Hurricane Matthew is a strong tropical cyclone over the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007
Hurricane Matthew churned north along the coast of Florida on Friday, and state officials and forecasters shifted their focus to the danger of serious damage in Jacksonville later in the day. The hurricane stayed just far enough offshore to spare Central Florida a direct hit, and it weakened slightly overnight, but it was still a powerful Category 3 storm with winds of about 120 miles per hour.
On Thursday night the storm was blamed for the deaths of more than 280 people in Haiti, but on Friday Reuters reported that its own tally, based on information from civil protection and local officials, showed that at least 842 were confirmed dead.
Jacksonville is by far the largest population center in the hurricane’s path, with 868,000 people living in the city and almost 1.6 million in the metropolitan area. Parts of the city and several neighboring towns lie right on a coastline with no barrier islands, potentially exposed to the full force of the storm. (NYTIMES)
As the hurricane moved up the coast, South Carolina officials pleaded for residents to leave coastal areas and barrier islands, warning that the storm could bring heavy rains and deadly flooding.
“It is getting worse,” Gov. Nikki R. Haley said at a news conference on Friday morning. “We are looking at major storm surges, we are looking at major winds.”
As of 11 a.m., South Carolina’s entire coast was under a hurricane warning and a storm surge watch, said John Quagliariello, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He said the storm might make landfall in South Carolina on Saturday.
“Right now we’re looking at the potential for disasters and life-threatening storm surge inundation along the coast,” Mr. Quagliariello said. With as much as eight to 14 inches of rain in the forecast, he said, “we’re looking at the potential for deadly flooding on the Charleston peninsula.”
Ms. Haley said that 310,000 people had evacuated, out of a target population of 500,000 potential evacuees, and that officials were going door to door, urging residents to leave. She said she was especially concerned about the state’s barrier islands.
“Daniel Island — they’re not moving,” Ms. Haley said. “We need you to do this. The water that’s going to come in is going to be dangerous.”
Ms. Haley said that, as of Friday morning, nearly 3,000 residents were staying in the state’s 66 shelters.
“We need lots of prayers today, and we need to encourage our family, friends and neighbors to understand: It’s not worth risking your life to see if you can ride out a storm,” she said. — JESS BIDGOOD in Charleston, S.C.
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