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US East Coast on alert for potential impacts from Hurricane Matthew

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Matthew, currently a Category 2 hurricane in the Caribbean, will take a northward turn this weekend, which will bring the storm along the Atlantic coast of the United States next week.

While there will be some impact from the storm on the U.S., how significant impacts are along the Atlantic Seaboard will depend on Matthew's strength and proximity to the coast.

At this time, possible tracks range from an initial landfall along the southern Atlantic coast to a storm remaining a few hundred miles offshore.

From late this weekend into next week, the forward speed of Matthew will likely be a determining factor on impact on the U.S.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno cited some similarities of the weather pattern to that of Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

"If Matthew moves swiftly, it has a greater chance of causing significant impact from rain, wind and flooding along along much of the Atlantic coast," Rayno said.

"On the other hand, if Matthew's forward speed slows, it could still have significant impact on the Atlantic coast, but in a much smaller area, when compared to a fast-moving hurricane," Rayno said.

Matthew will first have to cross over or close to Cuba early next week, which will cause the hurricane to weaken. However, strengthening is likely as the storm pulls away from Cuba later next week.

Once the hurricane emerges north of Cuba, the exact track of the storm during the middle and latter part of next week will become more clear, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis.

By then, the position and movement of other weather systems will be more set in stone and should lend a clue as to a track at sea or a turn toward the U.S. coast.

"While a track into the western Caribbean and then the Gulf of Mexico is still possible, that outcome appears unlikely at this time," Travis said.

Should Matthew remain offshore of the East Coast, impacts would be minimal. However, there will still be a period of rough surf, strong rip currents, beach erosion and dangerous seas that shifts northward.

People along the southern Atlantic coast of the U.S. may want to consider securing their small craft and preparing to protect property against stormy conditions, should Matthew turn toward land.

Coastal, shipping and cruise interests from Miami, Florida, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, should closely monitor the progress of Matthew.