Hurricane Matthew is heading for the Bahamas today after powering over Cuba, Jamaica, and Haiti on Tuesday, killing at least nine people and causing extreme flooding and damage.
It is expected to reach the United States on Thursday evening.
The storm left a path of destruction behind it in Haiti, where it arrived with 145 mph wind as a Category 4 storm, the strongest storm to hit Haiti in more than 50 years.
The Weather Channel reported that at least 9 people died in the storm, including a 26-year-old Haitian man who drowned trying to rescue a child in a rushing river — the child was saved — and two others in Haiti. Four people in Dominican Republic were killed, as well as one each in Colombia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
More than two feet of rainfall were expected in Haiti, putting the small, mostly treeless island at risk for deadly mudslides and flooding with storm surges of up to 11 feet, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The rain was expected to take a toll on the country’s agriculture.
“Haiti just suffered a drought and now has to deal with this,” Holly Frew, emergency communication manager for CARE USA, told PBS News. “What crops they had were washed away. That will be a concern, helping people get their livelihoods back.”
CARE distributed food and water to 7,000 people as the storm hit, PBS said. More than 300,000 Haitians had gone to shelters during the storm, CNN reported.
"Much of the population is displaced and communication systems are down," Mourad Wahba, the UN Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative for Haiti, told CNN. "We've received reports of destroyed houses and overflowing hospitals with shortages of buckets and fresh water. The hospital in Les Cayes has had its roof blown off by the force of winds."
Hurricane Matthew barrels towards the Bahamas after killing nine people and pummeling Haiti and Cuba pic.twitter.com/LUg8m2C4l0— AFP news agency (@AFP) October 5, 2016
Haiti is uniquely vulnerable to storm damage following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country’s infrastructure and killed 200,000 people, forcing nearly 1 million to live in tents. Months later, a cholera outbreak killed thousands more.
The storm is slightly less powerful today than it was on Tuesday, now a Category 3 storm with 115 mph wind, but is expected to strengthen once again through Thursday, the NHC said.
Haiti is still experiencing hurricane conditions today, according to the NHC.
The storm is expected to travel over Bahamas today and Thursday before arriving in Florida Thursday night. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already declared a state of emergency and warned residents to expect loss of power and evacuations.
"I cannot emphasize enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday. "That means people have less than 24 hours to prepare, evacuate and shelter. Having a plan in place could mean the difference between life and death."