Powerful Hurricane Matthew swirls towards Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba

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Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful cyclone to form over the Atlantic since Hurricane Felix in 2007, churned across the Caribbean on Saturday on a path expected to put it over Jamaica and Haiti on Monday.

Matthew, with winds at about 150 miles per hour (240 kph), could make landfall as a major storm on Jamaica's southern coast, home to the country's capital, Kingston, and its only oil refinery.

SEE ALSO: Hurricane Matthew strengthens to 'powerful' Category 5 storm

The hurricane could also affect tourist destinations such as Montego Bay in the north and the southwest coast of flood-prone Haiti was also in harm's way, forecasters said.

Matthew was about 385 miles (620 km) southeast of Kingston on Saturday afternoon and the U.S. National Hurricane Center ranked it at Category 4 of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. Earlier it had been ranked at the top Category 5.

"Matthew is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 15 to 25 inches (38-63 cm) over southern Haiti, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 40 inches," the Miami-based hurricane center said.

More on Hurricane Matthew

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Hurricane Matthew
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CARIBBEAN SEA - OCTOBER 1: In this NOAA handout image, taken by the GOES satellite at UTC: 1447Z shows Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean Sea just south of Cuba and Jamacia on October 1, 2016. Matthew is now a strong Category 4 hurricane, in the central Caribbean Sea after weakening from a Category 5 overnight. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)
A man collects plastic and glass bottles in the canal of Portail Leogane, in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on October 1, 2016. As Hurricane Matthew threatens the Caribbean on Sunday, Haitians worry about flooding of the canal due to the accumulation of garbages. / AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Part of a street is reflected in a puddle near the canal of Portail Leogane, in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, on October 1, 2016. As Hurricane Matthew threatens the Caribbean on Sunday, Haitians worry about flooding of the canal due to the accumulation of garbages. / AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
A small market is reflected in a puddle near the canal of Portail Leogane, in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, on October 1, 2016. As Hurricane Matthew threatens the Caribbean on Sunday, Haitians worry about flooding of the canal due to the accumulation of garbages. / AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman sells sandals in a street near the canal of Portail Leogane in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on October 1, 2016. As Hurricane Matthew threatens the Caribbean on Sunday, Haitians worry about flooding of the canal due to the accumulation of garbages. / AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
A man repairs a bicycle in the Champ de Mars Square in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, on October 1, 2016. Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Caribbean storm in a decade, churned towards Jamaica and Haiti Saturday on a path that forecasters said could eventually take it to the eastern United States. / AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Jamaicans stand next to shopping carts filled with bottled water and other items outside a supermarket, pending the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Kingston, Jamaica, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
Jamaicans check flashlights at a supermarket pending the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Kingston, Jamaica, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
Jamaicans flock to the supermarkets to take care of last minute shopping pending the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Kingston, Jamaica, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
Jamaicans flock to the supermarkets to take care of last minute shopping pending the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Kingston, Jamaica, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
Tropical Storm Matthew, which has since gained hurricane strength, is seen in an image captured by NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite at 1pm ET (17:00 GMT) September 29, 2016. NOAA/NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
SALINA, CURACAO -  SEPTEMBER 29: Flooded area is seen after the Matthew hurricane in Salina, Curacao on September 29, 2016. In Salina, which is one of the wellknown centre in Curacao, hurricane Matthew caused flood. The storm, which became hurricane category one, will past 230 km away from Curacao.  (Photo by Paco Nunez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALINA, CURACAO -  SEPTEMBER 29: Flooded area is seen after the Matthew hurricane in Salina, Curacao on September 29, 2016. In Salina, which is one of the wellknown centre in Curacao, hurricane Matthew caused flood. The storm, which became hurricane category one, will past 230 km away from Curacao.  (Photo by Paco Nunez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Waves are seen as Hurricane Matthew approaches, in Kingston, Jamaica October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
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The hurricane could rival the destruction caused by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, but Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Reuters in a phone interview that he was cautiously optimistic.

"The impact of the hurricane will probably be similar or greater than Hurricane Gilbert, but our preparedness would be far better and therefore we would be able to mitigate the effects," Holness said, adding that he expects hits to both the tourism and agriculture sectors.

The Jamaican capital got a preview of what might be in store when the road to the airport temporarily flooded due to unusually high tides. Rain fell and authorities told fishermen to moor in safe harbor until the storm had passed.

"We're boarding up the windows and we're moving things in vulnerable areas to safer areas," said Mary Lowe, owner of Wilks Bay resort near Port Antonio on the northeast coast.

Disaster coordinators, police and troops are on high alert and shelters are being opened across the island.

Forecasters described Matthew's movements as erratic on Saturday, but said it would approach Jamaica and southwestern Haiti on Sunday. Haitian officials said storm preparations were focused on the south, which is prone to devastating flooding.

The hurricane was expected to reach Cuba early on Tuesday.

Cuba declared the first stage of an emergency in five eastern provinces. In its second city, Santiago de Cuba, the ruling Communist Party opened shelters and organized volunteer teams to clean storm drains and gather food stocks.

"We have to work intensely," said Lazaro Exposito Canto of the party central committee, saying in the Granma newspaper that volunteers would go from house to house to warn of the storm.

