Matthew Hammers Florida as Southeast Braces
'Devastating' damage predicted
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 7, 2016 2:46 AM CDT
Updated Oct 7, 2016 6:30 AM CDT
Palm trees sway in high gusts of wind on Thursday in Vero Beach, Fla.   (Lynne Sladky)
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(Newser) – 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 hurricane has not yet made landfall. Its strongest winds of 120mph were just offshore, but Matthew's wrath still menaced more than 500 miles of coastline. It slowed to a Category 3 storm early Friday but remained dangerous—and is poised to be the first major hurricane to hit the east coast of Central Florida, the Miami Herald reports. In the latest developments:

  • The number of homes and businesses without power jumped by the hour as the storm edged closer to the coast. More than 200,000 were in the dark by early Friday, the AP reports.

  • As it moved north Thursday evening, Matthew stayed about 100 miles or more off South Florida, sparing the 4.4 million people in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas from its most punishing effects. The hurricane is expected to blow ashore—or come dangerously close to doing so—early Friday north of West Palm Beach, then slowly push north for the next 12 hours along the Interstate 95 corridor, through Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville, according to the National Hurricane Center.
  • Forecasters say the major threat to the Southeast will not be the winds—which newer buildings can withstand—but the massive surge of seawater that could wash over coastal communities along a 500-mile stretch from South Florida to the Charleston, SC, area.
  • CNN reports that in a statement similar to one it sent before Hurricane Katrina, the National Weather Service has warned that homes in parts of central Florida "may be uninhabitable for weeks or months."
  • The Guardian notes that as a Category 3 storm, Matthew is expected to cause "devastating" damage, according to the Saffir-Simpson grading scale. A Category 4 storm causes "catastrophic" damage.
  • President Obama has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, freeing up federal money and personnel to protect lives and property.
  • Matt Drudge and others say the government is exaggerating the dangers to make a point about climate change. See Slate.