HAVANA – Authorities on Monday are finalizing precautionary measures to minimize the effects resulting from Hurricane Matthew, a dangerously powerful storm, which is slowly approaching eastern Cuba, where more than 200,000 people have been evacuated from coastal communities and flood-prone areas.
Weather conditions in southeastern Cuba will begin to deteriorate starting Monday evening as the storm moves slowly northward from below Jamaica, according to the National Weather Institute.
At midday on Monday, the Category 4 hurricane was located 455 kilometers (282 miles) south of Guantanamo province, at Cuba’s eastern end, and 475 kilometers (294 miles) from Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second-most-important city.
Storm-track analysis by meteorologists finds that after remaining almost stationary and affecting Jamaica and Haiti, Matthew now packs winds of 220 kph (136 mph) and is moving north at 9 kph (4 mph), and is expected to arrive on Tuesday morning on the Cuban coast.
The storm will bring very heavy winds, torrential rains and waves predicted to reach 10 meters (33 feet) in height.
Given that expected scenario over the next 24-48 hours, highly-experience meteorologist Jose Rubiera said that he is “99.9 percent” convinced that this time Cuba will be “strongly affected.”
He said Matthew is a “most dangerous” hurricane of “great intensity” that at this time is gaining “structure” around its central eye, which is surrounded by the strongest bands of wind.
Starting with those elements, he warned that weather conditions are that the storm “will not weaken” and before it reaches the Cuban coast temperatures at sea will fluctuate between 29.5 and 30.5 degrees Celsius (85-87 degrees Fahrenheit), which will provide it with “enough energy” to maintain its Category 4 status and even increase in strength.
With that prediction in mind, Civil Defense authorities’ preparations to reduce Matthew’s impact are already under way with the eastern provinces being placed under a “hurricane warning.”
Supervising the measures, President Raul Castro since Saturday has been touring the threatened region and has been to Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba, reviewing military units assigned to rescue and salvage missions in natural disasters.
Some 179,000 people in those two provinces have been relocated, while in Las Tunas some 31,000 have been evacuated along with another 23,700 in Camagüey.
The storm is expected to dump more than 100 mm (4 inches) of rain in the region in the next 24 hours.