We’re wrapping up this live blog on Hurricane Matthew. Here’s what we know:
- Almost 900 people have been killed - mostly in Haiti, where the death toll is expected to keep rising as isolated areas are reached
- Wind gusts above 90mph and storm surges of up to 4.8ft have been reported in Georgia and South Carolina
- The eye of the storm is about 20 miles south-southeast of Hilton Head, South Carolina and is moving northward at 12 mph, with 105mph winds
- Matthew is expected to make landfall on the North Carolina coast on Saturday night
- Evacuations, power failures and flooding have affected four US states
- Click here for our latest live coverage
Weather forecaster Henry Rothenberg tweets:
While attention is now turned to the hurricane’s impact on the US, with at least four deaths in Florida, let’s not forget that almost 900 people have died in Haiti.
Officials say the death toll is expected to continue to rise as help reaches isolated towns in the island nation, which is still recovering from a devastating earthquake six years ago.
There are fears of a cholera outbreak in many areas because of the lack of clean water.
Storm surges reported in Georgia and South Carolina
The National Hurrucane Centre has just issued its latest update on the hurricane.
A private weather station on Tybee Island, Georgia, recently reported a wind gust of 93 mph (150 km/h), while another private weather station in Beaufort, South Carolina, recorded a wind gust of 83 mph (133 km/h). A wind gust of 85 mph (137 km/h) was recently measured at the airport on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Water levels remain high along much of the St. Johns River, with 3.0 feet of storm surge inundation reported at the Racy Point tide gauge. About 4.8 ft of storm surge inundation was reported at Ft. Pulaski, Georgia, near Savannah, and 3.5 ft of storm surge inundation has been reported at the Port of Charleston, South Carolina.
This is the latest update from the National Hurricane Center on the probable path of the storm over the coming days.
It is expected to near North Carolina’s southern coast by Saturday night.
Some dramatic video from CNN as the hurricane hit Daytona beach in Florida.
Hurricane-force winds are now moving onshore at Hilton Head and Pritchards Island, South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center reports.
Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has raised concern that relatively light damage so far could give people up the US coast a false sense of security. He told NBC:
People should not be looking at the damages they’re seeing and saying this storm is not that bad.
The real danger still is storm surge, particularly in northern Florida and southern Georgia. These are very vulnerable areas. They’ve never seen this kind of damage potential since the late 1800s.
In St. Augustine just south of Jacksonville, Florida, about half of the 14,000 residents refused to heed evacuation orders despite warnings of an 8-foot (2.4-meter) storm surge that could sink entire neighborhoods, Mayor Nancy Shaver said in a telephone interview from the area’s emergency operations center. Television images later showed water surging through streets in the historic downtown area of St. Augustine, the oldest U.S. city and a major tourist attraction. “There’s that whole inability to suspend disbelief that I think really affects people in a time like this,” Shaver said.
As it stands, Matthew has killed at least 877 in Haiti and left tens of thousands homeless in the Caribbean country. The hurricane smashed through Haiti’s western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mile-per-hour (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. At least three towns in the hills and coast of Haiti’s fertile western tip reported dozens of people killed, including the farming village of Chantal where the mayor said 86 people died, mostly when trees crushed houses. Food was scarce in Haiti and at least seven people died of cholera, likely because of flood water mixing with sewage. The Mesa Verde, a US Navy amphibious transport dock ship, was heading for Haiti to support relief efforts.
Matthew has also triggered mass evacuations along the US coast from Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina and North Carolina. It is forecast to move near or over the South Carolina coast Saturday morning, the National Hurricane Center reports, and it will near North Carolina’s southern coast by Saturday night.
The hurricane sideswiped Florida’s coast with winds of up to 120 mph (195 kph) but did not make landfall in the state. There were at least four storm-related deaths in Florida but no immediate reports of significant damage in cities and towns where the storm swamped streets, toppled trees and knocked out power to more than 1 million people. Two people were killed by falling trees, according to Florida officials, and an elderly couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator while sheltering from the storm inside a garage.
The hurricane raked the Georgia coast, including some of the state’s islands such as St. Simons and Tybee.
At 2 a.m. EDT, Matthew had sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph), and was centered 45 miles (70 kilometers) south of Hilton Head, South Carolina. It was moving north about 12 mph (19 kph).
Barack Obama urged people not to be complacent and to heed safety instructions.
“The potential for storm surge, loss of life and severe property damage exists,” the president told reporters after a briefing with emergency management officials.
The eyewall of the hurricane is currently right on the coast of South Carolina.
Summary as at 3am
It’s just gone 3am eastern time in the US and the worst of Hurricane Matthew is hitting Savannah, Georgia, and surrounding suburbs and towns.
This is how things stand:
- The death toll in Haiti has risen to 877, according to local officials. The Caribbean country is by far the worst hit by the hurricane, which has since dropped from a category 4 to category 2 system.
- Five people have died in the storm in the US.
- There is a possibility the hurricane could make landfall at Beaufort County, South Carolina, just north of Savannah.
- As of about 3am, the eye of the storm was 25 miles (40km) off the coast southeast of Savannah, travelling at 12mph (19km/h) north toward the coast.
- Winds of up to 80mph (128km/h) have been reported on the coast, along with widespread flooding from storm surges.
- More than 1 million people are without power.
- The next US National Hurricane Centre update will be at 5am.
Savannah and surrounding areas are expected to be experiencing the worst of the storm now. We don’t yet have any confirmation of landfall.
There’s a curfew in effect from midnight to 5am for most areas along the southeast coast, and we won’t be able to see the full extent of the damage in southern Georgia and northern Florida until daybreak.
There have also been a number of reports of crashes on the i95. A lot of trees down on the road.
The New York Times summarised the impact of the storm on Florida in this video.
Hurricane could make landfall, experts say
The US National Hurricane Centre has issued its 2am update, which shows the system tracking along the coast to reach North Carolina by 8pm Saturday.
It’s currently travelling north, toward the coast, at 12mph/19kmh. Maximum wind speeds of 105mph/160k/h.
The radar looks pretty scary. That wide yellow band at the bottom of system is the eyewall - if it crosses fully on to land, then Hurricane Matthew will have made landfall for the first time in the US.
There are reports coming through that the eyewall of the hurricane is just about to make, landfall at Hilton Head. That’s not quite the eye of the storm (although there are predictions the eye itself will hit) but it is the area that contains the worst winds.
That’s expected to be in the next half an hour to an hour, so between 2.30am and 3am eastern.
The Savannah River in downtown Savannah has breached its banks, and that flooding is expecting to worsen as the eyewall approaches.
The worst of the weather is expected to reach Hilton Head Island, on the coast just north of Savannah, very soon.
The eye of the hurricane is now about 35 miles/56km southeast of Savannah, and it’s still moving northward.
The Weather Channel’s hurricane expert, Michael Lowry, says the “eye wall,” the area of the worst wind, is about 10 miles, or 16km, off the coast. He has suggested it could make landfall, just north of Savannah, but official predictions are that it will remain offshore.
There is significant flooding already, from storm surges combined with high tide and more than 12 hours of continuous rainfall. That flooding is expected to worsen over the next few hours.
The Savannah fire service, which stopped responding to emergency calls about two hours ago, has moved its trucks inside.
According to sogging wet Weather Channel reporter/meteorologist Chris Warren, who has been heroically standing on Folly Beach near Charleston for several hours, the rain in the area now has a “pinging quality to it.”
I’m not sure what that means, except that he’s perhaps been made to stand in the path of a hurricane for too long.
Apparently it’s because the raindrops are not especially fat, but are being driven by strong winds to “ping” off your raincoat.
Folly Beach has been without power for some time, and has also begun to lose mobile phone signal.
This is a report from a buoy 40 nautical miles southeast of Savannah.
Here’s the satellite view, courtesy of NASA.
Meanwhile, in Florida.
Emergency services have issued a flash flood warning for lower-lying inland suburbs of Savannah, from now until 6.15am.
High tide is expected to hit in 60 to 90 minutes.
A new tornado warning has been issued for Georgetown and Williamsburg counties in South Carolina. Radar indicates a tornado system moving about 75km/h is expected to hit between midnight and 1am, local time.
Meanwhile, this is something of an achievement.
The National Weather Service is warning of a “life-threatening” storm surge along the Georgia and South Carolina coastlines.
The wind speeds are up to 160km/h (or 100mph) but the main threat to safety is that storm surge, which is expected to cause widespread flooding and significant damage. About 350,000 people have evacuated and more than 1m people in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are without power - although not, interestingly, in central Savannah.
In a small bit of good news, the tornado watch has been called off.
