Mon­ster storm closes in on Fla.

As Matthew death toll hits 16, over 2M urged to flee

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Mike Sch­nei­der and Kelli Kennedy The Wash­ing­ton Post and Mi­ami Herald contributed.

MEL­BOURNE BEACH, Fla. — Hur­ri­cane Matthew marched to­ward Florida, Ge­or­gia and the Caroli­nas and more than 2 mil­lion peo­ple along the coast were urged to evac­u­ate their homes Wed­nes­day, a mass ex­o­dus ahead of a ma­jor storm pack­ing power the U.S. hasn’t seen in more than a decade.

Matthew was a lifethreat­en­ing Cat­e­gory 3 storm with sus­tained winds of 120 mph as it passed through the Ba­hamas, and it was ex­pected to be near Florida’s At­lantic coast by late Thurs­day.

At least 16 deaths were blamed on the storm dur­ing its week­long march across the Caribbean, 10 of them in Haiti. But with a key bridge washed out, roads im­pass­able and phone com­mu­ni­ca­tions down, the west­ern tip of Haiti re­mained cut off a day af­ter Matthew made land­fall.

Marie Alta Jean-Bap­tiste, di­rec­tor of the Civil Pro­tec­tion Agency, said au­thor­i­ties so far have found 3,214 de­stroyed homes.

Af­ter mov­ing past Haiti, Matthew rolled across the east­ern tip of Cuba, de­stroy­ing dozens of homes in the city of Bara­coa and dam­ag­ing hun­dreds more.

Peo­ple stood amid the rub­ble of their homes, weep­ing, hug­ging or star­ing into the dis­tance.

“I’ve never seen some- James Bal­boni fills a gen­er­a­tor with gaso­line Wed­nes­day in Fort Laud­erdale, Fla., in prepa­ra­tion for Hur­ri­cane Matthew. thing like this in my life,” said Elva Perez, 55, a home­maker as she stood by what re­mained of her home. “For more than 200 years, here in this house, noth­ing like this has ever hap­pened.”

At the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, the storm knocked down trees and caused road flood­ing but no in­juries or ma­jor dam­age, said Julie Ri­p­ley, a spokes­woman.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott flew around the state and met with emer­gency man­agers to re­peat warn­ings.

In brief­ings through­out the day, he urged res­i­dents on bar­rier is­lands prone to flood­ing to evac­u­ate and not wait un­til the storm hits. “This is a dan­ger­ous storm. It is never too early to evac­u­ate,” he said.

Emer­gen­cies have been de­clared in Florida, Ge­or­gia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Florida urged 1.5 mil­lion res­i­dents to evac­u­ate. Ge­or­gia or­dered a vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion where more than 522,000 peo­ple live. In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Ha­ley or­dered an evac­u­a­tion of coun­ties on the coast, amount­ing to about 500,000.

“Our goal is to make sure you get 100 miles away from the coast,” Ha­ley said.

Mean­while, sev­eral U.S. car­ri­ers can­celed or waived change fees in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the hur­ri­cane.

Amer­i­can Air­lines can­celed all Thurs­day flights into Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional, Fort Laud­erdale- Hol­ly­wood In­ter­na­tional and Palm Beach In­ter­na­tional air­ports. United Air­lines said it an­tic­i­pates can­cel­ing roughly 60 flights in and out of the air­ports.

Delta and JetBlue said they were al­low­ing peo­ple to change flights sched­uled in the com­ing days through much of the South­east as well as the Ba­hamas and Caribbean.

In Mel­bourne Beach, near the Kennedy Space Cen­ter, Car­los and April Med­ina moved pool fur­ni­ture in­side, turned off the water, dis­con­nected all elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances and emp­tied their re­frig­er­a­tor.

They then hopped in a truck filled with le­gal doc­u­ments, jew­elry and a dec­o­ra­tive carved shell that had once be­longed to April Med­ina’s great-grand­fa­ther and headed west to Or­lando, where they planned to ride out the storm with their daugh­ter’s fam­ily.

“The way we see it, if it main­tains its cur­rent path, we get trop­i­cal storm­strength winds. If it makes a lit­tle shift to the left, it could be a Cat­e­gory 2 or 3, and I don’t want to be any­where near it,” Car­los Med­ina said. “We are just be­ing a lit­tle safe, a lit­tle bit more cau­tious.”

The last Cat­e­gory 3 storm or higher to hit the coun­try was Wilma in Oc­to­ber 2005. It made land­fall with 120 mph winds in south­west Florida, killing five peo­ple. It caused an es­ti­mated $21 bil­lion in dam­age and left thou­sands of res­i­dents with­out power for more than a week.

Matthew was cen­tered about 165 miles south­south­east of Nas­sau in the east­ern Ba­hamas. It was head­ing north­west at 12 mph.

“When a hur­ri­cane is fore­cast to take a track roughly par­al­lel to a coast­line, as Matthew is fore­cast to do from Florida through South Carolina, it be­comes very dif­fi­cult to spec­ify im­pacts at any one lo­ca­tion,” said Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter fore­caster Lix­ion Avila.

Florida can ex­pect as much as 10 inches of rain in some ar­eas.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama vis­ited the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency’s head­quar­ters Wed­nes­day in Wash­ing­ton to be briefed on prepa­ra­tions.

He warned the storm “could have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect” even in ar­eas spared the full force of the hur­ri­cane, and asked res­i­dents to pay at­ten­tion to lo­cal lead­ers and fol­low evac­u­a­tion or­ders.

ROB FOLDY/GETTY

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.