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As Matthew Strengthens, Millions Ordered to Flee Coast

(CN) - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday ordered everyone living in one of the state's six coastal counties to evacuate after forecasters said Hurricane Matthew has re-intensified into a Category 4 storm.

The monster hurricane has killed at least 112 as it has moved through the Caribbean, with 108 of those confirmed fatalities in Haiti.

The killer storm briefly weakened after blasting Haiti, but on Thursday morning the National Hurricane Center said Matthew's maximum sustained winds had strengthened to 140 mph and were expected to maintain their strength as the storm approaches the Florida coast.

Here in the U.S., the governors of three states have ordered mandatory evacuations as Matthew now appears almost certain to come ashore in Palm Beach County, Florida and slash up the coast to at least South Carolina before heading out to sea.

But not all has gone smoothly as people have been forced from their homes along the coast. In Moncks Corner, South Carolina, sheriff's deputies shot and killed a man during an altercation over a Hurricane Matthew evacuation route.

Berkeley County Chief Deputy Coroner George Oliver said 35-year-old Lucas Felkel of Moncks Corner died shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday. He was shot after an argument with officers and after he knocked down traffic cones and tried to speed away.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was the first of three southeast governors to a mandatory order for residents to leave coastal counties, but the early stages of the evacuation left many confused as law enforcement and National Guard troops completely shut down entrances to both the east and westbound lanes on Interstate-26, the main artery out of Charleston, hours before the highway was to be realigned so all traffic could move in a westerly direction on it.

This forced residents onto a long-designated hurricane evacuation route that often was little more than a two-lane road.

The route through rural South Carolina into the state's midlands and upstate was often at a complete standstill Wednesday, and what ordinarily would be a three-and-a-half hour drive to Greenville was at least three times as long for many, fraying nerves and patience.

Gov. Haley expanded her evacuation order Thursday, telling residents in Horry and Georgetown counties that it was time for them too to leave.

On Thursday morning, as forecasts on Matthew grew more grim, Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned the 1.5 million residents living in the state's evacuation zones to "get out" as quickly as they can.

Visiting the City of Stuart, on Florida's Treasure Coast, Scott said anyone living in low-lying areas or on barrier islands should "evacuate, evacuate, evacuate."

He said tolls have been lifted on all roadways to help make evacuations easier.

Scott has also activated another 1,000 National Guard members, bringing the total to 2,500.

In Georgia, Gov. Deal said everyone living east of Interstate-95 in Georgia some 522,000 people need to move inland.

This includes all those living in Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden counties.

Deal had asked coastal residents to evacuate on a voluntary basis on Wednesday. The call for a mandatory investigation came after the National Hurricane Center placed all 100 miles of coastal Georgia under a hurricane warning this morning.

The outlook has grown steadily better for North Carolina, as Hurricane Matthew is now forecast to pull away from the coast after striking at least a portion of South Carolina.

Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday said despite the favorable turn in the forecast for his state, emergency personnel are continuing to prepare for high winds, rain and storm surge.

McCrory said some communities, like Morehead City, could still see wind gusts of up to 60 mph beginning Saturday.

Widespread power outages are possible. There could also be a foot of rain in some areas, he said. - Developing story.

Photo caption:

Remodeler Gil Patrick, left, boards the windows and doors of Michael Kitchens residence on Butler Avenue on Tybee Island, Ga., Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in preparation for Hurricane Matthew. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News via AP), Oct. 10.

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