Hurricane Matthew will hit Florida Thursday: What we know now

Today is the day Hurricane Matthew will hit Florida

Late Thursday. That's when this hurricane will make landfall in the U.S. The storm was centered about 180 miles southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida and moving northwest toward the state at 14 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters say the first outer rain bands from Hurricane Matthew have already begun to approach Florida as the big storm crosses the Bahamas toward the state.

How bad will the storm be when it hits?

The National Hurricane Center upgraded Matthew to a Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph. Florida Gov. Rick Scott says to expect threatening winds as strong as 150 mph, storm surges up to 9 feet and widespread power outages.

What if people stay behind?

Scott hasn't minced words, urging residents to leave the coast. "This storm will kill you." If residents stay, emergency responders will not be sent to help them, he said at news conferences.

What about other southern states?

In addition to Florida, the governors of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have also declared states of emergency.

Roughly 250,000 residents and tourists fled South Carolina's Lowcountry by Wednesday evening ahead of the approaching storm. At least as many more are expected to evacuate Thursday.

RELATED: Nikki Haley: 'We need more people to be evacuating'

The hurricane could cause "catastrophic damage" resulting in areas that may be "uninhabitable for weeks," The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal ordered a mandatory evacuation for the entire coast of Georgia. Residents of the coast haven't been evacuated for a hurricane in 17 years, AP reported.

In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory, said Thursday that while the state is now projected to avoid a direct hit from the hurricane, the state is preparing for high winds, rain and storm surge.

The gas situation: Don't be greedy

The gas supply is plentiful, Scott said, but don't take more than what you need. There are some empty gas stations as — about 1.5 million Floridians are under evacuation orders — but Florida has a six-day supply of gas even if all ports close.

Flight cancellations are piling up

All flights have halted at Fort Lauderdale and Orlando Sanford. At Miami, the airport remained open to passengers, though most flights after noon ET were canceled. Airport officials there said nearly 90% of the day's schedule had been grounded.  Orlando International announced it would stop operations at 8 p.m. Thursday. As of Thursday morning, airlines had canceled nearly 2,700 flights — many preemptively — through Friday in anticipation of the storm, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. That total could grow even further depending on the storm's path.

Sports: Just about everything could be rescheduled

Scores of high school football games have been rescheduled, and college and pro teams are examining whether to do the same.

Haiti: Matthew left a broad swath of destruction

Haitian Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph said at least 108 people were killed when the storm struck Tuesday with 145-mph winds, torrential rain and driving storm surge. Hurricane Matthew is the most powerful single hurricane on record to make landfall in Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas.  Haiti has extensive flooding and rivers of mud that washed out a crucial bridge into the southwestern peninsula of the country. Thousands are seeking shelter. But Haiti Ambassador Paul Altidor said the damage is nowhere near the level of disaster Haiti endured in the 2010 earthquake where 200,000 died.

Copyright 2016 WCNC


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