Although hurricane Matthew was downgraded to a Category 4 storm early this morning, that by no means should give anyone solace. As the storm with winds now sustained at 120 miles per hour heads toward the warm and open waters near Florida, it could strengthen and become a Category 5 Hurricane easily, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Matthew was ruthless in Haiti, killing a known 15 people, bringing the total death count that is directly attributable to Matthew to 26, although that number is expected to increase as the dead are discovered.
“Much of the population is displaced and communication systems are down. We’ve received reports of destroyed houses and overflowing hospitals with shortages of buckets and fresh water. The hospital in Les Cayes has had its roof blown off by the force of winds.”
Although the winds and rain may be gone for Haiti, another crisis looms: the threat of standing water. Brackish water that has no place to go leads to the development of disease and could cause an outbreak of cholera, a situation that could kill far more people than the actual hurricane did. Jean Claude Fignole, Oxfam’s influence program director in Haiti, says this will be a major area of concern.
“Water is going to be a major issue. Our priority is to get clean water and hygiene items to families as fast as possible to avoid a spike in cases of cholera. In the weeks and months to come, hunger is likely to emerge as big concern. Some crops in the south of the country have been totally destroyed.”
Hurricane Matthew now churns toward the Bahamas at a speed of 12 miles per hour, and meteorologists have warned of severe flooding and waves that could reach 15 feet in height. Mandatory evacuations are underway in the Bahamas and now parts of Florida, which is a possible place of landfall in the United States, according to KCRA. Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie declared the storm “violently unpredictable” and told residents to prepare for massive destruction from flooding and winds.
“The storm has strengthened and, from what we have seen in Haiti and elsewhere, is bringing dangerously strong winds and extremely heavy rains.”
Matthew is expected to hit the United States on Thursday, with landfall possible on the southeast coast. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina could be affected by hurricane or tropical storm force winds, and states further inland could receive heavy rainfall as a result as the weekend nears. Hurricane and Tropical storm warnings have already been issued for many portions of the southeast coast, while meteorologists keep a careful watch on the track of the storm and whether it is increasing or decreasing in intensity.
USA Today says that evacuations have begun for parts of Florida and South Carolina, some of them mandatory. Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a pre-landfall emergency in the hours preceding the storm’s arrival, and has taken steps to have additional aid from the federal government available, such as national guard units and financial resources. Governor Scott says that Floridians need to heed the warning of the violent nature of this storm.
“Based on the most recent forecast I received from the National Hurricane Center, the eye of Hurricane Matthew is going to be much closer to Florida. There are hurricane watches and warnings along Florida’s entire east coast and we now have Tropical Storm warnings on Florida’s Gulf Coast. This storm is serious and protecting life remains our number one priority. There is absolutely no excuse not to evacuate. If you are able to leave early, go now, before evacuation-related traffic tie-ups get worse. We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.”
Historically, residents in many states have not heeded mandatory evacuations and the fallout has been severe in loss of life and in financial resources and manpower needed to rescue them.
[Featured Image by Ramon Espinosa/AP Images]