“Hurricane Matthew, the fiercest storm to hit South Florida in more than a decade, slogged its way across the Bahamas Thursday morning and began its steady and strengthening trek toward the state’s coastline.
The Category 3 hurricane was driving 30 mph south of Nassau, its winds 125 mph, at 8 a.m. On the forecast track, the eye of Matthew should pass near Andros Island and New Providence in the northwestern Bahamas during the next few hours, Grand Bahama Island late Thursday, and move close to the east coast of Florida overnight, the National Hurricane Center said.
The hurricane center predicts the storm will be a Category 4 by the time it reaches the state’s east coast. Wind gusts along Florida’s coastline were already whipping at 25-30 mph before dawn, with more powerful winds and possible tornadoes expected in Miami-Dade and Broward counties through the morning and into midday. “Depending on how close the approach gets, we’re talking about hurricane gusts possible of 75 mph this afternoon as it approaches off the coast of Palm Beach tonight,’’ said Larry Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami-Dade.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered along the coast of Brevard and Palm Beach counties, and voluntary evacuations in Broward County. In Miami-Dade, state officials recommended that people who live in mobile home parks also move to safer shelter.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said 58 shelters were open across the state Thursday, with another 84 scheduled to open. In Broward County on Thursday morning, 1,300 people were in shelters, with the two shelters designated for those with special needs already full, county officials said.
“We don’t know where this storm is going,’’ the governor said in urging evacuations. “Unfortunately, this is going to kill people.’’
Here are the latest developments:
▪ Matthew is expected to make landfall or near landfall Thursday night, somewhere between West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral.
▪ The hurricane is expected to intensify from a Category 3 to a Category 4, with winds increasing to 145 mph when it reaches the coast of Florida.
▪ Hurricane-force winds are expected in Palm Beach, which has ordered mandatory evacuations along the coastline.
▪ Shelters are open in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade, and they are filling up.
▪ Miami-Dade airport is open, but many flights are canceled. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport is closed after 10:30 a.m. The ports are also closed.
Hurricane force winds were expected in Palm Beach County, where a direct hit is possible, forecasters said. Inspectors have been watching Lake Okeechobee’s troubled dike and water managers are draining canals out to sea to try to lessen flooding threats from the hurricane. The swollen lake’s water level is already higher than the peak range officials try to maintain. The heavy rainfall associated with Matthew could risk the stability of the 30-foot-tall mound of rock, shell and sand surrounding the lake.”
Toritto’s daughter and her husband with 5 weeks to go till their baby boy is due are hunkered down in Ft. Lauderdale and will keep me posted for as long as they have phone and internet access. The storm shutters are up, flashlights and candles at the ready. The cars are filled with gas.
Think good thoughts.
As of 2 p.m., ET Thursday, Matthew had intensified to a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds ranging from 130 mph to 156 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The strong winds not only threaten to knock down trees, shatter windows and rip roofs from houses, but also churn up dangerous storm surges as high as 9 feet along much of the Florida coast.
The storm was centered about 125 miles east southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida, and moving northwest toward the state at 14 mph, according to the NHC.
Matthew is expected to hit the mainland at full force as early as midnight Thursday.
Disney attractions closed today for only the fourth time in history.