TAMPA (FOX 13) - Winds picked up and rain began to fall in the Bay Area as Hurricane Matthew made its final approach to Florida's southernmost east coast Thursday evening.
Areas along Florida's central west coast remained under a tropical storm watch, while central parts of the state, in the eastern Bay Area, were under a tropical storm warning.
FOX 13 Chief Meteorologist Paul Dellegatto said wind gusts of 46-60 miles per hour are expected in areas under a tropical storm warning - including parts of Highlands and Polk Counties - Thursday night into Friday morning. Rainfall from 2-4" was also expected, and is higher in eastern parts of the Bay Area.
For western parts of the Bay Area, wind gusts between 30-40 miles per hour were expected.Rain would likely stay under 2" for most.
Gusting winds increase the threat for power outages and crews from area utility companies reported readying crews for the event.
Dellegatto said the storm likely would remain a Category 4 Thursday evening, but with pressure dropping, it was not out of the realm of possibility for it to become a Category 5 as it neared Florida's coast.
Friday, wind is the major concern for Bay Area residents as Matthew made it's way northeast along the coast. Boating is not recommended.
GRAPHICS: Click through the slideshow above for more
MAPS: Matthew track & models on MyFoxHurricane.com
SCHOOLS: Bay Area school closings
SANDBAGS: County-by-county sandbag locations
SHELTERS: List of open shelters
Schools in Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus, Polk, Manatee, Hernando, Sumter, and Highlands counties will be closed Friday in anticipation of bad weather. Sarasota planned to stay open and Desoto had not made an announcement as of 6:30 Thursday evening.
Emergency shelters began to open around the Bay, as well. An updated list is at the link below.