The National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Matthew appeared to be on track to pass east of Florida through the Bahamas, but it was too soon to predict with certainty whether it would threaten any spot on the U.S. East Coast
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Matthew (all times local):
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency for 66 counties in the central and eastern parts of the state because Hurricane Matthew is on a course that would take it along the East Coast.
McCrory told a news conference on Monday that the declaration will immediately help farmers clear their fields of crops already affected by heavy rain over the last two weeks. He said he doesn't want other crops ruined, so restrictions on truck weights and hours of service are lifted under the emergency declaration to allow farmers to take their harvest to market.
The governor said he didn't want farmers to wait until Thursday to begin work if the storm is close to North Carolina.
The Civil Defense director for the Dominican Republic says his country has evacuated 13,000 people from high-risk areas ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew.
Rafael de Luna says rescue workers also are on alert in 24 of the 32 provinces in the country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
De Luna says authorities have banned navigation all along the country's coasts and are barring recreational activities in many mountains, rivers and beaches.
The hurricane is expected to hit Haiti hardest, but heavy rains and winds are also projected for the Dominican Republic.
Any impact from Hurricane Matthew is still days away, but South Carolina's already preparing for the storm.
On Monday, Hilton Head Island announced that work is being suspended on a $21 million dollar project to dredge sand from the ocean and rebuild the beach on the resort island on the state's southern tip. A dredge is being moved to safe harbor and more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) of pipe in place along the beach will be disassembled and stowed until the storm passes by.
Those preparations are expected to be complete by Wednesday. It's the third time this year work on the project has been suspended because of bad weather.
Farther north, Charleston Southern University says it's moving its home football game against Albany State to Thursday night in the Charleston area. The game had been set for Saturday at midday. That's when the National Hurricane Center projects that Matthew will be offshore of South Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane.
Cuba has declared a hurricane alert for six eastern provinces and is moving residents of low-lying areas and off-shore islands into temporary shelters in government buildings.
In Santiago, state workers are removing traffic lights from poles to keep them from falling during the hurricane and residents are boarding up windows with planks and pieces of sheet metal.
People have lined up by the dozens outside state stores to buy subsidized food ahead of Hurricane Matthew's expected arrival at the eastern tip of Cuba on Tuesday.
On the main highway into Santiago, farmers and residents of outlying towns have been heading toward shelters hauling possessions such as mattresses, in horse-drawn carts or tied atop the roofs of aging Soviet autos.
President Raul Castro has toured the city to review hurricane preparations.
The Bahamas Meteorology Department says the entire island chain should expect to feel at least some effects from Hurricane Mathew.
Senior Meteorological Officer Greg Thompson says the center of the system is projected to pass along the eastern edge of the Bahamas. That is expected to begin late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
The hurricane-force winds that extend about 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the center are expected to be closest to the lightly populated islands of Inagua, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Island, Cat Island, Rum Cay, Eleuthera and Abaco.
The most populated islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama are expected to experience winds of up to tropical-storm force. The capital of Nassau is located on New Providence.
Thompson says the storm will likely be in the Bahamas through Friday.
The U.S. Coast Guard is advising boaters in southeastern Florida to start preparing for Hurricane Matthew.
In news releases sent Monday, the agency says ports and facilities currently remain open to commercial traffic, but all oceangoing vessels and barges greater than 500 gross tons “should make plans for departing the port.”
Vessels seeking to stay in the port should contact the captain at each facility to receive permission to do so.
Pleasure boat owners are advised to seek safe harbor.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the hurricane's center is likely to miss Florida, but a direct impact can't be ruled out.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says it's still too early to say whether Hurricane Matthew will hit the United States.
The center says Hurricane Matthew is now on track to pass just east of Jamaica and near or over the southwestern tip of Haiti early Tuesday before it heads to eastern Cuba. It is expected to pass through the Turks and Caicos Islands and southern Bahamas early Wednesday.
Senior Hurricane Specialist Richard Pasch says the track after that point is uncertain. It appears that it will be staying east of Florida but the center is warning people in the state to monitor the system just in case.
Pasch says storms in South Florida on Sunday night and early Monday were not related to Hurricane Matthew and were caused by an area of low pressure.
The director of Haiti's Civil Protection Agency says two fishermen have died in rough water churned up by the approaching Hurricane Matthew.
Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste says a boat carrying one of the men capsized early Monday off the tiny fishing town of Saint Jean du Sud as he was trying to bring his wooden skiff to shore.
Jean-Baptiste says body of the other was recovered a short time later off the nearby town of Aquin after he apparently drowned.
Both towns are near the southwestern coastal city of Les Cayes. The center of Hurricane Matthew is expected to pass near or over southwestern Haiti on Tuesday, but the area is already experiencing rain from the outer bands of the storm.
The deaths of the two fishermen in Haiti brings the total death toll from Hurricane Matthew to at least four.
The government banned boating along the country's coastlines starting Saturday. But the head of an 80-member fishermen's association in the south coast town of Gressier says some fishermen were taking to the seas early Monday.
Johnny Souffrant says "They feel they have to take risks to support their families."
A senior government official in Jamaica says people in flood-prone areas of the country are refusing to leave their homes as the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew bring heavy rain and some flooding to parts of the island.
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie says one such area is Port Royal near the now-closed international airport in Kingston. McKenzie says the government ordered the area evacuated and sent two buses to help people move. But he says only two adults and two children boarded the bus. Others in the neighborhood wanted to stay and protect their homes.
The center of Hurricane Matthew was expected to pass to the east of Jamaica on Tuesday.
Already, many streets have flooded in low-lying areas. Police say there have been no casualties reported so far, but two men were arrested for looting in Kingston.
Major Hurricane Matthew is slowly churning northward across the Caribbean and meteorologists say the powerful storm is expected to approach Jamaica and southwest Haiti by Monday night.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the dangerous Category 4 storm has top sustained winds near 130 mph (215 kph).
A 2 a.m. hurricane center update said the eye of Matthew is about 310 miles (500 kilometers) southwest of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, and about 245 miles (395 kilometers) south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. The storm is moving to the north at 5 mph (7 kph).
A hurricane warning is in effect for Jamaica, Haiti, and the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Granma and Las Tunas — as well as the southeastern Bahamas. A hurricane watch is in effect for the Cuban province of Camaguey, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Central Bahamas.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Dominican Republic from Barahona westward to the border with Haiti and a tropical storm watch is in effect for the Dominican Republic from Puerto Plata west to the border with Haiti.
Vulnerable Haiti braced for flash floods and violent winds from the extremely dangerous Hurricane Matthew as the powerful storm kept on a path early Monday aiming at the hemisphere's poorest country.
The eye of the approaching Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (230 kph) late Sunday, was expected to pass to the east of Jamaica and then cross over or be very close to the southwestern tip of Haiti late Monday or early Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. It was predicted to hit the lightly populated eastern tip of Cuba on Tuesday afternoon.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Haiti, and Cuba. Rain was already lashing parts of Jamaica and flooding some homes, but forecasters said the southern Haitian countryside around Jeremie and Les Cayes could see the worst of the rains and punishing winds.
Matthew is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history and briefly reached the top classification, Category 5, becoming the strongest hurricane in the region since Felix in 2007. The hurricane center said the storm appeared to be on track to pass east of Florida through the Bahamas, but it was too soon to predict with certainty whether it would threaten any spot on the U.S. East Coast.