Late season hurricanes can be just as forceful as mid-summer storms, and Hurricane Matthew is no exception. The storm made landfall on Haiti’s southwestern coast early Tuesday morning as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 145 mph. Haiti officials are bracing for the worst as high winds and storm surges threaten the impoverished nation, where homes are not typically built to withstand such an event. Still moving on its north-northwesterly path, Hurricane Matthew will continue to batter Haiti over the course of the day before heading toward the eastern coast of Cuba late this afternoon.
Although many Atlantic hurricanes suffer a loss of energy when making landfall, Hurricane Matthew hasn’t slowed its pace, in part due to the small size of the islands it is traveling over. This is Haiti’s strongest hurricane in nearly a decade, and after a long reprieve, local officials are concerned that residents have become complacent about hurricane preparation. Rather than stocking up on essentials like food, bottled water, and batteries, some fear that many residents will be ill-equipped to handle the full extent of Hurricane Matthew’s visit to the struggling nation. So far, one Haitian fisherman has drowned in the storm surge, but no other major damage has been reported.
The people of Haiti are still struggling to recover from a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook the nation’s capital city of Port-au-Prince in 2010. That disaster killed 230,000 people and caused millions of dollars in damage to buildings and infrastructure. The island nation’s last major disaster was Hurricane Sandy in 2012 which did not make landfall in Haiti, but grazed it closely enough that the high winds and torrential rains killed 75 people and left $250 million in damages in its wake. The disaster kicked off a cholera outbreak that infected some 5,000 people in one of the nation’s largest public health emergencies in history.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami is keeping a close eye on the powerful storm, which is on track to tickle Cuba’s eastern coast, which is sparsely populated. Hurricane Matthew is then expected to travel north over the Bahamas where the storm is predicted to lose some power and drop to a Category 3. The storm’s path then leads it northward off the east coast of Florida until potentially makes landfall in southern North Carolina this weekend.
Via USA Today
Images via National Hurricane Center