After ripping through Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas, and already costing more than 100 people their lives, Hurricane Matthew has regained its status as a category four hurricane with sustained wind speeds of 140 miles per hour. If you live in Florida, you need to take this deadly storm seriously. Everyone in the evacuation zones and the storm’s path needs to get out now.
To put Matthew’s deadliness in perspective, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 as a category three hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles an hour, and it resulted in the deaths of nearly 2,000 Americans in seven states. Hurricane Matthew is currently a much stronger and far more dangerous category four storm. Florida has not seen a hurricane like this in a very long time.
FEMA has positioned resources nearby so that it can respond quickly after the storm, and I urged President Obama to grant Governor Rick Scott’s request for a federal pre-landfall emergency declaration. I’m pleased the president granted that request today. But the best way to prevent loss of life and ensure you and your family remain safe is to evacuate and get to a shelter immediately.
This will also minimize the need for first responders to risk their own lives trying to save those who did not heed warnings about the storm. Those tempted to ignore the warnings should think about what they are doing to our police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. Their jobs are already dangerous enough; we shouldn’t make them even harder.
Even if you don’t live in Florida, or if you live away from the evacuation areas, you can help too: call your friends or loved ones if they are refusing to evacuate from Matthew’s path, and encourage them to heed the warnings.
Floridians not in evacuation zones should store enough food and water for at least three days, ensure you have enough medication for two weeks, and secure your house and belongings. I also urge everyone to gather their hurricane and flood insurance information. Homeowners should look at their insurance policies. Many people don't realize their home is insured as a home with shutters. If you do not use these shutters and you suffer damage, you may not be covered. Check your insurance policy.
My staff and I stand ready to assist Floridians in the aftermath of the storm. We’ve been in contact with the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee. We’re going to keep monitoring the water level closely, because a breech could have a major impact on those who live around and south of the lake. The Corps has assured us they have a plan to manage the dike and avoid any serious problems.
We are also working to help those in the Caribbean devastated by Hurricane Matthew. I spoke with American Red Cross President Gail McGovern and Admiral Kurt Tidd, Commander of U.S. Southern Command, about their humanitarian relief efforts abroad, including in Haiti. I also spoke with USAID Administrator Gayle Smith and Ambassador Kenneth Merten, Haiti Special Coordinator, about recovery efforts.
This is a very bad storm and it’s very likely lives will be lost in Florida. It’s up to each and every resident to do their part to keep risks to the absolute minimum, and that includes getting out of harm’s way. Once the storm passes, rest assured that federal, state and local officials stand ready to do their jobs and get help to those in need. Sadly, Florida has a lot of practice with severe weather, but that also means we have some of the best people in the nation ready to deal with hurricanes like this. Residents should listen very carefully to these experts, and if you have not already done so, evacuate now.