Hurricane Matthew, blamed for 11 deaths so far, weakened to a Category 3 after making landfall in Cuba, its maximum sustained winds dropping to 115 mph on Wednesday morning Oct. 5. But forecasters expect it to regain strength as it churns toward the Bahamas, and then tracks perilously close to Florida, the Miami Herald reported.
The 8 a.m. Wednesday advisory from the National Hurricane Center had Matthew still slamming eastern Cuba and beginning to pound portions of the southeastern Bahamas. Hurricane conditions are expected to spread over the central Bahamas later Wednesday and the northwestern Bahamas Wednesday night.
Bahama’s prime minister, Perry Christie, told Bahamians to prepare for a “worst-case scenario’’ as the hurricane is expected to assault every island in the region. All airports were closed Wednesday. New Providence, the country’s most populated island, is predicted to get a direct hit, he said.
The storm, which has already started to deluge the southernmost island of Inagua, is projected to bring heavy rain, violent winds and storm surges up to 15 feet.
Florida could begin to feel the effects Thursday afternoon. The state hasn’t taken a direct hit from a major storm in more than a decade.
“These are all projections — we must be prepared for a direct hit,’’ Gov. Rick Scott said at a Wednesday morning press briefing.
The governor urged residents in barrier islands prone to flooding to evacuate and not wait until the storm hits. He also announced that 500 national guard troops have been activated and will be deployed around the state to assist counties with evacuations.
“Assume that it is going to hit; it will be barely off our coast,’’ Scott said.
South Floridians began to scramble for hurricane supplies Tuesday and gas stations and grocery stores remained crowded, some with long lines, on Wednesday.
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