As Hurricane Matthew began hitting Florida Thursday afternoon, the Category 4 storm geared Americans on the East Coast into emergency mode.

The hurricane's first U.S. landfall is expecting to carry life-threatening winds in a 500-mile span from West Palm Beach to South Carolina.

Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina are under states of emergency, while President Obama declared a state of emergency in more than two dozen Florida counties.

Governor Rick Scott of Florida told 1.5 million people living in evacuation zones to "evacuate, evacuate, evacuate."

The Walt Disney World Resort made the decision to close today until Friday, Oct. 7. due to the severity of the storm.

As with any severe weather event, people in the way of Hurricane Matthew may be overwhelmed with making sure they're fully prepared for any situation that may present itself.

The Miami Herald put together a detailed list of everything a person may want to know when preparing for a major storm, including contacts for emergency agencies, lists of useful apps, tips on caring for pets and more.

The hurricane may not directly affect Californians- who are likely more concerned with the possibility of a major earthquake- but many could have loved ones that may be in the face of a dangerous storm.

Here are the best ways to stay in touch, according to the Red Cross:

  1. Call during off-peak hours
  2. Use text messages when calls don't go through
  3. Check in on Facebook or Twitter
  4. Check in with Red Cross

Here are some ways to let loved ones know how to find help and be ready for Hurricane Matthew:

Shelters for Hurricane Matthew by county

ASPCA tips for pet owners

Hurricane preparation tips for horse owners

Prepare your smartphone now for Hurricane Matthew