Southeast U.S. citizens are gathering supplies and fleeing from the approaching Hurricane Matthew while state politicians are saying to prepare for the worst.
The hurricane devastated homes and killed at least 11 people after striking Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. As one of the largest storms in a decade, it is forecast to strike Florida on Thursday night with winds reaching up to 130 mph.
The governors of Florida, Georgia, and both Carolinas have ordered evacuations in response. Florida governor Rick Scott said Wednesday morning that “people have less than 24 hours to prepare, evacuate and shelter. Having a plan in place could mean the difference between life and death.”
Scott warned that there will be massive power shortages and that up to 6,500 National Guard members could be deployed to help in relief efforts. Schools and most businesses will be closed in an area ranging from Miami all the way up to Dayton Beach.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley warned her citizens in similar terms as South Carolina prepares to evacuate more than 1 million South Carolinian residents from low-lying areas. Both governors urged residents to leave as soon as possible and warned them that if they stayed in the potential storm area, rescue workers may not be able to save them without putting themselves in danger.
President Obama also weighed in on the storm’s seriousness and reminded citizens to evacuate as soon as possible.
He echoed the governors’ words as he stated, “You cannot restore a life if it is lost and we want to make sure that we minimize any possible loss of life or risk to people in these areas.”
But while residents appear to be taking the warnings seriously and are preparing to evacuate, this has led to massive shortages in key supplies. Stores are empty of milk, bread, and batteries, while gas stations face long lines and are running out of fuel. In some instances, guides are having to keep watch over the gas lines to prevent disorder as citizens rush to procure fuel before the storm hits. The freeways leading to safety have also been hit with serious traffic jams as state governments rush to handle the strain of evacuees leaving.
Matthew is forecast to strike the eastern part of Florida and the coastal regions of Georgia and the Carolinas. While meteorologists have some uncertainty about what path the storm will take next, the weakened hurricane will likely head back into the mid-Atlantic before petering out. It could continue to reach into parts of Virginia, though the storm’s power will have significantly weakened by that point.
In fact, the eye of the hurricane will likely never reach the United States and, instead, hover off of the Atlantic coast while heading north. However, this will not make the impacts of the wind and heavy rainfall any less devastating in affected areas.
In Haiti, Matthew devastated homes and destroyed power lines and water mains as many residents were caught flatfooted. Areas were cut off by floods and mudslides, and the United States is prepared to supply aid such as blankets and tools for water purification. Conditions were worsened by the fact that Haiti still has not recovered from a 2010 earthquake which saw at least 100,000 casualties and numerous homes destroyed
In addition to the mainland United States, the storm also came close to the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay. Nonessential personnel and military families were evacuated, but the base withstood the storm without any serious concerns. President Obama has sent the carrier George Washington as well as other relief ships to assist in humanitarian efforts.
[Feature Image by Stephen B. Morton/AP Images]