Hurricane Matthew intensified very rapidly into a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale as it moved across the southern Caribbean Sea on Friday. At 5:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 13.5°N and longitude 71.6°W which put it about 75 miles (120 km) north of Punta Gallinas, Colombia. Matthew was moving toward the west-southwest at 9 m.p.h. (15 km/h). The maximum sustained wind speed was 140 m.p.h. (220 km/h). and there were wind gusts t0 165 m.p.h. (265 km/h). The minimum surface pressure was 949 mb.
The Hurricane Size Index (HII) was 28.3. The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) was 13.2 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 41.5. The indices mean that Hurricane Matthew is very similar in size and intensity to what Hurricane Ike was when Ike was northeast of the Leeward Islands in 2008. The indices also mean that Hurricane Matthew is capable of producing regional significant wind damage.
Hurricane Matthew is very well organized and it efficiently extracted energy from the warm water of the Caribbean Sea to intensify rapidly on Friday. It has a circular eye with a diameter of about 15 miles (24 km). The eye is surrounded by a ring of very tall thunderstorms. The thunderstorms are pumping out large quantities of mass which allowed the surface pressure to decrease by 44 mb during the past 24 hours. There additional bands of thunderstorms, mainly in the eastern half of the circulation.
Hurricane Matthew will remain in a very favorable environment while it is over the Caribbean Sea. It could intensify further. When hurricanes become as strong as Matthew strong, they sometimes undergo eyewall replacement cycles. During an eyewall replacement cycle, a hurricane first weakens and then strengthens again when the innermost eyewall dissipates. If eyewall replacement cycles occur in Hurricane Matthew, then the intensity will fluctuate.
A strong subtropical high pressure system north of Matthew is steering the hurricane toward the west-southwest. That general motion is expected to continue for another 24 hours. When Matthew reaches the western end of the subtropical high, it will start to move toward the north. Guidance from numerical models is still divergent about the details of the turn toward the north. If the turn is sharper, it could mean that Hurricane Matthew moves toward Haiti. If the turn is more gradual, it could mean that Matthew heads for Jamaica and eastern Cuba. The uncertainty is the reason why watches have been posted for both Jamaica and Haiti.
Matthew is a very powerful hurricane. It is capable of causing regional significant wind damage. In addition Matthew will produce very heavy rain and the potential for dangerous flash flooding. There is also the possibility of a significant storm surge along the coast.