Cuba has a solid track record of preparing for storms. The last big one to hit was Sandy in 2012, which though weaker than Matthew caused major damage to property and killed 11 people.

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15 of the deadliest American hurricanes ever
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15 of the deadliest American hurricanes ever

Hurricane Hugo, 1989: 21 deaths

Hurricane Hugo made landfall as a Category 4 storm in South Carolina. It caused 21 deaths in the US and resulted in $7.1 billion of damage. At the time, it was the costliest storm in US history.

Photo courtesy: Getty

Tropical Storm Allison, 2001: 41 deaths

While not an official hurricane, Allison clocks in as the costliest and deadliest tropical storm in US history, causing 41 deaths and costing more than $5 billion in damage. The storm started over the Gulf of Mexico near Texas, then traveled east, causing floods like the one pictured here in Houston, Texas.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Hurricane Irene, 2011: 56 deaths

Hurricane Irene, the first storm to hit the US since Ike three years earlier, made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm. The storm eventually made its way up to New York City, bringing flooding -- like the kind pictured here in Puerto Rico -- and causing $7.3 billion in damage overall.

Photo courtesy: AP

Hurricane Floyd, 1999: 57 deaths

Hurricane Floyd was a catastrophic storm because of the rain it brought along. The rain caused extreme flooding from North Carolina on up as the Category 2 storm traveled up the East Coast.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Great Atlantic Hurricane, 1944: 64 deaths

The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 was also devastating to New England, with 64 deaths and more than $100 million in damage. The storm was a Category 3 as it sped up the coast, hitting the Carolinas, Rhode Island, and Long Island before downgrading to a Category 2 in Maine.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Hurricane Agnes, 1972: 122 deaths

Hurricane Agnes, as seen in this image made it all the way inland to Pennsylvania. Although it was only a Category 1 storm (with winds from 74-95 mph), it still caused 122 deaths and caused $2.1 billion in damage.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Hurricane Ike, 2008: 195 deaths

The third costliest storm in US history, with $29.5 billion in damage, occurred in September 2008. Starting off the west coast of Africa, Hurricane Ike made its way over the Caribbean and into the Gulf, making US landfall in Texas as a Category 2 storm

Photo courtesy: Reuters

Hurricane Camille, 1969: 256 deaths

Hurricane Camille formed in the Gulf of Mexico and hit Mississippi as a Category 5 storm. Camille caused more than 256 deaths and clocks in as the second most intense hurricane to hit the US.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

New England, 1938: 256 deaths

Nicknamed "Long Island Express," the storm hit Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm before charging north and hitting Long Island, New York and Connecticut as a Category 3 hurricane. The storm was responsible for more than 256 deaths.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Hurricane Sandy, 2012: 285 deaths

With $71.4 billion in damage, Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest hurricane in US history. The Category 1 storm pummeled New York City, flooding the city's transportation systems and leaving thousands of homes destroyed.

It's looking more and more like Hurricane Joaquin won't make landfall in the US and join the list of most horrific storms in US history.

Photo courtesy: AP

Hurricane Audrey, 1957: 416 deaths

The U.S. started naming storms with women's names starting in 1953. Hurricane Audrey, the first storm of the 1957 hurricane season was the deadliest of the 1950s. It originated in the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm. This image of the storm shows just how far hurricane imaging has come.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Atlantic-Gulf, 1919: 600 to 900 deaths

This Category 4 storm swept into the Gulf of Mexico right under Key West, Florida(pictured), landing as a Category 3 storm in Corpus Christi, Texas. Anywhere from 600 to 900 people died in that storm.

Hurricane Katrina, 2005: 1,200 deaths

Hurricane Katrina is arguably the most notorious storm of the 21st century. The storm made landfall as a Category 5 near Miami before striking Louisiana as a Category 3 storm. Katrina was the third deadliest, and costliest hurricane in U.S. history with more than 1,200 deaths and $108 billion in damage.

Photo courtesy: Reuters

San Felipe Okeechobee, 1928: 2,500 deaths

This hurricane was the second deadliest in US history, with more than 2,500 deaths. The Category 4 storm made landfall in Palm Beach on September 10, 1928. Puerto Rico got hit hard as well, with winds at 144 mph.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Galveston, Texas in 1900: 8,000 to 12,000 deaths

The deadliest hurricane in US history happened at the turn of the 20th century. The Category 4 of 5 hurricane -- with winds anywhere from 130-156 mph -- made landfall in Galveston, Texas (pictured), then headed north through the Great Plains. Anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 people died in the storm.

Photo courtesy: Creative Commons

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JAMAICANS STOCK UP

Many Kingstonians stocked up on water and food on Friday.

Tenaj Lewis, 41, a doctor buying groceries in Kingston, said Jamaica was much better prepared for hurricanes than when Gilbert struck.

"The country literally shut down for months," she said.

Since then, hurricanes have brought a few days of power outages but have not been nearly as destructive and many Jamaicans were unflustered.

Jamaican refining company Petrojam's is expected to shut down its 28,000 barrel per day Kingston facility eight hours before the storm strikes land, said company spokeswoman Latoya Pennant.

Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) warned that flights to Montego Bay might be disrupted and said customers could reschedule.

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