Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for all of Florida as Hurricane Matthew barrels toward Jamaica and Haiti.
Heavy bands from the Category 4 storm have already flooded streets and sent many people to emergency shelters in the two countries. Two deaths have already been reported in Haiti, bringing the total for the storm to at least four.
“If Hurricane Matthew directly impacts Florida, there could be massive destruction which we haven’t seen since Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami-Dade County in 1992. This is why we cannot delay and must prepare for a direct impact now,” said Scott in a statement Monday. “We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best, and we will not take any chances to ensure our state is prepared.”
Scott said the decision to declare a state of emergency across the state ensures Florida has resources for evacuations, sheltering and other logistical needs. While the storm isn’t projected to directly impact Florida, Scott said the storm could “threaten our state with very little notice and no one should be caught off guard.”
In his statement, Scott said the National Guard is ready to be deployed if needed. The state, he said, is also taking steps to move additional fuel to the east coast and have extra fuel trucks on standby “to get anywhere in our state.”
Matthew had sustained winds of 140 mph as it moved north, up from 130 mph earlier in the day. The center was expected to pass just east of Jamaica and near or over the southwestern tip of Haiti early Tuesday before heading to eastern Cuba, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
“We are looking at a dangerous hurricane that is heading into the vicinity of western Haiti and eastern Cuba,” said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist with the center. “People who are impacted by things like flooding and mudslides hopefully would get out and relocate because that’s where we have seen loss of life in the past.”
The governor added briefings at the Hialeah and Palm Beach emergency operation centers to his schedule Monday. According his revised administrative schedule, Scott also had calls with Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy, FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold, and FDHSMV Executive Director Terry Rhodes on Monday afternoon.
Scott also cancelled the Cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, Scott plans to visit the state’s emergency operations center along the state’s east coast to make sure counties are prepared if storm moves toward Florida.
__The Associated Press contributed to this report.