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People in the southeast from Florida to the Carolinas are preparing for the worst. Headed their way is Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm with winds up to 140 miles per hour. It has already pummeled the Caribbean. We'll hear about that situation in a moment. But first, NPR's Greg Allen is in Florida where 1 and a half million people have been told to evacuate.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Florida's governor Rick Scott had a stark message for residents along Florida's Atlantic coast today.
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RICK SCOTT: If you're watching and you're in an evacuation area, get out. Don't take a chance. Time is running out. This is clearly going to either have a direct hit or come right along our coast, and we're going to have hurricane force winds.
ALLEN: Along Florida's east coast, evacuations have been ordered on barrier islands and for people who live in mobile homes and low-lying areas. Georgia's governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation in six coastal counties east of Interstate 95.
In South Carolina, two coastal counties are being evacuated, and the state reversed eastbound lanes on Interstate 26 to ease traffic. A man there was shot by a sheriff's deputy in a dispute over an evacuation route and later died.
A hurricane warning is in place for at least 600 miles of the Atlantic coast from South Florida to South Carolina. For a second day, supermarkets in South Florida were packed. In Fort Lauderdale, Natalie Elizur was shopping for last-minute supplies.
NATALIE ELIZUR: Ice packs to keep things cool. We're probably not going to have electricity for a couple days or we don't really know how long.
ALLEN: For Florida, this is the first time in 11 years that a major hurricane has taken aim at the state. And because of its track, Matthew's impact is difficult to predict. The storm is expected to move up Florida's coast tonight and tomorrow before heading toward Georgia and South Carolina.
If it doesn't make landfall, it will pass very close to portions of Florida's coast. Hurricane winds are likely to extend some 60 miles from the storm center. Governor Scott is warning Floridians to prepare for the worst given the uncertainty of Matthew's path.
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SCOTT: Only a small deviation in the forecast track to the left or to the west could bring the core of a major hurricane onshore within the hurricane warning area.
ALLEN: In major hurricanes, flooding is usually the biggest threat to life and the reason coastal areas are evacuated. Florida is expected to see 4 to 8 inches of rain and a 3- to 5-foot storm surge. With Matthew though, emergency managers are especially concerned about high winds.
Jeff Huffman, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, says the storm's track takes it very close to Melbourne, Fla., and the area around Cape Canaveral.
JEFF HUFFMAN: Emergency managers in the Melbourne area and including the National Weather Service in Melbourne - they told me this morning they are preparing for this to come ashore as a major hurricane not only approaching the coastline but moving up the coast for miles and miles and miles, spreading hurricane conditions for hundreds of miles of coastline from Florida up into the Carolinas.
ALLEN: In Florida, some 2,500 National Guard are getting in position around the state to help with search and rescue operations after the storm hits. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.