Hurricane Matthew, which ravaged its way through Haiti, is expected to reach near Florida’s east coast by Thursday night, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The eye of the hurricane moved off of the northeastern coast of Cuba, forcing warnings to be issued in Florida.
The NHC upgraded hurricane watches from Golden Beach to Sebastian Inlet and for Lake Okeechobee to hurricane warnings. The hurricane watch area has been extended north to the Flagler-Volusia county line. The Category 4 storm is moving north at 8 mph and is expected to maintain strength through at least Thursday night.
The most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, Hurricane Matthew, made landfall near the eastern tip of Cuba on Tuesday evening, and has claimed the lives of at least 11 people during its weeklong move across the Caribbean.
Matthew is an "extremely dangerous" storm, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said, as forecasters believe that the hurricane will ride along the U.S. coast from Florida through the North Carolina Outer Banks from Thursday evening through Saturday.
"If Matthew directly impacts Florida, there will be massive destruction that we haven't seen in years," Scott reportedly said, adding that he plans to activate 500 additional National Guard members by Wednesday morning.
The governor of South Carolina ordered the evacuation of more than 1 million people starting Wednesday afternoon in the historic city of Charleston and other coastal communities.
"We don't do voluntary or mandatory. It is an evacuation," Gov. Nikki Haley said at a news conference. "Our goal is to make sure you get 100 miles away from the coast."
The hurricane devastated Haiti, leaving at least 10,000 people in shelters and causing catastrophic damage to the southern coastal town of Les Cayes.
The mayor of Les Cayes, Jean Gabriel Fortune, shared tweets that also included video showing damage in the Vernet area.