Columbia, SC (WLTX)-- A hurricane watch has been issued for parts of inland South Carolina as Hurricane Matthew regains strength Thursday. The watches have expand to inland Beaufort County into inland Jasper County and Charleston and Berkley Counties. Hurricane Matthew is expected to impact weather in the Midlands by the weekend. A watch means hurricane-force winds are possible in that region in the next 48 hours.

Matthew currently has maximum sustained winds of 125 miles an hour and expected to turn into a category 4 hurricane this afternoon. The storm is moving to the northwest at 12 miles an hour. The storm appears to be intensifying, as it is getting a better defined eye around its center.

The storm is expected to track across Florida most of Thursday. At present, it appears as if it will be the first major hurricane (defined as a Category 3 or higher) to hit the U.S. mainland in a decade.

Despite some shifts back and forth from the east to the west, we currently believe the overall effect on the South Carolina coast will remain the same: that is, Matthew will bring tropical storm to hurricane force winds along the coast, and the area is at great risk for flooding. As you get into the interior--and we're talking about the Midlands now--the effects will be less. The computer models are showing light to moderate rain across the region, with the possibility of gusty winds.

News19 Chief Meteorologist Jim Gandy says I-95 will be the barrier: anything south of that line will get the greatest effects, while north of the line will get less.

The timing of the storm appears to be most of the day Saturday, although we could see some of the effects from the storm by Friday night.

As always, it's important to note that these projections will likely shift more over the next few days--that's the nature of these forecast models, especially since there are still so many variables out there that could case the track to shift. For that reason, all residents along the coast of South Carolina and inland for about 150 to 200 miles should continue to monitor this storm's progress closely.

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