TALLAHASSEE (FOX 13) - As powerful Hurricane Matthew churned its way through the Caribbean, Governor Rick Scott wasted no time declaring a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida this afternoon.
Scott warned that Matthew, currently a Category 4 hurricane, is a "life-threatening" storm and Floridians should watch updates closely, even though the National Hurricane Center's official forecast keeps the storm just off the state's east coast.
"Although Matthew is not currently projected to directly impact Florida, we all know how quickly the track of these storms can change," the governor offered. "While there are no evacuation orders currently in place, this storm could threaten our state with very little notice and no one should be caught off guard."
Scott said his order activates the state Emergency Operations Center and should free up resources for evacuations, sheltering and other logistical needs, while also putting the National Guard on standby. Scott said his staff is also in contact with the state's major utilities and the Florida Turnpike officials.
"While we are preparing for the worst, we are hoping for the best and will not take any chances with a storm of this magnitude," he added.
Based on the current forecast, the state's entire east coast from Monroe to Nassau counties could experience tropical storm force winds, beach erosion, rip currents and heavy rain, Scott's office said Monday.
State governments in the Carolinas are making similar preparations and warnings. The U.S. Coast Guard had already warned boaters on the Florida's east coast to secure their vessels.
The storm is already blamed for four deaths in the Caribbean, but that toll could rise significantly as the storm approaches Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica.