Hurricane Matthew lashed at Florida early Friday morning with strong winds, heavy rain and storm surges that could be potentially disastrous. The storm has already left 339 people dead as it barreled through the Caribbean on its way to the US. Even though the storm was expected to hit the east coast as a category 4 storm, it had downgraded to a category 3 storm by Friday 2 a.m. before it hit land at a speed of 120 mph.
According to the National Hurricane Center, it is expected that the center of the storm will have high winds of up to 185 mph, which will bring pounding rain and storm surges to this coastal state. The Jacksonville National Weather Service told residents that they are expecting catastrophic damage as a result of the storm along the coastal area, as it sweeps through Florida to South Carolina.
Even though some Florida residents claim to they have lived through such storms before and that they are not worried, this could be unlike anything they have seen before. It is expected that storm surges could reach up to 3.3 meters high.
Experts state that the coast hugging path that the hurricane has taken could make the storm one of the most devastating that the state has ever seen. This is because the storm will continue gathering energy from the ocean if half of the hurricane is still at sea while the other half hits land. This will make the storm last longer. If the storm lasts for more than a day and a half, then the damage done could be huge.
Forecasters have predicted that the storm will probably hug the coast of Georgia and South Carolina through the weekend before it veers out to sea. It could even loop back to Florida in the middle of next week as a tropical storm.
Over 2 million people have already fled from the south coast inwards. The storm might leave up to 9 inches of water as it pelts the state with rain and in some areas; the water levels could go up to 15 inches in some isolated cases. Disaster crews were working around the clock preparing for the path of destruction from the storm.
The danger that most people face is the strong winds and the massive sea water that will flood the coastal towns, which could stretch to over 500 miles along the South Florida shoreline to South Carolina.
Thousands of people are hunkering down in 48 shelters that have been set up for residents, which are mainly schools that have been converted to shelters. Other people have chosen to stay in inland hotels as they wait for the storm to pass. Patients from 2 hospitals and a nursing home in Daytona that were at the waterfront were transferred to safer locations.
As a category 3 storm, it is expected that roofs will be ripped off, trees will be uprooted, roads blocked and there will be water and power outages, which could last for weeks in some places.