Hurricane Matthew Bearing Down On The Bahamas
MIAMI (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Nicole (all times local):
Forecasters say Hurricane Matthew is now heading toward the central and northwestern Bahamas.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the eye of Matthew was centered at 8 a.m. Wednesday about 115 miles (185 kilometers) south of Long Island in the archipelago.
It had top sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) and was moving north-northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
Matthew remains a Category 3 storm, down from a Category 4 hurricane hours earlier, though some slight strengthening is expected in coming days. Forecasters say it will be moving across the Bahamas through Thursday and is expected to be very near Florida's east coast by Thursday evening.
Officials in central Florida's Brevard County are ordering residents living on Atlantic barrier islands and in flood-prone areas to evacuate in advance of Hurricane Matthew.
In a statement, the county's board of commissioners said mandatory evacuations will begin at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday in Merritt Island and other areas along the coast. Residents living in mobile and manufactured homes are also being ordered to leave.
County officials say shelters will begin opening at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Additionally, Brevard County officials say patients will be relocated to inland hospitals from Cape Canaveral Hospital near the coast. It wasn't immediately clear how many patients would be affected.
Florida's theme parks are taking a wait and see approach as Hurricane Matthew approaches the state.
A message on Walt Disney World's website Wednesday says all of its theme parks and resorts are "currently operating under normal conditions" as officials continue to monitor the storm. They advised those who plan on visiting Disney to monitor news outlets for the latest weather information.
Officials at SeaWorld in Orlando announced on its website that officials "anticipate altered hours due to Hurricane Matthew."
Universal Orlando's website doesn't mention the storm, but spokesman Tom Schroder tells the Orlando Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2dJDmMY) the resorts executives are monitoring the storm and are "beginning to decide what the next steps are."
The Sentinel says the three theme parks closed for the first time in their histories in 1999 as Hurricane Floyd approached. The storm eventually changed course.
In 2004, the parks closed for three hurricanes — Charley, Frances and Jeanne. Disney and Universal also closed briefly during Wilma in 2005
Attorney General Alan Wilson is warning South Carolinians that a law against price gouging is under effect as thousands of the state's residents leave coastal areas in preparation for Hurricane Matthew.
The top prosecutor issued a news release Tuesday saying the law went into effect when Gov. Nikki Haley issued a state of emergency for the state. State law says price gouging is a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.
Wilson urges people to notify his office if they see gouging happening for prices of commodities including food, gasoline, lodging and water.
Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to announce this morning if she will order that 1 million people be evacuated from the state's coast ahead of Hurricane Matthew. The latest projected path of the storm Wednesday morning had moved a bit farther away from the coast.
Traffic is bumper-to-bumper on Interstate 26 heading out of the Charleston, South Carolina, area as residents evacuate in advance of Hurricane Matthew. Elsewhere though, traffic was light during the morning rush hour because of school and other closings.
Schools in more than two dozen counties in the eastern part of South Carolina have been closed for the rest of the week. And colleges and universities including The Citadel, the College of Charleston and Charleston Southern are closed in advance of the storm.
Gasoline was getting hard to come by with at least a half dozen stations in Mount Pleasant out of fuel and lines at others that still had gas. There were long lines in the area on Tuesday afternoon.
While many people were heading west on Interstate 26 media reports indicated hotel and motel rooms were hard to find in Columbia, the next major city inland about two hours away.
Many school districts along Florida's Atlantic coastline already have canceled classes as Hurricane Matthew approaches the state.
In Miami-Dade County, the state's largest school district, officials say they'll monitor the storm on Wednesday morning before making a decision on whether to cancel classes on Thursday and Friday. The county remains under a tropical storm warning.
From Broward County to the Space Coast — where hurricane warnings are in effect — officials have already closed schools for the rest of the week. Some school districts are sending students home early on Wednesday, and after school activities are canceled.
Districts in Daytona Beach and farther north announced on their websites that they'll be monitoring the storm before deciding whether to cancel classes for the rest of the week.
Most colleges and universities in the warning areas also have canceled classes starting Wednesday evening.
A number of other closings have been announced. In Palm Beach County, the courthouse will close at 1 p.m. EDT on Wednesday and jury duty has been canceled. Most government offices also are closing early on Wednesday.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is about to make a final decision on evacuation orders.
Haley said Tuesday afternoon she planned to order the evacuation of 1 million people along the coast ahead of Hurricane Matthew so those leaving can do so safely.
Haley expects to announce her decision at 9 a.m. Wednesday based on the latest information about the storm. The latest projected path of the storm Wednesday morning had moved a bit farther away from the coast.
The governor said an evacuation order would take effect at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
State officials say lanes on major evacuation routes will be reversed so that all lanes head west. It would be the first major evacuation since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, when the governor at the time didn't reverse the lanes and traffic clogged.
Forecasters say strong winds, heavy rains and a dangerous storm surge are starting to spread over the Bahamas as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the powerful Category 3 hurricane was centered at 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday about 65 miles (110 kilometers) north-northwest of the eastern tip of Cuba. The eye was also located about 155 miles (250 kilometers) south-southeast of the Bahamas' Long Island.
The storm is packing top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph) and is moving to the north at 10 mph (17 kph) with some strengthening is forecast in coming days. Forecasters say the hurricane will cross the Bahamas through Thursday and be very near Florida's Atlantic coast by Thursday evening.
Forecasters say the eye of powerful Hurricane Matthew has now moved north of eastern Cuba.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Matthew is currently a Category 3 hurricane packing winds of 125 mph (205 kph) and is centered about 35 miles (60 kilometers) north-northwest of the eastern tip of Cuba.
Matthew is moving toward the north at about 8 mph (13 kph) and a turn toward the north-northwest is expected later Wednesday. It is also about 80 miles (130 kilometers) west-southwest of the Bahamas' Great Inagua Island.
The hurricane center says that Matthew will be moving across the Bahamas through Thursday and is expected to be very near Florida's Atlantic coast by Thursday evening.
Forecasters say that while winds have decreased a bit, some fluctuations in Matthew's intensity are expected but that it remains a powerful and dangerous storm.
The eye of Hurricane Matthew has moved off the northeastern coast of Cuba and forecasters have expanded the hurricane warning area in Florida.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Category 4 storm's maximum sustained winds have decreased to 130 mph (215 kph) but it is expected to maintain strength through at least Thursday night. Matthew is moving north at 8 mph (13 kph).
Forecasters expect Matthew to move through the Bahamas on Thursday and be very near Florida's east coast by that evening.
The center upgraded hurricane watches from Golden Beach to Sebastian Inlet and for Lake Okeechobee to hurricane warnings. The hurricane watch area has been extended north to the Flagler-Volusia county line.
[STORY BY: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]