While we focus on Hurricane Matthew, Tropical Storm Nicole is still blowing in the Atlantic, about 880km north of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Nicole was downgraded from a Hurricane early on Friday. The maximum sustained winds speeds are 96km/h, according to the US National Hurricane Centre, Reuters reports.
This is what the storm surge looked like in Jacksonville, Florida.
And the wind.
And also apparently there are sharks.
Now, remember that the impact in Savannah is supposed to be worse.
Hurricane Matthew is about 70 miles south-south-east of Savannah, with the worst expected to hit in a few hours.
The Weather Channel’s Michael Lowry says it could be the most devastating impact so far in the US. The risk is that the storm surge will coincide with high tide and break the record storm surge seen in Hurricane King in 1947.
Lowry points out that could have been much worse: the eye of the hurricane is further off the coast than forecast (it hasn’t yet officially made landfall) and it is a weaker system than expected, downgraded to a category 2.
River Street in Savannah has been closed, and you can see why - it’s basically just part of the river now.
The Savannah fire department has suspended its emergency response to calls.
Haiti death toll rises to 877
Reuters has reported that the death toll in Haiti has risen to 877, according to local officials.
Hello, Calla Wahlquist here, taking over from Bonnie. The storm is now off the coast of Savannah and is expected to send a storm surge up the Savannah River, with tides of almost 3m, according to the weather channel.
The worst of the storm is expected to reach Charleston by Saturday morning, according to the 11pm advisory from the National Hurricane Centre.
It is a “storm surge machine,” according to the Weather Channel.
If you’re in the area, 1) stay safe, and 2) reach out to me @callapilla on twitter.
As the clouds start to dissipate in Florida, the extent of the damage wrought by Matthew is becoming clear.
As Savannah and Charleston brace for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, things in Florida are looking up.
The US is sending the USS Mesa Verde, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, to Haiti to help with the response to the storm, which killed more than 800 people there when it blew through earlier this week, according to Reuters.
The governor of Georgia has called in 1000 extra National Guards to help with the emergency response as fears grow that the city could be hit with a huge storm surge.
The National Weather Service in Charleston has issued a flash flooding alert for large parts of Savannah.
Hello, Bonnie Malkin here, taking over from Nicky as attention turns from Florida to Georgia, where Hurricane Matthew is approaching Savannah.
Footage from the coastal city, known around the world for its antebellum architecture and oak trees covered in Spanish moss, shows that the severe weather has well and truly arrived.
Here's where things stand at 9:40pm EST
- Florida’s mid- and north-east coast avoided the brunt of Hurricane Matthew’s fury, as the eye of the storm, and the fiercest winds, stayed largely offshore
- the storm was downgraded from a category three to a category two during the afternoon as wind speeds dipped below 115mph.
- Haiti was not so lucky, as the devastation Matthew caused there earlier this week - when Matthew was a category 4 storm - slowly becomes clear. The death toll there has soared above 800 as reports came in slowly during the day Friday
- Five deaths in Florida have so far been linked to the storm
- Matthew is now in Georgia state waters and is approaching Savannah, and is due to continue north along the coast towards South Carolina, where 350k people have been evacuated from coastal areas, later tonight
I’m now handing you over to my colleague Bonnie Malkin, who will bring you live updates throughout the night.
A Florida couple are planning to still have their wedding tomorrow at 5pm on Florida’s Cocoa Beach, despite Hurricane Matthew hitting the area hard all day today.
Jaime Gurnavage, who plans to go ahead with her marriage to Ryan Gordan, said:
We’re definitely going to have a beach wedding no matter what - I have been planning this wedding for the past year, down to every last detail, from a whimsical wedding on the shore of Cocoa Beach to the classic beach-chic reception with an amazing Caribbean dinner spread with a magical floating sky lantern send off into the night’s sky overlooking the ocean to finish off the evening.
Hurricane Matthew has now moved into Georgia state waters, and its coastal regions are beginning to feel its effects in earnest:
In the wake of the storm, parts of Florida experienced some pretty spectacular sunsets this evening:
US death toll rises to five
The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that a woman died from a heart attack after rescuers couldn’t get to her in St Lucie county, bringing the death toll to five - three in St Lucie county, including an elderly couple who died from carbon monoxide poisoning after running a generator in their home, and two killed by falling trees, one in Volusia county, another in Putnam County.
It’s looking like Florida may have escaped the fiercest winds of Hurricane Matthew, and the storm is just about leaving the state now - its center is off the coast of Georgia, heading slowly north towards Savannah.
There is serious concern that the surge of water being pushed by the storm - as much as 10 feet - is going to hit parts of South Carolina at high tide. That’s a big problem.
The Weather Channel’s Adam Dean explains why in a bit more detail:
Hurricane Matthew, weakened but still a formidable storm, continued to pound the northern Florida coastline on Friday afternoon, renewing fears of life-threatening flooding in Jacksonville and other low-lying, heavily populated cities further north, including Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, reports Richard Luscombe from Miami.
After the category 3 storm’s punishing slow crawl up Florida’s eastern coast earlier in the day, which left more than a million residents without power, focus turned away from the strength of its wide wind field and towards the threat posed by the substantial storm surge.
The National Hurricane Center downgraded Matthew to a category 2 storm in its 5pm advisory but said that the surge, forecast to reach up to nine feet in vulnerable areas such as the St John’s river that runs through central Jacksonville, could lead to “life-threatening inundation” during the next 36 hours as far as Cape Fear, North Carolina.
NHC senior hurricane specialist Lixion Avila said that Matthew, which killed hundreds in Haiti during its earlier march through the Caribbean, still had more misery to spread. “We have been very fortunate that Matthew’s strongest winds have remained a short distance offshore of the Florida coast thus far, but this should not be a reason to let down our guard,” he said in the advisory.
“The water hazards remain, even if the core of Matthew remains offshore.”
Hurricane Matthew is now centered off the North Florida / South Georgia coast, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center. It is moving north at 12mph, with sustained windspeeds of 110mph.
This incredible video shows the extent of flooding in St Augustine, Florida, which bore the brunt of the storm earlier today:
And meanwhile, the wind is picking up in Charleston, South Carolina:
“Hurricane Matthew has further exacerbated the already severe epidemic of cholera in Haiti, as millions of people go without safe drinking water,” said Michael Posner, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and co-director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, in an email to the Guardian.
Cholera did not exist in Haiti until a UN peacekeeping force contaminated public waters after yet another natural disaster, an earthquake, killed 200,000 people in 2010. Since then, almost 800,000 people have been infected with the disease, and close to 30,000 have died.
It’s time that the UN and its member states align their development and human rights agendas and come up with a viable plan to prevent further infection so the death toll from cholera ceases to escalate.
Canada is pledging $300,000 in aid to Haiti for disaster relief after Hurricane Matthew killed upwards of 800 people and flattened entire communities, reports the Canadian Global News.
In a press release, the Canadian government said:
On October 6, 2016, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched an emergency relief operation to support the Haitian Red Cross Society in providing immediate assistance to approximately 50,000 people for twelve months. The operation will focus on meeting the health, water and sanitation, and shelter needs to those affected by the floods in the departments of Sud, Grand Anse, Nippes, Sud-est, Ouest and Nord-ouest.
Canada is supporting this emergency relief operation through the Canadian Red Cross Society.
Matthew Kelsch, a meteorologist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, just sent the Guardian this analysis over email:
The storm center (and its narrow radius of extreme winds) is completely offshore. It is moving north as the nearby coastline bends to the northwest, so the storm is getting farther from the coast. The geometry changes over the next 24h (beginning Friday evening) because the coastline of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina bends back to the northeast.
Although the storm may also start bending more to the northeast, that probably won’t happen until the storm center draws nearer to the coastline. The storm may actually make a brief landfall in South Carolina on Friday as a category 1 or 2 hurricane. The storm did not make landfall in Florida which was a great relief because that kept the strongest winds just offshore.
Although the most intense winds stayed offshore, bands of moderately strong winds and intense rains are hundreds of miles across and have produced heavy rain and large storm surges along the coast. That will continue into Georgia and the Carolinas tonight and tomorrow.
So Georgia, South Carolina, and maybe southeastern North Carolina are likely to see some coastal flooding. River flooding triggered by intense rainfall may occur inland a couple hundred miles. There may even be a brief tornado in some of the rain bands.
The Associated Press has released this extraordinary video, taken from the cockpit of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration flying through the eyewall and into the eye of Hurricane Matthew.
As the storm moves north up the Atlantic seaboard away from Florida towards Georgia and South Carolina, parts of Florida are now beginning the process of assessing the damage caused.
Governor Rick Scott just tweeted:
Late on Thursday and early Friday, Matthew continued to lash Volusia and Brevard counties in Florida, including the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, with torrential rain and sustained winds as the storm’s outer eyewall nudged parallel to the coast.
