The Latest: Diehards staying put on Tybee Island, Georgia


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The Latest on Hurricane Matthew (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

Despite a mandatory evacuation order for the 3,000 people who live on Tybee Island in Georgia, about 100 people have decided to ride out the storm.

Some of them on Friday had bellied up to the bar at Nickie’s 1971, located about a block away from Georgia’s largest beach.

Owner Calvin Ratterree says he’s worried about the powerful storm that’s already drenching parts of the Georgia coast with heavy rains. But he says a friend has a third-floor condo across the street that he and his dozen or so customers can flee to if necessary.

Steve Todd was having a drink at Ratterree’s bar before lunch Friday. He said his wife and child evacuated, but he stayed to try to protect their home and belongings.

Island residents were ordered to evacuate Wednesday. Most left, some of them hitting the road at the last minute Friday.

Tybee Island councilman Monty Parks was out Friday morning offering rides to a few stragglers who wanted to leave but had no transportation to the mainland.

He said he was trying to make sure everyone got out, “but there are people that are diehards.”

Parks estimated that 100 or more people were insisting on braving out the storm on the island.


1:30 p.m.

Prison officials in Georgia announced that they had moved more than 1,500 inmates from facilities in coastal counties to other lockups farther inland as Hurricane Matthew approaches.

Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Homer Bryson announced Friday that 1,286 inmates at Coastal State Prison and 257 offenders housed at Coastal Transitional Center had been moved from those Chatham County facilities by 7:30 a.m. Friday.

The transfer of prisoners came as a result of Gov. Nathan Deal’s mandatory evacuation order for anyone east of Interstate 95.

Bryson said offenders will be moved back to the coastal facilities once his staff has had a chance to assess any potential damage and has determined conditions are safe.


1:30 p.m.

Officials in coastal Georgia’s southernmost county have announced a curfew ahead of Hurricane Matthew.

The curfew in Camden County begins Friday at 10 p.m. and ends at 6 a.m. on Saturday. County Sheriff Jim Proctor says he’ll decide whether to extend the curfew on a day-to-day basis.

Proctor says he hopes a curfew will keep people indoors overnight and prevent injuries.

Glynn County, located just north of Camden, announced a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew on Thursday. Glynn County officials have said the curfew will be in place each night of the weekend, ending Monday at 5 a.m.


12:30 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says the forecast for the state appears to have gotten worse: There are now hurricane warnings for the entire coast and the latest projections from the National Hurricane Center show the centre of the storm very close to the coast near Charleston early Saturday morning. Earlier projections had the hurricane farther offshore.

At a news conference Friday, Haley warned residents that South Carolina is now looking at major winds, major storm surges, and flooding that could compare to the historic floods of last October. Power outages are also expected.

Haley said an estimated 310,000 people have now fled from coastal areas and said “this is the last time you will hear my voice when I am asking you to evacuate.” She said everybody along the coast needs to consider getting inland.


12:30 p.m.

While everyone else is fleeing inland, two 18-year-old storm chasers drove nearly 1,000 miles from New Jersey to St. Augustine, Florida, to watch Hurricane Matthew roll past.

Lucio Bottieri of Jackson, New Jersey said Friday that he has “an obsession with severe weather: snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, anything crazy that most people wouldn’t go toward.”

Jackson says that while he rode out Hurricane Sandy at home four years ago, this week was the first time he’s travelled to see a hurricane.

He says his mom was “really against my trip,” and most of his friends thought it was a bad idea too — except one: Bailey Lilienkamp.

Packing canned food, snacks, bottled water and a first aid kit, the pair left early Thursday morning and drove straight through to St. Augustine.

As winds and rains from Matthew battered the coast, they stood by a seawall at the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century Spanish fort. Salt water blasted into the air and hard, driving rain pelted them, prompting them to go back to their hotel for a break.

They vowed to venture out again, however.


12:30 p.m.

Humans aren’t the only ones hunkering down as Hurricane Matthew batters Florida. A stork has apparently found refuge in a zoo bathroom.

