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Hurricane Matthew nears Florida coast; 300,000 Floridians already without power

Overnight, historic Hurricane Matthew weakened from a Category 4 to a Category 3, but that didn't stop the storm, which continued to stalk Florida's east coast early Friday morning, causing more than 300,000 Floridians to lose power.

As the hurricane teeters along the state's east coast, more than 11 million residents are under a storm warning as it continues to hammer the area with wicked winds and  increasingly heavy rain.

As of 5 a.m. Thursday morning, newest models show Matthew is moving at 13 mph with sustained winds of 120 mph.

FOX8 meteorologist Emily Byrd says Hurricane Matthew will continue its northward turn maintaining major hurricane status through Friday and Friday night, but by 2 a.m. Saturday morning, it is expected to drop to Category 2 when it begins to tightly hug the South Carolina coastline. The hurricane should move closer to the North Carolina southern coastline between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

"We are already starting to see the impacts (from Hurricane Matthew), and it's a monster," Gov. Rick Scott said at a Thursday evening news conference. Scott told residents in evacuation zones to go inland. "You still have time to leave. Get out. There's no reason to take a chance."

Officials from South Florida to North Carolina don't intend to risk their residents' safety. Residents who aren't under mandatory evacuation orders have been warned to remain vigilant and be prepared to outmaneuver the storm, depending on its track.

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]

269: Deaths caused by Matthew

Hurricane Matthew is the worst humanitarian disaster to strike Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people, a United Nations representative in Haiti said.

Matthew killed at least 264 people in Haiti, where tens of thousands still live in makeshift homes after the earthquake.

Adding to the humanitarian crisis: National Route 2, which connects Port-au-Prince with Haiti's devastated southern peninsula, broke apart when a bridge collapsed -- severely hampering relief efforts.

Matthew also killed four people in the Dominican Republic and a teenage boy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

145 mph: Expected wind strength upon US landfall

By the time Matthew makes landfall in the US -- possibly early Friday on Florida's east coast -- it'll likely be a Category 4 hurricane, blasting 145-mph winds, forecasters said.

"This can be a devastating hurricane from both wind and water," Knabb said, "and that's why you have to take it seriously to stay alive."

2 million+: Number of people urged to evacuate

The mandatory evacuations are the largest since Hurricane Sandy, which pummeled the US East Coast in 2012 and killed at least 147 people in North America.

About 1.5 million Floridians are in the evacuation zone. South Carolina has ordered hundreds of thousands to leave the coastal areas. And on Thursday, Georgia ordered about 500,000 residents in six coastal counties to leave.

Even the 14,000 residents of the oldest city in the US -- St. Augustine, Florida -- have been told to evacuate.

11 million: Floridians under hurricane warning

At least 11 million Florida residents were under a hurricane warning Wednesday.

"If you need to evacuate and you haven't, evacuate. This storm will kill you," Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday. "Time is running out."

300,000+: Customers without power in Florida

As of early Friday morning, more than 300,000 customers were without power across Florida.

~3,800: Flights canceled

As of Friday morning, about 3,800 flights have been canceled as Matthew approaches the southeastern US. That number could rise as the hurricane continues thrashing the coast.