Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba brace for powerful Matthew

Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful cyclone to form over the Atlantic since Hurricane Felix in 2007, churned across the Caribbean on Saturday on a path expected to put it over Jamaica and Haiti on Monday.

Matthew, with winds at about 150 miles per hour (240 kph), could make landfall as a major storm on Jamaica’s southern coast, home to the country’s capital, Kingston, and its only oil refinery.

The hurricane could also affect tourist destinations such as Montego Bay in the north and the southwest coast of flood-prone Haiti was also in harm’s way, forecasters said.

Matthew was about 385 miles (620 km) southeast of Kingston on Saturday afternoon and the U.S. National Hurricane Center ranked it at Category 4 of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. Earlier it had been ranked at the top Category 5.

“Matthew is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 15 to 25 inches (38-63 cm) over southern Haiti, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 40 inches,” the Miami-based hurricane center said.

Jamaicans flock to the supermarkets to take care of last minute shopping pending the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Kingston, Jamaica, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
Jamaicans flock to the supermarkets to take care of last minute shopping pending the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. (REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy)

The hurricane could rival the destruction caused by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, but Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Reuters in a phone interview that he was cautiously optimistic.

“The impact of the hurricane will probably be similar or greater than Hurricane Gilbert, but our preparedness would be far better and therefore we would be able to mitigate the effects,” Holness said, adding that he expects hits to both the tourism and agriculture sectors.

The Jamaican capital got a preview of what might be in store when the road to the airport temporarily flooded due to unusually high tides. Rain fell and authorities told fishermen to moor in safe harbor until the storm had passed.

“We’re boarding up the windows and we’re moving things in vulnerable areas to safer areas,” said Mary Lowe, owner of Wilks Bay resort near Port Antonio on the northeast coast.

Disaster coordinators, police and troops are on high alert and shelters are being opened across the island.

Forecasters described Matthew’s movements as erratic on Saturday, but said it would approach Jamaica and southwestern Haiti on Sunday. Haitian officials said storm preparations were focused on the south, which is prone to devastating flooding.

Jamaicans stand next to shopping carts filled with bottled water and other items outside a supermarket, pending the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Kingston, Jamaica, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
Jamaicans stand next to shopping carts filled with bottled water and other items outside a supermarket. (REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy)

The hurricane was expected to reach Cuba early on Tuesday.

Cuba declared the first stage of an emergency in five eastern provinces. In its second city, Santiago de Cuba, the ruling Communist Party opened shelters and organized volunteer teams to clean storm drains and gather food stocks.

“We have to work intensely,” said Lazaro Exposito Canto of the party central committee, saying in the Granma newspaper that volunteers would go from house to house to warn of the storm.

Cuba has a solid track record of preparing for storms. The last big one to hit was Sandy in 2012, which though weaker than Matthew caused major damage to property and killed 11 people.

Many Kingstonians stocked up on water and food on Friday.

Tenaj Lewis, 41, a doctor buying groceries in Kingston, said Jamaica was much better prepared for hurricanes than when Gilbert struck.

“The country literally shut down for months,” she said.

Since then, hurricanes have brought a few days of power outages but have not been nearly as destructive and many Jamaicans were unflustered.

Jamaican refining company Petrojam is expected to shut down its 28,000 barrel per day Kingston facility eight hours before the storm strikes land, said company spokeswoman Latoya Pennant.

Southwest Airlines warned that flights to Montego Bay might be disrupted and said customers could reschedule.

 

Source: REUTERS

11 Responses to Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba brace for powerful Matthew

  1. Linda Neufeld
    Linda Neufeld October 1, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    This is scary so late in the season.

    Reply
  2. Africa EmpressNyah
    Africa EmpressNyah October 1, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    I chant for protection and guidance strength and love …

    Reply
  3. Blackett Keziah
    Blackett Keziah October 1, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    To my cricket sis Paula SweettPee Clarke ,Kadian SeniorSenior,n my secret boo wish u all the best.prays n the many rest I didn’t mentioned

    Reply
  4. Alison Branch
    Alison Branch October 1, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    And to think just a smattering of clouds was all it was when it passed Barbados.

    Reply
  5. Leanne Mills
    Leanne Mills October 2, 2016 at 1:56 am

    Joseph Jones are you and Mrs Jones still there? Stay safe.

    Reply
    • Joseph Jones
      Joseph Jones October 2, 2016 at 3:00 am

      Thank mrs Lee it won’t be the first one we experience together so yeh keep us in your prayers

      Reply
    • Leanne Mills
      Leanne Mills October 2, 2016 at 3:07 am

      I will do. Hope that you are both enjoying yourself apart from that thou. Keep me posted.

      Reply
    • Joseph Jones
      Joseph Jones October 2, 2016 at 3:25 am

      O yeah we had some brilliant days before mrs Lee so hope nothing disastrous won’t happen as it’s will be here by Sunday afternoon they say

      Reply
  6. Carly Edmonds
    Carly Edmonds October 2, 2016 at 3:16 am

    Peter Marshall & Leanne take care X

    Reply

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