Four South­east gov­er­nors de­clare states of emer­gency as storm heads for U.S.

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Terry Spencer and Jen­nifer Kay

FORT LAUD­ERDALE, FLA. >> South Carolina’s gover­nor said she would is­sue an evac­u­a­tion or­der Wed­nes­day so that 1 mil­lion peo­ple would have time to leave the coast ahead of Hur­ri­cane Matthew, and res­i­dents up and down the East­ern seaboard en­tered bet­ter-safe-than-sorry mode, flock­ing to hard­ware stores, gro­cery aisles and gas sta­tions to pre­pare for the pow­er­ful storm.

Matthew was on track to rake Florida be­fore spin­ning up the East Coast. The Cat­e­gory 4 storm pack­ing winds of 145 mph pum­meled parts of Haiti and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic on Tues­day and is ex­pected to head north over Cuba and the Ba­hamas be­fore near­ing the Florida coast by Thurs­day. At least nine peo­ple in the Caribbean have died.

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter in Mi­ami is­sued a hur­ri­cane watch for a 260-mile stretch from Golden Beach near Fort Laud­erdale to the Day­tona Beach area, mean­ing hur­ri­cane force winds of 74 mph or higher could oc­cur within two days.

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.”

Gov. Rick Scott, speak­ing in the Day­tona area, warned res­i­dents they must be pre­pared to take a di­rect hit. Scott said his big­gest worry is that res­i­dents won’t take se­ri­ously the threat from Matthew, es­pe­cially since so many newer res­i­dents have never lived through a hur­ri­cane.

“Don’t take a chance. Leave be­fore it’s too late,” he said. “We have to be pre­pared to be hit by a cat­a­strophic hur­ri­cane.”

Hur­ri­cane Her­mine be­came the first to strike Florida since Wilma in 2005 when it hit the east­ern Pan­han­dle on Sept. 2 as a Cat­e­gory 1 storm, caus­ing one death, storm surge da­m­age to beach­front homes and downed trees and pow­er­lines. That 11-year lull be­tween storms hit­ting Florida was the long­est on record.

The last storm to hit the At­lantic side of Florida was Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, which struck in 2005 on its way to dev­as­tat­ing the Gulf coast.

Wilma made land­fall as a Cat­e­gory 3 storm with 120 mph winds, killing five peo­ple as it pushed from south­west Florida, through the Ever­glades and into the Fort Laud­erdale and Palm Beach area, caus­ing an es­ti­mated $21 bil­lion in da­m­age and leav­ing thou­sands of res­i­dents with­out power for more than a week. It con­cluded a two-year span when a record eight hur­ri­canes hit the state.

Gov­er­nors in Florida, Ge­or­gia, South Carolina and North Carolina de­clared states of emer­gency. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama can­celed cam­paign and health care events in Florida on Wed­nes­day and would in­stead visit the head­quar­ters of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency.

Some air­lines let pas­sen­gers change travel plans with­out penalty if their trip might be af­fected by Matthew.

Near Fort Laud­erdale, 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.

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.”

Ha­ley said state of­fi­cials would re­verse lanes on ma­jor evac­u­a­tion routes in South Carolina. It would be the first ma­jor evac­u­a­tion since Hur­ri­cane Floyd in 1999, when the gover­nor at the time didn’t re­verse the lanes and In­ter­state 26 be­came a park­ing lot. A typ­i­cally two-hour drive from Charleston to Columbia turned into 24-hour night­mare.

“We’ve been though win­ter storms. We’ve been through a 1,000-year flood. A hur­ri­cane is dif­fer­ent. I don’t want any­one to look at the last cou­ple of tragedies we’ve gone through and think this is sim­i­lar,” Ha­ley said.

Kay re­ported from Mi­ami Beach. As­so­ci­ated Press re­porters Jef­frey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Mike Sch­nei­der in Or­lando; Freida Frisaro in Mi­ami and Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, North Carolina, con­trib­uted to this re­port.


Hur­ri­cane spe­cial­ist Eric Blake mon­i­tors the path of Hur­ri­cane Matthew at the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter in Mi­ami on Tues­day.

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