GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (UPI) — The United States is moving hundreds of employees from the Guantanamo naval base ahead of powerful Hurricane Matthew, which is expected to bring 150-mph winds and up to 40 inches of rain in Jamaica and Cuba on Monday.
The Category 4 hurricane is slowly making its way to those island nations as the most powerful storm to form in the Caribbean since 2007, NBC News reported.
The storm is expected to hit Kingston Jamaica on the island’s southern coast where its only oil refinery is located. Matthew is also forecast to beat up on Haiti, threatening landslides and flooding in both locations.
Haiti Interior Ministry spokesman Albert Moulion said voluntary evacuations of residents of small, exposed sandy islands in the south as a precaution has already begun.
“We have already started evacuations,” he said. “The national center of emergency operations has been activated.”
Matthew is due to hit eastern Cuba by early Tuesday.
While those islands are under a hurricane warning, the Cuban province of Camaguey and the southern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands are under a Hurricane Watch, according to an advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center at 8 a.m. Sunday.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Dominican Republic from Barahona west to its border with Haiti.
Preparations by the U.S. Navy include moving 700 spouses and children from Guantanamo to Florida to wait out the storm.
“The remaining military and civilian personnel will shelter in place and be able to support recovery efforts once safe to do so following the storm’s passage,” the Navy said in a statement. The Navy operates a base and a military prison at Guantanamo.
“Tropical storm conditions are expected to first reach these areas by late Sunday, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous,” the National Hurricane Center said. Preparations on these island nations need to be finished quickly, it said.
South Florida has a bit more time to prepare, said Rick Knabb, director of the hurricane center in Miami. Still, he is urging people in Florida to stock up on hurricane supplies and prepare now.
“It is too soon to rule out possible hurricane impacts from Matthew in Florida,” the agency said.
Matthew is the fifth hurricane of the Atlantic season.