Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on the U.S. mainland, threatening to carve a path of destruction through eastern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina -- and the warnings from meteorologists are dire.
A statement issued by the National Weather Service on the morning of Oct. 6 warned people in Florida against traveling and urged them either to evacuate or finish "structure preparation" by the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the weather service's meteorologists warned of winds so powerful they'll be capable of lifting debris "capable of breaching structures, unprotected windows and vehicles."
"Effects such as these ranging from the coast to well inland have not been experienced in central Florida in decades," the weather service warned.
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Warnings that power could be out for weeks had people scrambling for personal power generators, and authorities warned that some areas could be rendered uninhabitable for weeks or months if the hurricane -- expected to be a Category 4 or possibly Category 5 when it touches the U.S. mainland -- hits the East Coast with its full strength.
While some elected to stay local and fortify homes and businesses, others were fleeing by the thousands, according to Bloomberg News.
Matthew could tally up to $15 billion in losses to economic productivity and property damage, Bloomberg reported.
The storm, which was generating sustained winds of 115 miles per hour in Haiti, prompted the operators of nuclear power plants in the hurricane's path to shut down. NextEra Energy and Duke Energy, operators of nuclear plants in St. Lucie and Turkey Point, said they would shut down their reactors before hurricane-force winds reach their areas, Clean Energy News reported.
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Another 10 major power plants are also within the storm's projected path.
For some people, staying behind and waiting out the storm is not an option. Palm Beach County ordered mandatory evacuations for tens of thousands of residents, Florida's Sun-Sentinel reported. Nearby Broward County announced evacuations were voluntary, but warned drivers to be off the roads by 1 p.m.
Schools, government offices, courts and most services -- with the exception of police, fire and paramedics -- were shut down in preparation for the storm and would remain closed through at least Friday, per the Sun-Sentinel.
By early afternoon on Oct. 6, local leaders were urging people to finish their preparations and get inside.
"Now it's time to hunker down for the storm," Broward Mayor Marty Kiar said.