The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Matthew's center had hit land over northeastern Nicaragua Friday afternoon and was heading northwest along the Central American coast and inland toward Guatemala with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.
The Hurricane Center said it could bring 6 to 10 inches of rain to Nicaragua and Honduras, with the possibility of flash floods and mud slides. Some parts of Nicaragua already were coping with flooding due to earlier rains.
A tropical storm watch also was in effect for the coast of Belize.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega ordered the preventive measures and "all emergency structures are on alert," Lt. Col. Freddy Herrera told The Associated Press by telephone. "We have evacuated people from the region of Cabo Gracias a Dios and the Miskito Cays" in the same region.
Flights into the area were suspended due to limited visibility, though the winds are moderate, the military said.
In Honduras, the government declared a state of preventive alert throughout the country and Defense Minister Marlon Pascua said the army was ready to help civil defense actions.
Meanwhile far out over the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Lisa was drifting slowly northwest with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph.
In Honduras, the defense minister said armed forces are ready, and the Red Cross reported 3,000 aid workers in place. Civil defense officials in El Salvador were taking precautions, including canceling classes in high-risk areas, and Costa Rican authorities also reported being on a high level of alert for increased precipitation in flood-risk zones along the central Pacific coast.
Meanwhile far out over the Atlantic, Lisa became the seventh hurricane of the season and was drifting slowly north with maximum sustained winds near 75 mph.