NASA Watches Hurricane Matthew Threaten Florida As Tropical Storm Nicole Forms Nearby

Coburn Palmer

NASA cameras outside the International Space Station caught video of Hurricane Matthew Tuesday as it wracked the Caribbean with devastating wind and torrential life-threatening rainfall. The footage has been sped up to four times normal speed and shows the orbital complex of the storm from 250 miles above the Earth.

Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti's southern coast on Tuesday, cutting a swath of destruction through the impoverished Caribbean island nation with raging winds and torrential rains that devastated crops and destroyed homes.

The Category 4 hurricane pummeling the island nation with 145-mile-per-hour winds and torrential rain has killed at least seven people in the Caribbean so far. The situation on the ground will get worse before it gets better, Chris Lancey from the National Hurricane Center told Live Science.

"In Haiti, the biggest factor for loss of life is flash floods and mudslides. Portions of Haiti are very deforested, which makes flooding worse. A lot of people are living in river valleys that fill up with water."

"The shelters couldn't withstand the force of the hurricane. There is major destruction right now."

The region's most powerful storm in a decade is expected to track east toward Cuba late Tuesday into early Wednesday and could strike Florida by Friday, National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb told USA Today.

"U.S. East Coast: Find out today if you live in an evacuation zone. If so, decide where you'd go, how you'd get there if told to go."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for every county in the state, and central and eastern portions of North Carolina were also under emergency conditions Tuesday. Scott also ordered a partial activation of the Florida National Guard.

There are basically two widely different scenarios: Florida could take a direct hit from the monster hurricane or the storm could miss the state entirely and swing north up the coast without ever making landfall, Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters told Gizmodo.

"Right now, the greatest risk is for North Carolina, but that could change. The only thing we're sure of as far as the US goes is that we'll see a lot of pounding waves hitting the entire east coast."

"Coastal residents from Florida to Canada should be on the alert for possible impacts in a few days, especially given this hurricane's strength and breadth."

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Nicole is forming with sustained 50 mph winds 525 miles northeast of Puerto Rico in the Atlantic. The storm isn't expected to make landfall, but it could affect the movement of Hurricane Matthew.

Nicole, the 14th named storm of the season, could draw moisture away from Hurricane Matthew and out into the open ocean. Another tropical disturbance has developed a few hundred miles east from the Windward Isles, but so far, it poses no threat to the U.S.

Hurricane Matthew is the strongest storm to hit the Caribbean in a decade, meaning there must have been very special conditions for it to form.

To produce monster storms like the one threatening Florida, there must be lots of warm water and moist air; dry air picked up from Africa or Western Europe will weaken the hurricane. The last factor is wind shear, rapid changes in wind speed and direction, and whether the hurricane makes landfall; any of these factors will weaken the storm.

This is the peak of the eight-week hurricane season that runs from mid-August to mid-October and is often the most dangerous time of year.

[Featured Image by NOAA/AP Images]