Nasa reported limited roof damage from 107mph gusts, but no effect to its launchpads, which are constructed to withstand 125mph winds.
Downed power lines and fallen trees appeared to be the worst of the damage in Martin and St Lucie counties to the south.
Bill Snyder, the Martin County sheriff, said he believed his county had “dodged a bullet”, the Guardian’s Richard Luscombe writes.
The American Red Cross has mobilized more than 1800 people to help with Hurricane Matthew response:
They say there is an “urgent need” for blood and platelet donations:
In parts of the country unaffected by the storm, the Red Cross strongly urges eligible individuals to please give blood or platelets now to help ensure we have a readily available blood supply for patients in need.
Even before the threat of Hurricane Matthew, there was an urgent need for donors of all blood types, especially type O. Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
South Carolina governor Nikki Haley just gave a press conference.
She warned that storm surges were beginning to take effect, but said that 350,000 people had been successfully evacuated from coastal areas, and 2500 national guardsmen had been activated to deal with the storm’s effects.
“Most counties have curfews in place, so we are asking citizens to heed the warnings of your county,” Haley said. “Really the best thing to do is hunker down, stay in a safe place, don’t try to move around, make sure you have your cellphones charged, and be prepared for flooding if you are in a low-lying area.”
In several counties, Haley said, the storm would hit at around midnight to 1am EST, which could be problematic because that would coincide with high tide, increasing the potential impact of storm surge.
Waffle House - the Georgia-headquartered fast food chain which prides itself on keeping locations open even in dire conditions, has closed 25 restaurants in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, it announced in a tweet earlier today:
This actually has has some significance. Waffle House is so reliably open that the Federal Emergency Managemant Agency (FEMA) uses the “Waffle House Index” as an unofficial measure of calamity, Business Insider reports.
Here’s the gist of it: Waffle House restaurants notoriously stay open during natural disasters. So if the diner closes during an event, that suggests it was a really bad natural disaster with devastating effects on the economy. And on the flip side, if it stays open and serving a full menu, damage was relatively limited.
As a historical reference point: after 2011’s Hurricane Irene, 22 Waffle Houses lost power in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Only one wasn’t open by the Wednesday after the storm passed through — a particularly hard hit location in coastal Virginia.
“If you get [to a place where a disaster hit] and the Waffle House is closed? That’s really bad,” said FEMA administrator Craig Fugate back in 2011.
You can read the whole piece here.
US death toll rises to four
An elderly couple in St Lucie county who had been taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning after running a generator in their home have died.
That takes the death toll in the US from Hurricane Matthew to four.
St Lucie county tweeted the following advice:
The mayor of tiny Tybee Island, Georgia, was so worried about his constituents that he was calling them personally, pleading with them to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Matthew. But the beer kept flowing at Calvin Ratterree’s bar, where about a dozen holdouts gathered for lunch, reports the Associated Press.
“I’m worried, but we’ve got friends across the street with a third-floor condo,” said Ratteree, who owns Nickie’s 1971 bar about a block from Georgia’s largest public beach. “I’m committed. I’d rather be here with the people that support me and need me.”
The 3,000 people who live on Tybee Island, 18 miles east of Savannah, were ordered to evacuate Wednesday. Most left, some of them hitting the road at the last-minute Friday as Matthew churned toward Georgia from the coast of Florida.
But some insisted on riding out the storm, much to the frustration of Mayor Jason Buelterman. He personally called some of the holdouts, hoping to persuade them to move inland.
“This is what happens when you don’t have a hurricane for 100 years,” Buelterman said. “People get complacent. They just don’t know. Thankfully, it’s a very small minority.”
Among those Buelterman called was Steve Todd, who was having a drink with neighbors at Ratterree’s bar. Todd made sure his wife and child and their two dogs evacuated. He said he stayed behind to guard his home and belongings, fearing he otherwise might not be able to return for a week or more.
“We’re at a really safe building, probably one of the safest on Tybee,” Todd said.
Others weren’t taking chances.
Jeff Dickey hefted a diesel-powered generator into his pickup truck Friday morning outside his waterfront home. He had hoped Matthew would take a turn away from shore, as other storms have in the past.
“We kind of tried to wait to see if it will tilt more to the east,” Dickey said. “But it’s go time.”
National Hurricane Center downgrades Matthew to Cat 2
Hurricane Matthew has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center issued just now.
In a release, the center said that “we have been very fortunate that Matthew’s strongest winds have remained a short distance offshore of the Florida Coast thus far, but this should not be a reason to let down our guard,” adding that only a small deviation to the left of the forecast track could bring the winds onshore.
The western eyewall of the storm, which contains the strongest winds, is still expected to move “over or very near” the coast of north-eastern Florida and Georgia tonight.
Some pictures of the flooding on Florida’s Atlantic coast as Hurricane Matthew slams low-lying towns with heavy rain and heavy storm-surge:
The US Geological Survey (USGS) is working to try to work out what effect this storm could have on coastal erosion.
In a release, Hilary Stockdon, a research oceanographer with the USGS, said that “strong winds will create dangerous waves and surge over a large stretch of the coastline, leading to extensive beach and dune erosion.”
The report continues:
Results of the modeling indicate Hurricane Matthew could have a significant impact on the beaches and dunes of the Southeastern United States.
As of Thursday morning, the coastal change model estimates that Florida’s large eastern coastline has an 80-percent likely chance of beach erosion from Miami to the state border.
Georgia’s smaller coastline is estimated to have a 95-percent likely chance of beach erosion while South Carolina has an 85-percent likely chance of experiencing beach erosion across it’s coastline. Because the projections are based on storm-surge forecasts, they change each time the storm surge forecast is updated.
Beach erosion is only the first level of damage a major storm can cause, the USGS said.
As waves and surge reach higher than the top of the dune, overwash occurs, often transporting large amounts of sand across coastal environments, depositing sand inland and causing significant changes to the landscape.
A real-time USGS map of the coastal change hazards can be found here.
More than 1m people in Florida are now without power, the Associated Press is reporting.
State officials released updated totals on Friday that showed that the powerful Category 3 storm had knocked out electricity over a wide stretch of the state’s eastern coast.
Most of the customers in Flagler and Volusia County the home to Daytona Beach were without power. Other hard hit areas include Brevard and Indian River counties.
The storm was strong enough to also cause outages in Central Florida. More than 100,000 who live in the Orlando area are without electricity.
In Jacksonville Beach, currently close to the storm’s eye-wall, parts of the pier appear to have been ripped apart by the stormy seas:
Some more granular detail on what to expect over the next day or so from the National Hurricane Center.
Matthew is expected to change little in intensity during the next 6 to 12 hours, but it should begin to weaken at a faster pace in 24 hours.
Matthew is reaching the northwestern edge of the subtropical ridge and encounter the mid-latitude westerlies. This flow pattern should steer the hurricane northward and then northeastward during the next 36 hours. After that time, the flow pattern is forecast to change again and a weakening Matthew should then turn southward and southwestward.
We have been very fortunate that Matthew’s category 3 winds have remained a short distance offshore of the Florida Coast thus far, but this should not be a reason to let down our guard. Only a small deviation to the left of the forecast track could bring these winds onshore.
The key takeaways:
- The western eyewall of Matthew, which contains hurricane-force winds, is expected to move over or very near the coast of northeastern Florida and Georgia today.
- Hurricane winds increase very rapidly with height, and occupants of high-rise buildings in the Jacksonville area are at particular risk of strong winds. Winds at the top of a 30-story building will average one category higher than the winds near the surface.
- The water hazards remain, even if the core of Matthew remains offshore. These include the danger of life-threatening inundation from storm surge, as well as inland flooding from heavy rains from Florida to North Carolina.
Second US death as a result of Hurricane Matthew
A woman in Volusia County, Florida, was killed by a falling tree after going out to feed her animals, officials said.
So far, Hurricane Matthew has spared Florida its worst winds, with the eye-wall only glancingly striking parts of the coast, Dr Steven Godby, an expert on natural hazards at Nottingham Trent University, told the Guardian.
Matthew is grazing the coast of Florida without quite making landfall as the forecast models have been predicting and, if this remains the case, then the Florida coast will be spared the most powerful winds which are wrapped around the storm’s inner core.
On the downside this means that the north Florida and Georgia coastlines can expect several hours of high winds, enough to cause structural damage and affect power supplies.
A direct hit on the coast would have brought far more damage but this scenario means a wider area will be affected.
However, Godby said that a wobble to the west by 20-30 miles would bring the most powerful winds around the eye of Matthew ashore.
According to the latest National Hurricane Center position update, issued at 3PM EST, the center of Hurricane Matthew is about 25 miles off the east coast of Florida between St Augustine and Jacksonville, and is currently moving north/northwest at 12 miles an hour.