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park has shared a photo of a marabou stork inside a bathroom at the facility. The zoo’s Facebook page jokes in the caption, “No species discrimination in this bathroom!” — an apparent reference to a law in North Carolina that obligates students to use public school bathrooms conforming to the gender on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

The stork isn’t the only animal taking cover from the storm. The zoo also shared photos of young alligators swimming indoors in plastic tubs and other birds walking around freely inside a building.

The zoo says it has moved all of its birds and mammals inside.


12:30 p.m.

On Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, some residents who had decided to evacuate were running down for a last look at the angry sea as the rains and winds from Hurricane Matthew increased.

William Frank and Heather Wilson rode their motorized scooter a half-mile to Coligny Beach on Friday, using Facebook live to show the already unusually high surf to family back in Athens, Georgia, and to promise they would be on the last bus out to evacuate at noon.

Frank said they wanted to take a look at Mother Nature’s power.

Every few minutes, another person or two would walk down the boardwalk to the sand. Most took selfies or videos, then hustled back to their cars before the rains picked up again.

Marcos Reyes brought his dog, who seemed skeptical about the rain, strong winds and surf. He too was evacuating, but reluctantly, to his parents’ home about 25 miles inland.

Reyes said he would like to stay and watch, but he said his parents would kill him.


12:15 p.m.

Robin and Greg Bontrager’s preparations for Hurricane Matthew involved a lot of rope.

The couple lives year-round on their 42-foot Hunter sailboat named “Always and Forever,” and for the last two years they’ve docked in Brunswick, Georgia, from June through November.

The Bontragers found space at a motel in the city after having two other reservations cancelled due to evacuation orders. They removed any loose items from the boat, including sails and canvas, and double-tied it to the dock.

Robin Bontrager said they’re both retired schoolteachers who decided life was too short to skip adventures. She was emotional Friday as rain poured down around Dock 3 where their boat will ride out the hurricane, surrounded by several other boats that are full-time homes to fellow “cruisers.”

Robin Bontrager said that while “it’s tough to leave your home … things can be replaced.”

Her life, her husband’s life — and the couples’ two dogs who sail along with them — can’t be.


11:45 a.m.

Police officers and firefighters were returning to roads in Brevard County, Florida, on Friday morning to assess hurricane damage.

Over half the county — 174,000 customers — had lost power.

The National Weather Service office in Melbourne reported wind gusts as strong as 107 mph Friday morning. Flood warnings were expected to continue through 11:30 a.m. Friday for parts of Seminole, Brevard and Volusia counties.

All causeways to the barrier islands and beachside communities remained closed for the Florida Department of Transportation to conduct assessments of the bridges for structural integrity.

The Brevard County Board of Commissioners urged residents to be patient as authorities assess the storm’s impact, and warned that “resuming normalcy will take some time.”


11:15 a.m.

Officials on the Georgia coast are warning that time is running out to flee Hurricane Matthew.

Chatham County emergency management director Dennis Jones told a news conference in Savannah on Friday morning that people had just a few more hours before powerful winds start hitting. He said “Once the wind starts blowing, we’re pulling all emergency services off the street.” Savannah police said they also will enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

All emergency responders left Tybee Island earlier Friday as increasingly heavy rains at high tide threatened to flood the only road to the mainland.

Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman (BELL-ter-man) was taking names of people believed to remain on the island and had police officers calling them. Buelterman attributed some people’s complacency to the fact that the area hasn’t had a major storm for some time.

He remarked: “This is what happens when you don’t get hit by a hurricane for 100 years.”

Tybee Island resident Jeff Dickey had been holding out hope that the forecast might shift and spare his waterfront home, but by Friday morning Matthew was still on track to hug the Georgia coast, so he decided not to take any chances.

With soaking rain from Matthew’s outer bands already falling, he loaded a diesel-powered generator into his pickup truck.

Most of the island’s 3,000 residents had evacuated over the past two days. Dickey, his mother and his two daughters were among several last-minute evacuees leaving Tybee Island early Friday.


11:15 a.m.

The U.S. Coast Guard has closed the Port of Charleston as Hurricane Matthew approaches South Carolina. The agency says no vessels may leave Charleston or enter the port.

The Coast Guard also announced that its smaller boats have been removed from the water and larger ones have moved to safe harbour.

