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See where Hurricane Matthew is heading next.
WTLV

Today is the day Hurricane Matthew will hit Florida

Late Thursday. That’s when this hurricane will make landfall in the U.S. As of 5 p.m., ET Thursday, Matthew, a Category 4 storm, was about 100 miles east-southeast of West Palm Beach, Fla., winds up to 140 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

The storm was about to make landfall in Freeport, Bahamas, and moving northwest at 13 mph, according to the NHC.

How bad will the storm be when it hits?

Bad. 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.

In Washington, President Obama declared a state of emergency in more than two dozens Florida counties as the potentially catastrophic storm approached.

The directive authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate efforts to alleviate the suffering caused by the hurricane.

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.

Full coverage: Everything about Hurricane Matthew

Evacuate. Now’s the time.

About 1.5 million Floridians are under evacuation orders, and Scott has deployed 3,500 Florida National Guard troops to help.

Up to 2.5 million Florida Power & Light customers — more than half of the company’s 4.8 million customers — are expected to lose power, and the storm could cause severe damage to the electric grid, FPL spokesman Rob Gould said.

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.

The hurricane could cause “catastrophic damage,” leaving areas “uninhabitable for weeks,” The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

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

Gov. Pat McCrory, said Thursday that while North Carolina 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, but Florida has a six-day supply of gas even if all ports close.

Flight cancellations are piling up

All flights have halted in Fort Lauderdale,Orlando and Palm Beach. In 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 scheduled flights had been grounded. Orlando International announced it would stop operations at 8 p.m.. As of 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, airlines had canceled more than 3,785 flights nationwide for a period stretching from Wednesday through Saturday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. That total could grow even further depending on the storm’s path.

Will Matthew loop back around?

After Matthew’s initial battering of the Southeast coast this week, the long-range forecast shows it looping back around toward Florida next week, potentially striking the state a second time. Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach said it would be “unprecedented” if the storm were to make landfall again. Hurricane Erin in 1995, though, did hit the Florida Peninsula and then went on to strike the Florida Panhandle.

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. At least four died in the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor on the island of Hispaniola. Deaths also were reported in Colombia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Haiti Ambassador Paul Altidor said the damage is nowhere near the level of disaster the country endured in the 2010 earthquake where 200,000 died.