Hurricane Matthew took aim at the Bahamas on Wednesday after leaving behind a humanitarian crisis in Haiti.
At least 15 people died from Matthew's wrath in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said.
Matthew is holding steady to a path taking it dangerously close to Florida.
The 8 p.m. model released Wednesday has the storm further off the North Carolina coast than earlier models, but Gov. Pat McCrory cautioned North Carolinians to be prepared for the storm to shift again.
Matthew, a Category 3 storm, is currently over the islands of the Bahamas moving at 12 mph. Sustained winds reached 115 mph, with the storm expected to keep pushing northwestward for the next two days.
Models show Matthew is expected to strengthen to Category 4 as it continues its trek into warm Bahamian waters, before exiting the Bahamas Thursday night. It will likely near, or make landfall, on the Florida coast late Thursday night or early Friday morning.
The 8 p.m. model shows Matthew taking a dramatic turn southeast on Saturday and Sunday after passing near the North and South Carolina coasts.
With the track continuing to aim for Florida, forecasters expanded their hurricane warning to cover nearly the entire east coast of the state, from the Miami-Dade and Broward County line north to Flagler County, just south of Jacksonville.
In Florida, which hasn’t had a major hurricane make landfall in more than a decade, Gov. Rick Scott urged residents to remain on high alert and be prepared for direct hit. They are predicting between 3 and 5 feet up and down the coast.
In North Carolina on Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for 66 counties in North Carolina, including those in the immediate Piedmont Triad area. On Tuesday evening Hyde County issued a mandatory evacuation for Ocracoke Island. Topsail Beach is conducting a voluntary evacuation.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced Tuesday afternoon that all coastal communities are being evacuated at least 100 miles inland Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon, lane reversals began on Interstate 26 to allow for evacuations.