Watch Hurricane Matthew’s winds begin to batter central Florida.

Hurricane Matthew is the most powerful storm to threaten the Southeast coast in more than a decade. Here’s what we know:

Where is the storm now? 

Matthew continues to head northwest off the northeast coast of Florida, and as of 2 p.m. ET Friday, the Category 3 hurricane was located 40 miles east southeast of St. Augustine, Fla., moving 12 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Matthew continued to pack sustained winds up to 115 mph, threatening devastating storm surges in a four-state area. At a mid-morning press conference, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the “worst effects are still likely to come,” referring to a possible turn toward the coast and a likely storm surge in the Jacksonville area.

Where is the storm headed?

The storm is expected to continue moving northwest Friday and turn north by Friday night or Saturday morning. In Georgia, more than 500,000 people fled the coastal areas for the interior and thousands sought refuge at shelters. Forecasters expect Matthew to stick close to the coast of Georgia and South Carolina over the weekend before veering out to sea — perhaps even looping back toward Florida in the middle of next week as a tropical storm.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley made a blunt statement to residents: “This is the last time you will hear my voice asking you to evacuate,” she said, calling out islands and cities by name. State officials were particularly worried about high water, in the form of 8-foot storm surges, inundating barrier islands and bringing life-threatening flooding to historic Charleston.

The National Hurricane Center extended a hurricane warning to North Carolina Friday. The center also said the storm is expected to weaken in the next 48 hours but remain a hurricane until Sunday.

Keep an eye on storm surges

Matthew is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 8 to 12 inches over the Atlantic coast of the United States from central Florida to eastern North Carolina, forecasters said. Some areas could see as much as 15 inches and could lead to flooding and flash flooding, even in inland areas. The most important threat comes from storm surges, which have been predicted to be as high as 12 feet. After meeting with FEMA officials, President Obama urged those living in affected areas to listen to local officials. “If they tell you to evacuate, you need to get out of there and move to higher ground,” adding that “we can always replace property, but we cannot replace lives.”




Storm surge created by hurricanes is the biggest risk to life and property during a storm.
Ramon Padilla, Veronica Bravo and Jacquie Lee, USA TODAY

The power outages have begun 

More than 800,000 in Florida were without power Friday. The number will be climbing rapidly as the storm moves closer to coast and moves north. Up to 2.5 million Florida Power & Light customers could lose power, officials said.

Travel problems mount

Matthew is wreaking havoc on the travel industry. The Fort Lauderdale and Orlando airports shut down, and some cruises were being rerouted. Disney World and other theme parks were closed. As of 11:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, airlines had canceled more than 4,500 flights nationwide since Wednesday. As the storm moves north, so do cancellations with Atlanta, Charleston and Savannah taking the largest hits. Airports in Southern Florida are reopening, however, with flights expected to resume midday.

Haiti: Matthew left a broad swath of destruction 

Hundreds of people are dead in Haiti as a result of Matthew, with the death toll reaching as high as 800 people, Reuters reported. Matthew is the most powerful single hurricane on record to make landfall in Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas. At least four died in the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor on the island of Hispaniola.

More hurricane coverage: 

• Matthew batters Florida coast

• 2.5 million expected to lose power

• Here’s a look at storm surge happen

• Take these insurance precautions now

• Drudge takes heat for implying the hurricane is a government lie

• Death toll rises in Haiti

• A link to full coverage of Hurricane Matthew

Contributing: Associated Press