MIAMI, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The National Hurricane Center upgraded Matthew to a hurricane Thursday afternoon and said it is projected to hit Jamaica, and then Cuba and the Bahamas.
The fifth Atlantic hurricane of the season and 13th storm was about 190 miles northeast of Curacao and was traveling west at 15 mph with 75 mph sustained winds, according to the center. Storms become hurricanes when they hit 74 mph.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center. Tropical-storm-force winds are up to 205 miles outward.
According to the hurricane center, Matthew was expected to strengthen gradually over the next 48 hours and then turn northwestward.
Tropical storm conditions Thursday are possible in Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba, according to the center. Rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches are expected over those areas through Saturday.
The center warned it could bring life-threatening mudslides and flash floods to the Lesser Antilles -- the string of smaller islands of the eastern Caribbean -- on Thursday.
Up to 2 inches of rain is forecast to fall in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Residents of Jamaica, Haiti and eastern Cuba should anticipate the possibility of at least a Category 2 hurricane early next week, according to Weather Underground.
Matthew is projected to reach the Bahamas on Tuesday. It was uncertain whether it would hit Florida.
"The exact track is, of course, still uncertain," senior National Hurricane Center specialist Richard Pasch told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "We have differing computer models that are showing some different solutions. We do think it's going to strengthen."
On Wednesday, Matthew pounded Barbados with heavy winds.