Update 11 a.m.: Miami is now officially under a tropical storm watch, NOAA says, which runs from the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys to Deerfield Beach. A hurricane watch, meanwhile, has been issued from Deerfield north to the Volusia/Brevard County line.
As Category 4 Hurricane Matthew's eye passes over Les Cayes, Haiti, this morning, the storm remains a churning behemoth. Winds topping 140 mph have been reported in Haiti's westernmost tip, while up to three feet of rain pours onto mountain villages in nearby hillsides. Across the border in the Dominican Republic, the dirty side of the 'cane has spawned tornadoes and vicious windstorms.
As the Caribbean hunkers down for the storm to pass, the threat to the Sunshine State is still strong this morning. In its latest update, NOAA's Hurricane Center says parts of Florida's east coast and the Keys are likely to come under official watches soon.
"Tropical storm and/or hurricane watches are likely for portions of the Florida peninsula and Florida Keys later this morning," NOAA reports as of 5 a.m.
Take it from none other than Bryan Norcross how serious a threat this storm is. On Facebook this morning, he writes, "This is the MOST POWERFUL hurricane we’ve seen off or near the east coast of Florida in 37 years," and adds:
THIS IS THE BIGGEST HURRICANE THREAT IN MANY DECADES. Hopefully the worst will stay offshore, but don’t bet your life on it.
Storm model tracks are still mostly in agreement with yesterday's westward shift of the storm. NOAA's latest forecast calls for the storm to veer toward Florida by Thursday:
Of course, three days out, forecasts are still far from certain in terms of where the storm will hit and how strong it will be by then. Unlike many hurricanes that hit Cuba and Hispaniola, Matthew looks likely to mostly avoid the mountain ranges on those islands. That means it should remain strong as it barrels over the flat Bahamas.
"Matthew poses an unusually widespread threat to the U.S. East Coast, with impacts possible from Florida to Maine," write Bob Henson and Jeff Masters of Weather Underground.
Today, though, all eyes are on Haiti, where it's been almost a decade since a storm this strong struck the island nation. Video shot early this morning as the eye approached showed a violent tempest: