Residents of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are preparing for evacuations as the “extremely dangerous” Hurricane Matthew is expected to brush up to the US East Coast later this week.
Florida Governor Rick Scott warned residents on Tuesday to prepare for a direct hit from the powerful category 4 storm.
“Regardless if there is a direct hit or not, the impacts will be devastating,” Scott said. “I cannot emphasize it enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit.”
The hurricane made landfall near the eastern tip of Cuba on Tuesday night after pounding Haiti with heavy rain and powerful winds and tides.
At 11 p.m. ET, Matthew was about 55 miles east by northeast of Guantanamo, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm has already killed as many as seven people, including four in the Dominican Republic.
The projected path of the storm with sustained winds of 130 mph was already causing headaches in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
It is expected to ride along the US coast from eastern Florida through the North Carolina Outer Banks from Thursday evening through Sunday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had already deployed personnel and supplies to those states.
President Barack Obama, who has canceled his plans to campaign for Hillary Clinton on Wednesday in Miami and Tampa, will visit FEMA headquarters instead to get updates on the federal emergency response.
A state of emergency and hurricane watch was issued Tuesday for parts of Florida, with Gov. Scott warning residents to prepare for power outages and evacuations.
If predictions are accurate, Matthew would be “a disaster for the east coast of Florida from about West Palm Beach north up Interstate 95 to Jacksonville,” WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
From Florida, the hurricane is expected to roar toward the Georgia coast north to South Carolina on Friday and Saturday, reaching North Carolina early on Sunday.
On Tuesday, South Carolina began preparations to evacuate almost a quarter of its citizens as the hurricane headed toward the state’s Atlantic coast.
Governor Nikki Haley said that unless the storm changes coarse overnight, a complete evacuation will be launched at 3 p.m. ET Wednesday in Charleston and other communities along the coast.
“We don’t do voluntary or mandatory. It is an evacuation,” Haley said at a news conference. “Our goal is to make sure you get 100 miles away from the coast.”