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Hurricane warning issued for Florida as Hurricane Matthew expected to strengthen


Hurricane Matthew, a deadly storm already blamed for 11 deaths, began to strengthen Wednesday after crossing Haiti and Cuba, holding steady to a path taking it dangerously close to Florida.

The 11 a.m. model released Wednesday has the storm moving further off the North Carolina coast, but Gov. Pat McCrory cautioned North Carolinians to be prepared for the storm to shift again.

Matthew was located about 105 miles south of Long Island, Bahamas, moving at 12 mph. Sustained winds reached 120 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 Thursday evening.

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.

Forecasters expect Matthew to stay on a northwest course over the next day or two with no change in speed.

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.

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.