Hurricane watch for parts of Florida ahead of Matthew; concern for Carolinas also grows

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The forecast path of Hurricane Matthew as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (U.S. National Hurricane Center)

The forecast path of Hurricane Matthew as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (National Hurricane Center)

MIAMI — Hurricane and tropical storm watches are in effect for parts of Florida on Tuesday as Matthew moves north, the National Hurricane Center said, but the storm has most of the Eastern Seaboard closely watching its path.

The center issued the watch from Deerfield Beach to the Volusia/Brevard county line. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible with the watch area.

A tropical storm watch also is in effect from the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys northward to south of Deerfield Beach, including Lake Okeechobee.

Gov. Rick Scott is urging residents up and down Florida’s Interstate 95 corridor to start preparing for “direct impacts” of Hurricane Matthew.

Scott was in the Florida Keys on Tuesday morning for a briefing on the Category 4 storm that is currently moving over the southwestern coast of Haiti. The storm is heading toward Cuba and the southeastern coast of Florida.

The governor warned residents to take the storm seriously, adding “we cannot rule out a direct hit.” He says heavy rain, spin off tornadoes, high winds and beach erosion are among the concerns in Florida.

He asked residents to listen for directions from local officials and to “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Scott and other officials are urging people to have at least a three-day supply of food, water and medicine on hand. Also, Scott urged people to get gas in their vehicles and to keep cellphones charged in case of electrical power loss.

Officials in the Dominican Republic are reporting that at least four people died when heavy rains linked to Hurricane Matthew damaged their homes.

Emergency Operations Center coordinator Juan Manuel Mendez told a news conference Tuesday that three children were killed when the walls of their homes collapsed in a poor neighborhood in Santo Domingo. An elderly person died in a neighboring province.

That would bring the total death toll from the storm to at least seven.

Rescue agencies in the country say the downpours have destroyed at least two homes and damaged 190 others. Close to 18,000 people living in vulnerable areas have been evacuated and taken to the homes of relatives or to shelters.

The storm’s path is likely to include the Carolinas later this week, and the current forecast has it off the coast of the tri-state area by Sunday morning. The precise impact and path that far ahead are impossible to know yet, but forecasters are warning all those living along the Eastern Seaboard to keep a close eye on the storm.