ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Matthew passed over Cuba on Wednesday and continued its destructive path toward the Bahamas and the U.S., leaving behind a trail of devastation.
Four U.S. states have declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm. Officials issued stern warnings for millions of coastal residents to prepare to evacuate as the powerful category 3 storm slowly tracked north at 8 mph with 125-mph winds.
“A turn northwestward is expected on Wednesday, with the threat eventually shifting to the southeast United States,” ABC meteorologist Daniel Manzo said. “Forecast models are still showing increasing chances that Matthew will come very close to the eastern shores of Florida on Thursday and into Friday.”
No Atlantic storm on record has packed such powerful winds for such a prolonged period time as Matthew, as its slow trajectory and potent energy have wound a path of destruction that looks to continue as it approaches the U.S coast.
Matthew currently spans some 700 miles, with hurricane force winds extending 40 miles from the storm’s center and tropical storm winds extending some 160 miles outward.
More than one million people were ordered to prepare to leave the coast in South Carolina, in a swath of the state that spans 100 miles inland from the shore. Florida, Georgia and North Carolina also ordered coastal communities to evacuate.
Lines backed up and shelves were cleared out at supermarkets in Florida, as residents stocked up on provisions and watched the storm’s progress.
Even as the U.S. hurried its storm preparations, Matthew bore down on the southwestern islands of the Bahamas Wednesday, where residents braced the hurricane-force winds, a storm surge of up to 15 feet and as much as 15 inches of rain.
In Haiti, which appeared to be hardest-hit by the storm so far, housands of people there scrambled for shelter amid reports of a powerful storm surge, violent winds and widespread flooding.
Raging floodwaters severed a key bridge linking the southern peninsula directly impacted by the storm with the rest of the country, raising fears that the worst of the damages has yet to be discovered.
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