MIAMI (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Nicole (all times local):
Forecasters say Hurricane Matthew has gained new muscle over the Bahamas and they are also expanding the hurricane warning area further up the Southeast Atlantic seacoast from Florida into Georgia.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Matthew’s top sustained winds have risen from 115 mph (185 kph) to 125 mph (205 mph) in just a few hours early Thursday as the storm continues to batter the central Bahamas.
The center says it is extending a hurricane warning area already covering a large swath of Florida’s Atlantic coast further northward to Altamaha Sound, Georgia. It also says a newly expanded hurricane watch now extends from the Altamaha Sound up the coast to the South Santee River in South Carolina.
The center added in its 5 a.m. Thursday update that Matthew should gain further in intensity over the next day or so and is forecast to become a Category 4 storm as it approaches Florida’s Atlantic coast.
Matthew’s center is now about 255 miles (410 kilometers) southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida, and moving northwest at 12 mph (19 kph) over the Bahamas.
Forecasters say Hurricane Matthew is now pounding portions of the Central Bahamas and is expected to strengthen as it approaches Florida.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Matthew remains a powerful Category 3 storm with top sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) as of 2 a.m. EDT Thursday. It added that Matthew is expected to intensify over the next day or so and is forecast to again become a dangerous Category 4 hurricane as it nears Florida’s Atlantic coast.
Matthew was briefly a very dangerous Category 5 storm on its march across the Caribbean. By early Thursday, Matthew was centered about 295 miles (480 kilometers) southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida. It also was about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas.
The Miami forecasting center said no changes have been made to the existing hurricane and tropical storm warnings and watches as of 2 a.m. EDT.
11:15 p.m. Wednesday
The eye of Hurricane Matthew was nearing the Bahamas on Wednesday night, and forecasters expect it to intensify and again become a Category 4 storm as it approaches Florida on Thursday.
The hurricane warning area was expanded Wednesday night to include the rest of Florida’s east coast north of Daytona Beach.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami also issued a hurricane watch for north of the Savannah River on the Georgia-South Carolina state line to Edisto Beach, South Carolina. The entire Georgia coast was already under a hurricane watch.
A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected in the area within 36 hours. A hurricane watch means the conditions are possible in the area within 48 hours.