The storm is now leaving the Bahamas and will strike Florida this evening. So far there were no reports of casualties from better-equipped Cuba or the Bahamas, which was being hit by the hurricane on Thursday. Images from the Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighbor to the east, images showed streets flooded and neighborhoods underwater.
Hillary Clinton's campaign is seizing the opportunity to run campaign ads on the weather channel just as Hurricane Matthew is set to hit.
With Hurricane Matthew expected to turn east into the Atlantic Ocean later this week -and perhaps even double back towards Florida - the National Weather Service said New England is in for mostly nice weather, starting Thursday.
Matthew was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane late Thursday morning, with top sustained winds of 140 miles per hour. Outer rain bands from the storm are already approaching Florida.
Cheryl Quinn said she and her husband were fine a year ago when Charleston endured heavy rain after a brush with a big storm.
More than 2 million people have already been urged to flee their homes in the southeast because of the hurricane, which has killed at least 15 people in the Caribbean.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to track up the Florida coast, with the eye of the storm brushing the Florida beaches.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said tropical storm conditions with rain and wind are first expected in the state later Thursday morning. With hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 60 miles, Matthew could wreak havoc along the coast even if its centre stayed offshore. Further assessments will be made once the storm clears South Florida, likely sometime on Friday. Forecasts then predict Matthew will turn out to sea, then become nearly stationary, swirling far off the Carolina coast.
Matthew poses a particularly large risk, since it could affect such a broad geographic area. In Florida, the surges may be up to five feet over high tide level, according to NOAA.
John Tecklenburg, the mayor or Charleston, South Carolina, pleaded with residents in evacuation zones to leave immediately, saying that those who do not evacuate may not receive assistance.
As people hurried for higher ground, authorities in SC said a motorist died on Wednesday after being shot by deputies in a gun battle that erupted after he sped away from a checkpoint along a storm evacuation route.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire Georgia coast, covering more than a half-million people.
Haley had already taken the unprecedented step of ordering all lanes of Interstate 26 in SC to travel west out of Charleston. These are winds that can destroy well-built homes. Six other deaths were reported in the Caribbean.
According to the United Nations, more than 377,000 people were evacuated in Cuba. Matthew has taken a bad toll on the people there, but few details are known. The death toll is expected to rise substantially. The U.S. military plans to send nine helicopters and 100 personnel to Haiti today to assist in aid efforts.
Forecasters had predicted parts of Haiti could get a total of 40 inches of rain - a disastrous amount for a nation still recovering from a devastating 2010 quake that killed more than 200,000 people. One person has been killed in St. Vincent, and another in Colombia.