The Coast Guard said it will be suspending search-and-rescue missions during the height of the storm and its helicopters will not be flying.

Tropical storm force winds are expected to be felt along the South Carolina coast later Friday.


11:15 a.m.

Senior hurricane specialist Lixion Avila says Hurricane Matthew’s most intense winds have fortunately remained “a short distance offshore,” but Florida’s coast isn’t in the clear yet.

The hurricane centre says the western eyewall, where the most intense winds are found, was expected to cross over or very near the coasts of northeastern Florida and Georgia on Friday.

Avila noted that it would take “only a small deviation to the left” to bring the winds onshore.

Avila said people riding out the storm in high-rise buildings will experience stronger winds than people sheltering at ground level. At the top of a 30-story building, Matthew’s winds could reach speeds of 130 mph or more — Category 4 strength, even if the hurricanes winds at the surface only sustain Category 3 strength.

Forecasters say storm surge and inland flooding remain potentially life-threatening hazards even if Matthew remains offshore.


11 a.m.

President Barack Obama is warning that Matthew is “still a really dangerous hurricane.”

Meeting in the Oval Office on Friday with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Obama said he was concerned about storm surge and that as the hurricane moves north, areas such as Jacksonville, Florida, and Georgia might be less prepared.

Obama told those living in affected areas that, “If they tell you to evacuate, you need to get out of there and move to higher ground.”

He noted that “because storm surge can move very quickly … people can think that they’re out of the woods and then suddenly get hit, and not be in a positon in which they and their families are safe.”

The president pleaded with people to listen to the warnings of state emergency personnel “because we can always replace property, but we cannot replace lives.”


10:45 a.m.

Hurricane Matthew continues to cause problems for travellers, with 4,500 flights cancelled so far between Wednesday and Saturday, according to tracking service FlightAware.

All flights to and from Orlando have been cancelled Friday and half scrapped Saturday. FlightAware expects that number to rise. Orlando’s world-famous theme parks — Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld — all closed due to the storm.

As the storm moves north, so do cancellations, with Atlanta, Charleston and Savannah taking the largest hits.

Airports in Southern Florida are reopening, however, with flights expected to resume at midday. Airlines moved planes and crews out of the storm’s path and must now fly them back into the region.

American Airlines saw its first arrival at its Miami hub at 9:05 a.m. with a flight from Sao Paulo.


10:30 a.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is cautioning Floridians that Hurricane Matthew could still do substantial damage before it passes by the northeast end of the state.

Scott on Friday warned that while the main eye of the storm has remained offshore as it brushes the eastern coast, it could still bring tremendous damage and flooding, especially to low-lying areas along the St. Johns River, including downtown Jacksonville.

Scott said the hurricane “still has time to do a direct hit” and he remarked that “the worst part of this is yet to come.”

Hurricane Matthew approached the state overnight, bringing damaging winds and lots of rain. State officials said that as of 9 a.m. there were nearly 600,000 people without power. Some of the hardest hit counties were Brevard, Indian River and Volusia, where more than half of the customers in those counties were without power.

State officials during an internal emergency management briefing said they anticipated that more than 1 million Floridians could eventually be without power.


10:15 a.m.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says he’s worried about current projections of Hurricane Matthew that show the storm could lead to heavier rains than previously estimated at or near the coast and power outages from high winds.

McCrory said Friday morning that rainfall totals could exceed a foot in parts of southeastern North Carolina, with the most activity Friday night through Sunday morning. He said in a storm media briefing that wind gusts could push above 65 mph and that citizens should be prepared to remain without electricity for some time because utilities may have to focus first on other affected regions.

He says the North Carolina National Guard and emergency equipment are being assembled, including high-water vehicles and swift-water rescue teams. The state also is providing a helicopter rescue team and other resources to South Carolina. McCrory says a mobile hospital unit is ready to go to Florida when it’s safe to do so.

At Fort Bragg, soldiers are prepared to deploy on short notice if they are called to assist those who suffer from damage or other problems because of the hurricane.


9:50 a.m.

Humans aren’t the only ones hunkering down as Hurricane Matthew batters Florida. A stork has apparently found refuge in a zoo bathroom.

