After a bout of rapid intensification yesterday, the storm is now a major hurricane, and it's closing in on Bermuda, which could see a direct hit in just a few hours.
"This is a serious storm, and it's living up to the weather predictions", National Security Minister Jeff Baron said. "We are very proud of that", he told AFP. They were served a free lunch as they waited for the hurricane to blow through.
Authorities closed schools and government offices, and buildings were boarded up as heavy wind and rain hit the islands yesterday.
"I believe we are generally ready for it", local media reported Premier Michael Dunkley as saying.
The hurricane was expected to pull away from the archipelago in the afternoon, but forecasters warned it would whip the islands with hurricane force winds on its way out.
"We were hopeful that it would come across so we could at least get a break", he said in a phone interview. "Nicole is here", wrote resident Katura Horton-Perinchief on Facebook. Hotels, meanwhile, reported an uptick in bookings as people sought shelters with power.
High-profile Bermudians overseas were also watching nervously.
"Stay safe everyone!" tweeted world champion triathlete Flora Duffy.
The Bermuda Weather Service heavy rains have already begun to lash the island early Thursday and it could bring a potentially unsafe storm surge with water levels rising by about six feet. Either way, the National Hurricane Center advises that Bermuda should prepare for storm surges of up to 8 feet, "large destructive waves" and up to 8 inches of rainfall through the evening.
While there's little chance of a USA impact, swells from the storm could create unsafe rip currents from the Carolinas north into the weekend, the National Hurricane Center warns.
Aerial and on-the-ground images reveal how Hurricane Matthew has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the impoverished nation of Haiti since a devastating natural disaster hit six years ago, according to the United Nations.