KMSP - It may come as a bit of a surprise, but the Caribbean is now harboring the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean in 9 years. Surprising because in just 36 hours, the former Tropical Storm intensified to a Category 5 hurricane, which is the strongest possible storm as maximum sustained winds hit 160 mph. Thankfully since that mark, Matthew has weakened slightly, down to a category 4 storm but still packing tremendous punch. The image above was actually taken in the eye of the storm by a hurricane hunter named Jessica Williams as the plane that measures and tracks these beasts flew through the center.
Matthew becomes the 31st Atlantic storm to reach category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The 9 years between Matthew and Felix back in 2007 is one of the longest such streaks between category 5 storms since the 50s. The longest streak since reliable records began remains to be a 15 year gap from the Great New England hurricane in 1938 to Carol in 1953.
The current forecasts take the HUGE storm across Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti and could have disastrous results. IF it were to make official landfall in Haiti, it would be the strongest storm to hit the island nation since 1964. The country is STILL picking up the pieces from a massive earthquake in 2010, and this storm would just add to the misery. Once the storm rolls through the region and begins to interact with mountainous terrain, it will start to weaken, but could still be considered a major hurricane as it pushes through the Bahamas. Now the big question... will it impact the US? Unfortunately, it is too early to tell. A direct landfall looks unlikely at this point, but is still possible. However, many coastal states could still get plenty of wind, rain, and heavy surf from the monster storm by the middle to end of this week.