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Nearly 2m urged to evacuate as Hurricane Matthew edges toward US

06 October 2016, 12:21

Miami - Hurricane Matthew marched toward Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas on Wednesday, with nearly two million people along the coast urged to evacuate their homes, a mass exodus ahead of a major storm packing power the US hasn't seen in more than a decade.

Matthew was a dangerous and life-threatening Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 190kph as it passed through the Bahamas, and it was expected to be very near Florida's Atlantic coast by Thursday evening.

At least 16 deaths in the Caribbean have been blamed on the storm, with heavy damage reported in Haiti.

The storm was forecast to scrape much of the Florida coast and any slight deviation could mean landfall or it heading farther out to sea. Either way, it was going to be close enough to wreak havoc along the lower part of the East Coast, and many people weren't taking any chances.


In Melbourne Beach, near the Kennedy Space Center, Carlos and April Medina moved their paddle board and kayak inside the garage and took pictures off the walls of their home about 500 feet from the coast. They moved the pool furniture inside, turned off the water, disconnected all electrical appliances and emptied their refrigerator.

They then hopped in a truck filled with legal documents, jewellery and a decorative carved shell that had once belonged to April Medina's great-grandfather and headed west to Orlando, where they planned to ride out the storm with their daughter's family.

"The way we see it, if it maintains its current path, we get tropical storm-strength winds. If it makes a little shift to the left, it could be a Category 2 or 3 and I don't want to be anywhere near it," Carlos Medina said. "We are just being a little safe, a little bit more cautious."

Nearby in the town of Cape Canaveral, John Long said Hurricane Matthew is just hype as his neighbours in his RV park packed up and evacuated inland. Even though his RV is close to the Banana River and a half mile from the beach, he had no plans to leave.

Long, who owns a bike shop and has lived along the Space Coast for 30 years, said he has a generator and enough food and water for himself and his cats to last a week.

"There's always tremendous build-up and then it's no stronger than an afternoon thunderstorm," he said. "I'm not anticipating that much damage."

In Fort Lauderdale, to the south, six employees at a seven-bedroom Mediterranean-style mansion packed up for an evacuation fearing any storm surge could flood the property. The homeowners planned to move to another home they own in Palm Beach that's further from the water. Two Lamborghinis and a Ferrari had been placed inside the garage, but employee Mae White wasn't sure what they would do with a Rolls Royce, Mustang and other cars still parked in the driveway.

"This storm surge. It's scary," White said. "You're on the water, you've got to go."

The last Category 3 storm or higher to hit the United States was Wilma in October 2005. It made landfall with 190kph winds in southwest Florida, killing five people as it pushed through the Everglades and into the Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach area. It caused an estimated $21 billion in damage and left thousands of residents without power for more than a week. It concluded a two-year span when a record eight hurricanes hit the state.

- AP


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