Hurricane Matthew is charging towards Florida like a train – not weakened at all by its impact on Haiti and only minimally slowed by its impact on Cuba, the lethal storm that has caused 11 deaths and is responsible for millions in damage is blowing past the Bahamas and now expected to make landfall in Central Florida.
The hurricane, likened to such monsters as Hugo and Floyd, has shuttered schools, induced evacuations, and delivered a sobering wakeup call to residents of the sunshine state as reports that early put the storm well out to sea were continually revised to show a major impact on the entire state over the next 24-72 hours.
From Westchester to Daytona Beach, grocery stores quickly ran out of water and convenience stations out of gas. Miami-Dade and Broward counties canceled schools for the remainder of the week. Port Miami, for the first time ever, sealed off its new $1.1 billion tunnel.
Nearly eight million Floridians are in Matthew’s potential path and half million have been urged to evacuate their homes. That doesn’t even count tourist traffic. Matthew is expected to make landfall late Thursday or Friday as a powerful Category 4 storm that could push seas 5 to 8 feet high from the Sebastian Inlet north and 3 to 5 feet across Broward County and the Treasure Coast.
Gov. Rick Scott ordered state offices in 26 counties closed and suspended tolls, urging residents on barrier islands prone to flooding to evacuate and calling on the national guard troops to be on standby. Gov. Nikki Haley ordered a complete evacuation of the South Carolina’s coast on Wednesday, affecting nearly a quarter of the state’s population.
Tropical Storm Nicole is pushing Matthew further inland, while a slow moving tropical wave a few hundred miles east of the Windward Islands keeps the rear end of the system moving. Predictors warn that things are still in flux – with such a narrow cone of possibility, a five-degree change in direction could significantly change where landfall happens, and several outlying models even show Matthew making a complete loop and coming back to hit Florida a second time as a weakened tropical storm.
Floridians are encouraged to closely watch their local news and weather updates, and are recommend to get at least 100 miles away from any coastline.