Its maximum sustained wind speed is 115 miles per hour, the NHC said.
It’s not just people who need to hunker down for a storm like Hurricane Matthew: zoos and wildlife parks face unique challenges in keeping their animals safe from the storm - and from each other - in confined spaces while they wait for the storm to pass.
St Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in St Augustine, Florida, has moved all its birds and mammals to the concrete safety of the Komodo Dragon building, and the park has been giving regular updates via its Facebook page:
Nicky Woolf here, taking over from my colleague Jessica Glenza.
Hurricane Matthew’s trail of destruction in Haiti has stunned those viewing the aftermath, with the number of dead soaring as high as 842.
Tens of thousands have been made homeless, and crops have been destroyed.
With fatalities mounting, various government agencies and committees differed on total deaths. A Reuters count of deaths reported by civil protection and local officials put the toll at 842.
“It happened so quickly and suddenly,” the 10-year-old told aid workers. “I heard my neighbour screaming: ‘Water! Water everywhere!’ It had completely surrounded us.”
Rosemika and her brothers and sisters ran, terrified, to the sanctuary of the hills. Like some of her friends in Haiti’s Ouest department, they lost their home to the fury of the wind and the rain.
The water “was like a monster, hitting everything violently,” she said.
According to a release from the charity Unicef, As many as 500,000 children live in the Grande Anse and Grand South areas of southern Haiti which were worst hit by the storm. According to the release:
Three days after the storm, it remains unclear how many of them need urgent assistance as damage to road infrastructure continues to hamper assessment and relief efforts.
“We’re still far from having a full picture of the extent of the damage,” said Marc Vincent, Unicef Representative in Haiti. “We are hoping for the best, but bracing for the worst.”
Up to 80 per cent of homes in the south are reportedly damaged and nearly 16,000 people are staying in temporary shelters. Some 175 schools are believed to have sustained heavy damage and at least 150 schools throughout the country are being used to shelter evacuees.
Dr. Rick Knabb of the National Hurricane Center and storm surge team lead Jamie Rhome just gave an update on Hurricane Matthew’s impacts along the east coast, reiterating their warning to leave evacuation zones if possible.
“Unfortunately, the track just offshore in Florida gave people the impression that, ‘Ooo, we’ve dodged a bullet here,’” said Jamie Rhome. That was not the case, he said. “Clearly, you’re seeing the flooding and Jacksonville and Georgia.”
Knabb said he had also seen people assume storm surge risk was not as great if low tide occurred when the storm hit. In fact, the National Hurricane Center calculates tides with its storm surge predictions, so ranges of 6-9 ft, which is the current prediction for Flagler Beach, Florida, already consider low and high tides.
“The threat is real – again if you’ve been told by your emergency manager to evacuate – do so,” said Knabb.
We’re now listening to an update from Dr. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Florida. Watch with us via the Periscope link below.
Even though millions of residents along the east coast received orders to evacuate, not all heeded those warnings. Among them is Arthur Cohen, 63, a Jacksonville Beach resident riding out the storm. Cohen described the decision of whether to follow evacuation orders as an emotional one.
“I was feeling good initially, a little anxious yesterday,” said Cohen. “But then, when I saw the further forecast and spoke to people about the building, I felt good again, and I feel very good now. I am very safe.”
Cohen also sent The Guardian a video from his home where waves can be seen crashing over nearby dunes and water filling city streets.
“Well, I’m in a high rise condominium that’s newly built and I’m in the southwest corner 10 stories high, and I’m not concerned about the storm surge affecting us,” he said.
“We’re seeing small waves now in the street where it’s coming over the dunes and into the street and flooding 1st Avenue here.”
We just received an update from the National Hurricane Center on Hurricane Matthew’s projected path.
Right now, the hurricane is expected to hug the coast, moving northwest along the Florida-Georgia coastline as it weakens over the next two days. The hurricane may make landfall in the next few hours.
Matthew is still a category three hurricane, with sustained winds at 115 mph.
Near St. Augustine, the storm surge has reached 3.11 ft above the normal high water mark for the area, and wind gusts have reached 84 mph.
Nearby Flagler Beach may see storm surge of up to 9ft, according to this latest forecast, and beaches as far as North Carolina could see up to 4 ft storm surge.
“There is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36 hours along the Florida northeast coast, the Georgia coast, the South Carolina coast, and the North Carolina coast from Cocoa Beach, Florida, to Cape Fear, North Carolina,” wrote forecaster Lixion Avila.
Further south in Titusville, west of Cape Canaveral and south of Daytona, residents are surveying the damage left by Matthew, even without a “direct hit”.
Jacksonville-based television reporter Russell Colburn tweeted this stunning video from St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the America, where he reports 20 people are trapped in a bed and breakfast.
St. Augustine’s mayor, Nancy Shaver, was just on CNN, where she said officials “believe about 50% of the people who should have evacuated did not.”
“It’s been quite a serious problem with this storm,” she said.
“We have obviously lost power, we turned off the water as a precautionary measure at 8pm last night,” she said. “It’s important for people to take it seriously, people who do not put our first responders at risk.”
Downed power lines and fallen trees appeared to be the worst of the damage in Martin and St Lucie counties to the south. Bill Snyder, the Martin County sheriff, said he believed his county had “dodged a bullet”.
“This could have been much worse,” he said. “It’s going to be a busy day but we are in good shape and God has truly blessed our area.”
Scott, however, said he was alarmed by the storm moving closer to Jacksonville, where the National Weather Service had warned of a “worst-case” flooding scenario. “I’m really concerned about Jacksonville, I’m really concerned about Nassau [county],” he said. “Jacksonville has a lot of low-lying areas and there is concern of significant flooding there.”
With Matthew forecasted to arrive off the coast of Georgia late Friday or early Saturday, Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for the state, freeing federal resources for rescue and recovery efforts. The president signed a similar declaration for 28 counties along Florida’s east coast on Thursday.
In South Carolina, officials were preparing for a storm surge of 6-10ft and were continuing evacuations from coastal communities ahead of the storm’s arrival. In its 8am advisory, the NHC said Matthew would have weakened to a minor hurricane strength by then, with its shrinking wind field posing a reduced threat.
Hurricane Matthew is now moving north along the Florida coast away from Daytona Beach and toward Jacksonville. In Daytona, the National Weather Service reports that winds are easing, but still hurricane force.
The latest observation had sustained winds at 73 mph on Daytona Beach, with gusts up to 91 mph. Hurricane force, beginning at category 1, is 74 mph.
Here is a great illustration of what South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is so concerned about – the latest storm surge predictions now include nearly all of North Carolina’s coast.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released a statement on Hurricane Matthew, including an official plea for people to evacuate, and a message to campaign volunteers.
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of Hurricane Matthew, and my heart is broken for the victims and their families in Haiti, Cuba, the Caribbean, and Florida.
This is a serious storm, and it has already caused serious damage. If you get an evacuation order, please follow it immediately...
To all our local campaign staff, volunteers, and supporters: Please take care of yourselves and your neighbors – nothing is more important than that. To our extraordinary first responders and everyone working to prepare for and respond to the storm: We’re so grateful for your courage and sacrifice, especially in times like these.
And to the people of Florida and the Southeast, and everyone in the eye of the storm: Stay safe, and know that America is with you. In times of disaster, we pull together. We’ll have your back every step of the way – today, and in the weeks and months to come.”
South Carolina Governor: situation is 'getting worse'
As Hurricane Matthew moves northward, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley updated predictions for the storm’s impact on her state.
“We hoped it would relieve a little bit of the situation,” Haley said about the storm, adding, “We think it is getting worse.”
Haley specifically called out barrier islands along South Carolina’s coast, including Daniel and Daufuskie islands. Haley said 100 people chose to stay on Daufuskie island, which she warned could be severely flooded by storm surge.
“We are looking at major storm surges, we are looking at winds, we are looking at wet grounds,” said Haley. “There is nothing safe about what’s getting ready to happen.”
“This is the last time you will hear my voice, when I’m asking you to evacuate.”
As of Haley’s update, 310,000 South Carolinians had evacuated further inland, up from 280,000 Thursday. There are 2,000 state guardsmen on duty, and another 3,000 on standby.
Anyone trying to fly in or out of Florida and Georgia today is likely to have a difficult time.
Airports up and down the coast canceled flights in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew, including nearly all of today’s flights out of Orlando International Airport, and the vast majority out of Sanford, Jacksonville, Gainesville and Savannah, Georgia.
President Obama just gave us an update on how the White House is monitoring Hurricane Matthew. He made specific mention of Jacksonville, Florida and the Georgia coast as areas of concern.
What we’re seeing now is Matthew, having moved above south Florida and some of the largest population centers, working its way north,” said Obama.
