Hurricane Matthew gained new fury as it hammered the central Bahamas early Thursday, and forecasters say the life-threatening storm is expected to strengthen as it approaches Florida's Atlantic coast. The US National Hurricane Center in Miami says Matthew, though still a dangerous Category 3 hurricane as the day dawned, was expected to regain status as an even more powerful Category 4 storm in coming hours. The center extended a hurricane warning area on a large swath of Florida's east coast farther up to Altamaha Sound, Ga. In the latest developments:
- The storm is forecast to be near the Florida coast starting Thursday night, potentially as a Category 4 storm with 130mph winds, the AP reports. Any slight deviation could mean landfall or it heading farther out to sea. Either way, forecasters say it will come close enough to wreak havoc along the lower part of the East Coast, dumping up to 15 inches of rain in some spots.
- In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley reversed the lanes of Interstate 26 for the first time on Wednesday so that all lanes of traffic were headed west and out of Charleston. Plans to reverse the lanes were put in place after hourslong traffic jams during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
- Haley plans to call for more evacuations Thursday, which will bring the total to about 500,000 people in the state. Florida urged or ordered about 1.5 million to leave the coast, said Jackie Schutz, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott. About 50,000 people were told to go in Georgia.
- The Miami Herald reports that Florida is bracing for its fiercest hurricane in more than a decade, with big lines at supermarkets and gas stations and school canceled for the rest of the week in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
- The BBC reports that with roads impassable, bridges out, and phone lines down, Haiti is still trying to determine the damage from what is believed to be the worst disaster to hit the country since 2010's devastating earthquake. This weekend's presidential election has been postponed.
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