Florida Governor: State Could Be Facing ‘Biggest Evacuation Ever’ With Hurricane Matthew

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hurricane Matthew marched toward Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas and nearly 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 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 very near Florida’s Atlantic coast by Thursday evening. At least 16 deaths in the Caribbean have been blamed on the storm, with heavy damage reported in Haiti.


The National Hurricane Center said in a statement that life-threatening wind and storm surge could leave parts of northeast Florida and southeast Georgia “uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

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.

Gov. Rick Scott said he didn’t know how many people would be ordered to leave the coastline because it is left up to individual counties. So far, only Brevard and Martin counties have issued mandatory evacuation orders.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew Leaves Path Of Destruction

“When you look at this storm as it goes along the East Coast, we’re going to have to prepare every county, so it could be the biggest evacuation ever. Every county is focused on it though. We’ve been working on it even before today,” Scott said.

Scott said the state is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, 1010 WINS’ Steve Kastenbaum reported.

CBS2’s David Sutta reports Florida residents aren’t taking any chances as they prepare for Matthew’s arrival as people stood in long lines to refill propane tanks and buy supplies near Miami.

Storm surge watches and warning have been posted from West Palm Beach to just south of Jacksonville.

“I have the hurricane windows and screens around the porches and we will be prepared for it,” Matthew Fowler said.

In Melbourne Beach, 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 storm-strength 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.”

About 20 miles away in the town of Cape Canaveral, John Long said Hurricane Matthew is just hype as his neighbors in his RV park packed up and evacuated inland. Even though his 32-foot RV is just feet from the Banana River and a half mile from the beach, he had no plans to leave.

Long, who owns a bike shop and has lived along the Space Coast for 30 years, said he has a generator and enough food and water for himself and his cats to last a week.

“There’s always tremendous buildup and then it’s no stronger than an afternoon thunderstorm,” he said. “I’m not anticipating that much damage.”

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.”

CBS2’s Don Champion reports tourists are also preparing to leave. The LaFrance family is cutting their vacation short and heading back to Canada.

“I think we should get out just in case it’s a Category 4. Everyone is telling us we should start heading home,” Nicole LaFrance said.

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 . Hurricane-force 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.

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

In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley reversed the lanes of Interstate 26 so that all lanes of traffic were headed west and out of Charleston. It was the first time the lanes had been reversed. Plans to reverse the lanes were put in place after hours-long traffic jams during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

The governor planned to call for more evacuations on Thursday, which would bring the total to about 500,000 people in the state. Florida urged or ordered about 1.5 million to leave the coast, said Jackie Schutz, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott. Georgia had around 50,000 people told to go.

At Folly Beach, South Carolina, southwest of Charleston, Gaby Trompeter loaded her car at her beachfront home preparing to evacuate to Augusta, Georgia.

Trompeter, a 50-year-old goldsmith who designs and makes jewelry, remembers Hurricane Hugo when she stayed in Savannah, Georgia, in 1989.

A year ago when what has been described as a 1,000-year flood inundated South Carolina there was so much water on the road near her house she couldn’t get out for three days.

“If it brings a lot of rain, more than the storm last year, why would I want to stay?” she said.

President Barack Obama visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters Wednesday to be briefed on preparations. FEMA has deployed personnel to emergency operation centers in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. It’s also positioning commodities and other supplies at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and in Albany, Georgia.

On the Georgia coast, 92-year-old Lou Arcangeli saw two of his adult children come to his home on Tybee Island to help prepare and evacuate if necessary.

“It’s serious,” said Arcangeli, who has lived in the Savannah area since 1979, when Hurricane David became the last hurricane to make landfall on Georgia’s 100-mile coast. “I’m going to keep an eye on it and not wait until the last minute. As far as I’m concerned, what’s going to happen is going to happen.”

Farmers in Matthew’s path scrambled to protect their crops. In South Carolina, Jeremy Cannon was harvesting his soybeans a week early after waiting too long before last year’s record rainstorm. He watched his soybeans and cotton crops slowly drown as 20 inches of rain fell, costing him $800,000.

“I don’t want to lose a single soybean this year if I don’t have to,” Cannon said. “The Lord says pray without ceasing. And that’s what I’ve been doing — in the fields, near the barn — just praying all the time. I don’t want to find out what I’ll have to do if I get wiped out for another year.”

