Hurricane Matthew weakens as it churns toward Jamaica

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Tropical Storm Matthew became a major hurricane on Friday and threatens Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas.

Tropical Storm Matthew became a major hurricane on Friday and threatens Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas.

MIAMI, Fla. — Hurricane Matthew weakened as it churned across the Caribbean — threatening Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas.

Matthew strengthened into a Category 5 late Friday, becoming the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean since Felix in 2007, the National Weather Service said.

However, by early Saturday, it had downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (250 km/h).

“Many land areas are at least threatened by the system,” said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center. “Hurricane hunters are going to be flying in and out of Matthew for days to come.”

‘Luxury of time’

Knabb noted that south Florida could be threatened next week, but residents had “the luxury of time.” He urged people to use it to prepare and buy supplies.

CNN Weather said it is still unclear whether Matthew will hit Florida, where weather models currently have it possibly scraping. But by late Sunday or Monday, the dangerous storm should be approaching Jamaica, Haiti and eastern Cuba.

A hurricane watch was issued for Jamaica as Matthew began to make its slow march towards the island (Image: NOAA Hurricane Center)

A hurricane watch was issued for Jamaica as the storm began its slow march towards the island (Image: NOAA Hurricane Center)

Canceled flights

IBC Airways has canceled all flights Monday to and from the American naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because of the approaching storm, the naval station announced via Twitter.

American and Delta airlines issued travel warnings for their customers, saying change fees can be waived for flights to some destinations.

The storm was a Category 1 on Thursday. Early Friday, it was re-categorized as a Category 3 storm, before strengthening into Category 4 then 5.

Jamaica Meteorological Service’ Director Evan Thomas said he expected the storm to hit the island and said fishermen have been advised to evacuate from the cays and return to the mainland, the Jamaica Observer reported.

US hurricane forecasters predicted rainfall totals between 10 and 15 inches in Jamaica, with some areas getting as much as 25 inches. Southern and southwestern Haiti also are due for drenching rains, forecasters said.

We are keeping a close eye on the possible path Hurricane Matthew takes as it ascends northward; parallel to the East Coast.

We are keeping a close eye on every possible path Hurricane Matthew might take as it begins its ascent northward.