Hur­ri­cane takes aim at South­east states

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

Hur­ri­cane Matthew marched to­ward Florida, Ge­or­gia and the Caroli­nas and at least a half a 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 dan­ger­ous and life-threat­en­ing 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 Thurs­day evening. At least 11 deaths in the Caribbean were blamed on the storm, with heavy dam­age re­ported in Haiti.

The storm was fore­cast to scrape much of the Florida coast, and any slight de­vi­a­tion could mean land­fall or it head­ing far­ther out to sea. Ei­ther way, it was go­ing to be close enough to wreak havoc along the lower part of the East Coast, and many peo­ple weren’t tak­ing any chances.

Track­ing mod­els is­sued early Wed­nes­day evening pre­dicted the storm would move north un­til reach­ing the Caroli­nas be­fore veer­ing east into the ocean and then south­east.

In Mel­bourne Beach, Fla., near the Kennedy Space Cen­ter, Car­los and April Med­ina moved their pad­dle board and kayak in­side the garage and took pic­tures off the walls of their home about 500 feet from the coast. They moved the 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.”

In Fort Laud­erdale, about 200 miles south, six em­ploy­ees at a seven-bed­room Mediter­ranean-style man­sion packed up for an evac­u­a­tion fear­ing any storm surge could flood the prop­erty. The home­own­ers planned to move to an­other home they own in Palm Beach that’s fur­ther from the water. Two Lam­borgh­i­nis and a Fer­rari had been placed in­side the garage, but em­ployee Mae White wasn’t sure what they would do with a Rolls Royce, Mus­tang and other cars still parked in the drive­way.

“This storm surge. It’s scary,” White said. “You’re on the water, you’ve got to go.”

The last Cat­e­gory 3 storm or higher to hit the United States was Wilma in Oc­to­ber 2005. It made land­fall with 120 mph winds in south­west Florida, killing five peo­ple as it pushed through the Ever­glades and into the Fort Laud­erdale and Palm Beach area. It caused an es­ti­mated $21 bil­lion in dam­age and left thou­sands of res­i­dents with­out power for more than a week. It con­cluded a two-year span when a record eight hur­ri­canes hit the state.

As of 5 p.m. EDT Wed­nes­day, Matthew was cen­tered about 400 miles south­east of West Palm Beach and mov­ing north­west, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter. Hur­ri­cane­force winds ex­tended 45 miles from the cen­ter.

“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.

RED HUBER — OR­LANDO SENTINEL (VIA AP)

Peo­ple evac­u­ate Mer­ritt Is­land, Fla., on Wed­nes­day in an­tic­i­pa­tion of Hur­ri­cane Matthew.

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