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park has shared a photo of a marabou stork inside a bathroom at the facility. The zoo’s Facebook page jokes in the caption, “no species discrimination in this bathroom!”

The stork isn’t the only animal taking cover from the storm. The zoo also shared photos of young alligators swimming indoors in plastic tubs and other birds walking around freely inside a building.

The zoo says it has moved all of its birds and mammals inside.


9:30 a.m.

Georgia transportation officials are closing a bridge that is one of the main routes between the mainland and the barrier islands off Brunswick in anticipation of high winds from Hurricane Matthew.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said in a news release that the Sidney Lanier Bridge would close at 10 a.m. Friday and would remain closed at least until strong winds subside.

The state’s tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge, the Sidney Lanier Bridge is a primary route to the Golden Isles — including Jekyll Island, Sea Island, St. Simons Island and Little St. Simons Island — from Interstate 95.

Transportation officials say high winds, particularly at the bridge’s elevation, would likely make it difficult for drivers to control their vehicles, so the bridge is being closed for the safety of the public.


9:30 a.m.

Winds from Hurricane Matthew blew off the door of Darrell Etheridge’s garage and tore down the banister to his upstairs neighbour’s apartment, but the Vero Beach resident said the storm was no big deal.

Etheridge stayed in his apartment about two blocks from the ocean during the storm.

He said the winds howling “sounded like a pack of wolves,” but added, “I got off damn good.”

There was no flooding and he had power for most of the night Thursday, only losing cable TV.

As he put it, “It was nothing. It felt like nothing.”

Vero Beach is south of the Melbourne/Cape Canaveral area.


9:15 a.m.

Early Friday, NASA reported what appeared to be mostly minor damage at Kennedy Space Center.

An office building suffered some roof damage, and parked cars had damage as well.

NASA spokesman George Diller, part of the 116-person ride out crew, said there have been some spotty power outages on site, and loss of air conditioning and water pressure in places.


9 a.m.

A sheriff’s spokesman says hundreds of callers are dialing 911 as Hurricane Matthew pounds central Florida’s coastline.

Volusia County Sheriff’s spokesman Gary Davidson says at least four callers reported trees falling onto their homes in the Daytona Beach area after 7:30 a.m. Friday.

In one case, Davidson says a neighbour told dispatchers that the family got out safely after a tree collapsed on a home in Daytona Beach.

Another caller reported ceiling damage after a tree fell onto a house in nearby Ormond Beach.

No injuries were reported in any of these cases.


8:45 a.m.

Rains from the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew are already spinning onto the South Carolina coast. And the National Weather Service says that tropical storm force winds of more than 40 mph will begin raking the coast on Friday afternoon – extending farther into inland areas Friday evening.

Although Matthew is projected to stay offshore, sustained hurricane gusts of 80 mph are expected on the immediate coast. Forecasters say winds from the storm likely will damage trees and weaker structures and bring widespread power outages.

The forecast calls for between 8 and 14 inches of rain in places along the coast with as much as 4 inches in locations father inland. Dangerous waves and rip currents are expected along the coast during the storm with storm surge of 4 to 8 feet.

Meanwhile Joint Base Charleston has been closed until further notice the hurricane approaches. The base consists of Charleston Air Force Base, the Charleston Naval Weapons station and two other facilities near Charleston.


8:20 a.m.

The time has been set for the Georgia-South Carolina football game in Columbia on Sunday that was rescheduled because of the threat of Hurricane Matthew.

South Carolina officials announced late Thursday that the game will be played at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The game had been scheduled Saturday night in Columbia but is being delayed because of Hurricane Matthew.

School officials say they consulted with Georgia and the Southeastern Conference before making the decision.

Officials say they are consulting with the governor’s office and state and local law enforcement. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said earlier this week that state troopers would not be available to help with traffic for the game. But Richland County sheriff’s deputies and Columbia police are expected to help.

The school says it will be able to handle traffic, security and other game day operations.


8 a.m.

Robert Tyler had feared a storm surge flooding his street, which is only two blocks from the Cape Canaveral beach.

But he and his wife, Georgette, felt fortunate Friday morning when they looked out the front door of their one-story cinder block apartment and there wasn’t much water.

