U.S. Evacuations Ordered Ahead Of Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew

(CNN) — Hurricane Matthew likely won’t strike the U.S. for another day — but after seeing its deadly, devastating impact on Haiti, authorities are urging residents to get ready.

“I cannot emphasize enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday.

“That means people have less than 24 hours to prepare, evacuate and shelter.  Having a plan in place could mean the difference between life and death.”

Matthew hurled winds of 125 mph as it churned toward the Bahamas on Wednesday.

Forecasters predict it will strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane by the time it pummels Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina sometime between Thursday evening and Saturday.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm could make landfall in any of those states.

It’s not just Florida’s governor giving dire warnings.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has given evacuation orders for the coastal counties of Charleston and Beaufort starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the entire state and warned that a direct hit by Matthew could lead to “massive destruction” on a level unseen since Hurricane Andrew devastated the Miami area in 1992.

The top priority, Scott said, would be to ensure that Florida did not add to Matthew’s death toll, which has already climbed to at least 10 in the Caribbean.

Brevard County commissioners ordered one of the state’s first mandatory evacuations for residents of Merritt Island and other barrier islands.

Residents are being ordered to leave starting 3 p.m. Wednesday.

CNN forecasters predict the storm could hit parts of Florida starting Thursday night.