As he has all week, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday continued to stress the potential for peril brought by Hurricane Matthew.
“If you think someone is making a bad decision (by not evacuating), call them,” he said during an early morning briefing at the state’s Emergency Operations Center. “Don’t let people try to (stay) in an evacuation area. Do it now; don’t wait.”
Matthew killed at least 16 people in the Caribbean as it cut through Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas.
Scott also announced he is activating an additional 1,000 National Guard troops to help with hurricane response and recovery, for a total of 2,500 members now active. There are another 4,000 ready to be deployed if needed, he said.
About 1.5 million Floridians are currently under evacuation orders, the governor’s office said in a separate statement.
Leaving now, Scott added, “could save your life, your friend’s life, your family member’s life … Unfortunately, this is going to kill people.”
The Florida Division of Emergency Management said 48 shelters set up in schools already are providing for just over 3,000 people, mostly in coastal counties. Another 13 special needs shelters are currently housing 31 people.
These shelters are in areas where evacuations — either mandatory or voluntary — are underway.
The storm is forecast to near the Florida coast starting Thursday night, potentially as a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds. Any slight deviation could mean landfall or it heading farther out to sea.
Either way, forecasters say it will come close enough to wreak havoc along the lower part of the East Coast, dumping up to 15 inches in rain in some spots. Storm surge of 5 feet to 8 feet was expected along the coast from central Florida into Georgia.
“There are no excuses,” Scott said Thursday morning. “If you’re reluctant to evacuate, just think of all the people this storm has already killed. You or your family could be among (them) if you don’t take this seriously.”
— For shelter information in Florida, including for those with special needs, click here.
— For travel information, including evacuation routes, click here.
The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.