Florida Gov. Rick Scott: ‘Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott begged his state’s residents on Thursday to flee from the predicted landfall of Hurricane Matthew.

The storm strengthened yet again early Thursday as it moved toward the United States, where about 1.5 million people were fleeing south Atlantic coastal areas.

Scott emphasized in a Thursday news conference the need to escape the storm — which is predicted to be a category 4 level when it hits Florida — telling Floridians and visitors that “this is not something you should take a chance with, time is running out” and that “there are no excuses” for staying in an evacuation zone.

“You need to leave now,” he implored. “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”

The Florida governor said his state was expecting heavy rains up to eight inches and winds of about 125 miles per hour. Importantly, some eastern coastal areas can expect storm surge from five to nine feet above ground level — with large waves towering above that level.

As of about 11 a.m. ET Thursday, the hurricane was posting maximum winds of 140 miles per hour, according to The Weather Channel.

Evacuations were under way in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina after Matthew, which hammered Haiti and strafed Cuba, began battering the Bahamas.

Scott said Thursday he was activating an additional 1,000 members of the Florida National Guard to help with evacuations, bringing the total to 2,500 active members.

—NBC News contributed to this report.

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