MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency for all of Florida as a major hurricane threatened to churn up the East Coast later in the week.
Hurricane Matthew was southeast of Jamaica on Monday but was predicted to head north and likely produce "devastating impacts from storm surge, extreme winds, heavy rains, flash floods, and/or mudslides in portions of the watch and warning areas in Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas," the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.
TRACK THE STORM: www.OrlandoHurricane.com
While the path remains unclear as the storm goes further north, the Hurricane Center said direct hurricane impacts are possible in Florida later in the week. Scott said the declaration of emergency will help the state prepare.
"Hurricane Matthew is a life-threatening Category 4 hurricane and we must all take it seriously," Scott said in a statement. "If Hurricane Matthew directly impacts Florida, there could be massive destruction which we haven't seen since Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami-Dade County in 1992. That is why we cannot delay and must prepare for direct impact now."
Latest forecast models show a Category 3 hurricane off of Florida's Atlantic Coast late Thursday into early Friday. That has residents in coastal counties preparing for possible flooding, choppy surf, and beach erosion. Should the storm continue its track west, it could mean hurricane force winds and storm surge, so Floridians are advised to keep a close watch on the storm each day this week.
In Brevard County, some residents already dealing with flooding, are very concerned about Hurricane Matthew.
"Anything you get now is just going to go up," explained Merritt Island resident Tim Sheridan. He added that rain often turns his yard into waterfront property, because of poor drainage.
As Matthew gets closer, Sheridan and his family are preparing for a possible evacuation, "just putting a plan together, getting ready to head out if they tell us... to evacuate. We've got pumps ready for areas that are flood prone, and we're just making sure that those mechanisms are in place to help move this water out once it gets there."
Brevard County Emergency Management spokesman Don Walker said they have come up with several scenarios on how to react, depending on which way Matthew decides to turn. They are also watching out for beach erosion. But he said it's too late for residents to start cutting down tree branches and bushes.
"Those objects can become projectiles or they drain into the drainage system and backwater, so we're asking people not to do that," he said.
According to Walker, now is the time to figure out what supplies you will need and where to go if your neighborhood is evacuated.
"Know your risks, make a plan, build a kit and stay informed," Walker added.
"I may board up the windows tomorrow, if I need to, most likely just head out," said Sheridan. "Makes us nervous but hope for the best."
The National Weather Service said tropical storm force winds could occur as early as Thursday evening, but they will know better as the storm get closer to Florida.
In response to the potential impact of Hurricane Matthew, the Brevard County Sheriff's Office will be distributing free sandbags for area residents. Click here to read more about Brevard County sandbag distribution.
Volusia County authorities are also asking residents there to have a hurricane plan in place by midweek.
"At a minimum, we are expecting a threat for rough surf and rip currents all week and possible beach erosion from the storm as it moves up the coast," said Jim Judge, Volusia County Emergency Management director.
According to Judge, your disaster supply kit should include a two-week supply of medications and enough drinking water and nonperishable food to last five to seven days. For a list of other items you should include in your disaster supply kit, visit OrlandoHurricane.com.
Residents should decide now where they will stay if an evacuation order is issued. Most people find it more comfortable to stay with friends or relatives who live well inland. For those who have no alternatives, hurricane shelters will be available at key locations across the county. To find information about shelters and evacuation routes, visit OrlandoHurricane.com.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Monday activated Florida's price gouging hotline as Hurricane Matthew moves through the Caribbean.
"Hurricane Matthew has already caused deaths in the Caribbean, and while the storm may not make landfall in Florida, scammers may still use the threat of impact to prey on consumers. Anyone who suspects price gouging during this declared state of emergency should contact my office immediately," said Attorney General Bondi. "If you do business in our state, do not take advantage of our citizens."
As the entire state of Florida is under a declared state of emergency, Florida's price gouging law applies statewide. State law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, ice, gas, hotels, lumber and water during this declared state of emergency. Anyone who suspects price gouging should report it to the Attorney General's Office by calling 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.
TRACK THE STORM: www.OrlandoHurricane.com