Hurricane Matthew, which became a rare Category 5 storm before slamming into Haiti on Oct. 4, has killed more than 300 people in the Caribbean with the death toll expected to far exceed that number.
As of 8 a.m., the eye of storm was close to landfall near Cape Canaveral, Florida, reports the Miami Herald. In addition, other coastal cities like Vero Beach and Jacksonville were already being pounded with 120 mph winds.
An estimated 17,000 people were without power in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and another 49,000 customers were without electricity in Palm Beach. All told, more than 340,000 were in the dark by early Oct. 7, according to the Daily Mail.
“Matthew is still moving northward up the coast towards Jacksonville. The eyewall is just miles off the coast causing very high winds,’’ said James Thomas of the National Weather Service.
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The damage resulting from the storm could make parts of the Florida coast uninhabitable for months, he added.
The Category 3 hurricane is the strongest many Florida residents have experienced in their lifetimes. The Weather Channel reports that the only Category 4 hurricane ever to hit Florida was in 1898.
Walt Disney World was closed for only the fourth time in its history. The Oct. 6 game between the University of Florida and LSU was postponed due to the pending storm.
The National Hurricane Center said Matthew is moving toward the north-northwest, and expected to continue that path, with it hitting the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Oct. 8.
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More than 2.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate from Florida to South Carolina. Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has declared a state of emergency and deployed National Guard troops. According to The New York Times, President Barack Obama also declared a state of emergency for Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, making federal aid and relief assistance immediately available to those states.
As Daytona Beach mayor Derrick Henry told CNN, “The worst is yet to come.”