CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The Latest on Hurricane Matthew (all times local):
Heavy rains and winds have caused crews to close a section of Interstate 95 in southern South Carolina.
The state Department of Transportation said on Twitter that the highway was closed in Jasper County between Ridgeland and Hardeeville.
Authorities did not know when the highway would be reopened. I-95 is the main route connecting Florida and the Southeast with the Northeast. Low-lying sections of the highway have flooded at least three times in the past year, forcing the interstate to close.
The eye of Hurricane Matthew is continuing to move northward off the coast of Georgia.
The National Hurricane Center says the storm has weakened slightly, with sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph), and is 70 miles (kilometres) southeast of Savannah, Georgia. It is moving north about 12 mph (19 kph).
Matthew is expected to weaken in the next two days, as it travels along or over the coast of Georgia and South Carolina.
Authorities say an elderly couple appears to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning while running a generator after Hurricane Matthew, raising the U.S. death toll from the storm to 4.
A post on the St. Lucie County Fire District’s Facebook page says rescuers responded to couple’s home Friday morning after neighbours found them not breathing. They were taken to a nearby hospital, where county spokesman Erick Gill says they later died.
Officials say the couple had been running a generator inside their garage throughout the storm.
Officials didn’t immediately naming the couple. Two women in Florida were also killed in separate accidents.
A man who stayed on a Georgia island to ride out Hurricane Matthew says “trees are bending over” and it’s “raining sideways” as the storm approaches the Georgia-Florida line.
Steve Todd said he and a friend ventured out in a truck after dark Friday to pick up a couple of buddies who had become frightened of rapidly worsening conditions on Tybee Island. He said they were all going back to his third-floor condominium to spend the night.
Local officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for Tybee on Wednesday, but some residents insisted on staying put. The hurricane’s centre was expected to pass early Saturday.
Todd said he doesn’t regret his decision, “but I’m not going to lie. There’s a little bit of nervous tension right now.”
Officials in Florida are cutting off all access to beachside portions of Flagler County after Hurricane Matthew washed away a portion of State Road A1A.
A news release says emergency workers will begin entering the area to rescue those who did not leave.
“This is not a curfew. No one will be permitted to enter the barrier island,” Flagler County public safety emergency manager Steve Garten said in the release. “This will be enforced by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.”
A curfew will begin at 7 p.m. Friday on the mainland portions of the county.
“We don’t want anyone on the beachside who doesn’t need to be there,” Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey said in the release. “We need to be able to get an assist those people who are in the most need.”
More than 1.1 million people are now without power in Florida after Hurricane Matthew steadily grinded its way up the east coast.
State officials released updated totals late Friday that showed the powerful storm had knocked out electricity over a long coastal stretch of the peninsula. One of the hardest hit areas is Volusia County where nearly 258,000 customers — 92 per cent of all customers — were without power.
Nearly 200,000 people in Brevard County, the home to Cape Canaveral, were also without power along with nearly 132,000 customers in the Jacksonville area.
But the fury of the storm was strong enough that it has also caused outages in Central Florida. Nearly 150,000 customers who live in the Orlando area are without electricity.
Authorities are now saying two people have died in the U.S. because of Hurricane Matthew.
The Putnam County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office reported Friday that a woman was killed and a man was injured near Crescent City when a tree fell on their camper during the storm.
A post on the sheriff’s office Facebook page says the two adults were attempting to ride out the storm when high winds apparently caused the tree to fall. The man escaped with minor injuries, but the woman was killed.
Authorities didn’t immediately name the victims.
Earlier Friday, Volusia County emergency management director Jim Judge reported the death of a woman after a tree fell on her house.
More than 300 people were killed in the Caribbean as a result of the hurricane, mostly in Haiti.
The U.S. military is mobilizing to help Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew’s destruction.
The Navy said Friday that it’s sending the Norfolk, Virginia-based USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious transport dock ship, toward the island where hundreds are reported dead.
The ship is loaded with 300 Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, one landing craft and three large helicopters. The Navy said they’ll be able to quickly distribute relief.
Lt. Jeffrey Prunera said two other ships, the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and the USS Comfort hospital ship, are awaiting further orders in the South Atlantic to possibly help as well.
The military has established Joint Task Force Matthew to oversee its relief efforts. By Friday afternoon, 170 personnel and nine helicopters had already reached the country.
Hurricane Matthew has weakened slightly as it pounds Florida and crawls north along the Atlantic coast.
At 5 p.m. EDT Friday, the National Hurricane Center said Matthew had sustained winds of 110 mph (177 kph), making it a very powerful Category 2 storm.
