RALEIGH (WTVD) —
At 11 p.m., Hurricane Matthew was a powerful Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for parts of the North Carolina coast as Hurricane Matthew makes its way along Florida’s east coast.
“Computer models are very certain about a very close call with the east coast of Florida with devastating impacts potentially,” said ABC11 Chief Meteorologist Chris Hohmann.
“For North Carolina to about Myrtle Beach there’s a tropical storm warning in effect for winds that could get to tropical storm strength,” added Hohmann.
By Thursday night, more than 60,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without power. Streets in Vero Beach were partially covered with water, and hotel guests in Orlando were told to stay inside, though a few sneaked out to smoke or watch the rain.
At 8 p.m., Matthew made landfall in the Bahamas with winds of as much as 130 mph.
The head of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Authority, Capt. Stephen Russell, said there were many downed trees and power lines, but no reports of casualties.
The National Hurricane Center says the center of Hurricane Matthew is over the western end of the Grand Bahama Island and tropical storm conditions are lashing the east coast of Florida.
At 8 p.m. EDT, the storm had weakened slightly and had 130 mph sustained winds, down from 140 mph (225 kph). Matthew is about 75 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida.
It’s the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. Atlantic coast in more than a decade.
A state of emergency has been declared in Wilmington and Gov. Pat McCrory extended his state of emergency to all 100 North Carolina counties as Hurricane Matthew continues to make its way towards the U.S. east coast. McCrory said that he spoke to President Barack Obama earlier Thursday about the state’s storm preps.
Stay on top of the storm, download the ABC11 News App
The president has declared a state of emergency in Florida. Just before 7 p.m., Obama added South Carolina to the emergency declaration. Obama has ordered federal aid to help respond to Hurricane Matthew.
Cumberland, Harnett and Sampson County schools will be dismissing two hours early on Friday due to Matthew and all after-school activities have been cancelled.
State emergency officials expect Hurricane Matthew’s closest approach to North Carolina to be overnight Saturday into early Sunday.
WATCH: Gov. McCrory briefs President Obama on the storm
Matthew is making its way toward the U.S., but the latest forecast track shows the monster storm continuing to veer away from central North Carolina and more to the east.
The 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center showed Matthew packing sustained winds up to 140 miles per hour and continuing to push into Florida.
One of the main concerns for central North Carolina is rainfall.
“If we see 3 to 5 inches in the Sandhills, where they’ve already seen the rain from last week, we could see significant flooding begin to pop up Saturday afternoon into evening,” said ABC11 Meteorologist Don “Big Weather” Schwenneker.
CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE RED CROSS OR VOLUNTEER
Matthew could become the first major hurricane to blow ashore in the U.S. since Wilma slashed across Florida in 2005, killing five people.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to spare most of the North Carolina coast but it could still bring damaging winds by Saturday, along with coastal flooding.
Click here for First Alert Doppler XP
Click here to download the ABC11 First Alert Weather app.
South Carolina’s governor has declared a state of emergency and is ordering the evacuation of coastal communities, initiating the state’s lane reversal evacuation plan. Under the plan, Interstate 26 will only go in one direction– away from the coast.
WATCH: State officials urge caution ahead of Hurricane Matthew
McCrory said at a briefing Wednesday that North Carolina will be offering resources to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as Matthew appears poised to hit the Carolinas’ coasts this weekend.
The governor added that he wouldn’t be moving any resources from our state in the event the hurricane changes course and takes aim at North Carolina.
WATCH: Chris Hohmann discusses the strongest side of a hurricane
The following counties across the southeast have started emergency preparations:
Brunswick County: Oak Island has issued a mandatory evacuation for renters. It’s voluntary for residents.
Carteret County: At Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina, superintendent Patrick Kenney said more than 100 trucks were being taken off the island and about 45 cabins were being cleared.
UNC-Wilmington: UNCW has issued a mandatory campus evacuation for all students. Students are encouraged to depart campus on Thursday morning. The University will be closed Friday.
Bladen and Brunswick County Schools will also be closed Friday due to the weather. Pender County Schools will be on a two-hour delay Friday. New Hanover County Schools are expected to make a decision on Thursday.
Numerous area high schools have also changed their football game dates due to the storm.
Click here for a complete list of closings and delays.
Charleston and Beaufort counties, plus areas of Berkeley, Colleton, Dorchester and Jasper counties: These counties should begin evacuating no later than 3 p.m. Wednesday. The scope of the evacuation may be expanded to include other areas Thursday, including parts of Horry and Georgetown.
Evacuations have been issued for the following counties: Duval (coastal area), St. Johns (coaster and waterfront), Flagler (voluntary evacuations), Brevard (mandatory evacuations), Indian River (voluntary evacuations), St. Lucie (voluntary evacuations), Martin (mandatory evacuation in some areas), Palm Beach (recommended evacuation, not mandatory), and Broward (voluntary evacuations).
