National Weather Service forecasters show Hurricane Matthew tracking further west and say the threat scenarios now include a direct hit of the Category 2 storm in the Carolinas on Saturday or a sideswipe of the coast with some tropical or hurricane storm impacts.
Several long-term tracking models including one by the National Weather Service shows Matthew striking the southern tip of the North Carolina coast before bouncing back to sea. The new model also suggests inland Horry County will be impacted by tropical storm force weather.
Best-case scenario, federal forecasters say, high-pressure systems could steer the storm back out to sea.
“We have to be very vigilant in watching this storm,” said Reid Hawkins, science officer with the National Weather Service.
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The National Hurricane Center says there is a high level of uncertainty as to the track and speed of the storm later this week after the hurricane moves north of the Bahamas.
The probability for tropical storm winds has increased across northeast S.C. and southeast N.C. , and hurricane-force wind speed probabilities also are a possibility, the Monday night forecast said.
Other than a high confidence of dangerous maritime conditions developing later in the week, flooding, surge, wind and tornado impacts will be highly dependent on the track of the storm, according to the Carolina threat assessment from the National Weather Service.
“All interests in northeast S.C. and southeast N.C. are strongly encouraged to closely monitor this developing weather situation. Be prepared to act if it becomes apparent that direct impacts will occur,” the threat assessment said.
The Grand Strand has already seen 18 inches of rain in the last month. “Any more rain will make the situation worse,” Hawkins said.
The storm has sustained winds near 140 mph and is expected to remain a Category 4 hurricane through Wednesday, before slowing to a strong Category 2 storm through Thursday and Friday.
The storm continues to move slowly at 6 mph on a north track.
Heavy rains from the outer bands of Matthew drenched Jamaica and Haiti on Monday, flooding streets and sending many people to emergency shelters as the storm approached the two countries. Two deaths were reported in Haiti, bringing the total for the storm to at least four, and hundreds more gathered in shelters.
The center of Matthew was expected to pass just east of Jamaica and near or over the southwestern tip of Haiti early Tuesday before heading to eastern Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center.
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.
A hurricane warning was posted for the southeastern Bahamas, where the storm was expected to move along the eastern length of the island chain starting early Wednesday. A hurricane watch is also in effect for eastern Cuba, then the storm is expected to pass the eastern coast of Florida later this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Things to include in emergency supply kits:
- Weather radio with extra batteries
- Non-perishable food (for at least three days)
- Water (two gallons per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation)
- Flashlights with extra batteries and bulbs
- First aid kit
- Non-electrical can opener
- Necessary medications and prescriptions
- Needed supplies for any children
- Needed supplies for any pets
- Important documents (insurance policies, photo ID, tax records, bank information, etc.)
- Toiletries and other personal hygiene items
- Cash and credit cards
- Cell phone with portable chargers