Hurricane Matthew roars ashore in Haiti as US evacuations feared

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The most powerful Atlantic tropical storm in almost a decade made landfall early Tuesday in Haiti, where it could deliver yet another devastating humanitarian disaster to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

As of 11 a.m. ET, Hurricane Matthew was a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It hit Haiti just after 7 a.m., the Weather Channel reported.

Learn more about this powerful storm:

57 PHOTOS
Hurricane Matthew approaches islands south of the United States
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Hurricane Matthew approaches islands south of the United States
Hurricane Matthew is seen in the Caribbean Sea in this enhanced infrared image from NOAA's GOES-East satellite taken at 8:15am ET (12:15 GMT) October 4, 2016. NOAA/Handout via REUTERS FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A general view as Hurricane Matthew approaches Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A wave splashes on the beach at Siboney ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, Cuba, October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Traffic moves slowly as heavy rains caused by the outer rain bands of Hurricane Matthew move into Kingston, Jamaica, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sinister-looking face of #HurricaneMatthew at landfall in #Haiti [Un-doctored #weather #satellite image] https://t.co/hrviDVuJ3R
A woman with two of her children rest on the floor at the shelter set up in the Lycee Philippe Guerrier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A saleswoman shows lamps to a customers while other people flock to the supermarket to take care of last minute shopping as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Kingston, Jamaica October 1, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Tourists from Canada and Russia enjoy the beach before the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Siboney, Cuba, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A woman protects herself from rain as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A dog crosses a road as heavy rains caused by the outer rain bands of Hurricane Matthew move into Kingston, Jamaica, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
Workers place plywood over the windows of a hotel in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A TV is left on the ground as it is transported to a shelter ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Siboney, Cuba, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People who were evacuated from their homes are seen in a room at a soccer stadium being used as a shelter while Hurricane Matthew approaches Kingston, Jamaica October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Boats are secured off as residents look on at Port Royal while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Kingston, Jamaica October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Workers load a tuck with flour to distribute an extra portion to local bakeries ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Vendors sell their goods on the street while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Port-au-Prince, Haiti October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Members of a family warm themselves next to a fire while Hurricane Matthew approaches Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Yosvan Anaya speaks to a friend (not pictured) in a cave in a cliff face to be used as a shelter ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Siboney, Cuba, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
People queue as they flock to the supermarket to take care of last minute shopping as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Kingston, Jamaica October 1, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Adolfo Leiva, who is self-employed, puts sandbags over the roof of his home ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A baby touches her mother's shoulder as they rest at the shelter set up in the Lycee Philippe Guerrier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
People take their belongings to shelters prior to the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Siboney, Cuba, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
People look out at the sea as hurricane Matthew approaches Kingston, Jamaica October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Vendors sell their goods on the street while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Port-au-Prince, Haiti October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A man looks out at the sea as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Kingston, Jamaica, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
People who were evacuated from their homes are seen in a room at a soccer stadium being used as a shelter while Hurricane Matthew approaches Kingston, Jamaica October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
An interior view of Norman Manley International Airport is seen as it shuts down on Monday ahead of Hurricane Matthew, in Kingston, Jamaica October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A woman with two of her children rest on the floor at the shelter set up in the Lycee Philippe Guerrier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Women rest at the shelter set up in the Lycee Philippe Guerrier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A woman with two of her children rest on the floor at the shelter set up in the Lycee Philippe Guerrier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A boy rests on the floor at the shelter set up in the Lycee Philippe Guerrier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A girl rests on the floor at the a set up in the Lycee Philippe Guerrier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Workers load a tuck with flour to distribute an extra portion to local bakeries ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Fisherman Enrique Albelo, 48, ties his boat ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A man wets his feet in the sea as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A girl looks at anchored boats as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Two men look at anchored boats as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Inesia Laguerre cradles her grandchild at the shelter set up in the Lycee Philippe Guerrier ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Vendors wait for clients on a street market while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Vendors sell their goods on a street market while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Vendors sell their goods at a street market while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People carry their goods along a street market while Hurricane Matthew approaches in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People flock to the supermarket to take care of their last minute shopping as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Waves are seen as Hurricane Matthew approaches, in Kingston, Jamaica October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A boat is secured at Port Royal as Hurricane Matthew approaches, in Kingston, Jamaica October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Boats which are secured are seen near residents at Port Royal while Hurricane Matthew approaches, in Kingston, Jamaica October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Traffic moves slowly as heavy rains caused by the outer rain bands of Hurricane Matthew move into Kingston, Jamaica, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
Traffic moves slowly as heavy rains caused by the outer rain bands of Hurricane Matthew move into Kingston, Jamaica, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
A man carries a TV to a shelter prior to the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Siboney, Cuba, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A man drinks a beer outside a boarded up shop at Norman Manley airport as hurricane Matthew approaches in Kingston, Jamaica October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A man holds a bottle of water while people flock to the supermarket to take care of last minute shopping as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Kingston, Jamaica October 1, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Workers cover the doors and windows at a hotel as Hurricane Matthew approaches in Kingston, Jamaica October 1, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
People stand in line for last minute shopping pending the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Kingston, Jamaica, October 1, 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 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
A man carries empty water containers while chatting with another man outside a supermarket, pending the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in Kingston, Jamaica, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
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Weather Channel meteorologist Kevin Roth said that Matthew could dump up to 20 inches of rain on the Haiti's lower elevations, and up to 40 inches in the mountains.

