11 p.m. update:
Major Hurricane Matthew's intensity has varied slightly, but it remains a powerful Category 3 hurricane.
The storm's eye has also fluctuated in size during the early evening, this is a sign of rebuilding and it is likely to intensify overnight. Matthew's center contracted to 15 miles wide; the smaller the eye, the stronger the storm could get.
At the latest bulletin, Matthew held 115 mph and was moving northwest at 10 mph.
In Exuma, (Bahamas) International Airport, a wind gust measuring 144 mph was just recorded Wednesday night.
Hurricane Matthew's track has shifted more to the west. It is expected that Matthew's center will be making landfall along the eastern coast of Florida sometime Friday morning.
The latest track places Matthew's center over Florida's Space Coast late Thursday night or early Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane.
Hurricane Hunters are investigating the storm and are noticing that the eye is rebuilding. Starting measurements recorded an eye at 46 miles wide (oval-shaped) and within an hour the eye shrank to 20 miles. This means that the storm's wind field is also in the process of expanding. Most importantly the storm will be intensifying overnight.
“It is very likely that the track will continue to shift west. It is very important that you stay aware that if the track shifts inland your impacts will worsen,” said Severe Weather Center 9 chief meteorologist Tom Terry.
Meteorologist Brian Shields said Wednesday afternoon that “models are not letting up, and major damage is very possible along our coast.”
Hurricane Matthew's impact will start across south Florida Thursday morning, with tropical storm to hurricane conditions and hazardous seas.
Dangerous conditions will shift north during the day on Thursday, and will begin to impact Central Florida Thursday evening, continuing through Friday afternoon.
“Please stay alert, as conditions will be changing rapid,” Tom Terry said.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for Volusia, Brevard, Osceola and Orange counties Wednesday as Matthew moves closer to Florida's coastline.
"17 people have been already been killed," said Gov. Rick Scott. "Be prepared for a direct hit. People have less than 24-hours to plan, pack and evacuate."
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in Brevard County, and voluntary evacuations have been activated in St. Lucie County, but Scott urged other coastal residents potentially in harm's way not to wait to be told to leave.
Flood watch in effect for coastal counties including Orange, Seminole and Osceola: https://t.co/m1PwukAmDg— Brian Shields (@BShieldsWFTV) October 5, 2016
The Category 3 storm now covers an area larger than the state of Texas. It is forecast to intensify again to a Category 4 hurricane.
“Matthew continues to pose a threat like we’ve never seen before. Along the coast, it is a life-threatening situation. We remain at risk for a direct hit from Matthew,” said Meteorologist Brian Shields.
At any point along the coast, hurricane conditions will be possible for an 18 to 24-hour stretch and storm damage could be significant and unprecedented.
"We have never, ever seen anything like this in Central Florida," he said. "Matthew is the greatest weather threat we've ever faced."
"I expect this storm to bring significant damage to Central Florida, including the potential of prolonged power outages, especially along the east coast," said Terry.
Coastal residents are urged to follow official orders. Brevard County has already ordered mandatory evacuations for the barrier islands.
Tropical storm-force winds currently extend more than 175 miles from Matthew's center, and hurricane-force winds about 45 miles.
IMPACTS & THREATS
Along the coast (Brevard, Volusia, and Flagler counties):
- Thursday: Tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph (sustained winds)
- Friday: Strongest winds, likely hurricane-force winds, sustained, of at least 100 mph. Very high surf, waves above 15 feet, storm surge above 6 feet along the coast Brevard, Volusia and Flagler counties, rip currents and large beach erosion. Rainfall could vary between 3 and 6 inches, depending on the track and where the bands become more persistent.
Storm surge: An abnormal rise of water generated by a storm over and above the predicted astronomical tide, will be a big problem for coastal Brevard, Volusia and Flagler residents.
The eastern coastal counties are under a storm surge watch. Please evacuate if ordered to evacuate. Water the main cause of death when a hurricane strikes.
This rise of water could occur even well away from the track of the center, depending on the relative timing of the surge and tidal cycle.
Inland (Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Polk, Sumter, Marion)
- Thursday: Breezy. Winds will be increasing through the afternoon. Persistent rain bands could bring some heavier rain amounts. Weather will be quickly deteriorating, please stay tuned to the latest weather updates.
- Friday: Hurricane-force winds likely. Rain bands with embedded thunderstorms, depending on the track and where the bands become more persistent. Some of these rain bands could have severe thunderstorms embedded in them, producing stronger winds gusts and the possibility of developing tornadoes.
Video in Spanish serving our Spanish-speaking community, residents and tourists. By Digital Meteorologist Irene Sans
Our team of meteorologists will continue to monitor Matthew closely and bring you updates about its evolution on WFTV Channel 9, WFTV.com, the WFTV Weather app and on all of our social media platforms. Newscasts air at 5 a.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m on WFTV and from 7 a.m. - 9 a.m. and at 10 a.m. on WRDQ.
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