PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The Latest on Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Nicole (all times local):
The eye of Hurricane Matthew has moved off the northeastern coast of Cuba and forecasters have expanded the hurricane warning area in Florida.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Category 4 storm’s maximum sustained winds have decreased to 130 mph (215 kph) but it is expected to maintain strength through at least Thursday night. Matthew is moving north at 8 mph (13 kph).
Forecasters expect Matthew to move through the Bahamas on Thursday and be very near Florida’s east coast by that evening.
The centre upgraded hurricane watches from Golden Beach to Sebastian Inlet and for Lake Okeechobee to hurricane warnings. The hurricane watch area has been extended north to the Flagler-Volusia county line.
Officials in coastal Hyde County, North Carolina, have issued a state of emergency and ordered the mandatory evacuation of visitors to Ocracoke Island beginning at 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Residents and property owners on the island will have an additional 24 hours to make preparations before they, too, will be subject to a mandatory evacuation Thursday.
Ferries to and from Ocracoke Island will run as scheduled Wednesday and Thursday, but not on Friday.
Forecasters say the eye of Hurricane Matthew has made landfall near the eastern tip of Cuba.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the Category 4 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (220 kph) and is moving north at close to 9 mph (15 kph). The centre predicts 8 to 12 inches of rainfall for eastern Cuba.
By Tuesday evening, 20-foot waves had started pounding the seafront promenade of Baracoa and powerful winds tore ceramic tiles off the corners of some roofs.
So far, at least 11 deaths have been blamed on the powerful storm during its weeklong march across the Caribbean.
Out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Nicole has changed little in strength and still poses no threat to land. Nicole is about 510 miles (820 kilometres) northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It has maximum sustained winds near 50 mph (85 kph) and is moving northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).
A United Nations official says Hurricane Matthew has caused the biggest humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of 2010.
Deputy Special Representative for Haiti Mourad Wahba says in a statement that many people have been forced from their homes and communications systems have been knocked out in the country’s hard-hit southwestern peninsula. He says at least 10,000 people are in shelters.
Wahba says officials have received reports of destroyed houses and overflowing hospitals, with shortages fresh water. He also says the hospital in the city of Les Cayes had its roof blown off.
Motorists are rushing to fill up their tanks in coastal South Carolina in advance of Hurricane Matthew.
During rush hour Tuesday, long lines formed at gas stations in Charleston and in suburban Mount Pleasant, snarling traffic as lines snaked out of gas stations and into travel lanes.
At one gas station in Mount Pleasant, the line reached about a quarter mile down the street.
Gov. Nikki Haley has said that, if the track of Matthew does not change by Wednesday, she will issue an evacuation order to get 1 million people away from the coast.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that while the Port of Charleston remains open, large ocean-going vessels should be making plans to leave the port.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is declaring a state of emergency in 13 coastal counties because of Hurricane Matthew.
Deal’s office issued a statement Tuesday saying he is ordering the state emergency management and homeland security offices to work with local agencies to protect residents and minimize risks.
The state of emergency begins Wednesday and includes the port city of Savannah and Brunswick to the south.
While the storm’s exact track isn’t yet known, Deal says the storm could get dangerously close to the state’s coast within 72 hours.
Some airlines are letting passengers change travel plans without penalty if their trip might be affected by Hurricane Matthew.
United Airlines said Tuesday that it will waive change fees and any difference in fare for customers scheduled to fly Wednesday through Friday to, from or through five airports in Florida.
Delta Air Lines is waiving change fees on trips through Wednesday in the Caribbean and through Thursday at eight Florida destinations, although differences in the fare would still apply.
American Airlines says it will waive change fees on trips scheduled through Thursday in several Caribbean nations including Cuba.
The fee to change a nonrefundable ticket on United, American and Delta is typically $200 for domestic flights and usually more for international trips.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says she plans to issue an evacuation order Wednesday ahead of Hurricane Matthew so that 1 million people can safely and comfortably leave the coast.
Haley said at a Tuesday news conference that she will finalize the order Wednesday morning, unless there is a major shift in the storm’s track. Haley says she expects the evacuation to begin at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday.
State officials say lanes on major evacuation routes will be reversed. It would be the first major evacuation since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, when the governor at the time didn’t reverse the lanes and Interstate 26 became backed up for hours and traffic was at a standstill. A two-hour drive from Charleston to Columbia turned into 24-hour nightmare.
U.S. President Barack Obama will speak Wednesday at the Federal Emergency Management Agency about the federal response to Hurricane Matthew.
Obama had been scheduled to travel to Florida on Wednesday for campaign events and a health care event. But the White House says the trip is being postponed because of the hurricane.
Instead, Obama will travel to the agency’s Washington headquarters to meet with officials co-ordinating the response. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will brief Obama on the latest developments if scheduling allows.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama will be updated on the weather forecast and on operational aspects of preparing for the impacts of the severe weather.
The White House says that U.S. President Barack Obama has been updated on the path of Hurricane Matthew and its potential impact in the Caribbean and the United States.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that federal officials have been deployed to state emergency operations centres in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Earnest also says relief supplies have been prepositioned in the region.
