take the approaching Hurricane seriously. Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, tells CNN that the residents of Florida have “the luxury of time” in that they have until the middle of next week to prepare. And he cautions that South Floridians should definitely prepare; he urges residents of the area to stock up on supplies.

Hurricane Matthew, or its possible remnants, are expected to reach southern Florida around Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

[Feature Image by NOAA/Getty Images]