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Hurricane Watch issued for eastern Colleton, Beaufort, Jasper co - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

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Hurricane Watch issued for eastern Colleton, Beaufort, Jasper counties

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

A hurricane watch was issued late Wednesday night for eastern Colleton, Beaufort and Japser counties as Hurricane Matthew continues moving towards the Bahamas and the Florida coast. 

The late Wednesday night update has the eye of Hurricane Matthew located near latitude 23.4 North, longitude 76.4 West. 

Matthew is moving toward the northwest near 10 mph, and this motion is expected to continue during the next 24 to 48 hours.

On this track, Matthew will be moving across the Bahamas Wednesday night and Thursday, and is expected to be very near the east coast of Florida by Thursday night.

The current track has the storm strengthening to a Category 4 before it reaches the Florida coast, Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh said.

"As we move the storm to the north and east, we're talking about still a very strong Category 4 hurricane approaching from the south, and then diminishing to about a Category 2 hurricane, and that's in about 24 hours, just off our coast at about 105 miles per hour." 

By Saturday around 2 p.m., we are going to see the storm very close to the South Carolina coast, almost paralleling the coast for about 12 to 15 hours. 

Possible effects for us include tropical storm winds, heavy surf and beach erosion, storm surge of 3 to 5 feet and 4 to 8 inches of rainfall. Power outages are also expected. 

Current warnings and watches

All of the Bahamas are under a hurricane warning along with Florida's Atlantic Coast from Golden Beach north to Volusia County, and Lake Okeechobee. A Hurricane Watch has been extended northward from Fernandina Beach to Savannah River. A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the Florida Gulf Coast from north of Chokoloskee to the Suwannee River.     

Tropical storm warnings are in effect from Chokoloskee to Golden Beach, FL, the Florida Keys from the Seven Mile Bridge east and Florida Bay. 

Forecasters expect the storm to strengthen a bit over the next few days.

The National Hurricane Center says the hurricane is predicted to plow through the Bahamas before paralleling Florida's Atlantic coast Thursday evening. It's too early to determine the specific damage the storm will inflict on the Sunshine State.

The National Hurricane Center says the hurricane is predicted to plow through the Bahamas before paralleling Florida's Atlantic coast Thursday evening. It's too early to determine the specific damage the storm will inflict on the Sunshine State.

Forecasters also expect the storm to closely brush the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas before moving east out into the Atlantic, though the most recent forecast track has Matthew moving further off shore Sunday and Monday.

States in Matthew's path started making preparations for the storm earlier this week and continue to update those plans, as a swath of the East Coast from south Florida north to North Carolina likely will be experiencing tropical storm and hurricane conditions.

President Barack Obama said, after a FEMA meeting, that the federal government stands ready to help, and that people in the targeted area should "take this storm seriously."

About 200 members of the Florida National Guard were activated Tuesday, and the Florida governor's office said about 300 guard members will be activated Wednesday, staging across the state and preparing to perform search and rescue missions or other missions as necessary.

Four school districts in Florida were closing early Wednesday and will remain closed Thursday and Friday. 

Evacuations ordered

Gov. Nikki Haley ordered evacuations for Charleston and Beaufort counties on Wednesday morning and Georgetown and Horry counties on Thursday morning - as many as 1.1 million residents, according to WIS.

The process to reverse eastbound lanes to make them westbound along sections of I-26 in South Carolina began Wednesday, WCSC reported. The lane reversals are put in place to facilitate coastal evacuations. 

"We ask everybody, please be safe.  And for those of you wondering whether you should leave or not, I again will tell you, if you do not leave, you are putting a law enforcement officer's or National Guardsman's life on the line when they have to go back and get you," Haley said.

The South Carolina National Guard has been activated, and schools and government offices in 25 counties will be closed starting Wednesday.

Copyright 2016 WCSC/RNN. All rights reserved. 

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