Hurricane Matthew is expected to hit Florida this evening and head up the east coast. This Category Four storm has already claimed over 100 lives. Thousands have already evacuated but South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has said that it’s not enough.
More than two million people in the US have been urged to evacuate their homes because Hurricane Matthew ‘is going to kill people’ as it strengthens on its way towards the East Coast.
Thousands of families have been caught in gridlock in Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia after fleeing their homes ahead of the storm – which is expected to strike Miami early on Friday morning with winds of up to 145mph.
Governor Rick Scott of Florida, reiterating a call for people to evacuate on Thursday morning said there is no reason not to leave the state.
‘Do not surf. Do not go on the beach. This will kill you,’ he said.
The powerful Category Four hurricane, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, has already killed at least 98 people in Haiti and four in the Dominican Republic. At its height, the hurricane was a Category Five with wind speeds of more than 157 mph.
The National Weather Service has advised that ‘loss of life’ and ‘immense human suffering’ is possible for those who don’t take precautions. It could also potentially leave approximately seven million people without power.
President Barack Obama warned: ‘I want to emphasize to the public – this is a serious storm. If there is an evacuation order in your community, you need to take it seriously.’
‘Just remember that you can always rebuild,’ he added. ‘You can always repair property. You cannot restore a life if it is lost and we want to make sure that we minimize any possible loss of life or risk to people in these areas.
The storm gained new muscle over the Bahamas on Thursday morning as it battered the island, intensifying from a Category Three with wind speeds of 120mph, to Category Four with 140mph speeds.
The National Hurricane Center warned at 5am that it was about 60 miles south-southeast of Nassau, the capital, which is located on New Providence – home to about 70 per cent of the country’s 250,000 people.
Forecasters said the hurricane is likely to hit Florida at around 2am on Friday before heading northwards past Orlando, Jacksonville and up to Charleston.
Gov. Rick Scott has activated 2,500 National Guard to help with the evacuations across the state – and the aftermath of the hurricane. Another 4,000 available if needed, Scott said.
‘We are going to get ready, but this is going to be catastrophic,’ he warned. ‘If you need to evacuate and you haven’t, evacuate. Time is running out.’
Some models have suggested that the storm may go out to sea and then do a U-turn and head back to Florida for a devastating double hit.
Gov Scott, warned his state that they needed to ‘prepare for a direct hit’ as he declared a state of emergency.
‘That means people have less than 24 hours to prepare, evacuate and shelter. Having a plan in place could mean the difference between life and death.’
He added that all residents on Florida’s Atlantic coast should expect to lose power, ‘possibly for a long period of time.’
‘We don’t know exactly where this storm’s going. Don’t trust this track.’
He warned of heavy rain, strong rip currents, beach erosion and storm surge.
‘Unfortunately this is going to kill people,’ he reiterated.
‘Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate. Be prepared. Don’t take a chance.’
As well as the potential loss of life, researchers at the University of Michigan, Ohio State and Texas A&M have warned Matthew could knock out power for approximately seven million people.
The National Weather Service also warned that the hurricane could cause the ‘complete destruction of mobile homes’ adding that certain areas could be rendered ‘uninhabitable for weeks of months’.
Some 3,000 people have already checked into shelters across the state ahead of Matthew’s approach.
In preparation, residents flocked to hardware stores, grocery stores and gas stations, stripping them of vital supplies.
One Florida, resident Randy Jordan of Juniper, told WPEC people were shoving each other as they raced to buy the supplies they needed at the local Home Depot.
‘The vibe on the street this morning is pre-panic,’ Jordan said. ‘By tomorrow, it should just be a brawl.’
Evacuations began Wednesday and at 3pm, Brevard County commissioners ordered one of the Florida’s first evacuations for residents of Merritt Island and other barrier islands.
Martin County has also ordered for homes along the Barrier Islands and Sewall’s Point, as well as for residents living in low-lying areas or manufactures homes.
In South Florida, lines at grocery stores were heavier than usual and some essentials were in short supply.
When Simone Corrado and her husband tried to buy water at their Publix in Davie near Fort Lauderdale, 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.’
Near Miami Beach, The Home Depot in Davie briefly ran out of propane for gas barbecues and the supply of batteries was dwindling.
People bought plywood to cover windows, tarps to put over outdoor furniture and coolers for food storage.
Anesthesiologist Darby Lipka lugged a 20-pound propane tank across the parking lot, saying he had already purchased food and water. He installed hurricane windows years ago so he wouldn’t need to erect shutters
‘I am just trying to be prepared,’ he said.
Dane Vaala, a diesel mechanic, was loading plywood onto his pickup. He needed it so he could stand on his awning to install upper floor shutters at his home.
He moved to Florida from Montana in 2007, so Matthew would be his first storm. He had loaded up on canned food and water.
‘I’m not too concerned — it doesn’t really bother me much,’ he said. ‘But it is better to prep.’
Theme parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal and Sea World were also keeping a close eye on the storm and warned customers they could expect different closing times. As of this morning, they remained open, but Disney World cancelled ‘Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party’, a special event scheduled for tonight.
South Carolina has told about a quarter million people to leave the coast and Scott’s counterpart Gov. Nikki Haley says she currently plans to order more evacuations for two more counties today, bringing the total to about 500,000 people.
At a press conference this morning, she urged South Carolina residents to fuel up and evacuate now as everything from gas stations to pharmacies prepared to close.
‘As of 6am this morning, 175,000 people have been evacuated,’ she told reporters. ‘That’s not enough. We need to have more people evacuating.