MIAMI (AP) — Forecasters say Hurricane Matthew has gained new muscle over the Bahamas and they are also expanding the hurricane warning area further up the Southeast Atlantic seacoast from Florida into Georgia.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Matthew’s top sustained winds have risen from 115 mph (185 kph) to 125 mph (205 mph) in just a few hours early Thursday as the storm continues to batter the central Bahamas.
The center says it is extending a hurricane warning area already covering a large swath of Florida’s Atlantic coast further northward to Altamaha Sound, Georgia. It also says a newly expanded hurricane watch now extends from the Altamaha Sound up the coast to the South Santee River in South Carolina.
The center added in its 5 a.m. Thursday update that Matthew should gain further in intensity over the next day or so and is forecast to become a Category 4 storm as it approaches Florida’s Atlantic coast.
Officials say some 3,000 people have already checked into shelters in Florida ahead of Hurricane Matthew’s approach.
According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, 48 shelters are already providing refuge for 3,015 people in Florida. Another 13 special needs shelters are already housing 31 people.
The shelters are all in schools in areas where evacuations — either mandatory or voluntary — are underway. The Florida counties include Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Glades, Martin, Duval and Brevard.
Special needs shelters are designed to aid people with disabilities. Shelters are listed at floridadisaster.org.
Matthew’s center is now about 255 miles (410 kilometers) southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida, and moving northwest at 12 mph (19 kph) over the Bahamas.
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