Hurricane Matthew leaves thousands without power on Florida's Atlantic coast
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP):
Hurricane Matthew scraped Florida's Atlantic coast early Friday, toppling trees onto homes and knocking out power to half-a-million people but sparing some of the most heavily populated stretches of shoreline the catastrophic blow many had feared.
Authorities warned that the danger was far from over, with hundreds of miles of coastline in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina still under threat of torrential rain and dangerous storm surge as the hurricane pushed north.
"Remember, it could be the worst of it is yet to come," Gov Rick Scott said in the morning.
Matthew was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane overnight, and its storm centre hung just offshore as it moved up the Florida coastline, sparing communities its full 120 mph winds. Still, it got close enough to knock down trees and power lines, and a 107 mph gust was recorded at Cape Canaveral.
IN PHOTO: A billboard canvas flaps in the wind after Hurricane Matthew passed off shore, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in North Palm Beach, Florida. - AP
As the storm closed in, an estimated two million people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were warned to move inland to escape the fury of the most powerful hurricane to menace the US Atlantic coast in more than a decade.
Matthew left more than 280 people dead in its wake across the Caribbean.
As it moved on to Florida, it largely skirted the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach areas of over seven million people and hugged closer to the coast farther north, menacing such communities as Vero Beach, Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville.
Some people who refused to evacuate were stranded and called for help early Friday but were told to stay put until conditions improved enough for paramedics and firefighters to get to them, said emergency operations spokesman David Waters in Brevard County, the home of Cape Canaveral.