Forecasters are warning of catastrophic damage along the coast and central Florida officials are warning everyone to be in place by 5 p.m. Thursday.
Disney World was closing at 5 p.m. Thursday and would remain closed Friday.
Glynn County: Glynn County Board of Commissioners has called for a voluntary evacuation for the islands (St. Simons, Jekyll Island, Sea Island, and Little St. Simons Island). At this time, an evacuation of the mainland is not anticipated.
With the hurricane’s approach, thousands of flight cancellations to and from Florida have been reported across the country, including at Raleigh Durham international.
RELATED: Airlines Cancel More Than 2,500 Flights Ahead of Hurricane Matthew
In Raleigh, Derrick Remer, Emergency Management & Special Events Manager with the City of Raleigh said crews are on standby ready to work through the weekend on 12-hour shifts, on the go 24 hours if needed. While the city is still watching and waiting, they’ve already started conversations with power crews and other emergency operations.
“Crews are ready to go,” he said. “We have our gas tanks fueled our swift water rescue teams are ready to respond. We have a lot of conference calls with our partners at Duke Energy, North Carolina Emergency Management and Wake County.”
“We began discussions this morning,” Scott Hecht, with the public works department in Cary, said on Monday.
He said all of the department is on a critical list position, on standby.
“There’s a good chance we’ll be working Saturday, into Saturday night, maybe Friday night,” Hecht added.
Specifically, they’re talking with the fire department, utilities, water treatment plants and the parks department. Crews are planning to cut away limbs that could affect power lines and cleaning out any storm drains, culverts, known to quickly clog up in storms.
City leaders are also asking people to make sure their homes are prepared, bring in anything that could blow in the wind and touch base with elderly or disabled neighbors in case they need help preparing.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is also warning residents about scams connected to Hurricane Matthew.
RELATED: North Carolina officials warning residents about Hurricane Matthew scams
With the incoming weather, people raced to supermarkets, gas stations and hardware stores, buying up groceries, water, plywood, tarps, batteries and propane. Images Wednesday showed food and water supplies dwindling at stores in anticipation.
WATCH: DeJuan Hoggard shows how grocery stores are preparing
Kroger stores across the Triangle are preparing for the effects of Hurricane Matthew. Even though the latest models show Matthew shifting away from Eastern North Carolina, the grocery chain is making sure its stores are well-stocked.
The Mid-Atlantic division is shipping additional pallets of milk, bread, packaged meats, ice, water, paper towels, and other essentials to Triangle stores in the event the forecast shows Matthew having a strong impact. Several stores will also be receiving generators in case power is knocked out.
Ryan Rhodes is the co-manager of a Kroger store in Durham. He said it’s challenging in times like these to keep everything fully stocked and the store operating at its highest potential.
“With impending weather such as snow and this hurricane that we’re dealing with now, it’s always a challenge,” he said. “But certainly getting everyone out on the front end in a timely fashion; it’s certainly something that we’re trying to pay a lot of attention to.”
In the event Matthew has a significant impact on the Triangle, Rhodes says all hands will be on deck regardless.
“We’re always in touch with everyone,” Rhodes said. “So should we start having broken trees and what-have-you out in the parking lot, we can get them moved pretty quickly and working with our landlord to get parking spaces open and we’ll be open for sure.”
Kroger is anticipating an increase in foot traffic as the weekend nears. The chain has also arranged for extra drivers and has coordinated for multiple deliveries to handle the forecasted influx.
In a statement sent to ABC11, Kroger said: “We are committed to excellent customer service with an unwavering dedication to providing quality products, especially during crucial times as this. We are making the necessary strides to ensure customers in the Triangle are taken care of if the weather takes a turn for the worse.”
ABC11’s team of meteorologists continues to watch the storm and where its path may go.
Click here for ABC11 First Alert Doppler Hurricane Tracker
Be prepared: Emergency kit essentials for hurricane season
Meanwhile, Duke Energy is on alert as they track the storm’s path. They say they’re preparing for a major power outage event.
The state’s largest energy provider hasn’t had to prepare for this kind of potential storm, in some time.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Category 3. That’s in the “Fran” category, if you will, so it’s a sizable storm,” Jeff Brooks, a Duke Energy spokesman, said.
The Red Cross is also urging residents in Eastern North Carolina to be prepared.
“The better prepared folks are, the safer they will be should Hurricane Matthew impact our coastline,” said Barry Porter, regional chief executive officer of the Red Cross in Eastern NC. “The Red Cross encourages residents to build a kit of necessities, ready their homes, and make a plan with their families.”
McCrory said that officials are concerned about damage on the coast and inland because the ground is already saturated and river levels are high.
Click here for tips and recommendations from the Red Cross.
The ABC11 Weather Team will keep you updated with the latest.
WATCH: Chris Hohmann explains how hurricanes are categorized
ABC11’s DeJuan Hoggard and Angelica Alvarez contributed to this report.
Report a Typo
(Copyright ©2016 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.)