Hurricane Matthew, a “very dangerous” Category 4 storm, is expected to hit Florida early Friday. It will then turn north and head up the US coast.
CNN reporters are in areas under threat. Here’s what we’re seeing on the ground — beginning in the south of Florida and continuing north on the storm’s path.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Conditions have deteriorated significantly in the last 24 hours. Though the storm hasn’t hit yet, there’s almost no beach left. The wind is starting to pick up, and the beach is extremely quiet. Some people stayed despite strong warnings to evacuate.
On the boardwalk, a few people still remain, but most stores have been boarded up. The water is surging and coming higher and higher on the pier.
Daytona Beach’s no-nonsense police chief is out and about, warning those who haven’t left: “There will be a point where we can’t rescue you.”
Daniel Myara of Crusin’ Cafe is boarding up — and staying put. He plans to stay open even though he’s only 150 yards from the beach He’s lived in town for 25 years and knows this storm is going to be bad.
But Myara said riding out the storm at his business and securing it is most important to protect it.
“We’re going to try and hunker down here,” he said.
— CNN’s Sara Sidner
The mood has definitely shifted from a cautious, but spirited, optimism, to a sense of “we gotta get the hell out of here” panic since we arrived on Wednesday.
The hotel and beaches in Daytona have since been completely abandoned.
Tony Silcox arrived on Monday from Indianapolis with his girlfriend and her daughter to hunt for their retirement home. Silcox knew Matthew was coming, but thought it would stay out at sea. He’s staying on the bottom floor of the Dream Inn.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “A little scared.”
As for provisions: “We have lunch meat, chips and beer,” he said.
Silcox isn’t alone.
Jeff Grady, who lives just across the street from the ocean, plans to stay. The 32-year-old chef said he’ll be riding it out in his second-floor apartment with eight or nine other people.
— CNN’s Kevin Conlon and Boris Sanchez
At a BP gas station near the airport in Jacksonville, Florida, drivers fueled up as they made their way to safer ground ahead of the storm. Manager Yoegess Patel said a steady stream of people have been gassing up all day.
“We may close tomorrow night,” he says, adding that though he’s worried, he has no plans to board up the station.
Meg Nicewanner flew in from Ohio this morning, where she had been working. The Orange Park resident says she wanted to get back to Florida, her home and family. She is nervous about the storm’s path, adding that this area has been very lucky in the past. “It’s probably time for a hit,” Nicewanner says.
June Waltrip, from Maryland, arrived on Amelia Island Wednesday for her son Matthew’s wedding. Then they were evacuated. Waltrip is on her way to Orlando, where the wedding was moved.
“I think my son feels bad that his name is Matthew right now,” she says.
— CNN’s Robert Ray
Tybee Island, Georgia
Many people here are following evacuation orders, but some have chosen to stay and ride it out as long as they can.
Karen Kelly runs a bed and breakfast and is stocked with food. She is staying for now because she feeds several elderly residents with no cars, and she doesn’t want to leave them. Kelly said she may change her mind on Friday, based on the track of the storm.
The mayor of Tybee is urging people to evacuate, even bringing in school buses to get residents out if they don’t have a car or place to go. But we only saw a handful of people get on the buses, which were headed for Augusta, Georgia.
Storm surge predictors for a Category 2 to 3 storm in Tybee Island are 11 to 15 feet.
— CNN’s Sara Ganim and Lawrence Crook
Charleston, South Carolina
The streets are mainly empty as remaining residents or business owners are boarding up or stocking up on supplies.
Stores are running out of bottled water, and there are long lines at the gas station. Some businesses are open today — a coffee shop, a bar down the street. But most of the places that are open will close Friday.
Some locals are staying at the Tides hotel on Folly Island because the building is reinforced with “hurricane-proof” windows.
The island is low-lying, so the greatest concern at this point is the storm surge.
— CNN’s Gregory Clary and Brian Todd