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Obama declares state of emergency in Florida as Hurricane Matthew approaches

Published 06/10/2016

A motel displays a sign asking Hurricane Matthew to stay away in Kill Devil Hiils in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on October 5, 2016 as the storm makes its way towards the United States./ AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMMNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
A motel displays a sign asking Hurricane Matthew to stay away in Kill Devil Hiils in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on October 5, 2016 as the storm makes its way towards the United States./ AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMMNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
Workers board up a restaurant ahead of hurricane Matthew in Atlantic Beach, Florida, on October 5, 2016. The United States began evacuating coastal areas on Wednesday as Hurricane Matthew churned toward the Bahamas, after killing at least nine people in the Caribbean in a maelstrom of wind, mud and water. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMADJEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
A truck negotiates a road damaged by Hurricane Matthew, in Petit Goave, Haiti, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. Rescue workers in Haiti struggled to reach cutoff towns and learn the full extent of the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew as the storm began battering the Bahamas on Wednesday and triggered large-scale evacuations along the U.S. East Coast. ( AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Motorists drive past a hurricane warning sign, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in Hallandale Beach, Fla. Hurricane Matthew marched toward Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas and nearly 2 million people along the coast were urged to evacuate their homes Wednesday, a mass exodus ahead of a major storm packing power the U.S. hasn't seen in more than a decade. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A woman is carried across the river La Digue in Petit Goave where the bridge collapsed during the rains of the Hurricane Matthew, southwest of Port-au-Prince, October 5, 2016. Haiti and the eastern tip of Cuba -- blasted by Matthew on October 4, 2016 -- began the messy and probably grim task of assessing the storm's toll. Matthew hit them as a Category Four hurricane but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Three-month old Matthew Cohen is dressed in a Donald Trump-style suit by his father Les Cohen of Victorville, California before the start of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rally on October, 5, 2016 at the Henderson Pavilion in Henderson, Nevada. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BeckROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Three-month old Matthew Cohen is dressed in a Donald Trump-style suit by his father Les Cohen of Victorville, California before the start of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rally on October, 5, 2016 at the Henderson Pavilion in Henderson, Nevada. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BeckROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Michale McGee (L) is helped by his friend Charles Nordan to board up his house ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Atlantic Beach, Florida, on October 5, 2016. The United States began evacuating coastal areas on Wednesday as Hurricane Matthew churned toward the Bahamas, after killing at least nine people in the Caribbean in a maelstrom of wind, mud and water. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMADJEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
People who had to evacuate the area return to their homes in the Carbonera community of Guantanamo, Cuba following Hurricane Matthew, October 5, 2016. The storm slammed into Haiti and Cuba as a Category Four hurricane on October 4, 2016 but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). Its winds were howling at 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour). / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A man removes the garbage in a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Pic: AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - The mother (C) of two girls who died when a landslide knocked the walls of their house down during the passage of Hurricane Matthew, is comforted outside her house in the neighbourhood of Capotillo, in Santo Domingo on October 4, 2016. Matthew, a Category Four hurricane, slammed into the Dominican Republic and Haiti Tuesday, triggering major floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of the storm that has claimed at least three lives in each country. / AFP PHOTO / Erika SANTELICESERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images
A house with its roof torn off by the winds caused by Hurricane Matthew stands in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A vehicles sits next to a house, stranded in the flood waters caused by Hurricane Matthew, in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A man rides a bicycle past a tree uprooted by the winds of Hurricane Matthew in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds Tuesday, tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A woman and a child walk in a waterlogged street as they head to a shelter under the pouring rain caused by Hurricane Matthew, in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
A structure lays on the ground, brought down by the winds of Hurricane Matthew in Leogane, Haiti. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Yorick Bain uses a drill to secure plywood over the windows of a Dunkin Donuts store in downtown Nassau, Bahamas, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The demand for materials such as plywood and sand caused many businesses to post "sold out" signs as residents moved about the island preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew which is is expected to impact all the islands of the Bahamas in the coming days on its way towards the Florida coastline. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
The high winds and rain of Hurricane Matthew roar over Baracoa, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The dangerous Category 4 storm blew ashore around dawn in Haiti. It unloaded heavy rain as it swirled on toward a lightly populated part of Cuba and the Bahamas. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
People watch from the other side of the La Digue river as water roars past the destroyed Petit Goave bridge, as Hurricane Matthew passes over, in Petit Goave, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds destroying the bridge and cutting off road communication with the worst hit areas. ( AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
The high winds of Hurricane Matthew roar over Baracoa, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The dangerous Category 4 storm blew ashore around dawn in Haiti. It unloaded heavy rain as it swirled on toward a lightly populated part of Cuba and the Bahamas. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Surf and wind from Hurricane Matthew crash on the waterfront in Baracoa, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The dangerous Category 4 storm blew ashore around dawn in Haiti. It unloaded heavy rain as it swirled on toward a lightly populated part of Cuba and the Bahamas. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A man looks at the rise of a river, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Two men remove a downed power line to allow vehicles passage, in Petit Goave, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds Tuesday, tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris. ( AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
People look at a flooding river , in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People look at a flooded road, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People look at a flooding river , in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People look at a flooded road, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A car makes its way through flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A car makes its way through a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks in a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People are seen walking in flooded streets, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People are seen walking in flooded streets, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People are seen walking in flooded streets, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People are seen walking in flooded streets, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks down a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
People stand in houses on a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Residents remain at their houses in Guantanamo city, Cuba on October 4, 2016 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
View of a street of Guantanamo city, east of Havana on October 4, 2016 in Guantanamo province ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks down a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Residents walk along Guantanamo city streets on October 4, 2016 in the Guantanamo province, Cuba. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents remain at their houses in Guantanamo city, at east of Havana on October 4, 2016 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A Cuban drives a motorcycle along a street of Guantanamo city, Cuba on October 4, 2016 ahead the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents wait for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew in the Guantanamo province on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents buy groceries in Guantanamo city, Cuba on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
People remain at a shelter in Guantanamo city, east of Cuba on October 4, 2016 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents observe the overflowing Guaso river in the Guantanamo province, Cuba on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
A man carries a plywood on his car along a street of Guantanamo city, east of Cuba on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
Jim LaFeir, of Ft. Lauderdale, buys a gas can at Lowe's in Oakland Park, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Anxious Florida residents raided grocery store shelves and North Carolina called for the evacuation of three barrier islands as Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a about decade, threatened to rake a large swath of the East Coast in the coming days. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Residents remain at their houses in Guantanamo city, Cuba on October 4, 2016 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images
The GOES East satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and taken Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 at 1:12 p.m. EDT, shows Hurricane Matthew over the Caribbean region. Hurricane Matthew roared across the southwestern tip of Haiti with 145 mph winds Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, uprooting trees and tearing roofs from homes in a largely rural corner of the impoverished country as the storm headed north toward Cuba and the east coast of Florida. (NOAA via AP)

