(MIAMI) — The latest forecast models predict that Hurricane Matthew, which ripped through the Caribbean, leaving a trail of devastation, will grow even stronger as it heads for the U.S.
The storm could strengthen to a Category 5 hurricane before making landfall in Florida, ABC News meteorologist Max Golembo warned.
Warm waters off of the Florida coast, little atmospheric shear and no interaction with landmass provide the ideal conditions for the storm to become more powerful as it approaches the U.S., according to Golembo.
Just Thursday morning, Matthew grew stronger, with winds intensifying from 125 miles per hour as of 8 a.m. to 140 miles per hour by 11 a.m.
Forecasts predict Matthew will reach Florida by 2 a.m. on Friday.
Earlier this week, models diverged over where the hurricane was heading, but as of Thursday morning most models agree that Matthew will come close to the eastern coast of Florida as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 145 miles per hour. It is forecast to be a Category 4 hurricane all the way into the Jacksonville area.
Most models keep the eye of the storm just off of the coast, which will keep the intensity of the hurricane up, according to Golembo.
The good news is that the strongest part of the storm is usually in the upper right quadrant, Golembo added, and this portion will remain off the coast and not affect land, according to the latest models.
Matthew will most likely not travel up the East Coast or affect the Northeast, after moving parallel to the Southeastern coast, according to forecast models.
The storm is eventually predicted to slow down and make a U-turn south, and then southwest towards the Bahamas and maybe even Florida, but forecasters predict it to be much weaker and slower-moving as it moves over the same water.
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