Hurricane Matthew meandered through the Caribbean on Sunday, moving more slowly but still packing a powerful punch, its sights set on Haiti, Cuba and Jamaica.
The storm was 350 miles (565 kilometers) southwest of Port-au-Prince at 1500 GMT, with top wind speeds of 140 miles (220 kilometers) per hour.
Its movement slowed from five to just three miles per hour as it ambled from the Caribbean coast of Colombia and Venezuela, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said on Sunday.
Caribbean authorities were scrambling to put preparations in place.
In Cuba, President Raul Castro traveled to the southeastern city of Santiago to personally oversee emergency operations just hours before the hurricane was due to hit.
Matthew had the potential to be a storm for the ages, he warned residents.
"This is a hurricane it's necessary to prepare for as if it were twice as powerful as Sandy," the Cuban leader said, referring to the megastorm that hit with massive destructive force in 2012.
Officials at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba announced a mandatory evacuation for all non-essential personnel and family members.
The evacuation "happened early this morning, and it's still ongoing," an official at the base told AFP on Sunday.
Briefly a furious Category 5 hurricane late Friday, Matthew remains a still-dangerous Category 4, the strongest to hit the Caribbean since Hurricane Felix in 2007.
"Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," the NHC warned in its latest advisory on Sunday.
On its current forecast track, Matthew's center will glance past Jamaica on Monday, dumping heavy rain on the island as it makes landfall on Haiti.
The storm is then expected to continue north, tearing across southern and eastern Cuba between Monday and Tuesday as it heads toward the Bahamas.
Forecasts predict the hurricane will dump 15 to 25 inches (40-60 centimeters) of rain over southern Haiti "with possible isolated maximum amounts of 40 inches."
The storm is also expected to drop 10 to 20 inches of rain over eastern Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and eastern Cuba, "with possible isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches."
"This rainfall will likely produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides," the NHC warned.
Haiti, Jamaica batten down
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