(CN) - President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in Florida, as three states in the southeastern U.S. brace for the potentially catastrophic arrival of Hurricane Matthew.
The president's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate efforts with state, local and tribal entities to respond to the predicted widespread damage the Category 4 storm will cause when it arrives on Florida's east coast Thursday afternoon.
Later, the president spoke separately to each of the governors whose states are in the path of the storm, and assured them he will provide the "necessary federal resources to help the states respond."
The president also reiterated his call that residents of the impacted areas follow the guidance of emergency response officials and that they should be taking this storm seriously.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management said 48 shelters are already providing refuge for 3,015 people in Florida. Another 13 special needs shelters are already housing 31 people.
Fort Lauderdale airport shut down all operations Thursday morning, and Orlando International Airport has announced it will end operations at 8 p.m.
So far today, more than 1,500 commercial flights have been canceled in the U.S. due to the approach of the vicious storm, which has already killed more than 125 people in Haiti and the Caribbean.
Most of the cancellations were flights scheduled to arrive or depart from Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
American Airlines, which operates a hub in Miami, JetBlue and Southwest Airlines were reportedly the hardest hit by the suspension of operations.
Delta Air Lines is also said to be canceling flights, and those cancellations are expected to extend to South Carolina and coastal Georgia on Friday and Saturday as Matthew heads up the coast.
Also shutting down until the hurricane passes are Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios.
Walt Disney World has closed its theme parks only three times since it opened in 1971.
In a statement on its website Thursday, it said all of its theme parts, Disney Springs and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will close at 5 p.m. The parks will remain closed on Friday.
At the Kennedy Space Center in central Florida, NASA moved a new Orion capsule currently in development to a secure building designed to withstand sustained wind of 114 mph and gusts of 125 mph. The capsule will be used to launch astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit.
The space center, a popular tourist destination, is closed Thursday and Friday.A team of 116 employees will remain at the facility to deal with any emergencies that arise during the storm. The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has also been closed to nonessential personnel.
Florida Power and Light is estimating that 2.5 million will be without power in Florida before Matthew is done with the state.
In Orange County, home to Orlando, Mayor Teresa Jacobs urged residents to be off the roads by 6 p.m. Thursday and be prepared to shelter in place throughout the weekend while Matthew passes through and officials clear roads.