- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Hurricane Matthew finished with the Bahamas on Thursday night and turned toward Florida, its mighty 130-mph winds crushing through the Caribbean.
Over a million residents were ordered to evacuate up and down Florida’s east coast. Category 4 storms, which Matthew currently is, typically decimate nearly everything in their path, leaving an area uninhabitable for weeks or months.
The storm killed nearly 500 people when it hit Haiti this week, Reuters reported on Friday, citing civil-protection officials. Many residents there have still not rebuilt after the earthquake on the island in 2010. The death toll is expected to rise as numbers trickle in from more rural areas.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” a National Weather Service update read at 11 p.m. ET on Thursday.
The NWS projects Matthew to be a Category 3 when it hits the US mainland on Friday night, but that would still mean maximum winds above 111 mph. And the winds aren’t usually the worst part of a hurricane – the flooding from storm surges and heavy rainfall are often more dangerous to humans and what cause the most damage.
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida as predictions for storm’s impact on the state grew more severe on Thursday afternoon. The declaration was extended to South Carolina a short time later, the Associated Press reported.
Meteorologists are predicting a “catastrophic” storm impact “unlike any hurricane in the modern era,” with widespread severe flooding.
In a Thursday-afternoon news conference, Gov. Rick Scott pointed evacuating Floridians to FL511 for updates on evacuation routes and traffic.
“We are already starting to see the impacts (from Hurricane Matthew), and it’s a monster,” Scott said at a news conference Thursday evening as he urged residents to evacuate inland. “You still have time to leave. Get out. There’s no reason to take a chance.”
Matthew was already poised to be a historic, dangerous storm. Then, at 2 p.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center bulletin upgraded the storm-surge warning for parts of the state to 7 to 11 feet. That is an extremely rare, high, and powerful wall of water headed for Florida’s coasts and rivers. That estimate held in Thursday night’s update.
This map, released earlier Thursday when predictions topped out at 6 to 9 feet, shows areas in danger of flooding – with water deep enough to crest above Shaquille O’Neal’s head:
— NHC_Surge (@NHC_Surge) October 6, 2016
Here’s a look at the storm from the National Hurricane Center’s latest update (updated at 8 a.m. ET Friday):
Tropical storm warnings now extend north up to the North Carolina coastline. Hurricane warnings are in place throughout much of Florida’s, Georgia’s, and South Carolina’s coastlines.
Here’s a visualization of the storm’s predicted movement from Friday to Sunday:
puzzle w/intensity & track of Matthew when reached Jax/GA/Carolinas was amount of land interaction w/FL.
Parallel to coast whole way! pic.twitter.com/Aw8LArUAZG
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) October 7, 2016
Obama’s declaration will release federal aid to local, state, and tribal response efforts. Wind speeds are 130 mph, far beyond what many structures are built to withstand.
Matthew is expected to be particularly dangerous because it threatens to deliver a sustained onslaught – unprecedented in central Florida’s recorded history – over a period of several hours as it moves up the coast Friday and Saturday. Georgia and South Carolina also face severe wind and flooding threats.
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) October 6, 2016
“Simply put: If Florida’s disaster preparedness officials wanted to script a worst-case scenario for the state, it would look a lot like Hurricane Matthew,” meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote for Pacific Standard on Wednesday. “This is a nightmare hurricane.”
Experts breathed a tiny sigh of relief Thursday night as the new models predicted Matthew may have reached its maximum wind gusts, suggesting those winds could keep decreasing as the storm gets closer to shore. That doesn’t mean it’s not still a massive, scary storm, though.
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) October 7, 2016
This article was updated with extended warnings at 11 p.m. ET Thursday, and a new map at 8 a.m. ET Friday.