The oak trees held up. Tree branches littered the road and he could hear the transformers blowing up overnight. But his home didn’t appear to have damage on first inspection and his vehicles were unharmed.

He says it was “scary as heck” overnight, adding that at one point “it felt like the windows were going to blow even though they all were covered with plywood.”

In the end, he says he’s just “glad we didn’t hear the ocean coming down our street.”


7:25 a.m.

Officials say people who refused to evacuate from central Florida’s Atlantic coast are calling for help now as Hurricane Matthew’s western eyewall brushes past Cape Canaveral.

Brevard County Emergency Operations spokesman David Waters said early Friday that more than 100,000 people in the area had lost power.

Mandatory evacuation orders had been issued for 90,000 people living on barrier islands and in mobile homes and low-lying areas. Waters says some residents who refused to leave now find themselves cut off as they face the worst of the hurricane.

He says a family called in that the roof “just flew off their home on Merritt Island.”

Waters says people will just have to stay put for now and do the best they can until conditions improve and paramedics and firefighters can be dispatched to help them. He spoke by phone from the county’s emergency operations centre, which was running a backup generator because it had lost electricity.

Along with the power outages, the water supply to the barrier islands was cut off to avoid compounding the storm flooding if the system got damaged.

Waters says he has talked to other families who have said things like, “We’re scared. We wish we hadn’t stayed.”

More than 360,000 in Florida are without power Friday morning.

6:10 a.m.

The western edge of Hurricane Matthew’s eyewall is brushing Florida’s coast at Cape Canaveral.

The National Hurricane Center said at 6 a.m. EDT Friday that during the last hour, a wind gust of 100 mph occurred in Cape Canaveral.

The Category 3 storm is centred about 25 miles east of Cape Canaveral and is moving north-northwest at 14 mph.

More than 300,000 in Florida are without power Friday morning.


5:45 a.m.

In Geneva, the international Red Cross announced an emergency appeal for $6.9 million Friday to provide medical aid, shelter, water, and sanitation assistance to 50,000 people in southwestern Haiti, which was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew.

UNICEF says it needs $5 million to meet children’s immediate needs in Haiti.

The World Food Program said it has enough food on the ground for 300,000 people for a month, and was deploying its best logisticians to help distribute it.

Matthew left more than 280 dead in its wake across the Caribbean and is now battering Florida’s east coast with high winds and rain.


5:05 a.m.

Hurricane Matthew is just offshore of Florida’s east coast Friday morning.

But the National Hurricane Center says the Category 3 storm’s western eyewall is approaching Cape Canaveral with hurricane-force winds.

As of 5 a.m. EDT Friday, Matthew is centred about 40 miles east-southeast of Cape Canaveral and is moving north-northwest near 13 mph.

More than 270,000 in Florida are without power.

Two million people were warned to flee inland as the most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic coast in more than a decade charged toward Florida. Matthew left more than 280 dead in its wake across the Caribbean.


4 a.m.

The western edge of Hurricane Matthew’s eyewall is approaching Cape Canaveral early Friday as the storm batters Florida’s coast with howling wind and driving rain.

The Category 3 storm is threatening to make a direct hit on Florida as it moves up the coast.

But even though the eye is still off-shore, Florida is already seeing strong winds. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says sustained winds of 46 mph and a gust of 70 mph have been reported in Melbourne, Florida.

More than 240,000 in Florida are without power.

Two million people were warned to flee inland as the most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic coast in more than a decade charged toward Florida. Matthew left more than 280 dead in its wake across the Caribbean.


2:20 a.m.

Hurricane Matthew’s howling wind and driving rain pummeled Florida early Friday, starting what’s expected to be a ruinous, dayslong battering of the Southeast coast. The strongest winds were just offshore, but Matthew’s wrath still menaced more than 500 miles of coastline.

Matthew weakened slightly Friday morning to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds near 120 mph. But the U.S. National Hurricane Center says it’s expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it moves closer to Florida’s coast.

Two million people were warned to flee inland as the most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic coast in more than a decade charged toward Florida. Matthew left more than 280 dead in its wake across the Caribbean.

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