(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti Tuesday morning, lashing the Western shores of the country with 145 mph winds.
Thousands of Haitians are seeking emergency shelter. Storm surges of up to 10 feet and torrential rain that could reach 40 inches in some areas is expected. The situation could create havoc in a country with an infamously fragile infrastructure.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned that the storm “could bring devastation to Florida [that] we haven’t seen in years,” adding that “we can not rule out a direct hit on Florida” starting as early as Wednesday. Scott declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm.
He said that the effects of Matthew could be “catastrophic,” bringing with it a chance of heavy rain, rip currents, beach erosion, tornadoes and hurricane force winds.
Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that there are no plans to evacuate the city yet, but that residents should brace themselves for the possibility of danger.
“The message is simple,” Gimenez told reporters. “You should be prepared.”
The Category 4 storm plodded northwest across the Caribbean Sea at about 7 mph Tuesday morning, on a course that will put it near the Florida coast sometime Thursday, ABC meteorologist Max Golembo said.
Some 6,000 people were being housed in temporary shelters, Haiti’s civil protection service said on Twitter. Many more remained in flood-prone areas.
“Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides are likely from this rainfall in southern and northwestern Haiti, the southwestern Dominican Republic, and eastern Cuba,” the National Hurricane Center warned in an advisory.
Some 10.6 million people are in the storm’s path in Haiti, according to the United Nations, in addition to 11.2 million in Cuba and 2.8 million in Jamaica.
Citing “life-threatening rains, winds and storm surges,” the USAID released $400,000 in initial aid to mount a humanitarian response to the storm.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory also declared a state of emergency for 66 counties in his state in anticipation of Matthew striking Thursday night. The governor said he has been in contact with FEMA to prepare for the storm.
“I’m hoping this is a false alarm, but we can’t gamble,” McCrory said.
A FEMA spokesperson said the storm is being monitored very closely, adding that FEMA is in touch with officials in potentially affected states.
“It’s too soon to know what impact, if any it, will have on the U.S, but we’re urging individuals to take advantage of the time they have right now to prepare,” the spokesperson said.
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