At one point, Matthew reached the strongest Category 5 designation, but it has been slowly weakening as it has moved closer to Florida.
The storm left more than 300 people dead in the Caribbean and at least one person has died in Florida. More than 1 million homes and businesses are without power in the state.
Emergency officials are reporting the first death in the U.S. directly caused by Hurricane Matthew.
Volusia County emergency management director Jim Judge says a tree fell on a woman’s house in the county, which includes the city of Daytona Beach. Judge says her family took her to a hospital, where she died.
More than 300 people were killed in the Caribbean.
The steady march of Hurricane Matthew has left more than 1 million customers in Florida without power.
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.
Several more communities on the South Carolina coast are imposing curfews as the winds and rains of Hurricane Matthew approach the state. The worse of the storm is expected to move in overnight and Matthew is expected to be just off Charleston about daybreak as a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds.
Charleston, North Charleston, and Mount Pleasant are all imposing curfews from midnight Friday through 6 a.m. on Saturday. Officials say they don’t want people driving or walking around while law officers and emergency workers have to deal with issues related to the storm.
In Beaufort County a curfew will be in effect from dusk Friday through dawn on Saturday.
President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in North Carolina as Hurricane Matthew wreaks havoc on the East Coast.
The declaration puts the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of disaster relief efforts in the state, including providing equipment and needed resources.
Gov. Pat McCrory says he’s about worried that the storm could lead to heavier rains than previously estimated at or near the coast, and cause power outages from high winds.
Obama has already declared states of emergency in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, the other states in Matthew’s path.
The city of Asheville may not have to endure the winds associated with Hurricane Matthew, but it’s definitely experiencing a windfall.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports (http://avlne.ws/2d9cnra) that with the hurricane menacing the Carolinas’ coast, thousands of coastal residents fled their homes and vacation spots and decided to go to Asheville to enjoy the area’s attractions, and as a result, boost the local economy.
Shane Harpham, a pediatric dentist from Bluffton, South Carolina, said his wife and two young children came up on Wednesday night. He said while it wasn’t easy finding a room they found a motel and booked the last room it had.
Early October is already a popular time for travellers to visit Asheville, but adding hundreds or even thousands of evacuees has put a crunch on hotel rooms.
With Hurricane Matthew leaving South Florida largely spared, the region’s Haitian and Cuban communities are busy trying to help family and friends dealing with the storm’s devastating rampage through the Caribbean.
Haitian-American nurses and doctors who volunteered to go to Haiti were stranded at South Florida’s airports as the storm passed.
About 20 organizations collecting medicine, food, clothing and building supplies for Haiti at a Miami-area warehouse suspended activity Thursday. Sandy Dorsainvil is a Haitian-American community leader in Miami. She says volunteers eager to return to work waited in long lines at the Miami Gardens warehouse early Friday.
NASA spokesman George Diller says NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has been spared major damage from Hurricane Matthew.
Diller says recovery team members won’t be out in full force until Saturday, but a preliminary inspection showed limited roof and door damage, and some water intrusion.
Diller was among 116 NASA, Air Force and contractor personnel who rode out the storm at the space centre, which remained closed to everyone else. He reported some power outages, along with a loss of air conditioning and water pressure in some buildings, and scattered debris. Otherwise, the space centre appeared to weather the storm fairly well, experiencing a minimal storm surge.
Kennedy is no longer an active launching site; the space shuttles have been retired for five years. Both former shuttle launch pads, however, are being refurbished, one by NASA for its future Space Launch System rockets meant to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, and the other by private company SpaceX.
Charleston is imposing a curfew starting at midnight Friday and extending until 6 a.m. Saturday as Hurricane Matthew moves along the South Carolina coast.
Police Chief Greg Mullen told a news conference Friday that officials expect unusually high tides driven by the storm along with the torrential rains that Matthew is expected to bring. He said no cars or pedestrians will be allowed on the streets during the overnight period.
St. Augustine, Florida, Mayor Nancy Shaver says the 451-year-old city is experiencing widespread flooding from Hurricane Matthew. The Category 3 storm battered the city much of Friday with waves and storm surge that could top 8 feet.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Shaver said the flooding “is just going to get higher and higher and higher.”
The mayor said roughly half of St. Augustine’s 14,000 residents chose to stay in their homes. No injuries or deaths had been reported as of Friday afternoon, but the mayor said it will be several hours before authorities can get out and begin damage assessments.
She said damage will be “widespread” and “there are houses that will probably not ever be the same again or not even be there.”
One silver lining, she said, is that the worst of the surge did not occur at high tide, which was around 1:30 p.m. Friday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Police officers and firefighters returned to roads in Brevard County, Florida, 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.