‘This storm will kill you,’ Florida governor says to people told to evacuate
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As South Florida began to see squalls from the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew on Thursday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn't sugarcoat the danger that awaits coastal residents who don't evacuate.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - As South Florida began to see squalls from the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew on Thursday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn’t sugarcoat the danger that awaits coastal residents who don’t evacuate.
“This storm will kill you,” Scott said during a morning briefing at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. If “you’re in an evacuation area, get out. Don’t take a chance.”
“Do not surf. Do not go to the beach. This will kill you,” he added.
Scott said many residents seemed to heed the evacuation warnings because hotels on the west coast, such as in Collier County, were starting to fill up.
“Partners like Airbnb are making rooms available for free. Visit Florida and Expedia also have listings of open hotels,” Scott said. He also urged west coast residents - unlikely to be hit by the storm - to open their homes if they have rooms available.
About 1.5 million Floridians live in evacuation zones, and Scott repeatedly urged those remaining to leave immediately.
He said state officials are particularly concerned about Matthew’s impact on Palm Beach County, because “that’s the first big area that’ll be hit and conditions will arrive within hours.”
“The traffic is going to pick up,” he said. “It already picked up some yesterday. … If you wait, all you’re going to do is get stuck in traffic and there’s a greater chance you’ll have problems with fuel.”
He advised residents to take only as much fuel as they need at local gas stations and don’t fill up their tanks unless they have to.
State Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold said state officials would continue monitoring traffic to keep it moving but he said, “we’re confident that where we are right now that we’ll be able to manage” without shifting evacuation routes into one-way roads.
“At this point, we don’t have any issues,” Scott added. “We’re watching every road and every evacuation area. We’ve gotten rid of the tolls. There’s no reason not to get out.”
Tolls were suspended late Wednesday on Florida’s Turnpike, Alligator Alley on Interstate 75, and roadways overseen by the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority and the Central Florida Expressway Authority.
Scott said 58 shelters were open in Florida as of Wednesday night, and another 84 were set to open on Thursday.
“I know no one wants to sit in a shelter, but you need to go there now and get through this storm,” he said. “Save your life.”
As of early Thursday, more than 3,000 people had taken refuge in state emergency shelters across eight coastal counties - including 1,400 people in Broward County, nearly 800 in Palm Beach County, 400 in Brevard County and more than 200 in Miami-Dade. Shelters were also open in Duval, Glades, Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Scott said he had activated another 1,000 National Guard members - making for 2,500 members activated by Thursday morning, both soldiers and airmen, with search and rescue teams awaiting Hurricane Matthew in West Palm Beach and Orlando, said Air Force Maj. Caitlin Brown of the Florida National Guard. Other troops were at Camp Blanding near Starke, Fla.
Scott has authorized the mobilization of up to 6,000 Guard, if need be. The Guard has nearly 2,500 “high water vehicles,” eight helicopters, 17 boats and more than 700 generators that could be used in emergency operations, she added. The Guard also evacuated its “F-15 fleet out of the path of the storm.”
Scott said state emergency operations officials had pre-positioned personnel and equipment - including 150 truckloads of water - in three staging areas in north, central and South Florida.
The governor’s office said the state also has available at the State Logistics Response Center in Orlando another 63 truckloads of water and 52 pallets of food, including 10,900 meal kits with three meals each.
He urged residents to prepare for potentially long-term power outages. None had been reported, as of 10:40 Thursday morning.
“Millions will lose power, possibly for a long period of time,” Scott said.
After the morning briefing, Scott was headed to Stuart and then possibly elsewhere around Florida, his third day of traveling the state to warn residents and monitor preparations. He said he would be back in Tallahassee by Thursday evening, where he planned to wait out the storm.
Wednesday evening, Scott requested that President Barack Obama declare a “pre-landfall” emergency in 26 counties along the east coast.
“I hope the president does it this morning before the storm begins,” Scott said, reiterating it a second time for emphasis.