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Locals worry about their families back home in Haiti, Jamaica in path of Hurricane Matthew

EAST FLATBUSH, Brooklyn — Hurricane Mathew is bearing down on Haiti and Jamaica and those in the New York area who have family in the storm's path are worried.

The Category 4 storm is expected to unleash torrential rainfall and landslides. The U.S. Weather Service says it is the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since 2007.

It could deal a devastating blow especially to Haiti, as the country is still trying to rebuild after that massive earthquake six years ago.

East Flatbush has one of the largest concentrations of Jamaican-Americans and Haitian-Americans in the country. Many have family on the island nations and they are all bracing for the impact of this storm.

Arlene Foster left Jamaica 32 years ago but her father and members of her extended family still live near Montego Bay. She just spoke with her father today.

"The safest thing to do is to leave their home if it's not safe," Foster said.

Residents in certain regions have been asked to evacuate in advance of Matthew's arrival.

Foster is a hair stylist at Aloutte's Beauty Salon on Nostrand Avenue, in the heart of what's known as "Little Caribbean" of Brooklyn.

"I'm praying, that's all we can do is pray ... and hope," Foster said.

The powerful storm is churning in the Caribbean. Forecasters are warning that Matthew may bring life-threatening flash floods, mudslides and up to 40 inches of torrential rainfall in some regions. If the storm slams Haiti, it will particularly be devastating.

The infrastructure is still fragile after the 2010 earthquake that rocked the country.

Radio Soleil is a 24-hour Haitian radio station in the tri-state area. They also simulcast broadcasts from Haiti. It's a way to connect the two communities.

The radio station manager, Ricot Dupuy, says many who live here financially support family in the island nations. Dupuy explains a direct blow by the hurricane is a direct hit to many Haitian-Americans as well.

"What takes place in Haiti we are very concerned about it. If there is any damage, the people here will have to increase what they send. It's going to be major devastation. Major havoc in Haiti, reminiscent of what happened in 2010," Dupuy said.

Dupuy also points out this Sunday is Election Day in Haiti. It's an important election and he fears what the hurricane will do in terms of voter turnout.
"We've been waiting for years for this election. Two-thirds of Parliament will be elected," Dupuy said.

Council member Jumaane Williams, who represents the 45th district — which includes East Flatbush — says his staff stands ready to mobilize.

"My office is trying to coordinate some of the same efforts in 2010, so we have a pipeline to information and we can collect belongings people may need."