(CNN) — Jamaicans and Haitians braced for Hurricane Matthew as the powerful Category 4 storm barreled toward their countries, forecasters said Saturday.
The storm is expected to smack the two countries Monday, but residents should be feeling its effects by Sunday.
Matthew may slam Cuba, the Bahamas and South Florida later next week, forecasters said.
Residents in South Florida have “the luxury of time,” said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. But he urged people to use it to prepare and buy supplies.
Weather models currently have Matthew possibly scraping the southern part of the state.
10 to 15 inches of rain likely
A hurricane watch is in effect for Jamaica, which expects its first major hurricane since Gilbert in 1988. Ivan Shaw, a videographer based in Kingston, said stores were open Saturday for last-minute shoppers.
In Haiti, a hurricane watch is in effect from the southern border with the Dominican Republic to Mole St. Nicolas.
The National Hurricane Center predicts life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides. Rainfall will total 10 to 15 inches across Jamaica and southern Haiti, with maximum amounts of 25 inches, the center said.
Meteorological Service of Jamaica Director Evan Thomas said he expected the storm to hit the island and said fishermen have been advised to evacuate from the cays and return to the mainland, the Jamaica Observer reported.
“Many land areas are at least threatened by the system,” the National Hurricane Center’s Knabb said. “Hurricane hunters are going to be flying in and out of Matthew for days to come.”
Matthew expected to remain powerful hurricane
Matthew is a Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds at 155 mph (250 kilometers per hour) and gusting to 190 mph (305 kilometers per hour).
It briefly strengthened late Friday into a Category 5 storm, becoming the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean since Felix in 2007, the National Weather Service said.
“Some fluctuations in intensity are possible this weekend, but Matthew is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through Monday,” the National Hurricane Center said.
IBC Airways has canceled all flights Monday to and from the US naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because of the approaching storm, the naval station said via Twitter.
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines issued travel warnings for their customers, saying change fees can be waived for flights to some destinations.