COCOA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday morning warned people along Florida's East CoastÂ that they have less than 24 hours to prepare for the possible landfall of powerful and deadly Hurricane Matthew.
With the slow-moving path of Matthew forecast to run along the coast from late Thursday to early Saturday, Scott said he was awaiting updated evacuation orders from coastal counties and that even if the storm remains offshore, tropical-storm force winds will extend into the state.
"Our number one priority is protecting lives," Scott said after an update at the Florida Division of Emergency Management. "The storm has already killed multiple people (in other countries), and we should expect the same impact in Florida if people do not take this seriously."
Matthew, already credited with at least 11 deaths after crushing through Cuba and Haiti with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, was heading for the central and northwest Bahamas on Wednesday morning.
Residents flee barrier islands in Brevard County
Residents and business owners were placed under a mandatory evacuation in Cocoa Beach, beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Many raced to follow it.
At a time when business should be booming, instead, they're boarding up.
"Everybody gets kind of stressful, we wait till the last minute, that's what Floridians do. I don't know why we do that but we do that."
Phil McCoy's been at it since 5:30 this morning. This is the third business on Cocoa Beach that he's placed hurricane shutters on before having to close for the mandatory evacuation, "to keep the debris from busting windows."
"We are handling evacuations for the hurricane," says Dawn Quin.
Over at the Days Inn, they've been finding other hotels for their guests to stay, as Cocoa Beach evacuates. Quinn says it's been busy.
"Chaotic, people scared so a lot of cancelations. Just making sure everything's proper, safe and secure. Windows boarded."
As many businesses close, residents say it hasn't been easy finding a room to book.
Cocoa Beach Resident Judy Benavides says, "It's been rough, the hotels are gone fast."
Over at the Cocoa Beach Pier, the General Manager says workers have also been packing up any supplies that aren't boarded down. Rick Lohr, General Manager of Cocoa Beach Pier, says, "It's a little hectic, but it's just a day in the life we're preparing for this and we want to do it right and we're doing it early enough so people can go home."
So as they board up and pack up, customers like Benavides say they too are ready to leave.
"We're going to Orlando and staying there for the next few nights because it's too close. I'm not playing the game."
Deputies say they do not plan on ticketing anyone for not following the mandatory evacuation.
Volusia County residents board up, evacuate
Residents in Daytona Beach boarded up their homes Wednesday night and began preparing to leave ahead of Hurricane Matthew.
“If they're saying we got to go then they're going to be knocking on your door and you don't want that to happen, so pack it up,” said resident Nick Cessario who lives on the beachside.
Volusia County is now under a mandatory evacuation order for residents on the beachside, low-lying areas, and RV and mobile home parks.
Cessario and his neighbor made sure they boarded up to keep everything inside their homes as safe as possible.
“Just throwing some wood up on all the windows -- try to keep the windows from breaking if something flys into it or if the wind just blows the house out,” Cessario said.
On Tuesday Volusia County's citizen information hotline received nearly 500 calls, they were also taking calls until 7pm Wednesday, and will open again Thursday morning through the end of the storm.
“Get out you have plenty of time to get out,” said Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood.
County officials emphasized that first responders will not be able to help people once the conditions reach a certain level.
“If you call in the middle of this and you've decided to stay put and you're getting winds that are 50, 60 70, MPH we won't be able to come and help you,” said County manager Jim Dinneen.
The Volusia County Citizen information hotline # is 866- 345-0345.
New Smyrna businesses keep eye on Hurricane
Hurricane Matthew is churning its way in the general direction of Central Florida. It has very high wind and could push a large storm surge of sea water inland.
But in New Smyrna Beach, not many of the seaside businesses seem to be taking much action in advance, choosing to ride the storm out, despite storm surge threat.
FOX 35 meteorologists say Hurricane Matthew could push a wall of water into New Smyrna Beach at least 3 to 5 feet above the normal tides. Like many of Central Florida's seaside communities, New Smyrna Beach has neighborhoods that sit less than a block off the sand.
Bethune-Cookman University orders mandatory evacuations
Bethune-Cookman University students spent Wednesday grabbing valuables and packing up for a few nights away from campus.
Classes ended at noon Wednesday. BCU spokeswoman Keisha Boyd said there are students who don't have a place to go so they are offering up food and shelter on campus.
She said, "Food and water definitely. We already ordered extra supplies, food and fresh fruit and vegetables."
They will open the campus back up at noon on Sunday.
Flagler County announces mandatory evacuations
The track of Hurricane Matthew has shifted west, prompting Flagler County officials to call for a mandatory evacuation of zones A and B beginning at 6 a.m. Thursday.
"The current storm surge estimates have risen and that will likely cause a greater impact to Flagler County," said Steve Garten, public safety emergency manager. "We would like residents to head west. Shelter space is intended for those who have no other option so if you have friends and family you can stay with, please make those arrangements."
Evacuation Zone A includes everything east of the Intracoastal including Marineland, Hammock, Flagler Beach along A1A. Evacuation Zone B includes the neighborhoods along Colbert Lane to the south, all of the C section and the F section east of Florida Park Drive and the F section east of Palm Harbor Parkway.
These residents will be notified by CodeRED of the evacuation order.
Flagler County is asking residents to respect the evacuation order, especially on the barrier island. Once sustained winds reach 45 mph, the bridges will close and first responders will not be able to respond to the area.
In preparation for the impacts of Hurricane Matthew, the Flagler County Emergency Operation Center will open two shelters at 6 a.m., Thursday, one will accommodate special needs while the other will accommodate the general population and people with pets.
"Shelters, whether special needs or general population, are available as a last resort for those who have no other place to go," said Steve Garten, public safety emergency manager. "Special needs shelters provide only limited medical care, and it is up to the individual to bring a 72-hour supply of all medications, and personal items."
Sleeping bags, pillows and blankets should be among those personal items, as cots are available in limited numbers. Air mattresses are not permitted.
Rymfire Elementary, located at 1425 Rymfire Drive, Palm Coast, will accommodate those with special needs - people who require assistance with daily living or who have medical conditions that prevent or hinder their ability to care for themselves, as well as those who require electricity for oxygen. A family member or caregiver should stay at the shelter with the individual.
Bunnell Elementary, 305 N. Palmetto Street, Bunnell, will accommodate other residents who have no other place to go. Pets - dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, rodents and turtles - are the allowed pets. There is a four-pet maximum. Pet owners should bring current vaccination records and supplies, including crates and medications.
"We currently have a voluntary evacuation in place in the coastal area and for those who live on tidal waters, and we really encourage those residents to plan to stay with a relative or friend," County Administrator Craig Coffey said. "We want everyone to be safe."