Hurricane Matthew, an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, is bringing devastating winds and rainfall, and life-threatening flash floods, mud slides and storm surges as it moves through the Caribbean. Haiti is especially vulnerable to its impacts.
According to WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre Miami (the U.S. National Hurricane Center), Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Western Haiti at 1100 UTC on Tuesday 4 October.
It is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Haiti since 1963, when Hurricane Flora claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people.
RSMC Miami said the eye of Hurricane Matthew made landfall over Les Anglais, in western Haiti. It was forecast to move back over water in the Gulf of Gonave and then to Windward Passage.
On the forecast track, the eye of Matthew was forecast to move near eastern Cuba later Tuesday, and move near or over portions of the southeastern and central Bahamas overnight and Wednesday, and approach the northwestern Bahamas Wednesday night.
Maximum sustained winds remain near 145 mph (230 km/h) with higher gusts. Matthew is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir- Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are possible during the next couple of days, but Matthew is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through at least Wednesday night.
In an advisory issued at 1200 UTC on 4 October, RSMC Miami warned of the following hazards affecting land:
WIND: Hurricane conditions are already affecting the southwestern portion of Haiti, and these conditions will spread northward Tuesday. Hurricane conditions are expected to reach eastern Cuba later Tuesday, the southeastern Bahamas Tuesday evening, the central Bahamas on Wednesday, and the northwestern Bahamas Wednesday night. Tropical storm conditions are expected to continue spreading across the remainder of Haiti today, eastern Cuba later this morning, the southeastern Bahamas later today, and the central and northwestern Bahamas Tuesday night and Wednesday, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous.
RAINFALL: Matthew is expected to lead to widespread heavy rainfall. The worst affected areas are expected to be:
Southern Haiti and southwestern Dominican Republic, 15 to 25 inches (38 to 63cms), isolated 40 inches (1 metre)
Eastern Cuba and northwestern Haiti, 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cms), isolated 20 inches (51 cms)
The Bahamas, 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cms), isolated 15 inches (38 cms)
“Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides are likely from this rainfall in southern and northwestern Haiti, the southwestern Dominican Republic, and eastern Cuba,” the advisory said.
STORM SURGE: The combination of a dangerous storm surge and large and destructive waves could raise water levels by up to 11 feet (3.4 metres) above normal tide levels in certain coastal parts of Cuba and Haiti. The high storm surge – equivalent to the height of a one-storey house - will exacerbate coastal inundation and combine with heavy inland flooding, with serious impacts for inhabitants and their livelihoods.
Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances. Large waves generated by Matthew will cause water rises to occur well in advance of and well away from the track of the center.
Haiti is the most vulnerable of all the countries in the path of Hurricane Matthew. WMO has been working to rehabilitate the National Meteorological and Hydrological Service, which was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake.
Haiti has benefited from great support from other meteorological services, especially Meteo-France and from Canada, enabling the diffusion of hurricane warnings as Matthew approached.