The strongest Atlantic storm in nine years, Hurricane Matthew, is currently in the Caribbean Sea, heading towards Haiti. The hurricane has prompted hundreds of thousands of residents in Caribbean countries to leave their homes; the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and the United States have all evacuated citizens from affected locations. The storm's arrival to Haiti, Jamaica, eastern Cuba, and the Bahamas is "imminent," according to the Weather Channel. But where is it headed next? As the storm progresses, Hurricane Matthew could affect Florida.
While forecasters can't be completely certain about the storm's path, models show that Matthew will likely hit the southeastern United States. On Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center confirmed that as the storm picked up speed, it oriented its path closer to Florida, increasing the danger its coastlines could potentially face. In preparation for the potential natural disaster, Florida and North Carolina's governors have already declared a state of emergency.
"If Matthew directly impacts Florida," Florida Governor Rick Scott said during a press conference, "there will be massive destruction we have not seen in years, comparable to what we saw in Hurricane Andrew." Matthew is projected to hit Florida starting Wednesday, according to WSVN Miami, and it's projected to hit North Carolina by the upcoming weekend. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said weight restrictions on trucks and hours of service have been opened up due to the emergency situation to let farmers harvest and sell their crops before they get ruined by the weather conditions.
South Carolina has yet to declare a state of emergency, but Hilton Head Island, a resort island off the state's coast, is suspending work on a beach-rebuilding project until the hurricane moves on, according to the AP. The United States also evacuated non-essential personnel and family members from the United States Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Weather Channel reported.
Hurricane Matthew is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, meaning it has wind speeds between 130 and 156 mph. The scale has five categories, with categories 4 and 5 indicating that a hurricane will likely cause "catastrophic damage." Hurricane warnings have been issued for Jamaica, Haiti, and the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Granma, Las Tunas, and the southeastern Bahamas. There is also a tropical storm warning in effect for the Dominican Republic.
If you live in a potentially impacted area and you're worried about the storm's trajectory, you can use an interactive storm tracker map to keep track of Matthew's location. You can also sign up to receive real time alerts for your area from the Weather Channel. And if you plan to travel in the vicinity of the storm, think about rescheduling your trip.