Earth & Conservation

Tropical Storm Matthew Takes Aim at the Caribbean

Parts of the Caribbean face the prospect of a hurricane this weekend into next week as Tropical Storm Matthew churns through the region.

Parts of the Caribbean face the prospect of a hurricane this weekend into next week as Tropical Storm Matthew churns through the region.

As of 11 a.m. on Thursday, Matthew remained a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds at 70 mph. That's just below the 74 mph threshold for a Category 1 hurricane, and Matthew is expected to cross that threshold by Friday morning, making it the fifth hurricane to form in the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season.

Credit: National Hurricane Center

The storm is tracking westward at about 16 mph in the southern Caribbean. Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao all have tropical storm watches in effect and the National Hurricane Center has warned that coastal areas in Venezuela and Colombia should monitor the storm as well. In addition to gusty conditions, 4 inches or more of rain could fall and heavy surf is likely to pound the South American coast and the small islands in Matthews path.

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Matthew's westward jaunt is expected to take an abrupt turn north on Saturday. The most likely track would take it over the eastern tip of Cuba, though considerable uncertainty remains this far out. Jamaica and Haiti are also in the possible path of the storm and even if it doesn't hit them directly, tropical storm-force winds, some rain and heavy surf are all possible.

During that time, the storm will likely continue to strengthen. Earlier this week, it looked like that strengthening could be explosive. Increased wind shear and the storm's failure to get more organized, however, make it more likely that it will gradually strengthen into early next week.

Peak winds are forecast to reach 100 mph by Monday, making the storm a middle-of-the-road Category 2 hurricane. That's still nothing to sneeze at and the storm could wreak havoc if it makes landfall anywhere in the Caribbean.

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From there, the forecast gets even more murky. A number of models take Matthew further north. The storm could menace the Eastern Seaboard and as Capital Weather Gang notes, Matthew is eerily similar to Hurricane Hazel, a 1954 hurricane that made landfall in the Carolinas as a Category 4 storm.

But any possible U.S. impacts are at least a week away and a lot can change during that time. So it's more a period to watch and wait rather than batten down the hatches if you live on the East Coast.

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