Tropical Storm Matthew lashes islands of eastern Caribbean

(AP Photo)

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) — Tropical Storm Matthew lashed islands in the eastern Caribbean with heavy wind and rain Wednesday night as it gained strength and headed west.

Tropical storm-force winds extended out for 205 miles (335 kilometers) as Matthew crossed through the southernmost islands of the Lesser Antilles and headed into the open Caribbean Sea. There were no immediate reports of damages or injuries as businesses, airports, schools and government offices remained closed throughout the area.

Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told people on that island, where tropical storms have turned deadly in the past, to stay indoors as heavy rain caused flooding in some areas.

“We want to advise people to stay home as much as possible so as not to be exposed to the possible hazards out there. Be safe everyone and let us all pray for better weather conditions,” Skerrit said.

Many trees were down across the island of Barbados and there were isolated power outages, according to its National Emergency Operations Center.

The National Emergency Management Organization of St. Vincent said about 90 people were moved into emergency shelters because their homes were in low-lying areas that were expected to flood as the area received up to 8 inches (15 centimeters) of rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Matthew had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) with higher gusts. A wind gust of 89 mph (143 kph) was reported in Martinique.

The storm was on track to head across the southeastern Caribbean Sea, an area that gets relatively few storms compared to the rest of the region. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Matthew was expected to become a hurricane by Friday and then turn north toward Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti.

Matthew was centered about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of St. Lucia and 455 miles (735 kilometers) east-northeast of Curacao at 8 p.m. EDT and was moving west at 15 mph (24kph).