Mandatory evacuations are underway in South Carolina as three states brace for Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew will likely strike Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina Friday.

It will likely make landfall in Florida as a powerful Category-4 or Category-3 storm. It should weaken somewhat as it moves north, but will still pack a significant punch.

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina has ordered mandatory evacuations along the coast, according to CNN. The governors of Florida and Georgia have declared states of emergency and asked residents to prepare. Several barrier islands in Florida have also begun evacuations. As far north as North Carolina, officials are asking tourists to cut short their vacations.

Mandatory hurricane evacuations are significant and should be taken seriously. But they aren’t necessarily a sign of catastrophe either. As the federal government writes on its preparedness website, it’s not uncommon to see one or two in a year.

The eye of Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, hit Cuba Wednesday morning as the major tropical cyclone advanced toward the Bahamas.

The Washington Post reports that the extent of the destruction in Haiti, the western hemisphere’s poorest nation, is still unknown after Matthew struck with 145 mph winds. International aid teams are struggling to reach areas cut off by mud slides and washed-out bridges.

Having calmed somewhat since to a still-major 120 mph Category-3 hurricane, Matthew’s path toward the US has grown clearer. It’s projected to be right off the coast of Florida by Thursday evening, and it’s now expected to make landfall in Florida very early Friday morning.

Hurricane warnings are in effect across much of the eastern coast of Florida, with hurricane watches in the north and tropical storm watches in the south. Florida has not been hit by a hurricane since Wilma in 2005.

Projecting more than three days into the future is difficult with hurricanes, but a major strike to the Northeast has grown less likely in the last 24 hours. It appears likely that Matthew will turn out to sea before reaching Virginia or the Northeast.

NOW WATCH: NASA released new satellite footage of Hurricane Matthew — ┬áhere’s when it could hit the US

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