“The big concern people are having now is the effects it could have in areas like Jacksonville on through Georgia.”
Obama sat next to Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency better known as FEMA, during the update. The agency has made emergency preparations along the Florida coast, which will move north with the storm, Obama said.
I just want to emphasize to everybody – this is still a really dangerous hurricane. The potential for storm surge, flooding, loss of life and severe property damage continues to exist, and people need to follow the instructions of their local officials over the course of the next 24, 48, 72 hours,” Obama said.
Officials are increasingly turning their attention to Jacksonville, Florida, on the northeast coast.
This interactive map by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows why – the city and areas just north are predicted to be some of the areas worst hit by Hurricane Matthew’s storm surge.
As has been repeated in this blog, and by officials at the National Hurricane Center, storm surge is the most dangerous part of a hurricane.
Storm surges are caused by high winds that push water onshore, and inland through waterways. Because of the flood potential of waterways, storm surge damage can extend miles inland.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains more in this video.
Some incredible videos show just how powerful Hurricane Matthew’s storm surge can be.
For a sense of scale, take a look at the lamp post in the right, the base of which is completely underwater.
Florida Governor Rick Scott mentioned another important piece of information about Lake Okeechobee in his update: that the US Army Corps of Engineers are assessing potential damage.
The lake was already the subject of a local emergency earlier this year, when the Army Corps released water from the lake to avoid damaging notoriously old levees.
“I’m worried about the dike,” said Guadalupe Duran told USA Today on Thursday. Her home is a mile away from the lake. “It could flood everything.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott just updated the nation on Hurricane Matthew’s impacts so far. Here are the highlights:
- 600,000 people in the state are without power
- 22,000 people are in shelters
- 145 shelters are open in the state
- All interstates in Florida remain open, without tolls
- Damage assessments are just beginning
- The federal government is providing significant help to the state, including food, water, tarps, generators, search and rescue teams, hazmat assessment teams, cots and blankets.
“We’re only halfway through, we’re going to have more outages,” said Scott. “Power saves lives. We want everybody to get their power back as soon as possible.”
We just received an update from the National Hurricane Center.
Hurricane Matthew now has sustained winds at 121 mph with gusts up to 150mph.
It is important to remember that while hurricanes are categorized based on wind speeds, storm surges are the biggest threat to human life during a hurricane.
We are waiting for Dr. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, to update us on Hurricane Matthew’s projected path.
Meanwhile, more than 470 people are now believed dead in Haiti.
The number of people killed in Haiti by the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew rose to at least 478 on Friday as rescue workers and aid agencies battled to reach remote areas of the country, assess the damage and deliver relief.
The hurricane, which hit Haiti on Tuesday, brought 145mph winds and torrential rains that destroyed more than 3,200 homes, displaced 15,000 people, ruined plantations and drowned animals. The toll leapt on Thursday night as receding waters revealed more bodies.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimates that more than one million Haitians have been affected, with hundreds of thousands of people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. It has launched an appeal for £5.8m to help provide medical relief, shelter, water and sanitation over the next year.”
Newspaper reports first storm-associated death in US
The Vero Beach Press Journal has reported the first death in the United States associated with Hurricane Matthew.
According to the newspaper, a 58-year-old woman Florida died of a heart attack after St. Lucie County suspended emergency services.
The Guardian is working to confirm this death.
In Haiti, 330 people are believed dead as a result of the storm.
We expect an update from the director of the National Hurricane Center within 20 minutes, via Periscope.
This morning, Dr. Rick Knabb again warned Florida residents in Matthew’s path to leave if they still can.
“Part of the history of the hurricane might be how many people die,” Knabb told CNN.
In Hurricane Matthew’s wake is Martin County, Florida, immediately south of Port St. Lucie along the state’s Treasure Coast.
Officials there are just beginning to assess the damage wrought by Matthew. Again, this flooding and wind damage happened without the eye of the storm ever making landfall.
This video is a good reminder of why local officials want people who stayed through the hurricane to remain indoors, even after winds calm down.
Downed power lines could electrify standing water, a major danger for anyone who chose not to heed warnings to evacuate.
“The fact of the matter is we already have a couple thousand people that stayed, and those people need to stay where they are,” Cocoa Beach mayor Tim Tumulty told CNN.
Florida governor: still 'a long way to go'
Florida Governor Rick Scott updated the nation on Hurricane Matthew’s path along Florida’s coast, Friday morning on CBS This Morning.
Scott said as of 7:15am ET the hurricane remained, “a little bit off our coast which is a blessing.”
“We’re going to see up to 12 ft in the Jacksonville area,” Scott said, referring to storm surge in the northern, coastal city. “We still have a long way to go. We have this all day today.”
Scott said about 40,000 Floridians were without power as Matthew cruised up the coast toward Daytona Beach, the well-known tourist destination.
Mathew is expected to ride the Florida-Georgia coast heading northward through Friday, arriving at the southern coast of South Carolina at 2am Saturday, according to the latest predictions from the National Hurricane Center.
Tampa expects to avoid the worst of the storm as Hurricane Matthew shifts eastward, the National Weather Service reports.
Here's the state of play at 7am EDT
As the east coast wakes up, Hurricane Matthew is moving north along the Florida coast, battering Cape Canaveral with wind speeds of up to 107mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Brevard County and Volusia County are also heavily affected, and Daytona Beach is seeing increasingly fierce conditions.
Curfews are in place in several coastal districts, including Seminola County, and local news channels are broadcasting footage of near-deserted interstate roads.
Conditions are expected to worsen as the day wears on. Meteorologists are also predicting significant tidal storm surges on the coasts. Inland areas including Orlando are starting to feel the hurricane’s effects, with heavy rain and tropical storm conditions.
Georgia and South Carolina are bracing for the storm to move northwards. South Florida appears likely to escape the worst of Hurricane Matthew, with several areas seeing their storm warnings downgraded.
I’m handing over to colleagues in the US now. If you’re experiencing the storm, please do share your experiences with us if it’s safe to do so – and take care.
The pleas for people to evacuate continue. Here’s the director of the National Hurricane Center:
But last night there were reports that some were resisting the orders. Florida Today reports on some of the holdouts, including a group of nine adults, five children and various pets who have transformed an event room in the centre of Melbourne into a makeshift storm shelter:
“We have a ton of supplies: lots of food, lots of water, ice,” said Tracy Melhado, co-owner. “All kinds of activities for the kids. So we are well-equipped to be here for a little while if we have to — hopefully not.”
Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reports on people refusing to leave their homes in Brevard and Cape Canaveral, which are currently bearing the brunt of the storm.
“This one does scare me,” says Kevin Draddy, who planned to ride out the storm in his trailer home. “You gotta have faith. I know it’s a monster.”
Cape Canaveral is currently bearing the brunt of Hurricane Matthew:
More than 1 million people have been ordered to leave their homes in Florida, and many have been hunkering down in shelters set up in school gyms and other public buildings. The Orlando Sentinel has been touring some of these shelters as the storm kicks in.
“The second and the third days are worse,” said David Vernaza, shelter co-manager for American Red Cross disaster services. “It’s no longer an adventure. They get antsy.”
And it’s not only people seeking refuge:
Hurricane Matthew’s outer eyewall – the area where the storm is strongest – is “brushing” Cape Canaveral, the National Hurricane Center reports in its latest bulletin. A 100mph gust has been recorded there. And as daylight arrives the storm is expected to pick up force.
Almost all flights in and out of Orlando today are cancelled and other Florida airports are facing severe disruption and cancellations, according to tracking site Flightaware.
NBC meteorologist Alicia Roman has just tweeted this map of Hurricane Matthew’s current position:
Winds are currently strongest in Brevard County, Volutia County and the Melbourne area, and local news channel WFTV Channel 9 reports 100,000 households are without power in Brevard County.
It appears Florida’s southern coast is likely to escape the worst of the damage: in the latest update from the National Hurricane Center, the hurricane warning covering Jupiter Inlet to Boca Raton has been downgraded to a tropical storm warning. South of Boca Raton, a tropical storm warning has been cancelled.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to reach its most violent in Florida in a few hours’ time, between 10am and 1pm EDT, local news reports – although the Weather Channel notes it will then move north.
Fasten your seatbelts for stomach-churning footage from the cockpit of an NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft tracking the eye of Hurricane Matthew’s storm yesterday:
Drone footage from Haiti shows the devastation Hurricane Matthew caused there. At least 300 people have been killed by the storm, which hit Haiti on Tuesday.
Video shown on Florida channel WFTV Channel 9 (on Facebook Live here) shows shop awnings and other debris being whipped around in the wind in Melbourne, and electricity transformers exploding in Rockledge.
