Hurricane Matthew Strengthens to Category 2 Storm in Caribbean

Miami (AP) -- The Latest on Hurricane Matthew (all times local):

5 p.m.

Hurricane Matthew has rapidly strengthened into a powerful Category 4 storm, and a hurricane watch has now been issued for Jamaica.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Matthew is packing top sustained winds of 140 mph (220 kph) after gaining new strength Friday over the central Caribbean. The storm is located about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Punta Gallinas, Colombia, and about 465 miles (750 kilometers) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.

The center says that as of 5 p.m. Friday, the storm is moving west-southwest at 9 mph (15 kph).

In addition to a hurricane watch for Jamaica, authorities also issued a tropical storm watch for the southwestern coast of Haiti. The tropical storm watch is in effect from Haiti's southern border with the Dominican Republic to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

Forecasters say Matthew is expected to turn toward the west-northwest by Saturday night and then toward the northwest on Sunday. The center says the storm's expected path over the central Caribbean is forecast to bring Matthew near Jamaica on Sunday.

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2:15 p.m.

Hurricane Matthew, a major Category 3 storm, has gained further strength over central Caribbean waters.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reports that Matthew now has maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph). That's up slightly since it became a Category 3 hurricane earlier Friday.

The center of Matthew is now about 85 miles (140 kilometers) north of Punta Gallinas, Colombia, or about 475 miles (765 kilometers) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. The hurricane is moving west-southwest at 12 mph (19 kph).

Forecasters say Matthew's westward trek is expected to slow later Friday afternoon or evening and that a turn toward the west-northwest is forecast by Saturday night. The storm is then expected to further turn toward the northwest by early Sunday while churning across the central Caribbean.

A tropical storm warning is in effect along the coast from the Colombia-Venezuela border to Riohacha.

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11 a.m.

Forecasters in Miami say Matthew has strengthened into a major Category 3 hurricane in the Caribbean.

The National Hurricane Center says Matthew now has top sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) and is now centered about 105 miles (170 kilometers) northeast of Punta Gallinas, Colombia. It says the storm as of 11 a.m. EDT Friday was centered about 495 miles (800 kilometers) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and moving west-southwest at 12 mph (19 kph).

The center says the Colombian government has imposed a tropical storm warning on a wide stretch of coast from near the Colombia-Venezuela border to Riohacha. Forecasters say people along the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Colombia should watch the progress of Matthew, along with others in Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba.

The National Hurricane Center also says a hurricane watch may be required for Jamaica later in the day. It also says the government of Aruba has discontinued a tropical storm watch for that island.

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2:26 a.m.

Hurricane Matthew has strengthened to a Category 2 storm as it moves through a part of the Caribbean that rarely sees such storms.

The storm's maximum sustained winds early Friday have increased to near 100 mph (161 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center says additional strengthening is forecast and Matthew could become a major hurricane later in the day or Friday night.

Matthew is centered about 125 miles (201 kilometers) north of Curacao and 565 miles (909 kilometers) east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and is moving west near 14 mph (22 kph).

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