Hurricane Matthew Approaches Florida; Governor Urges 1.5 Million to Flee

Hurricane Matthew weakened slightly early Friday, becoming a Category 3 storm with winds of about 120 miles per hour. But officials said it remained “extremely dangerous” as it neared Central Florida’s Atlantic coast. The storm was blamed for the deaths of more than 280 people in Haiti.

The Latest

■ At 5 a.m., the western edge of the hurricane’s eye wall was about 40 miles east-southeast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., and moving north-northwest at about 13 miles per hour, the hurricane center said. Though Matthew’s maximum sustained winds had fallen overnight, the hurricane center said the storm was likely to remain at Category 3 as it lashed Florida.

■ “Extremely dangerous and life-threatening wind is possible,” the National Weather Service warned early Friday. “Failure to adequately shelter may result in serious injury, loss of life or immense human suffering.”

■ Residents were streaming away from coastal regions, jamming highways, after Gov. Rick Scott of Florida told 1.5 million people living in evacuation zones: “You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”

■ President Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, allowing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts.

■ Mr. Scott activated 3,500 National Guard troops to help with evacuations and prepare for search-and-rescue operations.

■ To cover the storm and its aftermath, The New York Times has deployed journalists in Miami; Orlando, Fla.; Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Titusville, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Atlanta; and Charleston, S.C.

Florida Governor: Get Out Now

Florida’s governor pleaded with people on Thursday to evacuate from the state’s east coast as Hurricane Matthew threatened to roar past as a Category 4 storm.

“There are no excuses,” Mr. Scott said in Tallahassee, the state capital. “You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”

Mr. Scott, who has spent days warning that the storm could be catastrophic in a state that has not had a major hurricane make landfall since 2005, added: “This storm will kill you. Time is running out.

Evacuations were underway all along the state’s eastern coast.

The governor’s office said that more than 1.5 million people were in evacuation zones, and that tolls had been suspended on the Florida Turnpike and other crucial routes. The Coast Guard closed major ports, including facilities in Fort Pierce, Miami and Palm Beach. LIZETTE ALVAREZ in Miami and ALAN BLINDER in Atlanta

What It’s Like to be Trapped By a Category 5 Hurricane

Lizette Alvarez, a Times reporter, recalled her night in Florida City, Fla., in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew destroyed most of the motel she was staying in.

Warning From the White House

Heed the Storm Warning

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said scientists are predicting that Hurricane Matthew will be the largest storm to hit the United States in over a decade.

NASA is preparing for what could be a disaster for the Kennedy Space Center. The last hurricanes to strike the facility where most of the nation’s spacecraft are assembled and launched hit in 2004, and were much weaker. Hurricane Matthew is expected to hit the space center on Friday, with sustained wind of 125 m.p.h., with gusts up to 150, and so it could cause far greater damage to the facilities than occurred in 2004.

NASA closed the space center on Wednesday, and “essential personnel” prepared for the storm by checking the space center for loose debris.

There’s a very valuable satellite that’s waiting for launch in a month: the GOES-R, a next-generation weather satellite for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that was designed to improve, among other things, our tracking and intensity measurement of hurricanes. A NOAA posting on Reddit by the system program director for GOES-R satellites, said that it was being held in a building in Titusville that can withstand a Category 4 hurricane.

The space center, whose launchpads sit less than a mile from the beach, has been dealing with the threat of climate change for a number of years, and has had to fight beach erosion caused in part by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Why, then, put vital space infrastructure in such a vulnerable place? Much of the reason has to do with physics: launching rockets from a site relatively close to the Equator gives a speed boost into orbit. — JOHN SCHWARTZ in New York

Death Toll in Haiti Tops 280

The Haitian government on Thursday said more than 280 people were now dead from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, drastically revising earlier estimates as more of the affected areas are reached by aid personnel, according to local reports.

Hurricane Matthew destroyed homes as it passed through Jérémie, Haiti, on Thursday. 

