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These images show the extreme storm surge potential of Hurricane Matthew

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Hurricane Matthew has a chance to break the decade-long major hurricane drought in the U.S. The storm could bring punishing winds, heavy rains and storm surge to Florida as early as Thursday.

The potential risks that storm surge poses are particularly worrisome for parts of Florida as the center of Matthew is likely to approach the coast on Friday morning during high tide. Matthew’s surge and winds have already caused major damage in coastal areas in the Caribbean.

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Baracoa, a city of nearly 82,000 on the northeast corner of Cuba, was hit particularly hard by storm surge. The center of Matthew passed just to the east of the city, but the shape of the coast helped funnel powerful storm surge ashore. Videos and photos emerging on social media show rubble-strewn streets and collapsed buildings in the wake of the storm.

As of Thursday morning, Matthew was sporting 140 mph winds as it plowed across the Bahamas. Some additional strengthening is possible before it reaches Florida. The worst impacts to the state are likely to come Friday.

Exactly how much storm surge comes ashore in different parts of Florida depends in large part on Matthew’s track, but forecasts indicate that 6 to 9 feet of surge is possible for Cape Canaveral, located about 70 miles south of Daytona Beach, as well as Jacksonville, and all the way up to Edisto Beach in South Carolina. To the south of the Space Coast, 3 to 5 feet of storm surge is expected. Numbers only tell part of the story. To help illustrate the potential severe impacts, WXshift has created graphics using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration storm surge forecast and Google Earth.

Daytona Beach, Fla. potential flooding ahead of Hurricane Matthew (data as of 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 6.
Credit: WXshift

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These renderings are not intended to be a forecast of exact impacts. A shift in Matthew’s track of just 10 miles could be the difference between major impacts and relatively minor ones, not just in terms of storm surge but also rain and wind.

But these images do illustrate the potential Matthew has to push water ashore and wreak havoc. They also serve as a warning that staying in harm’s way is a risky proposition. Voluntary evacuation orders have been issued for Lucie, Flagler and Duval counties and a mandatory evacuation order has been issued for barrier islands in Brevard County. It’s distinctly possible more evacuation orders will be issued as the forecast progresses.

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Warming oceans and melting glaciers have added about 8 inches to sea levels near Jacksonville since the start of the 20th century. Research has also shown an increase in the frequency of large storm surge events in the Atlantic hurricane basin since 1923.

Marshall Shepherd, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Georgia, has an instructive post over at Forbes about what you need to know about monitoring Matthew. His first point is particularly relevant:

“The forecasts evolve. Just because you saw a forecast on Saturday, it doesn’t mean that it has not or will not change. It is not uncommon for someone to say, ‘But I thought the storm was going to ____ because that is what they said 3 days ago.’ Hurricane track forecasts have improved over the past few decades, but there is still significant error. Intensity forecasts are even more challenging. Watch the evolving forecast rather than exclusively relying on one you saw days ago.”

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These maps are one piece of that evolution. We’ll be updating them regularly as new forecast information becomes available. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to consider the sixth point in Shepherd’s post if you live anywhere along the Florida coast: “Prepare for the worst but if the worst doesn’t happen say thank-you.”

Andrea Thompson contributed reporting to this article.

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This originally appeared on WXshift.com.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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WATCH: Off-duty cop pulls gun on man for sitting in his parked car while black

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A Tuscumbia, Alabama police officer is on leave after a video went viral that shows him pulling a gun on a black man who was sitting in his car, WAFF48 reports.

The video, which was posted to Facebook by Ryan Williams, shows a man claiming to be an off duty Tuscumbia police officer approach Williams who is sitting in a parked car, and ask him for his identification. The man claims he saw Williams driving recklessly, but according to Williams, who is the one filming the video, he was sitting in the motionless car the whole time.

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Rev. Barber uses Bible to school Trump over crazed ‘Chosen One’ rant: ‘Quit your wicked life’

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The Rev. William Barber on Thursday schooled President Donald Trump for declaring himself the "Chosen One," while also approvingly quoting a talk-show host who described him as the "Second Coming of God."

In response to a tweet from "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough that highlighted the president's messianic quotes, Barber quoted from the fourth chapter of the Book of Daniel, which describes the ruin of Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar, a prideful ruler who bragged about the great city he had built.

"King Nebuchadnezzar... boasted, 'Look at this, Babylon the great! And I built it all by myself... to display my honor and glory!'" Barber wrote. "The words were no sooner out of his mouth than a voice out of heaven spoke, 'This is the verdict... your kingdom is taken from you.'"

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70 US mayors issue scathing letter demanding Trump USDA call off effort to strip food stamps from 3 million people

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"Executive action should not be used to hurt individuals, families, and communities."

In a letter Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, mayors from 70 cities across the country expressed their "strong opposition" to the Trump administration's proposed federal rule that could cut off food stamps for more than 3 million people.

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