HURRICANE MATTHEW | Hurricane Matthew closes in on Florida with 140 mph winds
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Gaining fury as it closed in, Hurricane Matthew steamed toward Florida with winds of 140 mph today as 2 million people across the Southeast were warned to board up their homes and flee inland to escape the most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic coast in more than a decade.
"The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said as the skies began darkening from Matthew's outer bands of rain.
By late morning, the hurricane had grown from a possibly devastating Category 3 storm to a potentially catastrophic Category 4.
It roared over the Bahamas and was expected to scrape nearly the entire length of Florida's Atlantic coast beginning this evening. From there, forecasters said, it could push its way just off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina before veering off to sea.
About 2 million people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were told to head for safety, and interstate highways were turned into one-way routes to enable them to get out quickly. Scott said Florida could be looking at its biggest evacuation ever.
Forecasters said the storm's fiercest winds appeared unlikely to strike Miami or Fort Lauderdale, the most densely populated areas in Florida, with about 4.4 million residents. Those cities were expected to get tropical storm-force winds of between 39 mph and 73 mph.
Instead, forecasters said the West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral areas farther north could get the brunt of the storm.