Hurricane Matthew five-day forecast track. NHC/NOAA graphic
By Caribbean News Now contributor
MIAMI, USA -- Tropical storm Matthew strengthened to hurricane force on Thursday after leaving one dead and causing widespread flooding and landslides as it slowly made its way across the Eastern Caribbean on Wednesday evening.
Landslide damage in St Vincent and the Grenadines
Officials in St Vincent and the Grenadines confirmed that a fourth form secondary school student was crushed by a boulder during Matthew’s passage. Barbados, Dominica and Saint Lucia also reported flooding from the hours of rainfall. There were reports of some damage to property from gusty winds and fallen trees, and several communities experienced cuts in their electricity and water services.
The prime minister of Curacao, Dr Bernhard Whiteman, announced in a press conference late Thursday that the general elections due to take place on Friday will be postponed until next week Wednesday, October 5. This decision was made after consulting with political parties and other stakeholders.
According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, at 5:00 pm EDT on Thursday, the centre of Matthew was located about 150 miles (240 km) north-northeast of Curacao, moving toward the west near 17 mph (28 km/h). A westward to west-southwestward motion with some decrease in forward speed is expected during the next couple of days. Maximum sustained winds are near 75 mph (120 km/h) with higher gusts. Gradual strengthening is expected during the next 48 hours. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles (295 km).
A tropical storm watch is in effect for Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, and the Colombia/Venezuela border to Riohacha. Interests elsewhere along the coasts of Venezuela and Colombia, and in Jamaica, Hispaniola, and eastern Cuba should monitor the progress of Matthew.
Tropical storm conditions are possible in Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba on Thursday night and Friday. Tropical storm conditions are possible over portions of the watch area in Colombia beginning Friday.
Rainfall associated with Matthew will continue to diminish across the Lesser Antilles during Thursday evening. Isolated additional rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are possible over the southern Windward Islands. Rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches with isolated higher amounts are expected over Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao through Saturday.
Swells generated by Matthew are expected to affect portions of the coasts of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Venezuela, and Colombia during the next few days. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
There were reports of fallen trees; five damaged houses; nine downed utility poles; and a number of isolated power outages across the island in a number of parishes, along with reports of flooding in some areas.
Schools were due to remain closed on Thursday.
Many communities in Dominica were without power on Thursday morning, some of them since Wednesday afternoon after the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew resulted in numerous electrical poles and high voltage power lines being downed. Utility crews were actively working to restore service to affected areas.
Businesses are open and clean-up efforts are ongoing. Island accommodations and other tourism establishments weathered the storm with little to no disruptions to normal operations and are open to receive visitors.
The Douglas – Charles Airport has been reopened and ferry services are expected to resume on Friday. Travellers are advised to contact their respective service providers or travel agents to confirm travel status.
The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) reported flooding and minor damages as a result of Tropical Storm Matthew.
According to NEMO, there were power outages in several communities across the island, and all quadrants of Saint Lucia reported flooding.
Two people were trapped by flooding, but were able to make their way out after the waters receded. A house at in Dennery had its roof partially blown off.
There was no reported loss of life as a result of the passage of the storm; however, some temporary disruption to electricity and water supplies as well as temporary blockages to some key roads and bridges was reported. The agriculture sector sustained moderate damage, with officials currently engaged in initial assessments.
According to the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, hotel partners are reporting minimal to no significant damages to the island’s hotel plant with all properties fully operational.
Both the George F.L Airport and the Hewanorra International Airport reopened on Thursday and most flights have resumed service into the destination. Travelers are advised to contact their respective airlines directly for available service into and out of Saint Lucia.