PORT-AU-PRINCE — At one point a Category 5 storm, and the region’s strongest hurricane since Felix in 2007, Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall on Cuba’s east coast before heading north to the Bahamas and Florida’s Atlantic coast.
As of 8 a.m. EDT this morning the storm was about 15 kilometres east of Tiburon, Haiti, and 200 kilometres south of the eastern tip of Cuba. It was moving north near 15 km/h.
The hurricane centre said it would likely issue a tropical storm watch or hurricane watch for the Florida Keys or the Florida peninsula and that it could create dangerous beach conditions along the East Coast later in the week.
Cuba’s government declared a hurricane alert for six eastern provinces.
Meanwhile The Turks and Caicos Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies (DDME) and The Bahamas Department of Meteorology issued a hurricane warning for the Turks and Caicos Islands. Tourism officials have urged visitors to leave the Turks and Caicos “if they have the means to do so safely”.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to hit Florida later this week and Governor Rick Scott has already declared a state of emergency. By the time it hits Florida, its expected Matthew will still be a major hurricane with 177 km/h winds. Even Orlando, located far in-land, will likely see tropical storm force winds and heavy rain on Thursday night and into Friday morning.
More than a dozen cruise ships are also in Matthew’s path. Here are the latest itinerary changes, from CruiseCritic:
- Carnival Splendor has flipped its ports for its Oct. 2 cruise. The ships is calling at Cozumel today, Grand Cayman on Wednesday and Ocho Rios on Thursday, with a day at sea on Friday.
- Carnival Ecstasy cancelled calls to Half Moon Cay, Nassau and Freeport, replacing them with one stop to Cozumel and days at sea. The ship will sail one hour early to keep ahead of the storm. Passengers on this sailing will receive 25% future cruise discounts and US$50 onboard credits. Passengers could also cancel their cruise and get a full refund.
- Carnival Pride, originally on track to the Caribbean, will head north from Baltimore to New York and Saint John, NB. Passengers on this sailing also will receive a 25% future cruise discount as well as $100 credits to be used onboard. Full refunds were available to passengers who wish to cancel their cruise.
- Carnival Victory will call at Freeport on Tuesday.
- Carnival Elation is visiting Key West on Oct. 5 instead of Half Moon Cay, and it will skip Nassau on Oct. 6. Passengers will visit Freeport on Oct. 7, originally a sea day.
- Island Princess will now visit Grand Cayman on Oct. 4 and has cancelled its Oct. 5 call to Aruba.
- Enchantment of the Seas is expected to arrive at Cozumel on Oct. 5. The next port of call is Key West on Oct. 6.
- Allure of the Seas will call at Cozumel on Oct. 4, with a sea day on Oct. 5. Then it’s on to Jamaica on Oct. 6 and Labadee on Oct. 7, with an at-sea day Oct. 8.
- Freedom of the Seas is calling at San Juan, Puerto Rico today instead of its private island in the Bahamas, CocoCay.
- Majesty of the Seas will stop at Key West on Oct. 5 instead of Nassau.
- Norwegian Sky will visit Key West on Oct. 4 (instead of Freeport) and Cozumel (instead of Nassau) on Oct. 5.
- Disney Dream will have a day at sea Oct. 4, then a visit to Cozumel on Oct. 5.