Now that transportation and at least some communication to the areas have been restored, the death toll appears to be rising drastically, according to a news conference held by the Ministry of Interior on Thursday morning. The deaths come amid a broad tableau of devastation: houses pummeled into timber, crops destroyed and large parts of towns and villages under several feet of water. — AZAM AHMED in Miami

Practical Tips for Surviving a Hurricane, Learned the Hard Way

If they tell you to get out — get out. Water rises swiftly and is more powerful than most people could imagine. And put your valuables in the fridge. What one New York Times editor learned four years ago during Hurricane Sandy.

Evacuating a Family, Without Being There

Tiffanie Daudelin Pretto was desperate to get into South Carolina, where she lives, and then to get out.

U.S. Prepares for Hurricane Matthew

As the hurricane approached with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, the governors of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina ordered residents in high-risk coastal areas to evacuate.

So it was with a mixture of relief and trepidation that Ms. Daudelin Pretto, a registered nurse, on Thursday night boarded a mostly empty plane to Charleston from Washington. She had been in the capital for two weeks of professional training that she was not allowed to leave early, even as South Carolina began mandatory evacuations along its coastline this week.

Stuck in the Washington area, Ms. Daudelin Pretto had no choice but to direct her children, who are 16 and 19, and her in-laws from a distance on Wednesday as they evacuated from their home in Summerville, outside Charleston.

“I had them take themselves and the pets and meet up with Grandma and Grandpa, and they all caravanned to Atlanta,” Ms. Daudelin Pretto said. “I was such a nervous wreck all day. It’s a mother’s worst nightmare.”

As Ms. Daudelin Pretto spoke on the plane, her children and the family’s three cats were safely ensconced in a hotel room in Atlanta. She pulled out the selfie they had sent to prove it.

She planned to meet her husband at the airport and drive straight to Atlanta without even stopping at home, because she was concerned that closed roads would make it difficult to get there.

“My pets are safe. My children are safe. If the house gets destroyed, so be it, but I’d rather it not, since we just moved in a year ago,” Ms. Daudelin Pretto said. She added, “I really don’t expect much to be left of my home when I get back.” — JESS BIDGOOD in Charleston, S.C.

‘I’m Afraid for My Home’

People who live near the coast or in mobile homes or who just did not want to test their luck at home lugged suitcases, cases of water and clutched their favorite pillows as their minds drifted to what they left behind.

Lois Paul, 78, was one of 130 people at an elementary school in Brevard County, Fla., that was being used as a shelter on Thursday.

“My house is blue; I call it ‘my blue heaven,’” Mrs. Paul said. “This one can blow your house away.”

Mrs. Paul brought patio cushions to sleep on, sheets, pillows, an extra set of clothes and a windbreaker. She has done this three times before, during Charley, Frances and Jeanne in 2004.

“I’m afraid for my home,” she said. “The worst part is not knowing what’s going on there while you’re away. You just don’t know what you’re going to find when you get home.” — FRANCES ROBLES in Titusville, Fla.

Anxiety Theory

They were boarding up the windows of the graceful 1801-era city hall in Charleston on Thursday. Boarding up the Confederate Museum. Boarding up luxury hotels and graceful antebellum homes and businesses from the high end to the low.

Residents in Charleston, S.C., filled sandbags on Wednesday in preparation for the hurricane. 

On Queen Street, a few blocks from the waterfront, Lese Corrigan, 59, was busy boarding up her art gallery. With red paint and a fat brush, she painted a paean to the hurricane aesthetic that has transformed the Charleston peninsula for now: “NATURE ART MAKES,” she wrote over the plywood.

The adjacent storefront, also an art gallery, had just been boarded up by Nelson and Mary Ohl. Ms. Ohl, 52, a Charleston native, marveled that so many thousands of people had already evacuated. There were a few stragglers, but mostly the city was quiet and still. Ms. Corrigan had a theory. This country, she said, has been overcome lately by all kinds of anxiety-producing events that people cannot control: attacks by terrorist sympathizers, a rash of controversial police shootings, a turbulent political season. Leaving town, she said, was a way for people to take charge of something.

“This is an anxiety you can do something about,” she said. — RICHARD FAUSSET in Charleston, S.C.

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