first major hurricane threatening a direct hit on the United States in
more than 10 years, blasted the Bahamas on Thursday as it headed for
Florida after killing at least 265 people in the Caribbean, mostly in
extremely dangerous winds of 140 mph (220 kph), the storm pounded the
northwestern part of the Bahamas en route to Florida’s Atlantic coast,
the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
sustained winds later dropped to 130 mph, but it was likely to remain a
Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity
as it closed in on the United States, where it could either take direct
aim at Florida or tear along the state’s coast through Friday night,
the Miami-based center said.
storms with winds as powerful as Matthew’s have struck Florida, and the
NHC warned of “potentially disastrous impacts.” The U.S. National
Weather Service said the storm could be the most powerful to strike
northeast Florida in 118 years.
conditions were expected in parts of Florida late on Thursday and a
dangerous storm surge is expected to reach up to 11 feet (3.35 meters)
along the Florida coast, Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the
Miami-based NHC, said on CNN.
“What we know is that most of the lives lost in hurricanes is due to storm surge,” he said.
261 people were killed in Haiti, local officials said, and thousands
were displaced after the storm flattened homes, uprooted trees and
inundated neighborhoods earlier in the week. Four people were killed in
the Dominican Republic, which neighbors Haiti.
the storm passed near the Bahamas capital of Nassau, howling gusts of
wind brought down palms and other trees and ripped shingles off the
rooftops of many houses. The eye of the storm was located over the
western end of Grand Bahama Island on Thursday evening.
was too soon to predict where Matthew might do the most of its damage
in the United States, but the NHC’s hurricane warning extended up the
Atlantic coast from southern Florida through Georgia and into South
Carolina. More than 12 million people in the United States were under
hurricane watches and warnings, according to the Weather Channel.
last major hurricane, classified as a storm bearing sustained winds of
more than 110 mph (177 kph), to make landfall on U.S. shores was
Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Masters, a veteran hurricane expert, said on his Weather Underground
website (www.wunderground.com) that Matthew’s wind threat was especially
serious at Cape Canaveral, which juts into the Atlantic off central