Florida, Carolinas brace for Hurricane Matthew; impact unlikely in Maryland

Hurricane Matthew is no longer expected to reach Maryland, but is a major threat to the Southeast U.S. coast.

Hurricane Matthew could brush Florida as a major hurricane before churning past the Carolinas this weekend, but the storm is now expected to turn out to sea before reaching the mid-Atlantic.

A cold front forecast to advance across Maryland on Saturday is expected to help steer the storm off the North Carolina coast toward Bermuda, instead of up the coast, forecasters said.

"Uncertainty increases as Matthew starts to track east-northeast and away from the coast into Sunday," meteorologists at the National Weather Service's Baltimore/Washington forecast office wrote early Wednesday.

"At this time ... coastal areas of the Mid-Atlantic have the best chance to see affects from Matthew," they wrote.

Matthew was passing through the sparsely populated islands of the southern Bahamas early Wednesday after inflicting heavy damage on southwest Haiti.

The storm had weakened slightly overnight but was still a dangerous Category 3 storm as of Wednesday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.

Forecasters said Matthew was on track to roll directly over the Bahamian capital of Nassau before nearing the Florida coast by Friday.

The storm is expected to weaken to a Category 1 or 2 storm as it moves up the Southeast U.S. coast but forecasters expect it to remain a hurricane into Monday morning, at least. Evacuations were being ordered Wednesday from Florida to South Carolina.

Matthew has been blamed for at least 11 deaths during its weeklong march across the Caribbean, five of them in Haiti. But with a key bridge washed out, roads impassable and phone communications down, the western tip of Haiti was isolated and there was no word on dead and injured.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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