Forecasters expect Hurricane Matthew to gain strength as it moves through the northern Bahamas on Thursday and heads for the southeastern U.S. state of Florida.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Matthew had sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour Thursday morning as the center of the storm approached Andros Island and Nassau. It warned of a dangerous storm surge and the possibility of at least 20 centimeters of rain.
The forecast track had Matthew going directly up the east coast of Florida on Friday after strengthening from a Category 3 to a Category 4 storm.
"Get out now," Florida Governor Rick Scott told people who live along his state's coast during a news conference Wednesday. "It could be the decision between life or death." Scott warned that people who were planning to leave should do so immediately, as highways are expected to be clogged with traffic as the storm edges closer.
The hurricane is reported to have killed at least 26 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic after slamming the island as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday, the strongest storm to make landfall in Haiti in 52 years.