The governors of Florida and South Carolina have warned all residents in areas that may be affected by Hurricane Matthew  to evacuate or make appropriate preparations. The storm has crossed Haiti, but with communications down over most of the island, damage and casualties are unknown.

Life-threatening surf and rip-currents are now a danger over a wide area from Puerto Rico to Venezuela and north into the Bahamas. In their 8 a.m. Tuesday advisory, National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm’s sustained winds are 145 mph. Matthew is now tracking slightly westward of its original course and should begin to affect Florida on Thursday, while passing directly over the Bahamas.

Matthew is now a Category 3 storm. Superstorm Sandy was a Category 3 storm, which sustained winds of 115 miles per hour. Katrina was a Category 3 storm when it struck New Orleans.

The most intense hurricane ever to strike the United States was the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. It started as a small storm, and also strengthened in a matter of hours, starting as a Category 1 storm over Andros Island, but reaching Category 5 by the time it struck the Florida Keys. Maximum sustained winds at landfall were 185 mph.

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