Storm warning sparks mass exodus
Millions leave homes and head inland after HurricaneMatthew threatens a ‘direct hit’
The fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade slammed into the Bahamas early on Thursday and was expected to intensify as it barreled towards the southeast US coast, where a mass exodus was under way in four states.
Roadways in Florida, Georgia andNorth and South Carolina were packed from late on Wednesday, with millions heeding warnings to flee inland asHurricaneMatthew approached, packing sustained winds of about 185 kilometers per hour, storm surges and heavy rain.
Matthew, which killed at least 26 people and damaged swathes of homes in southern Haiti, was predicted to strengthen from Category 3 to 4 storm en route to eastern Florida.
Landfall was expected there on Thursday night, the US National Hurricane Center said.
“Everyone in our statemust prepare now for a direct hit,” Florida Governor Rick Scott told a news conference on Wednesday. “If Matthew directly impacts Florida, the destruction could be catastrophic and you need to be prepared.”
All four states in the hurricane’s path declared states of emergency as shelters opened their doors after governors, along with President Barack Obama, urged residents to evacuate their homes.
About 12 million US residents were under hurricane watchesandwarnings, according to theWeather Channel.
Gas stations in Florida posted “out of gas” signs after motorists waited in long lines to fill up their tanks.
“Every gas station I went to is empty,” said Charles Bivona in a Tweet late onWednesday.
Peoplewhoplanned to wait out the storm stocked up on water, milk and canned goods, emptying grocery store shelves, footage local media showed.
Residents and business owners boarded up windows and placed sandbags to protect against flooding.
“All boarded up and ready to bunker down. God be with us,” West Palm Beach Florida resident Brad Gray tweeted. from • In 2005, HurricaneKatrina left 1,800 people dead andwas the costliest storm inUShistory with damage estimated at $108 billion. Itwas a Category 3 storm when it made landfall over Louisiana. • In 1938, roughly 700 people died in the Great NewEngland Hurricane. It raked the region as a Category 3 storm and wiped out railroad tracks, utilities, homes, crops and the fishing industry, according to the NationalWeather Service. • In 1928, the GreatOkeechobee Hurricane struck Florida as a Category 4 storm, leaving more than 2,500 dead. LakeOkeechobee overflowed, causing disastrous flooding that inundated several communities. • In 1900, a hurricane madelandfall in Galveston, Texas, with winds estimated to be 209 kilometers per hour and a storm surge of a whopping 4.6 meters. Some8,000people died, and the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration says damage estimates exceeded $20million at the time— roughly$700million in today’s dollars.
Allen Scurry (left), Brent Scurry (center) and Brandon Floyd, all of Lake City, South Carolina, install window shutters at an ocean front home in Garden City Beach.