Meanwhile 66,000 homes are without power in Brevard County. “If you still have power in Brevard County, most likely it’s going to go out,” a presenter says.
The Florida governor Rick Scott, who urged residents to evacuate their homes last night, says Hurricane Matthew is now very close to landfall.
At a press conference yesterday, Scott called the storm a “monster” and warned: “This is going to kill people.”
He refused a request from Hillary Clinton’s campaign team to extend a voter registration deadline due to the storm. “Everybody’s had a lot of time to register,” he said. “On top of that, we have lots of opportunities to vote, early voting and absentee voting, so I don’t intend to make any changes.”
The Weather Channel reports that severe storm surges are expected, and they could be deadly.
And here’s a sobering reminder from 5News meteorologist Garrett Lewis:
The National Hurricane Center’s 4am EDT update reports that Hurricane Matthew’s western eyewall – the section where winds are strongest, just outside the eye – is approaching Cape Canaveral, with sustained winds of 46mph and gusts of up to 70mph recorded in Melbourne, Florida.
Here’s a live feed of the scene at Cocoa Beach as the storm intensifies:
It’s also worth following the Florida news channel WFTV, which is livestreaming reporters braving the elements up and down the coast.
Good morning, this is Alice Ross taking on the liveblog from London, where we’ll be following Matthew’s progress as it nears the Florida coast.
The National Hurricane Center has graded Hurricane Matthew as a category 3 hurricane. According to the Saffir-Simpson grading system, this means the damage is now expected to be “devastating”. In a category 3 hurricane, winds of up to 129mph are expected, homes are likely to be damaged, and trees will be uprooted, blocking roads. Power and water outages are also likely and could last “several days to weeks after the storm passes”.
Pretty much the only comfort to be had is the fact that Matthew is no longer expected to be a category 4 hurricane – these are classed as causing “catastrophic” damage, with roofs ripped off houses and walls blown down in winds of up to 156mph, leaving residential areas cut off by fallen trees and power poles, and the area “uninhabitable for weeks or months”.
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Here's where things stand at 3am EDT
“Extremely dangerous” Hurricane Matthew is continuing to move in a north-west direction towards the east coast of Florida at about 15-20mph.
As at the National Hurricane Center’s 2am EDT update, Hurricane Matthew was a category 3 storm with winds of 120mph, and was 45 miles east of Vero Beach and about 80 miles south-east of Cape Canaveral.
Strong winds and heavy rain have already been reported along the Florida coastline, and conditions are expected to deteriorate further as the storm makes landfall later this morning. More than 200,000 people are without power.
Hurricane Matthew is forecast to pass near or over the east coast of the Florida peninsula through Friday night and near or over the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday.
It is expected to weaken over the next 48 hours but forecast to be a “powerful category 3 hurricane” as it nears the coast of Florida.
Authorities in the Bahamas are yet to assess the extent of the damage caused by Matthew as it passed through on Wednesday and Thursday, but many without generators are still without power.
The death toll in Haiti is widely being reported as more than 340 people and aid agencies are prioritising clean water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease in amid the widespread devastation.
With an update from the National Hurricane Center due shortly, I am handing over our coverage to my colleagues in London. Thank you for following, and if you are in the path of the storm, stay safe.
Fox news anchor Shepard Smith has been criticised on social media for his blunt warning to Florida residents – broadcast on Thursday, as the hurricane was battering the Bahamas – about venturing out into Hurricane Matthew.
Smith was attempting to communicate the unpredictability of the storm, but he came under fire for the “ominous” warning.
He also urged a friend to evacuate her home, live on air.
The latest Florida Power & Light update says 213,000 households are without power, up from 141,000 at about midnight. Nearly 80,000 of the total are in Palm Beach, and an additional 30,000 are in Martin.
The numbers are expected to rise over the weekend.
The Weather Network’s “storm hunter” Mark Robinson is posting updates of the conditions from Melbourne to Twitter.
Hurricane Matthew now Category 3 storm
The National Hurricane Center has published its 2am EDT update, in which Hurricane Matthew is graded as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph.
But gusts have increased, with one to 70 mph recorded within the last hour at Vero Beach and another to 60 mph at Melbourne.
The eye of “the extremely dangerous hurricane” is still moving closer to the east coast of Florida, heading in a north-west direction at 14 mph.
Currently, it is about 45 miles east of Vero Beach and about 80 miles south-east of Cape Canaveral.
“A turn towards the north-northwest is expected later today, and a turn toward the north is expected tonight or Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Matthew will be moving near or over the east coast of the Florida peninsula through tonight and near or over the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday. ...
“Although some additional weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, Matthew is expected to be a powerful Category 3 hurricane as it moves near the coast of Florida.”
A storm surge of between 7 to 11 feet is forecast for coastline from Sebastian Inlet, Florida, to Edisto Beach in South Carolina.
Six to 12 inches of rainfall is also expected with isolated totals near 15 inches along the coasts.
The most recent update on Hurricane Nicole was at 11pm EDT on Thursday. It was stationary with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph.
The Bahamas assess damage as islands remain without power
Hurricane Matthew lashed the Bahamas on Thursday, causing widespread flooding and damage to structures, trees and power lines.
No fatalities were reported, but the Associated Press reported that at least 30 people trapped in their homes by floodwaters on the island of New Providence were rescued by authorities.
The conditions in the capital, Nassau, remain too dangerous for authorities to assess the damage. New Providence has not seen a major hurricane since 1929.
Clint Watson, a journalist in Nassau, has told CNN that the storm caused widespread structural damage.
“You can tell from the fierce winds the destruction left behind. The island is in a blackout at this point ... Everyone is still hunkered down in their homes until the all-clear is given.”
Officials had shut down power to the entire island of New Providence as a precautionary measure as the storm approached. Those without generators were still without power, and could be for weeks.
Watson said a lot of electricity poles had been “snapped in half” by wind.
“It’s going to take a valiant effort from outside sources to come into the capital.”
The death toll in Haiti as a result of Hurricane Matthew is being widely reported as at least 339. This drone footage shows the extent of the damage.
One model has shown Hurricane Matthew leaving the coast of
Guardian Australia’s environment reporter, Michael Slezak, has spoken to Liz Ritchie-Tyo, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales, about Hurricane Matthew’s trajectory.
The smaller Hurricane Nicole, south of Bermuda, might be affecting its path, she said. “It’s very unusual to see see two cyclones in the Atlantic at once.”
The Pacific ocean had warmer sea temperatures and had large-scale circulations that tended to develop more cyclones.
“Tropical cyclones in the Atlantic normally develop out of easterly waves that come off Africa and propagate all the way across the Atlantic. They are the seeds for hurricanes in the Atlantic. And they have to make it all the way across the Atlantic – it’s unusual for two to happen at once.”
Ritchie-Tyo referenced an projection made a few days ago that, after moving away from the Florida coastline and clockwise towards the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew would circle back weaker – effectively doing a loop-de-loop.
It would be “very unusual for them to bend back around into the tropics”, she said, but the ridge of high pressure moving east across the US may be forcing Matthew south.
It seems now that it is likely that Matthew will circle back, as was speculated earlier in the week – but weather is unpredictable.
Photos and videos shared to Twitter are showing deteriorating conditions across Florida.
Reed Timmer, an extreme meteorologist with AccuWeather, told CNN live from Cocoa Beach that “the wind is definitely increasing” before his connection with the station was lost.
That location at Cape Canaveral is particularly vulnerable to the storm surge forecast to come with Hurricane Matthew because it is surrounded by water either side.
Close to 2,000 people are watching storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski’s Periscope stream, shot from inside his car at Cocoa Beach, which shows steady, heavy rain and increasing winds.
Conditions are expected to deteriorate quickly in the coming hours.
Brevard County Fire Rescue has said conditions are too dangerous to respond to emergencies and urged residents to stay inside.
Reporter James Dean tweeted footage of firefighters battling the elements while responding to a fire in the town of Indialantic in Brevard County.
The National Hurricane Center has published its 1am update, with Hurricane Matthew still a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds and gusts of 160 mph. It is moving north-west at 13 mph.
The eye of the storm is reportedly now “super wide” at 55 miles across. Shrinking indicates intensifying.
The National Hurricane Center’s website has been inaccessible for several hours – apparently due to a “technical issue”. It’s not known when it will be fixed.
It’s coming up to 1am Friday local time in Florida and conditions are deteriorating as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s update at midnight, Matthew is continuing to move away from the northwestern Bahamas. It was then about 60 miles east of Fort Pierce and 105 miles south-east of Cape Canaveral.
A wind gust of 55mph has been reported at Stuart, Florida, and one of 54mph at Vero Beach.
According to the latest update from Florida Power & Light, 141,000 people are without power and that could climb to more than 2.5m over the weekend.
