Oct 6 The fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a
decade slammed into the Bahamas early on Thursday and was
expected to intensify as it barreled towards the southeast U.S.
coast, where a mass exodus was under way in four states.
Roadways in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina
were packed from late on Wednesday, with millions heeding
warnings to flee inland as Hurricane Matthew approached, packing
sustained winds of about 115 miles per hour (185 km per hour),
storm surges and heavy rain.
Matthew, which killed at least 26 people and damaged swathes
of homes in southern Haiti, was predicted to strengthen from
Category 3 to 4 storm en route to eastern Florida.
Landfall was expected there on Thursday night, the U.S.
National Hurricane Center said.
"Everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit,"
Florida Governor Scott told a news conference in Tallahassee on
Wednesday. "If Matthew directly impacts Florida, the destruction
could be catastrophic and you need to be prepared."
All four states in the hurricane's path declared states of
emergency as shelters in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina
opened their doors after governors, along with President Barack
Obama, urged residents to evacuate their homes.
In all, more than 12 million U.S. residents were under a
hurricane watches and warnings, according to the Weather
Gas stations in Florida posted "out of gas" signs after
motorists waited in long lines to fill up their tanks.
"Every gas station I went to is empty," said Charles Bivona
in a Tweet late Wednesday. "Here comes Hurricane Matthew. Um,
People who planned to wait out the storm stocked up on
water, milk and canned goods, emptying grocery store shelves,
footage from local media showed.
Residents and business owners boarded up windows with
plywood and hurricane shutters and placed sandbags down to
protect property against flooding.
"All boarded up and ready to bunker down. God be with us,"
West Palm Beach Florida resident Brad Gray said in a Tweet.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; editing by John