Hurricane Matthew made its second landfall at Category 4 strength near the Eastern tip of Cuba Tuesday evening as residents along the east coast of the US brace for impact later in the week.
At least 11 deaths have been blamed on the powerful storm during its week-long march across the Caribbean. Forecasters said it could hit Florida toward the end of the week and push its way up the East Coast over the weekend.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a hurricane watch for a 230-mile stretch from Deerfield Beach near Fort Lauderdale to the Daytona Beach area, meaning hurricane force winds of 74 mph or higher could occur within two days.
The Category 4 storm -- at one point the most powerful hurricane in the region in nearly a decade – brought 20-foot waves along the seafront promenade of Baracoa, Cuba as powerful winds tore ceramic tiles off the corners of some roofs.
Hurricane Matthew reached wind speeds of 145 mph Tuesday as it barreled through western Haiti where floodwaters and mud inundated small towns and villages.
Hours after Matthew made landfall on Haiti's now-marooned southwestern peninsula, government leaders said they couldn't fully gauge the impact.
"What we know is that many, many houses have been damaged. Some lost rooftops and they'll have to be replaced while others were totally destroyed," Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph said.
At least five deaths were blamed on the storm in Haiti, including a 26-year-old man who drowned trying to rescue a child who fell into a rushing river, authorities said. The child was saved. The mayor in flooded Petit Goave reported two people died there, including a woman who was killed by a falling electrical pole.
Four deaths were recorded in the neighboring Dominican Republic and one each in Colombia and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Mourad Wahba, U.N. secretary-general's deputy special representative for Haiti, said at least 10,000 people were in shelters and hospitals were overflowing and running short of water. Wahba's statement called the hurricane's destruction the "largest humanitarian event" in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of January 2010.
Meanwhile, in Florida a tropical storm watch was issued from the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys to Deerfield.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Tuesday she plans to issue an evacuation order Wednesday ahead of Hurricane Matthew so that 1 million people can safely and comfortably leave the coast.
Haley said at a news conference that she will finalize the order Wednesday morning, unless there is a major shift in the storm's track. Haley says she expects the evacuation to begin at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday.
State officials say lanes on major evacuation routes will be reversed. It would be the first major evacuation since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, when the governor at the time didn't reverse the lanes and Interstate 26 became backed up for hours and traffic was at a standstill.
The White House said federal officials were deployed to state emergency operations centers in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, where a state of emergency was declared a day earlier.
In South Florida, lines at grocery stores were heavier than usual and some essentials were in short supply on Tuesday. Simone Corrado told the Associated Press when she tried to buy water at their Publix in Davie near Fort Lauderdale with her husband, they mostly found empty shelves. There were a few bottles of high-end water brands, but there was so much empty shelf space that Corrado lay down and fully stretched out on the bottom shelf.
"I got scared because all that was left at Publix was just the pricey water," said Corrado, who lived through 1992's catastrophic Hurricane Andrew, which practically leveled the nearby city of Homestead. "They really put the fear into you here. On the television screen every few minutes is the 'beep, beep, beep' storm alert."
Gov. Rick Scott, speaking in the Daytona area, warned residents they must be prepared to take a direct hit and evacuation orders could be issued as early as Tuesday. Scott said his biggest worry is that residents won't take seriously the threat from Matthew, especially since so many newer residents have never lived through a hurricane.
"Don't take a chance. Leave before it's too late," he said. "We have to be prepared to be hit by a catastrophic hurricane."
A U.S. official told Fox News on Tuesday that Haiti has requested assistance through the U.S. State Department.
The Navy is making preparations to get three Norfolk-based ships underway to help with Hurricane Matthew relief in the Caribbean, officials said.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington, amphibious transport ship USS Mesa Verde and USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, are the three ships the Navy has told to be on standby in case the order is given to “head south,” one Navy official told Fox News. Roughly 2,000 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, NC have also been given warning orders and have been told to prepare to ship out.
At one point a Category 5 storm, Matthew was expected to make landfall in Cuba about 50 miles east of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where authorities flew out about 700 spouses and children of service members.
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.