The storm is currently still a Category 4, with winds of 130mph. Matthew may be downgraded to a Category 3 before it strikes the Florida coast later this morning.
These images of the Grand’Anse capital of Jeremie were tweeted by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti late on Thursday.
These images from Port-Salut, in the South Department of Haiti, show the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew.
Death toll in excess of 280 in Haiti
Hurricane Matthew has already ripped through Haiti, with the number of people killed rising rapidly into the hundreds on Thursday, Reuters reports.
The total differs between different government agencies and committees, but a Reuters tally of deaths reported by civil protection officials at a local level showed the storm killed at least 339 people.
Earlier on Thursday, a meeting of emergency workers including representatives from the government, the United Nations and international aid agencies said 283 had been killed.
“We have nothing left to survive on, all the crops have gone, all fruit trees are down, I don’t have a clue how this is going to be fixed,” said Marc Soniel Noel, the deputy mayor of Chantal.
Four people were killed over the weekend in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
Many victims were killed by falling trees, flying debris and swollen rivers when Matthew hit on Tuesday with winds of 145 miles per hour.
Most of the fatalities were in towns and fishing villages around the western end of Tiburon peninsula in Haiti’s southwest.
The storm passed directly through the peninsula, driving the sea inland and flattening homes on Monday and Tuesday.
The devastation in the Grand’Anse capital of Jeremie is evident in these pictures.
According to a report from Unicef on Thursday, telecommunication to Grand’Anse has been re-established, confirming that more than 11,000 people in that area have had their homes destroyed in the storm. That’s in addition to the more than 5,000 in the West.
The only road connecting the capital of Port-au-Prince to the South is inaccessible after a bridge collapse on Tuesday. A presidential election scheduled for Sunday has been postponed as a result of the devastation.
Affected areas are experiencing outbreaks of disease, including cholera, Zika and dengue fever, which could be worsened by conditions. Les Cayes, for example, is completely flooded, and many diseases are water-borne.
Access to clean water and sanitation is therefore at the top of the priority list.
With Florida Power & Light Company reporting close to 100,000 customers without power, Brevard County Emergency Management has reminded people that text messages are the most efficient form of communication in the case of an outage.
“Plain text (SMS) messages require the smallest amount of cellphine power and only need limited bandwidth to send. That means plain texts with no hpotos, no video, no video and no emoticons, sent to one person at a time.”
Journalist Gail Paschall-Brown shared this image of heavy rain in Daytona Beach as Hurricane Matthew bears down on the coastline.
The Weather Channel’s on-camera meteorologist Paul Goodloe is evacuating the Jacksonville Marriott. “Too dangerous to stay, so we are seeking safer ground while we can,” he tweeted.
The back and front doors have been sandbagged and the building is deserted, as he showed in a video he posted to Instagram.
“We’re the last ones here. If the Weather Channel is leaving Jacksonville Beach, I think everyone else should as well.”
Officials have been frustrated by some residents’ resistance to evacuation orders. The frustrated sheriff of Martin County, William Snyder, told NBC News on Thursday afternoon that the stakes were high.
“People do not seem to get it and are not leaving. I’m not saying this to be theatrical ... I asked my captain of detectives if he had body bags because if we get 140 mph winds in mobile home parks, we are going to have fatalities.”
Several counties, including Volusia, Seminole, Flagler and Orange counties, have issued mandatory curfews in an attempt to prevent fatalities. Residents won’t be prevented by law enforcement from evacuating; “however, anyone caught loitering could be charged with a misdemeanor”.
Nearly 100,000 households are without power in Florida, according to the 11pm update from Florida Power and Light, with more than 41,000 in Palm Beach County, 16,400 in Miama-Dade and 11,000 in Broward. That total is expected to climb.
Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, told CNN that said conditions will deteriorate as Hurricane Matthew nears the northern coast. Storm surge could reach 11ft high if it makes impact with the shoreline.
Rappaport said Hurricane Matthew had peaked in intensity in terms of windspeed “but not enough that it will drop below a Category 3” by the time it reaches the shore.
“Even if it were to get 5mph higher or 10-15mph lower, it’s not going to change the impact.”
The key question, said Rappaport, is whether the eye of the storm hits the coast or, “if we’re lucky, stays just offshore”.
Regardless, there remains the potential of “loss of life” as a result of the storm surge, strong winds, and possible flooding. With as many as 12in rain forecast, inland areas at particularly at risk.
CNN’s weather anchor Derek Van Dam has remarked on the “ominous, if not desire wording” that, even as the storm passes, “locations may be uninhabitable for weeks and months” as a result of widespread and extensive damage.
Currently Category 4, Hurricane Matthew is now on track to be a Category 3 storm – classified as winds of 111-129 mph – by the time it makes landfall in central Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest advisory.
The below projection shows wind speeds of 120mph by the time the storm reaches Jacksonville, at about 8pm on Friday local time. The weather system is forecast to begin heading out to sea around 24 hours later.
The downgraded category and slight shift to the east is a promising update, but make no mistake: a Category 3 storm can cause serious damage.
Hurricane Nicole upgraded to Category 2
The National Hurricane Center has advised that Hurricane Nicole – hot on the heels of Hurricane Matthew – has been upgraded to Category 2 in its latest advisory.
Nicole was upgraded from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane earlier on Thursday. This projection shows how the smaller storm might impact on Matthew’s path.
Nicole is currently located about 340 miles south of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, but would likely to begin weakening on Friday, the NHC said.
Thanks for following with our coverage of the devastating Hurricane Matthew, now bearing down on Jacksonville, Florida, where the local time is approaching 11pm. This image, tweeted by local media, shows the storm looming down on Charleston.
Described as the worst storm in over a century, Matthew is currently Category 4: the second-highest classification possible.
A Category 4 storm is one with winds of between 130-156 miles per hour, causing damage to most trees and buildings. The last – and only – Category 4 hurricane to reach northeast Florida or the Georgia coast was in 1898.
Category 5, of storms with winds of above 157mph, is the highest possible classification, causing “catastrophic damage”. There is a chance that Hurricane Matthew may reach that intensity.
Mark Elliot of the Weather Channel, who is covering Matthew from Brunswick, GA, tonight, has tweeted a video explainer of how storm categories differ.
But wind is just one aspect of damage caused by hurricanes. A storm surge of 6-10 feet is expected to occur along low-lying areas of the southeastern coastline from central Florida to South Carolina.
This graph of waves 20 miles east of Cape Canaveral, Florida, shows increasing waves offshore.
Here's where things stand at 11pm EDT
- 130mph winds and torrential rainfall are battering Florida’s coast as Hurricane Matthew nears landfall just north of Palm Beach
- Matthew is the strongest storm to threaten the US Atlantic coast in more than a decade, forecasters say
- A state of emergency has been declared in Florida and South Carolina
- Florida’s governor Rick Scott has warned that the storm “is going to kill people”
- The death toll of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti has risen to at least 280
I’m now handing you over to my colleague Elle Hunt, who will be keeping you updated throughout the night as the situation develops.
“Hurricane Matthew’s outer bands are giving us a lashing tonight in northern Broward County, close to the Palm Beach county line, with torrential rain crashing in waves and severe wind gusts giving the roof and the storm shutters a good rattling,” reports the Guardian’s Richard Luscombe in Coral Springs, Florida.
It’s still too dangerous to venture out after a day cooped up inside, but the good news for South Florida at least is that we’re no longer under a hurricane warning and the worst appears to have passed as the storm moves north and menaces other parts of the state.
In Miami-Dade county, the feeling was that the bottom third of Florida had dodged a bullet, after earlier fears the eye of the storm would “wobble” inland and make a direct hit. “Basically, the worst of the storm will be over by midnight,” mayor Carlos Gimenez announced at an evening briefing. “We do not anticipate major damage.”
Further north, however, it’s a different story, and it promises to be a long night. Florida’s governor Rick Scott is warning that Brevard and Volusia counties are set to experience the worst of the wind, and even Orlando, sixty miles inland, will not be immune to Matthew’s massive wind field.
Hotel rooms are scarce in Orlando tonight, thousands of evacuees from the barrier islands and coastal towns 60 miles east joining tourists who will be idle on Friday due to the closure of theme parks. Disney was closed due to weather for only the fourth time since its famed Magic Kingdom opened in 1971.
The Florida coast is being pounded by winds and rain as the eye of the storm approaches landfall near Palm Beach.
Fox5DC reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is on high alert as Hurricane Matthew pounds the Florida coast.
FEMA’s headquarters for the federal preparations is in Southwest D.C. Inside is a buzz of activity at the National Response Coordination Center where representatives from all federal government agencies gather to coordinate logistics and plan with state and local governments. They have been at work here and around the country for days.