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


One Comment

  1. Auntie Vyris says:

    I hope everybody’s OK.

  2. scrwd floridian says:

    It’s going to be a category 4, 15 miles off shore from palm beach gardens. Not good.

  3. Full court press here in Vero beach on gasoline, propane, butane, batteries, plywood, water, groceries and gas cans. Not much evac except for those on the beach, most all folks are battened down and waiting. Power’s the biggest concern, yet we’re told the lines are stressed to 120mph, so we’ll see what happens there. Landfall of the eye is projected to be around Daytona Beach, around 50 mi north of here; given the size of Matthew, that’s nothing in terms of damage and distance. It’s gonna be a good time here. /sarc/.

  4. Wow! It’s heading right at Donald Trump’s house and no one says anything about that. I hope his house is battened down and the YUUge flagpole the Democrats torment him about survives.

  5. Zeriski says:

    Matthew is slow…a bad thing. Even though it is nowhere near as strong as Andrew, Hugo, Katrina, etc, it is still very strong so the slower it is the longer the winds and storm surge can batter and flood the same area. I was in a 165 mph monster as a kid in 1970 that should have killed us all…but it was so fast the storm surge was small, which normally causes most of the deaths. We lost our house due to the winds, but we survived. Nobody has to ask me twice to evacuate anymore.

  6. Enchanted says:

    I have done everything I can to,prepare. It is all in God’s hands now.

  7. Vicky Bevis says:

    #2 son, wife & critters made it out very early this morning to Augusta. Got in fine without traffic. I only hope they have an undamaged home to go back to. Prays for everyone in harm’s way.

  8. 49erfan7B says:

    There MUST be a way to blame Donald Trump or George Bush for this hurricane, isn’t there? Come on, at least Chris Christy?

    The first one since 2005? I thought Global Warming was causing more hurricanes, and leaving more polar bears stuck on floating ice in the arctic, too.

    I pay mandatory flood insurance because my home is within the imaginary 99 year flood zone of a creek. How and why can people have homes in hurricane prone areas, not carry flood insurance then expect (and get) the federal government to bail them out?

  9. Jim says:

    Someone please let the idiot in chief know, its not the federal government’s job to rebuild homes or restore property lost as a result of natural disaster.

  10. HYPE HYPE HYPE. Telling people to Evacuate, kiss off. Just board up your house if you can. LOL only 4 killed in Haiti, because of huts.
    You will have some high winds, some damage, nothing to EVACUATE OVER.

    1. Enchanted says:

      The winds will be in the 130 mph plus. This could devastate any home on or near the beach.

  11. st8kout says:

    Having lived in hurricane country most of my life, for me the worst part was having to go for up to two weeks afterwards without power. The actual storm itself doesn’t last too long and most of the one’s I’ve been in had very little rain. As kids we used to go outside and try to see who could stand upright against the wind the longest. But anyway, for one or two weeks afterwards it was pretty miserable, with nothing to do but sweat in the high heat and humidity waiting for the power to be restored.

    Before you run out to buy a gas generator, know that your gas supply doesn’t last nearly as long as you might think, and you will have a tough time trying to buy more, as gas stations need power to run their pumps. Even small gens will need some 3-4 gallons per day if you run them 24/7, so you will need to store some 30 gallons to get you through just one week.

    Now that I’m retired I just take a vacation when one is coming. You can’t wait too long to decide to leave as the Interstate becomes one long parking lot, even with both sides turned into outbound lanes. Trips that would normally take an hour turn into an all day bumper to bumper traffic jam, and every nearby hotel/motel will be filled to capacity pretty quick, so you will have to keep driving a considerable distance just for a place to spend the night.

  12. Bob Carlson says:

    David Campbell must think this is one of the first ever hurricanes.

  13. Of course, if this storm makes it all the way to the northeast, it will have to be upgraded from hurricane to “superstorm”. Hurricanes only afflict Americans, who are mere mortals.

  14. Gizmo says:

    Kind of looks like the eye is collapsing. Hopefully it does before landfall.

  15. Bill Withers says:

    CBS just loves to dramatize the weather.

  16. This is clearly the result of the right-wing nuts total inattention to global warming.

    1. Stan Olson says:

      I was going to say/write the same thing but mine would have been sarcasm. I’m not sure about your comment.

    2. Charles Lee Ray says:

      It must have something to do with the Hurricane generating device in Bush’s basement in Crawford Texas, right?

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