Hurricane Matthew downgraded to Category 4 as it churns through Caribbean

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Hurricane Matthew has weakened slightly in the Caribbean. It was a Category 5 on Friday which made it the strongest in the Atlantic since 2007.

Now the Category 4 hurricane will spend the entire weekend in the Caribbean, hitting the islands of Jamaica and Cuba before heading for the Bahamas early next week.

"Data from an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to 160 mph with higher gusts," the National Hurricane Center said Friday. Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 35 miles from the eye, the center said.

Tropical storm force winds exist as far as 195 miles from the eye.

The storms intensity might fluctuate this weekend, but the storm will remain powerful through at least Sunday, according to the center.

Rainfall of 10 to 15 inches with isolated pockets of up to 25 inches of rain are predicted for Jamaica and parts of Haiti, raising the specter of landslides and flash floods.

The impact Matthew will have on North Carolina and the east coast is still uncertain, but models are giving us a better idea of its track.

Storms generally don't hit our state in October partially because of the nature of tropical storms to bend right due to the rotation of the Earth, but we also start to get frequent cold fronts this time of year that help push storms away.

History tells us that since 1950, October hurricanes that come within 500 miles of the North Carolina coastline only make landfall in the Tar Heel state 17 percent of the time. 35 hurricanes have come within 500 miles of the North Carolina coast since 1950 and only 6 have made landfall.

However, history does not dictate the path of Matthew. While those factors might push Matthew away as well, it might not be until late this weekend that we have a better idea of the exact path.

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