WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Rosa Linda Román and her family poured their dreams into their new home -- a boat docked in West Palm Beach, Florida.
But this week, they started seeing frightening reports about deadly Hurricane Matthew.
"The boat is in direct path of the hurricane at this point. If it hits as the model predicts, we will not have a home anymore," Román said.
With Hurricane Matthew projected to swipe Florida as a Category 4 storm, coastal residents like Román have fled their homes.
More than 2 million people have been urged to flee in parts of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia as a state of emergency has been declared in the three states.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall Thursday. The storm has already killed at least 15 people in Caribbean countries
Like many evacuees, Román doesn't know if her family will have a home to return to after the hurricane.
Three months ago, Román, her husband and their three kids moved from New Mexico into a sailing catamaran in Palm Beach, Florida. They prepped their boat, called Dawn Treader, for a journey to the Bahamas in December.
But those plans feel very distant now.
"It's scary," said Ahava Goldfein, Román's 11-year-old daughter. She packed her belongings and helped secure the boat with her parents, to prevent parts from becoming flying projectiles during the storm.
"My dad's been saying: 'Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,' she said. "I wanted a plan. Let's say it hits with the speed that they say it's at. What would we do?"
Ahava and her family crammed what they could into their minivan and said farewell to their home. Román posted a Facebook video with tears in her eyes as the family made last-minute preparations.
They drove across the state to Fort Myers on Wednesday night, away from the storm.
"You learn what's important really fast," Román said, after her family checked into a hotel room. "My kids are getting an early education on what matters. What matters is what's in this hotel room right now."
Rush to stores and roads in Florida
As the storm neared Florida, it prompted long lines to snake in front of gas stations. Cars crammed highways. Miami officials lifted all tolls on its expressways to alleviate the exodus.
Shoppers waited in front of the Publix store in Miami Shores, trying to stock up on water, canned foods and batteries. Residents also lamented price increases in high-demand items although Florida law prohibits price gouging in essentials such as food, water and gas.
"They're expensive, especially, I mean, during a hurricane," said Caroline Levy told CNN affiliate WSVN, about the price of gas. "All kinds of families should have access to get what they need, and it makes it more difficult for everybody."
Disappointed drivers drove around looking for gas as they found shuttered gas pumps in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
People were also concerned that potential power outage could render their credit cards worthless and withdrew as much cash as they could.
Evacuees scrambled to find hotels. Many were completely booked.
Sorting through what matters
In coastal South Carolina, evacuees also hit the roads. Business owners boarded up their stores as residents boarded up their homes.
Many also gathered up personal items.
"You go through everything that means something to you," Laura Pavlides, a Folly Beach, South Carolina, resident told CNN affiliate WSCS. "Then you find out you have to half that, and half that. So whatever is going to fit in the back of a mini-van, so that's hard."
"It's just a lot of stuff to pack," said Chris Pavlides, her son. "Makes you want less things in life."