With Hurricane Matthew tracking closer to the U.S. coast today, Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned “this storm will kill you,” making a final plea for residents living in evacuation zones to leave before the deadly storm is expected to hit the southeast state early Thursday morning.
Other officials have echoed Scott’s urgency as the hurricane batters the Bahamas and strengthens over the warm waters of the Atlantic.
“The extreme winds of a major hurricane can do a lot of damage and not just at the coast,” Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, told “Good Morning America” this morning.
“Those winds can penetrate inland and that would be more so the case the closer it gets to the coast,” Knabb warned. “In addition to the wind, you have storm surge potential.
“People who have been told to evacuate, they need to get out this morning, right away, because time is running out fast. You don’t want to be caught in the storm surge which is the deadliest hazard of all.”
Officials in three southeast U.S. states have urged about 2 million people to head to safer ground as the most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic Coast in more than a decade continued on its path northwest toward the United States at about 12 mph, packing 125 mph winds with higher gusts.
About 8 million Florida residents scrambled to make last-minute preparations as the storm was expected to strengthen from a Category 3 to a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds before approaching the state tonight. The track showed Hurricane Matthew possibly making landfall just north of West Palm Beach, Florida, sometime early Thursday around 2 a.m. ET.
“It is very rare to have a hurricane of this strength to come this close or make landfall in eastern part of central or northern Florida,” ABC meteorologist Max Golembo said.