US president Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in Florida as Hurricane Matthew approaches with winds of 140mph, leaving more than 100 dead in its wake across the Caribbean.

It was the most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic coast in more than a decade.

"The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida," Florida Governor Rick Scott said as the skies began to darken from Matthew's outer bands of rain.

The hurricane gained fury at it closed in, growing from a possibly devastating Category 3 storm to a potentially catastrophic Category 4 by late Thursday morning.

It was expected to scrape nearly the entire length of Florida's Atlantic coast from Thursday evening.

From there, forecasters said, it could push its way just off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina before veering out to sea.

Around two million people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were told to head for safety, and interstate highways were turned into one-way routes to speed up the exodus.

Mr Scott said Florida could be looking at its biggest evacuation ever.

Many boarded up their homes and businesses and left them to the mercy of the storm.

Daniel Myras, who has lived for 25 years in Daytona Beach, where he owns the Cruisin Cafe two blocks from the boardwalk, struggled to find enough plywood to protect his restaurant.

"We're not going to take any chances on this one," he said. "I have the feeling that this one is the one that makes Daytona realise that we need to get ready for storms."

He added: "A lot of people here, they laugh, and say they've been through storms before and they're not worried. But I think this is the one that's going to give us a wake-up call."

Forecasters said Matthew's fiercest winds appeared unlikely to strike Miami or Fort Lauderdale, the most densely populated areas in Florida, with about 4.4 million residents.

Those cities were expected to get tropical storm-force winds of between 39mph and 73mph.

Instead, forecasters said the West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral areas farther north could get the brunt of the storm.

More than 1.3 million people live in Palm Beach County and about 568,000 in Brevard County, home to Cape Canaveral and NASA's Kennedy Space Centre.

The last Category 3 storm or higher to hit the US was Wilma in October 2005. It sliced across Florida with 120 mph winds, killing five people and causing an estimated 21 billion US dollars in damage.

As people hurried for higher ground, authorities in South Carolina said a motorist died on Wednesday after being shot by deputies in a gun battle that erupted after he sped away from a checkpoint along a storm evacuation route.

Matthew killed at least 114 people in the Caribbean as it roared through Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas.

Officials said at least 108 of those deaths were in desperately poor Haiti, where many towns were cut off by the storm and the magnitude of the death and destruction was just beginning to come into focus two days later.

In the Bahamas, authorities reported many downed trees and power lines but no immediate deaths.

With hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 60 miles from the storm's centre, Matthew could wreak havoc along the coast even if it were to stay just offshore.

Forecasters said it could dump up to 15 inches of rain in some spots and cause a storm surge of nine feet.

Patients were transferred from two Florida waterfront hospitals and a nursing home near Daytona Beach to safer locations.

In inland Orlando, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld announced plans to close early.

The Fort Lauderdale Airport closed late in the morning, and the Orlando airport planned to shut down as well.

Airlines cancelled more than 2,800 flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday, many of them in or out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Some coast residents decided to take their chances and stay.

Deborah Whyte walked her dogs at Jupiter Beach Park in the morning to check the surf.

"We boarded up our house and I boarded up my store in Tequesta," she said. "And we're just hunkering down and waiting for it."

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire Georgia coast, covering more than half a million people.

The Georgia coast has not seen a hurricane evacuation since 1999, when it narrowly escaped Floyd.

On Georgia's Tybee Island, Loren Kook loaded up his pick-up truck with suitcases and a computer and planned to drive to metro Atlanta.

"It seems like a lot of the long-time residents are staying," said Mr Kook, who moved to the coast four years ago. "I've never sat through a Category Whatever. I'll watch it on TV."

AP

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