HEMPSTEAD - Long Islanders with loved ones in the Caribbean are anxiously watching and waiting as Hurricane Matthew bears down on the region.
Hurricane warnings were issued for Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and parts of the Bahamas as the Category 4 mega-storm moves in with sustained winds near 130 mph. Haiti is expected to bear the brunt of the powerful storm.
Renee Poteau says it helps to stay busy with customers at her hair salon in Hempstead. She is worried about her family, especially her 80-year-old parents, who will be facing a direct hit from the storm.
By Friday afternoon, the storm had already been blamed for four deaths and was expected to dump as much as 40 inches of rain in some areas. Forecasters say that brings the potential for deadly mudslides and floods in the heavily deforested country of Haiti, where many families live in wooden homes with thin, metal roofs.
Poteau says she speaks with her family every day, but knows once the storm makes landfall there will be many anxious days before she will know how they fared.
Next door to Poteau's salon is a Haitian restaurant where Long Islanders from Haiti gathered Monday to share the latest news on the storm. Resident Jean Petite Frere says his parents, sisters and brothers are all in Haiti and are bracing for the storm.
"I am very worried about them, and God bless all of them," he says.
A Haitian church in Roosevelt said prayers for Haiti and Jamaica on Sunday.
Authorities in Caribbean Sea nations have opened shelters and begun evacuating some residents.
Forecasters say it's still too early to tell if Hurricane Matthew will affect the U.S. mainland as it heads north.