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Threat of Hurricane Matthew moving north to GA and Carolinas

(RNN) – Heavy rainfall and tropical force winds were felt as Hurricane Matthew moved north along Florida’s east coast early Friday morning.

Hurricane warnings have been issued for Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina coasts as the forecast for Hurricane Matthew shows it moving closer to the Carolina coast.

The hurricane is moving north-northwest at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, and it is located about 35 miles east-northeast of Daytona Beach, FL. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center.

Though the stom technically hasn’t yet made landfall, the western edge of Matthew’s eyewall brushed Cape Canaveral and Daytona Beach, FL, where the National Weather Service said wind gusts of up to 71 mph were reported.

Wind gusts of up to 107 mph were reported at the U.S. Air Force wind tower network in North Brevard County, FL, Friday morning, and the National Weather Service’s Jacksonville Office said tropical storm winds had reached their area at around 9 a.m.

The Florida coast is experiencing storm surge, hazardous winds and heavy rain, and those conditions will move north with the storm.

Evacuations have been ordered for almost 2 million people in the path of the Category 3 hurricane, as it threatens to be one of the most dangerous storms in recent history.

WPTV reported that one person has died in connection with the storm, a 50-year-old woman who suffered a cardiac arrest. It is only considered a storm-related death because emergency personnel couldn’t respond to the emergency.

Hurricane warnings are in effect from Cocoa Beach, FL to Surf City, SC, and a hurricane watch is in effect from north of Surf City, SC, to Cape Lookout, NC.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect from Sebastian Inlet, FL, to Cocoa Beach, FL; north of Surf City, SC to Duck, NC; and Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.

Forecasters expect the hurricane to slowly weaken over the next 12 hours and then weaken more significantly because of shear and drier air.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday morning that 22,000 people were in more than 100 shelters and tolls in affected areas will be rescinded for 24 hours after the storm has passed.

Search, rescue and damage assessment efforts are being conducted, and so far no major issues have been reported, Scott said. 

“While the storm is still on, don’t go outside,” he said. 

From Sebastian Inlet, FL, to South Santee River, SC, including portions of the St. Johns River, life-threatening inundation of 7 to 11 feet is possible. Of course, the flooding an area experiences from the surge depends on when in the tidal cycle the surge hits.

More than 500,000 Floridians were without power Friday morning, Gov. Rick Scott said, but some customers already had their power restored. About 15,000 workers are in place to restore the power as soon as it is safe to do so. Florida Power and Light said that more outages are expected as the storm moves north.

Florida State Emergency Response Team said that 12 counties were under some sort of evacuation orders, with at least 10 of those mandatory.

The entire Georgia coast was under hurricane warning early Friday morning, and six coastal counties were under mandatory evacuation orders. WTOC reported that Georgia Health System Brunswick Campus’ 180 patients were being evacuated.

Bridges in the hurricane warning area were closing, including the Talmadge Bridge in Savannah and the Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick-Glynn County, according to Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Emergency services were discontinued Friday in Tybee Island, GA.

South Carolina and North Carolina were bracing for the storm, with both governors already issuing evacuation orders.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley urged people in low-lying areas to move, as dangerous storm surges await. “The water that’s going to come in is going to be dangerous,” she said.

There are 2,600 evacuees in SC shelters, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Coast Guard has suspended all South Carolina waterfront port operations.

President Barack Obama has issued emergency declarations for Florida, South Carolina and Georgia.

On Friday, the president said that the U.S. was far from being clear of this storm, and FEMA is already in place to assit.

“I just want to emphasize that this is still a really dangerous hurricane,” Obama said.

He urged people in hard’s way to pay attention to local and emergency officials. “You need to pay attention to them. Do what they say,” he said.

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both cancelled their plans to campaign in Florida Thursday.

Florida’s most famous theme parks, Walt Disney World, Seaworld and Universal Orlando, all closed early Thursday and will remain closed Friday.

About 4,500 flights have been cancelled overall between Wednesday and Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

Flights at Miami International Airport were expected to “gradually resume” Friday after airlines canceled flights on Thursday, the airport tweeted.

Flights at Orlando International were suspended by 8 p.m. Thursday. The airport said it didn’t anticipate flights to resume until Saturday.

Meanwhile, flight cancellations were spreading north, with the airport at Myrtle Beach, SC, already experiencing cancellations, WMBF said.

South Carolina extended their online voter registration by one day because of the storm, WCSC reported.

The hurricane has already killed at least 283 in Haiti, the Associated Press reported. The Bahamas faced the brunt of the storm as it approached the mainland United States.

Authorities expect the death toll to rise as the recovery process continues.

The storm was the first Category 4 Hurricane to hit Haiti in more than 50 years.

Copyright 2016 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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