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Oct 6, 2016 12:05 PM

Dangerous Matthew strengthens; set to hit US as strongest hurricane in years

NH1 Meteorologist

Hurricane Matthew, moving through the Bahamas Thursday morning, is strengthening on approach to Florida.

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, the National Hurricane Center says Matthew has maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, with higher gusts. The center is located 180 miles southeast of West Palm Beach, and is moving northwest at 14 mph.

This very dangerous storm will be the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Charley, a category four which made landfall on the west coast in August 2004.

Its path is unprecedented, tracking up Florida's Atlantic coast, meaning any slight movement to the left or right of the projected track will make a difference in impacts on land.

Since records began in 1851, not a single category four or five storm has made landfall in Florida north of West Palm Beach. Matthew could be the first.

Matthew is projected to make landfall tonight or early Friday near Melbourne, Florida, as a major category four hurricane.

The National Weather Service in Melbourne warns some locations along Florida's Treasure and Space coasts may be uninhabitable for weeks or months, if the strongest winds well over 100 mph come ashore.

Along the central and northern Florida coasts, as Matthew tracks toward Jacksonville during the day Friday, a storm surge of 6 to 9 feet could cause major problems, even in rivers that extend far away from the ocean, as water is funneled inland.

Eastern areas of Georgia and South Carolina will feel the worst of the impacts on Saturday, with several inches of rain, tropical storm to hurricane force winds, and potentially devastating coastal flooding and surge.

The storm is then expected to linger off of the southeast coast into early next week, though likely weakening to a tropical storm late in the weekend.

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