Hurricane Matthew, a potentially devastating Category 4 storm, finally took its long anticipated turn to the north as it nears Haiti and Jamaica, CBS Miami reports.
It’s northward turn has prompted some officials on the U.S. East Coast to start making preparations.
The storm swirled across the Caribbean Sunday toward Haiti and Jamaica, where residents frantically stocked up on emergency supplies and authorities urged people to evacuate threatened areas.
South Carolina’s emergency preparedness officials have begun preparing for Hurricane Matthew.
The U.S. State Department warned American citizens to leave both Haiti and the Bahamas in advance of the storm.
In a news release issued Sunday, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division recommended that the state’s emergency response team review plans. Officials Horry, Beaufort and Charleston counties say they’re on alert status.
Matthew is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history and briefly reached the top classification, Category 5, becoming the strongest hurricane here since Felix in 2007.
The latest projections show Matthew’s center likely to strike the southwestern tip of Haiti on Monday. A hurricane warning has been issued for the impoverished country which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.
Deforestation has greatly increased the potential for devastating floods and landslides on Haiti and the country’s ramshackle homes and buildings are vulnerable to storms.
After passing Jamaica and Haiti, Matthew is expected to reach Cuba late Monday, potentially making a direct hit on the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where authorities said they were evacuating non-essential personnel, including about 700 family members of those serving there.
Everyone remaining behind was being told to take shelter, said Julie Ann Ripley, a spokeswoman. There are about 5,500 people living on the base, including 61 men held at the detention center.
The government of Haiti opened 1,300 emergency shelters across the country, enough to hold up to 340,000 people. Authorities broadcast warnings over the radio and across social media, trying to counter a common tendency for people to try to stay in their homes to protect them during natural disasters.
“The shelters are open but I don’t believe we have anyone inside them just yet,” said Joseph Edgard Celestin, a spokesman for the civil protection agency.
Forecasters said the slow-moving Matthew was expected to dump 15 to 25 inches of rain over southern Haiti, with a few places getting as much as 40 inches.
The forecast track would also carry Matthew into the Bahamas, with an outside chance of a brush with Florida, though that would be several days away.
“It’s too early to rule out what impacts, if any, would occur in the United States and Florida,” said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman at the Hurricane Center.
In Jamaica, flooding temporarily closed the road linking the capital to its airport. Carl Ferguson, head of the marine police, said people were starting to heed calls to relocate from small islands and areas near rural waterways.
In the coastal town of Port Royal, officials urged residents to seek refuge in government shelters and people in the capital, Kingston, crowded supermarkets to buy bottled water, canned food, flashlights and batteries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.