THURSDAY, Oct. 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- After pummeling the Caribbean and the Bahamas, Hurricane Matthew barrelled toward the east coast of Florida Thursday, as millions of residents were told to evacuate in advance of the dangerous storm's arrival.

More than 2 million people have been urged by authorities to leave their homes in coastal Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

If the latest projections hold, Matthew could make landfall in central or south Florida late Thursday or early Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, CNN reported. It could also skirt the coast as it continues north.

The exact path that the hurricane will take as it edges closer to Florida isn't yet clear. But the sheer size of the storm has prompted people to stock up on water, food, gas and other supplies, the Associated Press reported.

Matthew is generating sustained winds of up to 140 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

"The time to prepare is now. Residents in potentially affected areas should learn their evacuation routes and monitor weather conditions," said W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Storm tracks can change quickly and unexpectedly.

"Follow instructions of state, local and tribal officials, and make sure you're taking steps to prepare your home, family or business," Fugate said in an agency statement.

In advance of Matthew's arrival, FEMA offers these safety tips:

  • If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) and have a plan for where you can stay.
  • Put together a disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate.
  • If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe.
  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.
  • Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Keep generators at least 20 feet away from windows and doors.
  • Close storm shutters, and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
  • Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting, and open only when necessary. That way, if you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to check the food temperature when the power is restored.

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more tips on preparing for a hurricane.