Hurricane Matthew now Category 3; President Obama declares state of emergency in Florida

Forecasters say Hurricane Matthew is expected to strengthen as it approaches Florida.

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Hurricane Matthew has regained strength, and is now a Category 3 hurricane moving through the Bahamas. The storm is expected to track toward the Florida coast tonight.

Hurricane force winds are expected to reach Florida’s Atlantic coast Thursday night and will spread northward through Friday. All of the east coast of Florida is under a hurricane warning right now, with the exception of Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys (those areas are under a tropical storm warning). Heavy rain, damaging wind (including tornadoes) and significant flooding from storm surge is expected into Friday night, in Florida.  The storm may make landfall anywhere in the warning area, or the eye may say closely offshore. Even if the storm does not make landfall, it is a very dangerous situation along the coast.

Continuing Coverage: Hurricane Matthew

There is a high risk of storm surge, leading to flooding along the coast over a 36-hour period. Heavy rains may also cause flooding father inland. Damage from hurricane-force winds is also a major concern. High-rise buildings are at risk from wind speeds that are higher than those at ground level.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect for about two million people from Florida up to South Carolina. After Florida, Matthew threatens the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, with portions of coastal North Carolina also vulnerable.

Current model runs do not show the storm progressing further north up the Atlantic coast, but instead turning completely out-to-sea after the Carolinas, or looping back southward.

Stay with 22News and as the 22News Storm Team continues to track the path of Hurricane Matthew.

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