Hurricane Matthew has strengthened and could have"potentially disastrous impacts for Florida," according to theNational Hurricane Center.
The storm was about 125 miles southeast of West Palm Beach,Fla., as of the NHC's 2 p.m. ET advisoryupdate. Sustained winds of 140 mph have been recorded as the hurricaneedges closer to the state's southeastern coast.
"Some additional strengthening is possible, and Matthewshould remain a Category 4 hurricane while it approaches the Floridacoast," the NHC wrote. "Matthew is likely to produce devastatingimpacts from storm surge, extreme winds, and heavy rains … along extensiveportions of the east coast of Florida" during the night of Oct. 6.
A separate advisoryreleased by the National Weather Service office in Melbourne, Fla., wrote thatMatthew could be the "strongest hurricane to affect this area indecades." Powerful winds could cause serious damage even in inland areas,the NWS wrote.
A hurricane warning is in effect for most of Florida's eastcoast and along the entire coast of Georgia. According to data reported as ofJune 30, insurers had about $909.53 billion in exposure to personal andcommercial residential property policies with wind coverage in the 17 Floridacounties under hurricane warnings as of 10 a.m. ET Oct. 6.
More than 1.5 million Florida residents are in evacuationzones, according to a releasefrom Gov. Rick Scott's office.
"If you chose to stay and try to ride the storm out,your life is at risk," Gov. Scott said in a statement.
Hurricane watches have also been issued in South Carolinafrom north of Edisto Beach to South Santee River. A storm surge could raisewater levels by 7 to 11 feet in that part of the state if the peak surge occursduring high tide, according to the NHC.
In addition, parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolinacould receive as much as 12 inches of rain.