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Hurricane Matthew spares New York, New Jersey, Long Island; Florida to be hit Thursday

The tri-state area would be spared a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew, according to the latest forecast models, but the storm still bears watching, especially with uncertainty about its course next week.

Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, however, face a hazardous few days, and the strongest storm to hit that area in over a decade.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents that they have 24 hours to get ready or to evacuate. Many residents across multiple states have began evacuating their homes as Matthew gets closer.

After devastating parts of Eastern Cuba and Haiti, Matthew moved toward the southern Bahamas on Wednesday, bringing rain, wind and flooding. Hurricane warnings have also been issued for parts of the Atlantic facing coastline of Florida.

Matthew remains a category 3 hurricane, with winds of 120 mph. The storm is moving to the northwest at 12 mph.

By Thursday night, hurricane-force winds may approach parts of Florida as the storm brushes along the coastline. Current forecasts shows it east of Cape Canaveral as a category 4 with winds of 130 mph by Friday morning. It then speeds toward South Carolina, weakening to a category 2 with winds of 110 mph by Saturday morning. It is then expected to take a turn to the off the coast of Charleston, S.C. and head out east.

Hurricane Matthew path

In Florida, rainfall amounts of 4 to 7 inches with spots as high as 10 inches are possible for the coast, generally from Palm Beach and points northward. Since Matthew will parallel the Florida coast, the storm surge won’t be as devastating as it could be, with a 3-to-5 -foot surge expected.

Even if Matthew doesn't come ashore, Florida will still be hit with strong winds and heavy rain.

The storm is sparing the New York area because the main steering mechanism — a trough — didn't push it up the coast, nor is the jet stream going to catch it.

The current models show the system drifting east and perhaps doing a loop de loop by Monday. And what happens after that remains unknown.

At least 15 people have died from Matthew's wrath in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said.