Although it's still too early to tell if it could threaten Delaware, First Staters should keep informed about Hurricane Matthew

Delaware residents might want to start thinking about how they plan to react if Hurricane Matthew begins to pose a threat to the Delmarva Peninsula.

Currently, the National Hurricane Center only is projecting the storm’s path through Saturday morning; those predictions place the storm’s center in the Atlantic Ocean several hundred miles east of Charleston, South Carolina. The path of the storm, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since 2007, could take it along Florida’s east coast as early as Friday morning.

Delaware Emergency Management Agency spokesman Gary Laing said emergency managers are monitoring the storm. Although it still is much too early to issue any warnings, Laing said Delmarva residents should consider preparations in case Matthew heads in our direction.

“At this point, the best thing we can say is to make sure your home emergency kit is stocked and that everyone monitor the weather situation,” Laing said.

Residents along the coastline and in low-lying, flood-prone areas need to know where they have to go in the event of an evacuation, he added.

However, it’s too early for DEMA to issue any definitive instructions, Laing said.

“We have the same information everyone else has at this point, but we’ll be watching to see what it does,” he said.

Forecasters at the Hurricane Center say the storm will pack 140 mph winds as it nears eastern Cuba on Tuesday night and will move over the Bahamas Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft rate the system as a Category 4 storm, and, although there may be fluctuations in wind intensity, it is expected to remain a powerful hurricane over the next several days.

Hurricane-force winds will extend out at least 35 miles from the eye of the storm, with tropical-storm force winds out to about 135 miles from the center. Rainfall totaling up to 20 inches is possible in some areas of Cuba as Matthew heads northward.

If Matthew does begin to affect Delaware, the situation could be made worse because of the large amounts of rain that fell during the past week, Laing said. With the ground already saturated, additional rainfall could endanger homes and roads, particularly those used for hurricane evacuation routes.

“People need to be aware of the possibility of flooding in their areas and how they’ll have to respond,” Laing said.

Matthew first came into being Sept. 22 as a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa, but strengthened significantly over the following days. It became a Category 1 hurricane, attaining winds of 75 mph on Sept. 29, but quickly ramped up to a Category 5 storm, with winds exceeding 160 mph.