JACKSONVILLE, Florida — A rare Category 4 hurricane is set to deliver a devastating blow to the East Coast of Florida tonight, potentially knocking out power for a long time and making some places “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” according to the National Weather Service.
Currently, Hurricane Matthew has winds of 140 mph. About 2.5 million people in Florida and the East Coast are evacuating.
“This can kill you and we cannot save you,” Florida Governor Rick Scott warned.
Most of the Florida’s east coast and all of Georgia’s coast are in a hurricane warning. The only Category 4 hurricane ever to make landfall in the area took place in 1898.
Upwards of 7 million people could be left without power, according to forecasters. It already killed more than 110 people in the Caribbean.
“People who have been told to evacuate, they need to get out this morning, right away, because time is running out fast,” Rick Knabb, the director of the National Hurricane Center, told ABC News. “You don’t want to be caught in the storm surge, which is the deadliest hazard of all.”
Matthew is the deadliest hurricane to approach the U.S. coast in more than a decade. The National Weather Service expected it to make landfall north of West Palm Beach early Thursday morning.
Even Walt Disney World – which rarely shuts its gates – is closing. The theme park has closed only four times since 1971.
Winds and Flooding
“The extreme winds of a major hurricane can do a lot of damage and not just at the coast,” Knabb said. “Those winds can penetrate inland and that would be more so the case the closer it gets to the coast. In addition to the wind, you have storm surge potential.”
A storm surge of 7-11 feet is also expected.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley ordered residents to clear out of Charleston and Beaufort Counties by 3 p.m. on Wednesday. The Associated Press reported that Interstate 26 was partially blocked by traffic congestion.
“It’s not going to be a fast evacuation,” Haley said. “If you can leave early, do that; the goal is to not leave all at once.”
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