Hurricane Matthew Evacuation Preparations Begin In Southeastern United States

Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday, and now evacuation plans are underway in the southeastern United States in preparation for the storm making landfall there later this week. CBS News reported on Tuesday that a hurricane watch has been issued by the National Hurricane Center for South Florida, while coastal areas in the Carolinas are also starting to prepare to get hit by Matthew, a storm that is being called the strongest Atlantic hurricane in nearly a decade.

Upon its landfall in Haiti on Tuesday, Hurricane Matthew had sustained winds of 145 mph, making it a Category 4 hurricane. USA Today cites National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen in predicting that Florida could begin experiencing Matthew’s hurricane-force winds by the middle of the day on Thursday. However, Feltgen says it’s still too early to know how hard Florida or any other state will be hit by Matthew.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is not wasting any time in preparing his state for Matthew’s impact. Scott is dispatching emergency management officials throughout Florida’s Atlantic coast. The governor is pleading with residents of his state to take Hurricane Matthew seriously, saying the storm could produce heavy rain, wind, tornadoes, and beach erosion. Scott is also predicting extended power outages for the entire east coast of Florida once Matthew moves closer to the U.S. mainland.

Florida preparing for hurricane.
A hurricane hitting the coast of Florida in 2004. [Photo by Stephen Morton/Getty Images]

“If you are on Florida’s east coast, you should know today where you will go if you have to evacuate. If you are able to leave early and go now, before there is traffic, please go. No one should take any risks,” Scott said on Tuesday, as quoted by a CBS affiliate in Miami.

Hurricane Matthew evacuations could begin as early as Wednesday in Florida, depending on Matthew’s projected path after passing over Haiti. Feltgen expects the eye of Matthew to stay off the Florida coast, but he does believe parts of the state will receive hurricane-force winds. Meanwhile, Scott is aware that the storm’s path could change at any moment.

“We cannot rule out a direct hit,” Scott said on Tuesday. “Protecting life is our first priority.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, several of Florida’s coast-adjacent counties are already under either a tropical storm or hurricane warning in preparation for Matthew’s arrival, which appears to be inevitable.

In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley has already ordered the evacuation of residents in some of her state’s coastal areas. It’s possible that more than 1 million people in South Carolina will have to be evacuated as a result of Hurricane Matthew.

“This is not something that we want to play with,” Haley said. “The worst-case scenario is that you get stuck on the coast and have no place to go.”

Hurricane evacuation
Residents in North Carolina evacuating under threat of a tropical storm in 2014. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]

Starting around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, some highways and interstates in South Carolina began lane reversals to help expedite the evacuation, according to Haley is expecting South Carolina to get hit hard by Matthew this weekend and is urging residents to get out as soon as possible.

“I would love nothing more than to see this just suddenly take a right hand turn and head back out to sea, but as of right now, we’re looking at Friday night into Saturday being pretty brutal,” Haley said on Tuesday.

On Monday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in 66 of his state’s 100 counties in preparation for the storm.

Hurricane Matthew, as of Tuesday afternoon, is moving north at a speed of 10 mph. Parts of Cuba and the Bahamas are currently under a hurricane warning, as Matthew appears poised to hit those island nations within the next 24 hours.

Where Matthew goes after that is uncertain, but it’s a virtual guarantee that the southeastern United States will feel the effects of the storm to some extent. That is why several states are preparing to evacuate residents or have already started to evacuate residents. Beyond getting out before it’s too late, the people in those states can only wait and watch to see what path Hurricane Matthew ultimately takes and hope for the best.

[Featured Image by NOAA/Getty Images]