JACKSONVILLE (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hurricane Matthew’s howling wind and driving rain were hitting Georgia and South Carolina late Friday, after leaving at least four people dead and more than a million people without power in Florida.
The eye of the storm still had not made landfall late Friday night, but many remained on edge.
Throughout the day on Friday, winds lashed the Atlantic coastline in Florida, sending floodwaters gushing and debris flying, and leaving boats rocking in rough water.
Areas such as Daytona Beach and St. Augustine were battered with winds of more than 100 mph.
More than a million customers were left without power in Florida, forcing some to evacuate.
“I can’t let him be without oxygen, so I need to make sure we have a power source, and the lights just went or about 15 minutes ago,” one woman said.
Restoring power was a priority late Friday.
“It’s really important that we get power restored as quickly as we can,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
On Friday morning, Matthew weakened slightly to a Category 3 storm. But the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was expected to remain a powerful hurricane.
Forecasters also said there was a danger of life-threatening inundation along the Florida northeast coast, the Georgia coast, the South Carolina coast, and the North Carolina coast from Sebastian Inlet, Florida, to Cape Fear.
There was also the possibility of life-threatening inundation from north of Cape Fear to Salvo.
Florida Gov. Scott earlier on Friday warned that while the main eye of the storm was offshore as it brushes the eastern coast, it could still bring tremendous damage and flooding, especially to low-lying areas along the St. Johns River, including downtown Jacksonville.
“We’re not through this yet,” Scott said. “We are still just doing assessments of what happened.”
And Scott’s predictions proved to be sadly accurate for Jacksonville.
Late Friday night, Jacksonville was finally getting something of a break. But near St. John’s River, a crest of the storm surge was expected to top out anywhere between 5 and 8 feet.
Streets were flooded, and drivers were stranded as gas ran out.
As CBS2’s Alex Denis reported, Matthew slammed Jacksonville with intense force earlier in the day. – snapping a steeple that stood for nearly 50 years. Roofs were peeled off, and chunks were sent flying.
“My wife started screaming. A big gust came, the roof on the little house started coming off, and then all of a sudden, if you look up here on this high-rise, the roof came off and just debris flying everywhere,” one man said.
As CBS News’ Don Champion reported, hurricane-force winds also snapped trees and destroyed the site of a boathouse at a marina in Smyrna.
Rain and heavy wind gusts also clobbered Daytona Beach. Roofs were ripped off buildings and small boats were washed onto land, Champion reported.
“I’ve seen trees uprooted. I’ve seen downed power lines. I’ve seen carports falling on cars,” said Kevin Morris of Daytona Beach.
Most residents said safety was the main priority, and several repeated the same mantra as 9-year-old Mario Patterson.
“God has your back,” Mario said.
Meanwhile, coastal communities in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina remained on notice.
“Storm force winds are affecting the state of Georgia, and will continue to do so for the next 24 hours,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
Parts of South Carolina could see up to a foot of rain.
“There is nothing safe about what’s getting ready to happen,” said South Caroling Gov. Nikki Haley. “This is the last time you will hear my voice when I am asking you to evacuate.”
President Barack Obama has urged residents in the affected areas to be on guard.
“Those of you who live in Georgia, I think should be paying attention because there’s been a lot of emphasis on Florida, but this thing is going to keep on moving north through Florida into South Carolina,” Obama said. “There are large population centers there that could be vulnerable.”
Major businesses have also closed — sending a signal that the storm is bad news.
“We’ve had Disney closed. We’ve had college football games cancelled,” Fugate said.
Hurricane Matthew approached Florida overnight Thursday into Friday, bringing damaging winds and lots of rain. State officials said that as of 9 a.m. there were nearly 600,000 people without power. Some of the hardest hit counties were Brevard, Indian River and Volusia, where more than half of the customers in those counties were without power.
State officials during an internal emergency management briefing said they anticipated that more than 1 million Floridians could eventually be without power.
Scott ordered about 1.5 million people to evacuate and more than 22,000 people remain in shelters.
“We live really close to the evacuation zone and to the shore, so we just wanted to come to a little bit more of a safer spot,” said Omar Mazariegos, who evacuated to a shelter.
But some Florida residents did not listen.
“We’ve been through so many of these and not had any serious altercations,” said resident Ryan Hale. “Hopefully, it will be the same thing.”
Officials condemned that kind of over-confidence.
“You’re a fool,” said Daytona Beach Police Chief Michael Chitwood. “This is not like anything you’ve seen.”
Matthew has already killed hundreds of people in the Caribbean, mostly in Haiti where CBS News reported the death toll stood at 842 as of late Friday.
Mandatory evacuations are also underway in Georgia and South Carolina where the hurricane is expected to hug the coasts of those states this weekend.
In Georgia, Chatham County emergency management director Dennis Jones told a news conference in Savannah on Friday morning that people had just a few more hours before powerful winds start hitting.
“Once the wind starts blowing, we’re pulling all emergency services off the street,” he said. Savannah police said they also will enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
All emergency responders left Tybee Island earlier Friday as increasingly heavy rains at high tide threatened to flood the only road to the mainland. Most of the island’s 3,000 residents had evacuated over the past two days.
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