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Hurricane Matthew to lash Caribbean with flooding, damaging winds

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Hurricane Matthew will threaten the western and central Caribbean with flooding rain, damaging winds and an inundating storm surge early next week.

Matthew, currently a Category 2 hurricane, will continue to move westward across the central Caribbean Sea before making an abrupt turn to the north this weekend.

Matthew has the potential to reach Category 3 (major) hurricane status over the weekend.

Rain and wind will pick up in intensity and seas will build across the Caribbean well ahead of the storm.

As Matthew makes a turn to the north Sunday into early next week, hurricane conditions will ramp up across Jamaica and Haiti before eventually spreading into eastern Cuba, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.

How quickly Matthew turns to the north will determine whether the worst of the impacts track closer to Jamaica or Haiti during the early part of the week.

A slower turn to the north will take Matthew farther west toward Jamaica, while a faster turn to the north will take the storm farther east toward Haiti, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Ed Vallee.

Regardless, residents of Jamaica, Haiti and eastern Cuba should prepare for flooding rain, sustained damaging winds in excess of 80 mph, and gusts of over 100 mph, Vallee added.

"Widespread rainfall amounts of 5 to 10 inches can be expected across Jamaica, Haiti and eastern Cuba," AccuWeather Meteorologist Rob Miller said. "This includes the city of Kingston, Jamaica."

Across the mountainous terrain, rainfall amounts well over a foot are likely, Miller said. Life-threatening landslides will result.

An inundating storm surge will accompany the rain and wind, threatening to flood coastal communities.

Even well away from the storm, impacts will be felt as far away as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

"Tropical moisture from Matthew will enhance squalls across the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, including in Santo Domingo," Miller said. "Three to 6 inches of rain and localized flooding will be possible."

Residents and vacationers across the region need to heed all warnings and make preparations in advance of the storm. Loose outdoor items should be secured or brought inside to prevent them from becoming projectiles.

All cruise ships, fishing vessels and shipping interests should avoid the area until Matthew moves away later next week.

Weather conditions and seas will gradually subside from south to north across the Caribbean toward the middle of next week.

After moving away from the Caribbean, Matthew may approach the U.S. East Coast during the middle and latter half of next week.