Hurricane Matthew Approaches Florida; Governor Urges 1.5 Million to Flee

Hurricane Matthew Approaches Florida; Governor Urges 1.5 Million to Flee

Oct 6, 2016 - Taking aim at central Florida’s Atlantic coast, Hurricane Matthew intensified Thursday into a Category 4 storm with winds of at least 140 miles per hour and strengthening. The storm was blamed for the deaths of 100 people in Haiti.

Source: NY Times

“Extremely dangerous, life-threatening weather conditions are forecast in the next 24 hours,” the National Weather Service warned Thursday afternoon. “Airborne debris lofted by extreme winds will be capable of breaching structures, unprotected windows and vehicles.”

Residents were streaming away from coastal regions, jamming highways, after Gov. Rick Scott of Florida told 1.5 million people living in evacuation zones: “You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”

Find developments; dispatches from our reporters in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina; a live storm tracker map; and answers to reader questions below.

The Latest

  • President Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida on Thursday, ahead of the storm’s arrival, allowing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts, and effectively opening the spigot for aid from Washington.
  • Governor Scott activated 3,500 National Guard troops, more than half the state’s total, to help with evacuations and prepare for search-and-rescue operations.
  • The eye of the hurricane was about 125 miles southeast of West Palm Beach, Fla. as of 2 p.m. Thursday, moving northwest at 14 m.p.h. over the Bahamas. The eye was projected to hit Cape Canaveral at about 8 a.m. Friday, and pass near Jacksonville at about 8 p.m.
  • Florida opened more than 60 shelters for people fleeing areas that might flood.
  • New York Times journalists covering the storm include Lizette Alvarez in Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Azam Ahmed and Nick Madigan in Miami; Frances Robles in Titusville, Fla.; Les Neuhaus in Jacksonville, Fla.; Alan Blinder in Atlanta; Richard Fausset and Jess Bidgood in Charleston, S.C.; and Richard Pérez Peña in New York.

Florida Governor: Get Out Now

Florida’s governor pleaded with people on Thursday to evacuate from the state’s east coast as Hurricane Matthew threatened to roar past as a Category 4 storm.

“There are no excuses,” Mr. Scott said in Tallahassee, the state capital. “You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”

Mr. Scott, who has spent days warning that the storm could be catastrophic in a state that has not had a major hurricane make landfall since 2005, added: “This storm will kill you. Time is running out.”

In the hours before Mr. Scott appeared in Tallahassee, the forecast for Florida seemed to grow grimmer, and evacuations were underway all along the state’s eastern coast. Tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 m.p.h. are expected to begin lashing the state by late Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, with hurricane-force winds arriving by sometime Thursday night.

The governor’s office said that more than 1.5 million people were in evacuation zones, and that tolls had been suspended on the Florida Turnpike and other crucial routes. Officials planned to open more than 100 shelters statewide, and 2,500 National Guard soldiers had been activated. The Coast Guard closed major ports, including facilities in Fort Pierce, Miami and Palm Beach.  LIZETTE ALVAREZ and ALAN BLINDER

Death Toll in Haiti Tops 100

The Haitian government on Thursday said more than 100 people were now dead from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, drastically revising earlier estimates as more of the affected areas are reached by aid personnel, according to local reports.

Since Tuesday, much of the southern portion of Haiti has been without power. Communications and even physical access to the region were shut off, as cell service faltered and a bridge connecting the capital to the southern areas collapsed.

But now that transportation and at least some communication to the areas has been restored, the death toll appears to be rising dramatically, according to a news conference held by the Ministry of Interior on Thursday morning.

The deaths come amid a broad tableau of devastation: houses pummeled into timber, crops destroyed and large parts of towns and villages under several feet of water. — AZAM AHMED

Damage in the Bahamas

An uncounted number of people in the Bahamas have been trapped in their homes after heavy rain and a storm surge from Hurricane Matthew caused widespread flooding in Nassau, the capital. The island chain was beginning to take stock of the damage on Thursday, with several northwestern islands continuing to suffer tropical storm force gusts. The national emergency management agency warned residents against entering flooded communities, and called for owners of heavy trucks to volunteer for rescue services. — PACO NUÑEZ

Campaigns Are Affected

The impact of the storm is being felt on the presidential campaign, too. A joint appearance by Hillary Clinton and President Obama planned for Wednesday in Miami Gardens, Fla., was postponed. The Trump campaign was also affected: The Miami Herald reported that Ivanka Trump scrapped a fund-raiser Wednesday night at Trump National Doral golf resort.

The hurricane could steal attention away from the campaign if it causes extensive damage. The Clinton campaign was preparing for that possibility, investing in advertising on the Weather Channel in markets across Florida, according to Politico. — ALAN RAPPEPORT

How to Get People to Evacuate? Try Fear

Emergency managers trying to get residents to leave an area in the path of a storm can be like parents cajoling their children to do something. Governor Scott of Florida, for example, urged: “This storm will kill you. Time is running out.” — CHRISTOPHER MELE

Read more»

‘I’m Afraid for My Home’

People who live near the coast or in mobile homes or who just did not want to test their luck at home lugged suitcases, cases of water and clutched their favorite pillows as their minds drifted to what they left behind.

Lois Paul, 78, was one of 130 people at an elementary school in Brevard County, Fla., that was being used as a shelter on Thursday.

“My house is blue; I call it ‘my blue heaven,’” Mrs. Paul said. “This one can blow your house away.”

Mrs. Paul brought patio cushions to sleep on, sheets, pillows, an extra set of clothes and a windbreaker. She has done this three times before, during Charley, Frances and Jeanne in 2004.

“I’m afraid for my home,” she said. “The worst part is not knowing what’s going on there while you’re away. You just don’t know what you’re going to find when you get home.” — FRANCES ROBLES

South Carolina: Quiet Streets of Charleston

On Thursday morning, the ghosts in the lovely old city of Charleston had ample room. The streets of the historic district were largely devoid of human life in the pre-dawn darkness. A hard wind whipped through the palms.

Charleston’s evacuation began around 3 p.m. Wednesday, as officials, bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, reversed the highway lanes out of town. Other areas of the South Carolina coast will be evacuated on Thursday morning, Gov. Nikki R. Haley said.

Ms. Haley said Thursday that about 175,000 people had evacuated, but she quickly added: “That’s not enough.” About 2,000 National Guard soldiers were assisting in preparation efforts.

Charleston, South Carolina’s second-largest city, has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance. The metro area’s population is booming. New luxury hotels have bloomed among elegant downtown buildings, and new technology industries have attracted a young and prosperous work force.

But none of that success has made low-lying Charleston any less vulnerable to the ravages of a powerful storm. Many here remember how badly the city was pummeled by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. In October, historic rainfall resulted in flash flooding.

So what to do? Before closing its offices this week, the city distributed 15,500 sandbags to residents — a record. Many here took school buses out of town on Wednesday, inland, to Greenville. Many others drove out on packed highways away from the coast. — RICHARD FAUSSET

Evacuating ‘Would Be Costing Me Money’

Some in the Charleston area are staying no matter what. Brett Hendrickson lives in nearby Goose Creek. On Thursday morning, he was determined to carry out his regular morning routine. Denied access to the highways, he took back roads to his gym and worked out alone. Then drove to The Vendue, a luxury hotel on the peninsula, and clocked in at his maintenance job.

“I’ve got a wedding coming up in November, and I’ve got to make money,” said Mr. Hendrickson, 29. “If I evacuated, it would be costing me money.”

When asked about the dangers he might face by remaining in town, he shrugged. “If it’s my time, it’s my time,” he said. — RICHARD FAUSSET

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