The White House also says that U.S. foreign disaster assistance teams have been deployed to Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas to ensure that relief efforts are co-ordinated if U.S. assistance is needed.
Earnest also says that regional response co-ordinationcentres in Atlanta and Philadelphia will begin round-the-clock operations Tuesday. And the national response co-ordinationcentre in Washington will begin 24-hour operations with full staffing on Thursday.
Earnest says relief supplies are being moved into Albany, Georgia and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, so they can be delivered to affected areas quickly after the storm has passed.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott says residents need to be prepared for a direct from Hurricane Matthew.
Scott said while visiting the Daytona Beach area that evacuation orders could be issued as early as Tuesday.
He says Florida could start to feel the hurricane’s impact in two or three days.
The governor says his biggest worry is that residents won’t take seriously the threat from Matthew if an evacuation order is issued, especially since so many new residents have never lived through a hurricane.
Scott says even if Matthew stays of land, Florida will still feel tropical storm-force winds.
He says 200 National Guardsmen have been activated, and another 6,600 National Guardsmen are at the ready.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to interrupt mosquito control efforts to stop the spread of the Zika virus in the Miami area.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Tuesday that spraying pesticides would not be effective in the tropical storm-force winds expected in the region later this week.
Gimenez said mosquitoes aren’t likely to be flying around during the storm, but “the Zika prevention efforts will have to stop during those times.”
Gov. Rick Scott said Florida residents should drain standing water from their properties before and after the hurricane to reduce the threat of mosquito-borne viruses.
State health officials have said Miami Beach is the only area where Zika is currently being transmitted, but other infections are being investigated elsewhere in Miami-Dade County and in Palm Beach County.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch for South Florida.
The centre issued the watch from Deerfield Beach to the Volusia/Brevard county line.
A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area.
A tropical storm watch also is in effect from the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys northward to south of Deerfield Beach, including Lake Okeechobee.
Officials in the Dominican Republic are reporting that at least four people died when heavy rains linked to Hurricane Matthew damaged their homes.
Emergency Operations Center co-ordinator Juan Manuel Mendez told a news conference Tuesday that three children were killed when the walls of their homes collapsed in a poor neighbourhood in Santo Domingo. An elderly person died in a neighbouring province.
That would bring the total death toll from the storm to at least seven.
Rescue agencies in the country say the downpours have destroyed at least two homes and damaged 190 others. Close to 18,000 people living in vulnerable areas have been evacuated and taken to the homes of relatives or to shelters.
Tropical Storm Nicole has formed in the Atlantic.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm currently poses no threat to land. Nicole is located about 525 miles (840kmh) northwest of San Juan Puerto Rico. It has maximum sustained winds near 50 mph (85kph) with higher gusts.
Little change in strength is expected for the next day or so, followed by gradual weakening.
With Hurricane Matthew expected to impact the South Carolina coast by the weekend, the American Red Cross is issuing a call for volunteers.
Louise Welch Williams, the CEO of the Palmetto, South Carolina Region of the agency based in North Charleston, said Tuesday the Red Cross needs volunteers in the Charleston, Bluffton and Georgetown areas.
The agency says it especially needs volunteers to assist with sheltering and feeding those who may be affected by the hurricane. The agency said volunteers will likely be needed to help residents across the state of South Carolina.
Projections from the National Hurricane Center show that the storm is expected to be off the South Carolina coast early Saturday with maximum winds of about 100 mph.
Gov. Rick Scott is urging residents up and down Florida’s Interstate 95 corridor to start preparing for “direct impacts” of Hurricane Matthew.
Scott was in the Florida Keys Tuesday morning for a briefing on the Category 4 storm that is currently moving over the southwestern coast of Haiti. The storm is heading toward Cuba and the southeastern coast of Florida.
The governor warned residents to take the storm seriously, adding “we cannot rule out a direct hit.” He says heavy rain, spin off tornadoes, high winds and beach erosion are among the concerns in Florida.
He asked residents to listen for directions from local officials and to “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
Scott and other officials are urging people to have at least a three-day supply of food, water and medicine on hand. Also, Scott urged people to get gas in their vehicles and to keep cellphones charged in case of electrical power loss.
National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb says Hurricane Matthew will continue to have a devastating impact on Haiti, even after landfall.
Knabb says the storm is about to emerge back over water but there’ll still be heavy rainfall that’s likely to cause flash floods and mudslides, along with strong winds and storm surges.
The hurricane is heading to eastern Cuba, but Knabb says the island’s mountains aren’t expected to have much effect on the storm.
Knabb says tropical storm or hurricane watches may be issued for parts of southeastern Florida later Tuesday. A high pressure ridge is nudging Matthew toward Florida and blocking its path due north from the Bahamas.
Hurricane Matthew has made landfall in western Haiti.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Category 4 storm made landfall around 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday near Les Anglais, Haiti. Matthew’s maximum sustained winds are near 145 mph (230 kph).
The hurricane has pounded the southwestern coast of Haiti, threatening a largely rural corner of the impoverished country with devastating storm conditions as it heads north toward Cuba and the eastern coast of Florida.
© Copyright Times Colonist