As the storm approached Tuesday, the rain and wind left many of the people in Haiti's southern town of Les Cayes without electricity and hunkering down in homes with roofs that were quickly deteriorating.

Chris Bessey, country representative at Catholic Relief Services in Port-au-Prince, told NBC News he was hearing reports of downed trees and significant flooding in the streets of the country's southwestern coastal towns.

Haiti's civil protection agency earlier reported one death — a fisherman who drowned in rough water churned up by the storm. That raised Matthew's death toll to at least three. One man died in Colombia and a teen was killed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the storm moved through the Caribbean.

Government officials and aid workers had set up a number of shelters in every major city and had encouraged residents to in low-lying areas to make their way to one of them, Bessey said. But many refused to leave their properties.

"They're hunkered down," said Bessey. "They're right in the middle of it."

Chantal Elie, a political analyst who huddled with her husband and two kids in their home, about 8 miles south of Port-au-Prince, said "trees are falling like crazy."

Elie told NBC News she had left her house briefly to survey the damage, but the winds were too strong to stay outside.

"My daughter is very worried. She told me, 'Mom, I can't die right now because I have to finish school. I'm too young,'" Elie said, adding that she was resolved to stay calm in order to comfort the kids.

The extent of the storm's damage was unknown, but officials anticipated finding chaos. "It's much too early to know how bad things are but we do know there are a lot of houses that have been destroyed or damaged in the south," Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, the director of the country's Civil Protection Agency, told The Associated Press.

Three U.S. Navy ships are headed toward the Caribbean to help with relief efforts, two U.S. military officials said.

The storm is later expected to move on to Cuba, which forecasters said can expect between 8 and 12 inches of rain for most areas, with as much as 20 inches in isolated areas.

The National Hurricane Center warned that storm surges of up to 11 feet were possible on Cuba's southern coast.

In preparation for the storm, the U.S. on Monday ordered the evacuation of 700 family members of service members at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base.

A hurricane warning was also for issued for parts of the Bahamas early Tuesday. A storm surge of 10 to 15 feet was predicted there.

Matthew is the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007 and could make landfall in the U.S. later this week.


A map showing the expected path of Hurricane Matthew at 5 a.m. ET on Tuesday. (Photo credit: The Weather Channel)

While its potential impact on the U.S. remained unclear, NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins suggested that the storm's path could be reminiscent of Hurricane Floyd in 1999 — which required the evacuation of 2.6 million people across five states.

As of Tuesday morning, Karins expected the storm could be a "major hurricane" from Florida all the way to North Carolina, though he noted the projected impact might fluctuate.

"Unfortunately, the models continue to show a westward trend," Roth said early Tuesday. "That means the potential for a landfall or some impacts in the U.S. is increasing."

The area most at risk of being affected by Matthew is the southeastern coast, anywhere from Florida up through North Carolina. The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for southeast Florida and a tropical storm watch in the Florida Keys late Tuesday morning.

Both Florida Gov. Rick Scott and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory activated states of emergency on Monday, covering 66 counties in North Carolina and all counties in Florida."Right now, the projected path is a little off the coast, but it can change at a moment's notice," Scott said at a news conference Monday. "When that happens, we're not going to have a lot of time to get ready."

Karins warned that Tuesday was a "very important preparation day for all of the southeast coast."

"The possibility exists for mandatory evacuations starting as early as late this evening in South Florida and definitely Wednesday for southern half of Florida on the East Coast," Karins added.

Karins predicted that Matthew would remain a Category 3 or 4 hurricane by the time it neared Florida on Thursday and likely would be a Category 2 or 3 if it reaches Georgia and North Carolina on Friday.When hurricanes are particularly deadly or destructive, the names are retired. Meteorologists expect this to be the last hurricane named Matthew.

"Certainly, the way this one is going, even if it doesn't hit the U.S. directly ... I would say this is the last Matthew," Roth said.

Related: See the deadliest hurricanes ever:

16 PHOTOS
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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