With thousands of First Coast residents evacuating the coast, Hurricane Matthew continues its path toward the Florida coast after devastating Haiti and rolling into the Bahamas earlier Wednesday.
As of 3:00 AM Thursday, the National Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Matthew had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.
Despite its loss of strength in the 8 p.m. update, forecasters say the Category 3 storm will intensify Wednesday night into Thursday, possibly again reaching Category 4 status.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the First Coast
The National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Warning for the coast of Florida from the Flager/Volusia county line to Fernandina Beach.
This means hurricane conditions are expected on the First Coast.
Even with all of the preparation, storm weary eyes remained focused on the storm and its potential danger for Florida residents.
“The hurricane has nudged slightly to the East Coast. We’re still expecting the possibility of a major hurricane moving into the area,” said Volkmer adding that Brevard residents will see sustained winds increase to 50 to 60 mph by late Thursday with hurricane force gusts of 75 mph or greater through Friday morning,
The fear, say meteorologists, is that even a slight deviation of the storm’s trajectory could bring the core of Hurricane Matthew on a bruising collision course with vulnerable coastal areas. Some areas could also see flash floods as up to 4 to 6 inches of rain pound an already-saturated Brevard.
“At this point it remains to be seen whether the eye wall will be just offshore. In any event it will be very close to the coast and that’s going to produce some hurricane force winds.
"The main message is that it doesn’t look like we’re going to avoid the system,” Volkmer said.
Hurricane Matthew left massive flooding in parts of Haiti and Jamaica.
Law enforcement and fire-rescue crews will be on duty during the storm but will respond to emergency calls on a case-by-case basis, if they can at all.
Weather officials say that the accompanying storm surge from the hurricane could send waves crashing across some low-lying portions of the Florida's coast.
The tropical force winds typical of a hurricane will stretch from the coastal areas inland toward Orlando.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale rates hurricanes on 1 to 5 rating based on the maximum sustained wind speed, according to the National Hurricane Center. Major hurricanes are those with wind speeds 111 mph or greater. The scale:
Category 1: 74-95 mph
Category 2: 96-110 mph
Category 3: 111-129 mph
Category 4: 130-156 mph
Category 5: 157 mph+