Hurricane Matthew: 1 million-plus urged to flee coastal South Carolina

IMAGE: Hurricane Matthew projection

A forecast map issued late Tuesday night projects Hurricane Matthew’s possible course through the end of the week. National Hurricane Center

“Right now, the storm itself is the size of Arizona,” Jim Butterworth, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, told

NBC station WXIA of Atlanta.

The storm weakened slightly early Wednesday with top sustained winds of 125 mph — dropping just below the category 4 threshold of 130 mph to 140 mph that it had stuck to for several days.

States of emergencies were in effect in all of Florida and in coastal parts of Georgia and the Carolinas with Matthew expected to arrive near eastern Florida by Thursday evening.

From there, it’s expected to ride along the Georgia coast north to South Carolina on Friday and Saturday, reaching North Carolina sometime early Sunday, forecasters said.

The problem, said Ari Sarsalari, another meteorologist for The Weather Channel, is how slowly Matthew is moving — only about 8 mph.

“This is a storm that will be affecting the Eastern Seaboard for several days,” he said.

Early Wednesday, hurricane warnings were in effect for Palm Beach and Broward counties and Lake Okeechobee in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott activated 200 members of the National Guard to support hurricane response and said 300 more would be staged across the state Wednesday. Plans were under way to close bridges on the Intracoastal Waterway along the eastern Florida coast by 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“Regardless if there is a direct hit or not, the impacts will be devastating,” Scott said. “I cannot emphasize it enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit.”

In Brevard County, Port Canaveral, one of the busiest cargo and naval ports in the world, ordered a total evacuation late Tuesday afternoon for all marinas, port businesses and tenants.

The Coast Guard said Canaveral Harbor itself would be closed by Wednesday afternoon — meaning no vessels, including cruise and cargo ships, as well as recreational and commercial fishing boats — will be allowed in.

Meanwhile, worried Floridians picked the grocery store shelves clean of staples like bottled water and batteries.

Employees raced to restock shelves stripped of water, canned goods, peanut butter and bread at a Publix supermarket in West Palm Beach,

NBC station WPTV reported.

“We’re concerned about the flooding,” resident Yvette Passino said. “I don’t know if we’re going to be evacuated or not.”

In North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington issued a mandatory campus evacuation for all students by noon Thursday as authorities began evacuating Cape Lookout National Seashore and barrier islands on the coast.

IMAGE: Summerville, S.C., Wal-Mart

Powered by WPeMatico