The Atlantic coast is braced for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, a deadly storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph that is expected to make landfall Thursday.
The New York Times reports that the governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have declared emergencies, and more than 7,800 National Guard soldiers were activated or placed on alert.
On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned citizens that they had 24 hours to get ready for the hurricane’s arrival.
“We have to be prepared to be hit by a catastrophic hurricane,” Scott warned at a news briefing at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning.
He said the storm was packing enough strength to cause the kind of “massive destruction we haven’t seen in years” and pleaded with residents to start leaving now before traffic backs up.
“We have less than 24 hours left to prepare, evacuate and shelter,” Scott said. “Having a plan in place would be the difference of life and death.”
CNN reports that the National Hurricane Center isn’t saying that Matthew will make landfall in Florida, but the center of the storm will get very near the Atlantic coast. As of Wednesday afternoon, the storm was 70 miles south of the Bahamas and 400 miles from West Palm Beach, Fla.
A hurricane warning was in effect for nearly 260 miles along the Interstate 95 corridor, from the northern edge of Miami-Dade County to the Daytona Beach area.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley also issued a warning Wednesday, urging residents of Charleston to evacuate. Other areas of South Carolina will be evacuated Thursday morning.
“For those of you that are wondering whether you should leave or not, I again will tell you that if you do not leave, you are putting a law-enforcement officer or a National Guardsman’s life on the line when they have to go back and get you,” Haley said.
President Barack Obama asked all citizens on the East Coast to pay attention and to take evacuation orders seriously.
“We anticipate that not only is there still a chance that the core of the storm strikes Florida and some of the states further north, but even if you don’t get the full force of the hurricane, we are still going to be seeing tropical-force winds, the potential for a storm surge,” Obama said Wednesday morning at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “And all of that could have a devastating effect.”