Tropical Storm Matthew headed toward Cuba with hurricane potential

(MAP: Weather Underground)

Gaining force that could turn it into a hurricane, Tropical Storm Matthew continued to push into the Caribbean Sea on Thursday Sept. 29, on a track that could take it across Cuba.

In their 8 a.m. adivsory, National Hurricane Center forecasters said Matthew was located 300 miles south of San Juan, Puerto Rico with sustained winds reaching 70 mph and higher gusts, the Miami Herald reported.

Matthew’s current projected path does not hold an immediate threat for the Yucatan Peninsula.

The storm had slowed to 13 mph and could strengthen to a hurricane as early as today. Tropical storm force winds extend about 185 miles, blowing strongest on the storm’s northeast side.

The storm continued moving west, steered by a ridge. But over the next two days, the storm should round the corner and make a turn north, forecasters said.

Where that turn occurs would determine whether Matthew cuts across Cuba, Haiti, or in between. Early Thursday, forecasters said computer models leaned more toward a path over Cuba, taking the storm’s center across the island’s eastern end in the next four days.

(MAP: Weather Underground)
(MAP: Weather Underground)

Two other models show a slower moving storm crossing Hispaniola. Forecasters repeated their warning that the models can be off by as much as 180 miles four days out.

On Thursday, hurricane-stifling wind shear picked up. Forecasters said the shear was likely to fade over the next three days, allowing Matthew to strengthen. However, the models again disagree on predicting shear, a key factor in the storm’s strength and future track.

On Wednesday, Matthew pounded Barbados with heavy winds. Authorities placed the island on lock down, Barbados Today reported, which was lifted early Thursday.

A tropical storm watch remained in effect for Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba. The storm is expected to drop between 1 and 3 inches of rain on the islands through Friday.