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Hurricane Matthew Heads for Northeast Florida

Hurricane Matthew left Bahamas late Thursday and is moving towards the East coast of Florida, where it is expected to land as a powerful hurricane category three or stronger. 

Broward County residents got some good news on Thursday night:  The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has downgraded the area south of Boca Raton to a tropical storm warning. Things are not looking so good for residents of Palm Beach County, who are still in the path of Hurricane Matthew. 

Credit FPREN

Winds from a dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Matthew began lashing South Florida Thursday as it approached on a collision course with the state, carrying a full arsenal of potential hurricane damage, from wind, rain and storm surge.

Palm Beach County north of Boca Raton is still under hurricane warning. The danger zone goes all the way to South Santee River in South Carolina and the National Weather Service in Jacksonville has warned that the effects of Matthew can be "catastrophic."

As of 11 p.m. Thursday, Matthew had sustained winds of  130 mph and was moving northwest at 13 mph. 

The 8 p.m. advisory from the NHC indicated that conditions in Broward County "are starting to improve," thus the area south of Boca Raton to Golden Beach was moved from hurricane warning to tropical storm warning. 

Miami-Dade County and parts of  Monroe County remained under the tropical storm warning. 

Credit FPREN
The National Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. update projects Hurricane Matthew to collide with the Florida coast as a powerful Category 4 storm.

The eye of the storm, where the strongest winds are concentrated, was expected to come very close to Florida's Atlantic coast Thursday night. The state will continue to feel the effects through Friday night. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 40 miles from the storm's center. Tropical storm-force winds are up to 160 miles from the eye.

Florida residents rushed to finish hurricane preparations Thursday morning, searching for stations with gasoline, boarding up buildings and, in many cases, seeking shelter away from the coast. 

"It's  here. It's happening now," said Gov. Rick Scott in a press conference  early Thursday evening. "We want everybody to survive this storm. We are focusing on protecting lives."

Scott said several times in his address that Florida residents should make every effort to receive updated information and suggested them to text FLprepares to 888777 to receive live updates from the state emergency services. 

"This storm is a monster," said Scott, indicating that heavy rain up to 12 inches is expected, along with strong rip currents, tornados and hurricane-force winds and 11 feet of possible storm surge. "Stop and think about that."

"Do not surf, do not be on the beach, Nobody should be on a Florida beach tonight," said the governor. 

Credit FPREN

Scott said that he has requested from FEMA temporary power sources,  temporary roofing supplies, Removal and Assesment crews. "We are going to have a lot of power outages," he said. 

Earlier in the day, Scott had urged residents of the coast to evacuate if necessary and to finish their storm preparations and seek shelter as winds pick up and the waters rise, from both storm surge and rainfall

"This storm will kill you," he said Thursday morning. "Time is running out."

President Barack Obama declared an emergency in the state of Florida and has ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts to Hurricane Matthew.

Obama's action authorizes action by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  to alleviate the suffering caused by the hurricane. The directive applies to more than two dozen counties in Florida.

Credit FPREN

Nearly 8 million Floridians are under hurricane or tropical storm watches or warnings, which stretched from the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys into South Carolina. Schools and governments in the area were closed; shelters opened Wednesday in Palm Beach,  Broward and Miami-Dade counties and evacuations began for some coastal areas, including a mandatory evacuation for part of coastal Palm Beach county.

The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (FPREN) and the Associated Press  contributed to this report. 
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