“We have had boots on the ground and several personnel throughout Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina for several days co-located with their state counterparts who we are supporting,” said Rafael Lamitre, FEMA’s Director of Public Affairs. “We also have rapid response teams that we have sent from various places around the country to various areas in and around the potentially affected areas.”
FEMA was criticized for a slow and ineffective response after Hurricane Katrina, but said since then the agency has undergone a major culture change. Now it pre-positions resources near impacted areas and has set up two staging areas for Hurricane Matthew – in Georgia and North Carolina.
“We have a clarity of mission now,” Lamitre said. “We now have built up an institution where we have rapid response teams able to go out. We have a philosophy of going big, going early into disasters.”
Power is out for around 82,000 people in Palm Beach County, according to the Palm Beach Post.
As Hurricane Matthew approaches Palm Beach County, an estimated 82,000 Florida Power & Light Co. customers are without power in the company’s 35-county territory, and the storm has yet to make landfall. More than 70,000 customer outages have been restored.
“Once the eye hits, we will know whether it’s a restoration or a rebuild in certain areas,” said FPL spokesman Rob Gould.
You can read the whole piece here.
The eye of Hurricane Matthew is now 65 miles from Palm Beach.
Vanilla Ice is right in the hurricane’s path, in Palm Beach:
Hurricane Matthew roiled commodities markets and forced companies from cane refiners to orange juice makers to shutter as it whipped its way toward the southeastern United States, reports the Associated Press.
Southeastern companies were closing down operations ahead of a storm that could threaten some two million tonnes of sugar and trees representing over 90 million boxes of citrus fruits in Florida.
About half a million acres of cotton were at risk from torrential rain in North and South Carolina, where farmers have already been struggling during a rainy harvest.
Florida’s east coast, predominantly grapefruit country, was expected to bear the brunt of the storm.
Incredible footage taken from the International Space Station shows Hurricane Matthew as it passed through the Bahamas:
Facebook has activated its “safety check-in” function for those affected by Hurricane Matthew; while AirBnB is offering free accomodation for those in areas affected by the storm.
Some areas of Florida are already experiencing flooding. The Indian River County, Florida, sheriff’s department just tweeted the following picture of flooding near US route 1:
An interesting insight into Hurricane Matthew comes from the weather buoys off the coast of Florida, which have been set up to automatically tweet statistics from their sensory equipment.
Buoy 41114, off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida, is reporting a wave height of 10.5 feet as of this hour’s report:
Compared with 24 hours ago, when the wave height was at just 3.9 feet:
There’s plenty of other Buoys reporting, too:
Like thousands of other Americans, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton abruptly upended their plans Thursday in Florida, where Hurricane Matthew threatened to wreak havoc on final-stretch presidential campaigning in a critical swing state, reports the Associated Press.
The campaigns rushed to move staff and volunteers, close offices and cancel events in the path of the storm. And as many Floridians heeded calls to evacuate, both candidates began the delicate and difficult task of pursuing votes during a crisis.
Clinton’s campaign asked the state for more time to register voters a request Florida governor Rick Scott rejected and the Trump team pulled its negative TV ads.
“It looks like it’s a big one and it’s going to be a bad one,” said Trump at a town hall in New Hampshire. “Please know that we are praying for you and everyone in the path: You’ve got to take care of yourself, you’ve got to get out of the area, you’ve got to listen.”
The hurricane is expected to hit Trump’s prized Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. Campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said, “Mr. Trump spoke with employees yesterday to ensure they are safe and following instructions from local officials.”
Clinton tweeted: “Hurricane Matthew is a major storm. ... Stay safe Florida.”
Both stayed far away, preparing for their second debate, a town hall-style faceoff on Sunday in St. Louis. Trump was holding a dry run town hall in Sandown, New Hampshire, while Clinton was speaking at fundraisers in New York.
Along the Southeast coast, Matthew was expected to bring dangerous conditions to Georgia, South Carolina and, possibly, North Carolina. But it was the impact on vote-rich Florida, a must-win state for Trump, that had the campaigns on high alert. The hurricane closed in just as both sides ramped up their early-vote push and just days before a voter registration deadline.
Vote-by-mail ballots are being sent to voters across the state this week, leaving the potential for ballots to arrive just as voters temporarily abandon their homes. So far, a record 2.5 million people nearly one-third of those who voted in 2012 have made requests for the early ballots.
Scott said Thursday evening that he would not consider extending the 11 October voter registration deadline.
“Everyone has had a lot of time to register,” Scott said, adding, “I don’t intend to make any changes.”
Scott, a Republican, is a strong supporter of GOP nominee Donald Trump and chairman of a Super PAC running Clinton-bashing television ads.
Disruptions in Florida campaigning were immediate. In Palm Beach County, local Republican Chairman Michael Barnett said Matthew already had forced cancellations, including phone-banking operations and an event where Ivanka Trump was the headliner. Local GOP officials also will miss an opportunity for outreach to Latino leaders, because an annual gala of a local Hispanic civic group was canceled.
Some more dramatic video of the storm’s impact as it blew through Haiti and the Bahamas:
Florida governor Rick Scott maintains that state and local officials are prepared for Hurricane Matthew, even as he called the storm bearing down on the state a “monster,” reports the Associated Press.
“Matthew is likely to produce devastating impacts,” Scott says.
Scott says people in the northeast part of the state still have time to evacuate and residents could still choose to go to a shelter.
Authorities have told roughly 1.5 million people across the state to evacuate. The mass exodus led to crammed highways, full hotels and the need to open dozens of hurricane shelters. The looming storm also has led to gas shortages, though Scott said the state still has five days’ worth of fuel supplies.
Officials are expecting massive power outages across the region once Hurricane Matthew hits full-force.
Although the state has food and water supplies ready for after the storm, Scott cautioned that people need to be able to take care of themselves for the first three days.
As Hurricane Matthew approaches Florida, details are still emerging about the devastation left in the storm’s wake after it ripped through Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.
The death toll in Haiti alone has reached 280, officials say, and 15,000 people have been displaced.
The UN has described the hurricane as Haiti’s worst humanitarian crisis since the devastating earthquake six years ago.
The rains and flooding have prompted fears of a surge in the cholera epidemic that has killed almost 10,000 people since the disease was accidentally introduced to Haiti by UN peacekeepers.
Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State university, is tweeting some interesting historical data about Hurricane Matthew.
It is, he says, “now the longest-lived major hurricane forming after September 25 in the Atlantic basin on record (6.5 days)”.
He compares the track Matthew is taking to that of 1979’s Hurricane David:
Despite David being a weaker storm than Matthew at this point in its trajectory, it was still one of the most destructive Atlantic hurricanes of all time, inflicting $95m in damage in Florida.
Forecasters have said the major threat to the Southeast would not be the winds which newer buildings can withstand but the massive surge of seawater driven ahead of the storm that could wash over coastal communities along a 500-mile stretch from South Florida to the Charleston, South Carolina, area.
Those with long memories will remember that Hurricane Sandy, four years ago this month, hit parts of New York and New Jersey with a storm surge of as high as 13 feet, which accounted for a lot of the damage it caused.
Experts have said that Matthew’s storm surge could range from nine to as much as 12 feet in height.
Lenny Curry, the mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, just went on CNN to urge people in the evacuation zone to “get out now”.
“This is a storm like we haven’t seen,” he said.
Forecasters said it would then probably hug the coast of Georgia and South Carolina over the weekend before veering out to sea perhaps even looping back toward Florida in the middle of next week as a tropical storm, according to the Associated Press.
Millions of people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were told to evacuate their homes, and interstate highways were turned into one-way routes to speed the exodus. Florida alone accounted for about 1.5 million of those told to clear out.
“The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida,” Florida governor Rick Scott warned.
The hurricane has picked up wind speed as it closed in, growing from a possibly devastating Category 3 storm to a potentially catastrophic Category 4. Forecasters said it could dump up to 15 inches of rain in some spots and, most crucially, cause a storm surge of between 9 and twelve feet.
Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s liveblog of Hurricane Matthew, which is approaching Florida after tearing through Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, leaving more than 100 dead, according to the Associated Press, who report that Matthew is the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. Atlantic coast in more than a decade.
“This storm’s a monster,” Florida governor Rick Scott warned Thursday evening, adding: “I’m going to pray for everybody’s safety.”
The hurricane is expected to make landfall early Friday, north of West Palm Beach, which has a population of about 1.1 million people, and then slowly push north for the next 12 hours along the Interstate 95 corridor, through Cape Canaveral - where NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is located - and Jacksonville, according to the National Hurricane Center.
President Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida and South Carolina earlier on Thursday as the storm approached American shores.
We’ll have live updates as we get them.