The deadliest hurricane since 2004 was expected to strike the eastern Florida coast by Thursday night, prompting the state’s governor to plead with residents to “evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”
Matthew is a Category 4 hurricane, just one level short of the deadliest storm possible, and considered to be the strongest in decades.
The island nation of Haiti this week lost 98 lives to Matthew; four other people died in the Dominican Republic when the hurricane hit that nation’s coast.
In Florida, a state of emergency has already been declared and some two million residents have been urged by Florida Governor Rick Scott to evacuate their homes in anticipation of damage from the storm. Winds could reach up to 145 miles per hour at landfall.
The Florida governor activated 2,500 members of the National Guard to help keep order as people prepare for the storm. Nearly 1600 flights have already been cancelled. Gas stations are emptying, and grocery store shelves are just about bare. Trains and cruise ships in south Florida are suspending service.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned in a bulletin, “extremely dangerous Hurricane Matthew heading for Florida.” The site has updated advisories on the latest status of the storm, and its current location.
According to The Weather Channel, Matthew is expected to be the strongest Florida East Coast strike since Hurricane Andrew, and likely to also bring similar destruction to the Georgia coast and to the coast of South Carolina, with dangerous, life-threatening storm surge and flooding rains expected.
“The eyewall may deliver the strongest, most destructive winds anyone in parts of the northeast and east-central Florida coast has seen in their lifetime,” according to the site. “The last, and only Category 4 hurricane to make landfall anywhere in northeast Florida or the Georgia coast was an 1898 hurricane south of St. Simons Island, Georgia.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott warned residents in a media briefing on Thursday: “Do not surf. Do not go on the beach. This will kill you… There is no reason not to leave… Millions will lose power, possibly for a long period of time. My goal is to make sure everyone is prepared. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”