KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Hurricane Matthew grew into a powerful Category 4 storm on Friday as it crossed the Caribbean Sea on a course that could have it pounding Jamaica within days.
The center of the hurricane was projected to pass just to the east of Jamaica early Monday, but the storm was large enough that it could affect the entire island, and the first effects of the storm may be felt starting Saturday, said Evan Thompson, director of the National Meteorological Service.
Jamaica activated its National Emergency Operations Center and Prime Minister Andrew Holness called an urgent meeting of Parliament to discuss preparations for the storm.
Parts of the country, especially the eastern tip and higher elevations, could get up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain. Flooding and some landslides are likely. “We do consider it serious,” Thompson said. “We are all on high alert.”
The capital, Kingston, is in the southeastern corner of Jamaica and was expected to experience flooding. The government issued a hurricane watch on Friday afternoon, and a tropical storm watch was issued for Haiti’s southwest coast form the southern border it shares with the Dominican Republic to the capital of Port-au-Prince.
As of 5 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), the storm was centered about 465 miles (750 kilometers) southeast of Kingston and about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Punta Gallinas, Colombia. It had maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (220 kmh), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).
It brought extremely high tides, storm surge and heavy rain to Colombia, prompting authorities to declare an alert as local TV broadcast images of cars and tree trunks surging though flooded streets in coastal areas. There were no reports of casualties.
Matthew caused at least one death when it entered the Caribbean on Wednesday, with officials in St. Vincent reporting a 16-year-old boy was crushed by a boulder as he tried to clear a blocked drain.