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Rick Scott orders FDOT to suspend tolls in counties with Hurricane Matthew evacuations

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Florida’s Department of Transportation will suspend tolls in counties where there are evacuation orders.

The National Hurricane Center has called Hurricane Matthew a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. The most recent forecast showed the entire east coast — spanning from Monroe to Nassau counties — could experience tropical storm or hurricane force winds, beach erosion, rip currents, and heavy rain.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency earlier this week in all of Florida’s 67 counties, and has encouraged Floridians to take every precaution to stay safe during the storm.

“This is a dangerous storm and it is never too early to evacuate. If you live in a low-lying area, on a barrier island, or in an area prone to flooding, you need to make plans to leave now,” he said in a statement.

Scott said he ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend tolls “as needed to keep traffic flowing.”

“If there is an evacuation order in a county, all tolls will be suspended in that county,” said Scott.

Brevard County issued mandatory evacuations for barrier islands beginning at 3 p.m. today. The Associated Press reported Martin County has also issued a mandatory evacuation warning. As of noon, St. Lucie, Flagler and Duval counties were among the counties that issued voluntary evacuation orders, according to the governor’s office.

Scott said he activated 500 National Guard members across the state. Those members will be stationed in north, central and south Florida, so they can “be mobilized immediately.” He has also directed the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to have “high-water vehicles and … search and rescue teams on standby throughout the state.”

Hurricane Matthew is barreling over the Bahamas and taking aim at Florida. The center of the storm is expected to arrive near the Florida coast Thursday night. Florida hasn’t been hit by a storm this powerful in more than a decade.

__The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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