Hurricane Matthew Updates Suggest The Storm Has Weakened As It Rushes Towards Florida
Following scores of warnings from government officials at all levels, Hurricane Matthew was set to make landfall in Florida early Friday morning. If it had remained a Category 4 hurricane, it would have been the strongest storm to hit that part of Florida in over a century. Now, it has since weakened from a Category 4 to a Category 3 storm, but that still brings with it sustained winds of 120 mph with gusts up to 130 mph.
Hurricane Matthew comes to Florida now after days of slowly pummeling Haiti and Cuba, both of which are still reeling from its aftereffects. While the damage in Cuba was mainly to the buildings and infrastructure, Haiti has registered a death toll currently hovering around 300, with another approximately 350,000 in dire need of help. They are especially concerned with a possible spread of waterborne illnesses such as cholera. In response, the government, with the help of aid workers, is trying to get fresh water to people as quickly as they can.
Florida has been bracing for the storm for days now, with warnings coming from all sides. Governor Rick Scott minced no words, telling residents in no uncertain terms that the storm "is going to kill people." Even Waffle House closed its restaurants in the area expected to be most heavily affected, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency expressed is a sign of great danger.
Although the storm is now not quite as strong as it was when it ripped through the Caribbean, high storm surges and flooding are still expected, which could cause significant amounts of damage to property in the area. President Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, and National Guard troops are already preparing for search and rescue missions.
Fortunately, many people seem to have heeded the warnings. Hundreds of thousands of people left the most threatened coastal areas to motels and shelters throughout their states. Some residents decided to board up their houses and wait out the storm instead, which is a dangerous choice in such a huge, slow-moving hurricane. As of 3 a.m. ET on Friday, the eye of the storm was only miles off the coast of Florida, with gusts of wind reaching up to 150 mph. Georgia and South Carolina residents who have not yet evacuated are still highly encouraged to do so, as the storm could still strengthen over the warm waters east of Florida.