Hurricane Matthew Makes Landfall in Haiti as Category 4, Florida Braces for Hit
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency as the state braces for Hurricane Matthew – the most powerful Atlantic tropical storm in a decade — and the storm has already struck Haiti, leaving at least three people dead.
“If Matthew directly impacts Florida, there will be massive destruction that we haven’t seen in years,” Gov. Rick Scott said at a press conference on Monday. “The projected path is a little off the coast, but it can change at a moment’s notice. When that happens, we’re not going to have a lot of time to get ready.”
Hurricane Matthew could hit Miami as early as Thursday, with winds at 120 mph, The Weather Channel reports. The site reports that Jacksonville could see winds of 115 mph and the storm could move further into the state on Saturday.
The Category 4 storm struck Haiti just after 7 a.m. on Tuesday with winds of 145 mph, according to The Weather Channel. NBC News reports that three people have died in the Caribbean country as a result of the storm and one person remains missing.
Hurricane Matthew has not yet made its way to the U.S., but Gov. Rick Scott has called the storm “life-threatening” and vowed to “take it seriously.”
“I have declared a state of emergency in every Florida county due to the severity and magnitude of Hurricane Matthew,” Scott wrote in a tweet on Monday.
Mike Doll, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, tells PEOPLE that the storm will likely hit just off of Florida’s coast on Thursday bringing strong winds and heavy rain — but the storm’s conditions will likely have deteriorated by then, he says.
“At this point, we are not forecasting landfall across Florida,” he says. “But [Hurricane Matthew] will come close enough to Florida to cause an impact.”
He says the worst conditions will appear just off of the state’s east coast. But there is a chance the storm could hit further north.
“There’s a chance it could make landfall in South Carolina and North Carolina.”
WATCH: Coastal States Brace for Hurricane Matthew
He adds: “By the time that Matthew is east of Florida, we expect that [it] will be either a Category 3 or Category 2 hurricane.”
It is unclear exactly what impact the storm will have on the state, but Scott said in a statement that the “National Guard stands ready to be deployed if needed.”
“Again, while we are preparing for the worst, we are hoping for the best and will not take any chances with a storm of this magnitude,” he said.
Hurricane Matthew has been downgraded from its Category 5 rating, packing 155 mph winds, the National Hurricane Center reported – A Category 5 hurricane has winds of at least 157 mph.
Matthew was the first Category 5 hurricane since 2007’s Hurricane Felix, which killed 130 people and caused nearly $750 million in damage in Central America and the Caribbean.
The hurricane is expected to move on to Cuba, and some areas can expect up to 20 inches of rain, NBC News reports.
Doll says Florida residents should “heed any watches or warnings” that authorities may issue.
“This is going to be a close call … as far as a direct impact,” he says.