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Florida Governor: It's Never Too Early To Evacuate Ahead Of Matthew

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Florida Governor Rick Scott is urging all residents to prepare for the worst ahead of a possible Hurricane Matthew hit.

"It's never too early to evacuate," he said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The governor along with officials throughout parts of Florida are monitoring whether the hurricane will make a direct hit on the state.

"It [Hurricane Matthew] is expected to strengthen as it approaches Florida. There are some forecasts that put a direct hit on Florida," said Scott.  

He said the number one priority is protecting lives amid a possible impact.

"If Matthew directly impacts Florida, there will be massive destruction that we haven't seen in years. This is a deadly storm approaching our state," said Scott.

Hurricane Matthew is a very slow-moving storm and while the path may not directly hit parts of the state, Scott urged everyone to take this seriously.

"Regardless if there is a direct hit or not, the impacts will be devastating. I cannot emphasize it enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit. Be prepared for a direct hit," said Scott.

The governor said residents should expect and prepare for power outages, something Florida Power & Light told him they are prepared for.

"They said they were bringing in 7,000 people," said Scott.

Florida will likely start seeing the impacts of Hurricane Matthew within the next 24 hours. These effects are expected to last through the weekend since it's a slow-moving storm.

"That means that people have 24 hours left to prepare, evacuate and shelter," said Scott.

Impacts of Hurricane Matthew could include heavy rain with up to 10 inches in some areas, storm surge, rip currents, beach erosion, tornadoes and hurricane force winds.

"Even if the storm remains offshore, tropical storm force winds will extend into our state," said Scott. "As of now, wind strength is our biggest concern regardless if the storm, directly hits our state."

The governor asked anyone to leave if they are in evacuation areas and even those who believe they are prone to flooding.

"If you live in a low-lying area, on a Barrier Island or an area prone to flooding, you need to consider making your plans now to leave," said Scott.

Current evacuations include Brevard County, Barrier Islands, Indian River, St. Lucie County, St. John's County, Duval County, and Flagler County. Click here for the latest evacuation info.

If there is an evacuation order, all tolls will be suspended in that county.

"You must leave before it's too late," said Scott. "We can rebuild a home. We can rebuild a business but we cannot rebuild your life."

As for preps, the governor said 500 National Guard members have been activated.

"Per my direction, they are currently stationed in North, Central and South Florida so they can be mobilized immediately. In addition to this, we have over 6,000 National Guard members ready to be activated if needed. The National Guard will be focused on staging to perform search and rescue efforts and will be ready to assist our counties as they need it. I have directed the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to preposition high-water vehicles and have search and rescue teams on standby throughout the state," said Scott.

State offices will be closed Thursday and Friday in the following counties: Baker, Brevard, Broward, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lake, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia.

Governor Scott said he expects to hear more from coastal counties on their evacuation plans on Wednesday afternoon. Scott will get his next briefing on Hurricane Matthew at 5:15 p.m.

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