The strongest storm to hit the US in a decade is hours away from making landfall in Florida after pummeling the Bahamas and killing more than 100 people in Haiti.
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida and in South Carolina on Thursday afternoon in anticipation of a rare category four storm with 140 mile-per-hour winds, freeing up federal money and sending in emergency teams. Two million people have evacuated.
Airports, train services and cruise lines have shut down, people have boarded up their homes and around 1.5 million people in Florida alone hit the interstate motorways to move inland.
Florida governor Rick Scott did not mince his words when he told Floridians that the storm “will kill you”.
“The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida,” he warned.
“There are no excuses. You need to leave.”
Mr Scott activated 3,500 National Guard troops on Thursday evening to help out with emergency operations during the storm.
Matthew could be the first such storm to make landfall in the country since Charley hit in August 2004, causing $14 billion worth of damage.
As of 5pm ET, the storm was about 100 miles east southeast of Palm Beach, moving northwest at around 13 miles per hour.
Authorities were scrambling to make the necessary preparations along the eastern Florida peninsula and in coastal Georgia and South Carolina.
In South Carolina, eastbound traffic lanes were changed to accommodate the exodus of around half a million people fleeing from coastal areas like Charleston.
The storm is expected to reach Florida early Thursday night, traveling round the north-eastern corner of the state through Friday evening. It will reach the Georgia coast through Saturday morning and the Carolinas by Sunday night.
The Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew
The Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew
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A woman illuminates her family with a candle as they sleep on the floor in a partially destroyed school used as a shelter after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti
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Mist rises off the water as a flooded building is pictured after Hurricane Matthew passes in Lumberton, North Carolina, US
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Children sleep over metal sheets in a partially destroyed school used as a shelter after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti
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People carry the coffin of a woman who died during Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, Haiti
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Destroyed houses are seen after Hurricane Matthew passes Grande Cayemite, Haiti
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Clothes hang in an area destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Anglais, Haiti
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A woman with cholera symptoms receives medical atention at the health center of Les Anglais, in Les Cayes in the southwest of Haiti
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Residents line up for food after Hurricane Matthew in Anse D'Hainault, Haiti. Nearly a week after the storm smashed into southwestern Haiti, some communities have yet to receive any assistance, leaving residents who have lost their homes and virtually all of their belongings struggling to find shelter and water
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People sick with cholera receive medical assistance at Saint Antoine hospital in Jeremi, Haiti. According to the UN after hurricane Matthew the disease has spread
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A woman and a child sit on a buckets amid the ruins of their home destroyed by Hurricane Matthew, in Jeremie, Haiti
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UN blue helmets load aid which arrived in US helicopters onto a truck for people affected by Hurricane Matthew, in Jeremie, southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti
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A UN helicopter lands next to aid sent by the United States for the people affected by Hurricane Matthew, in Jeremie, southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti
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A boat passes a church in Nichols, South Carolina. Nearly 1 million homes and businesses still did not have power Monday morning in the Carolinas after Hurricane Matthew
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Boats sit washed up on shore amongst the twisted docks at Palmetto Bay Marina damaged by Hurricane Matthew in Hilton Head, South Carolina
The storm could strengthen into a category five hurricane before making landfall on the East Coast, with a dangerous storm surge - coastal water is predicated to rise by up to 11 feet - destructive winds and heavy rainfall.
Weather models show the storm will likely veer out to sea by the end of the weekend, before looping back towards Florida in the middle of next week as another potential tropical storm.
“Some of the lowest barrier islands will be completely overtopped with large battering waves and life-threatening flooding. Barrier islands are likely to be breached and it is extremely possible that new inlets will be cut off in the worst affected areas,” according to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, Florida.
The same weather service estimated Hurricane Matthew will be much bigger than Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, and “potentially disastrous” for the Sunshine State.
In Melbourne, Florida, the National Weather Service said in a statement that “extensive to devastating impacts will be felt”.
The service warned that the storm could damage properties and vehicles both on the coast and inland, as well as cause widespread power outages.
Some locations could be uninhabitable for months, it added.
In the Bahamas, the capital of Nassau was battered. Authorities reported downed power lines and trees, but no immediate deaths.
108 people died in Haiti, thousands of people were displaced and four people were killed in the Dominican Republic.
Around 10,000 people are in shelters in Haiti and the hospitals are overflowing, authorities said.
Schools have been destroyed and dangerous mudslides are still flowing due to the rain-soaked ground.Reuse content