South Florida Residents Grabbing Supplies, Planning For Moves to Shelters Ahead of Hurricane Matthew

Gov. Scott: "Everyone in the state should be prepared for a direct hit"

With Hurricane Matthew continuing its push toward South Florida, Gov. Rick Scott is urging those who have not evacuated to do so before it's too late.

Much of the area is expected to get winds of at least 60 miles an hour and higher, with Scott telling reporters that residents can expect power loss and storm surges up to nine feet at a Thursday morning press conference.

South Florida remained under hurricane and tropical storm warnings Thursday as residents prepared for the possibility of a direct hit from Matthew.

A hurricane warning was in place for Broward County, while a tropical storm warning was in effect in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. 

Matthew stood as a Category 3 hurricane Thursday morning with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. It was expected to remain a powerful storm at least through Thursday night, when it's expected to arrive near Florida.

Though South Florida may not take a direct hit, there remained a chance for hurricane- or tropical storm-force winds in coastal Broward and parts of coastal Miami-Dade, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez warned.

Schools were closed, flights were canceled and more major preparations were underway for what could be the worst storm in at least a decade.

Six U.S. Post Office locations were also closed across the three county area.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said residents can expect flooding from Matthew.

"On Miami Beach we anticipate having flooding because there'll be some tremendous potential water coming up, surges, beach erosion," Levine said. "The pumps we put in, the roads that we raised are still going to experience flooding because, as you can imagine, the pumps we put in are not for hurricanes, they are for sea level rise."

Coastal portions of Florida could see isolated rain amounts of 10 inches, and storm surge and large waves are expected to raise water levels.

Meanwhile, state and local officials urged South Florida residents to be prepared and take the storm seriously.

"Everyone in the state should be prepared for a direct hit," Gov. Rick Scott said during a press conference Wednesday morning, noting that "a small deviation on its track could lead to catastrophic damage."

As of Thursday, a voluntary evacuation of mobile homes was ordered in Miami-Dade. Gimenez declared a state of emergency in Miami-Dade County "that will allow us to be reimbursed more easily by our federal partners," the mayor said. For the Miami-Dade County hurricane guide, click here.

In Broward County, there was a voluntary evacuation for residents in low-lying areas and mobile homes. The low-lying areas include Las Olas Boulevard from Andrews Avenue east to the beach, the Finger Islands off Las Olas, the area near the canal system in Pompano Beach south of Atlantic Boulevard between S. Cypress Road and US-1, and the Twin Lakes neighborhood in Hollywood. For the Broward County hurricane guide, click here.

Broward officials announced that 10 shelters would open at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Miami-Dade officials opened a handful of shelters at 4 p.m. For a list of South Florida hurricane shelters, click here.

Officials advised residents to have enough food, water and medicine for at least three days, and to fill their cars with gas and have generators ready to go as well, in the event of a power outage.

Long lines were seen at many gas stations in Miami-Dade and Broward and some had signs posted on the pumps that they were out of fuel.

"I never thought a gas station would be this full in my life," said Jaida Hankerson, as she fueled up in Fort Lauderdale. "This storm has everyone riled up, people are afraid to lose their house, people afraid to lose their cars, they don't know if they have insurance."

Some South Florida stores were already low on water and flashlights as residents heeded warning to stock up on essentials, including propane gas, in anticipation of Matthew.

One man said he was at the store getting supplies for for his wife, who's eight months pregnant with twins.

"It's five weeks left, my wife is a little worried but I'm sure we'll deliver the babies in time," Alex Katushev said. "I don't think the hurricane will really hit here, that's why I'm confident. But it's quite stressful, if the hospital will be closed. But I'm positive anyway."

Local gas stations and hardware stores saw long lines as people rushed to fill their car tanks and buy plywood to cover their windows. 

"I'm getting more supplies, I'm looking for candles, I'm looking for bread. We already have water," said Dolores Traba, who was shopping at a Publix in Hollywood.

At a Home Depot on West Flagler in northwest Miami-Dade, the manager said they had already sold two semi-truckloads of plywood but still had more available. Other items in high demand were flashlights and batteries.

In Davie, at a propane gas center at Griffin Road and Nob Hill, there was a line to get propane tanks filled to fuel generators and grills.

Sandbags were also being handed out to residents in some coastal communities. For a list of hurricane supplies, click here.

Scott announced schools in Miami-Dade and Broward were closing on Thursday and Friday. Other local services and events were postponed or canceled for Matthew. For a full list of closures/cancellations, click here.

Dozens of flights were cancelled at both Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, many of them to and from Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. However, Gimenez said Miami International Airport will remain open until the Federal Aviation Administration determines that it is unsafe. Fort Lauderdale Airport was closing at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. For more info on travel cancellations, click here.

Gimenez said the Port Miami tunnel doors closed at 1 p.m. Wednesday for the first time in history. He said drawbridges will lock down at 8 p.m.

Scott directed the Department of Transportation to suspend all tolls in the affected areas of the state, including the entire Florida Turnpike, Alligator Alley, Central Florida Expressway Authority and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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