UPDATE 8 a.m. Oct. 1
Hurricane Matthew strengthened into a category five storm late Friday, becoming the first in the Atlantic since 2007, before weakening back into a category four hurricane early Saturday morning.
It continues to hover just north of Colombia, dumping flooding rains on parts of the La Guajira region. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the area.
Hurricane Matthew, a category four storm was located just 75 miles (about 120 kilometers) north of Colombia’s Punta Gallinas as of Friday afternoon. And the storm seems likely to strengthen.
Matthew, which is churning north of Colombia’s La Guajira region, has already dumped massive amounts of rain on the otherwise desert area.
Sustained winds at the center of the storm have reached as high as 140 miles per hour, giving it category four status.
Forecasts predict winds up to 40 miles per hour (about 65 kilometers per hour) in Northern Colombia throughout Friday night.
The northernmost reaches of Colombia, including the La Guajira peninsula, remain under a tropical storm warning throughout the night.
Rain is likely in northern Colombia throughout Saturday although prevailing winds make more significant landfall unlikely.
Instead, the storm is predicted to move northward impacting Haiti and potentially southern Florida early next week. Beyond that, the path of Matthew is unclear.
According to experts at the U.S.-based Weather Channel, Matthew is expected to become even more unpredictable as it strengthens or weakens in the Caribbean.
It was barely a category one storm yesterday, for example.
Though September is well within range for hurricane season in the United States and Caribbean region, few storms have intensified as dramatically or as quickly in the same area as Matthew.
The last such storm to resemble its path was Hurricane Hazel, an October 1954 storm that wreaked havoc from northern Colombia to Haiti to Toronto, dealing damage to multiple cities along the U.S. east coast.
Hurricanes rarely impact Colombia directly, due to its proximity to the equator. But rain bands can cause significant damage, particularly in the otherwise desert regions of La Guajira and northern Magdalena.
Officials warn that severe rain events could stretch well inland, potentially affecting even the Andean regions of Antioquia, Cundinamarca and the capital, Bogotá.
No hurricane has made significant landfall in Colombia since 1995, when Hurricane Beta caused minor damage on the island of Providencia.
Matthew is the fifth Atlantic hurricane of the 2016 season.