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The eye of the Category 4 hurricane hit Haiti just after 7:00am, with maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour. (Photo: NOAA/EPA)

Hurricane Matthew Slams Haiti as Experts Warn Cuba, Florida Next

At least one dead in Caribbean's most powerful hurricane in almost a decade

Nadia Prupis

This post may be updated.

Hurricane Matthew has made violent landfall in Haiti, killing at least one person and destroying homes with heavy rain, strong winds, and surge flooding throughout the island's south-western peninsula in the Caribbean's most powerful storm in almost a decade.

The eye of the Category 4 hurricane hit Haiti just after 7:00am, with maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour. Weather Channel meteorologist Kevin Roth said it could dump 20 inches of rain in the island's lower ground and 40 inches in its mountains.

"Hurricane Matthew became the first Category 4 landfall in Haiti in 52 years, and parts of eastern Cuba and the Bahamas are next in line for a pummeling from this major hurricane," the Weather Channel said.

Reuters also reports:

One man died when a wave crashed through his home in the beach town of Port Salut, Haiti's civil protection service said. He had been too sick to leave for a shelter, according to officials.

Overnight, Haitians living in vulnerable coastal shacks on the Tiburon peninsula had frantically sought shelter as Matthew closed in, bringing heavy rain and driving the ocean into seaside towns. Poor Haitians are often loath to leave home in the face of storms, fearing their few belongings will be stolen.

The storm comes as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere continues to grapple with the long-term aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, as well as an expected outbreak of cholera, which the U.N. recently acknowledged it had a part in spreading.

"We're expecting a lot of houses to go down because of the poor housing infrastructure in a lot of the rural areas where we work," John Hasse, an aid worker in Haiti, told USA Today. "With wind this strong, it will be extremely damaging and dangerous and homes for the average person are made of mud and sticks or poorly constructed cinderblocks."

In the beach town of Les Cayes, about 150 people were forced to take shelter in a school, where they were reportedly left without supplies. "Since yesterday we've had nothing...We must sleep on the floor...Everyone is hungry," Erick Cange, a resident of the town's La Savanne neighborhood, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins warned that Matthew could also be a "major hurricane" from Florida to North Carolina, although impacts might be different in various regions.

At Wunderground, meteorologists Bob Henson and Jim Masters explain what that could mean:

One particular concern is the risk of very heavy rain from eastern North Carolina into the Delmarva region. The last two weeks have already left totals exceeding 10" in some areas. Any rains from Matthew would fall atop saturated soil, and even strong tropical-storm-force winds could lead to widespread tree uprooting. We can also expect major beach erosion as Matthew churns northeastward.

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday, putting the National Guard on standby.

The storm is also expected to hit Cuba in the province of Guantánamo, also home to the controversial U.S. military prison. Alexis Iglesias, head of the evacuation committee at Guantánamo University, which is acting as a storm shelter, told Reuters, "We are receiving people living in villages prone to flooding."

Last week, the Guantánamo Navy base evacuated about 700 family members of troops and other military staff to a "safe haven" in Pensacola.

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