Obama declares state of emergency in Florida

Billy Conley lifts a piece of plywood to place over a window of a business in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, as Hurricane Matthew approaches Florida. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

MIAMI (AP) — Leaving more than 100 dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew steamed toward Florida with terrifying winds of 140 mph Thursday, and 2 million people across the Southeast were warned to flee inland.

Facebook has activated its Safety Check for areas affected by the storm. Click here to check on your family and friends.

Major phone companies are making preparations so that you can stay in touch with your loved ones before, during, and after the storm.

Below are the latest updates on Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Nicole as they come in (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

The National Weather Service is posting flash-flood watches for the entire South Carolina coast and warning that the combination of storm surge and rains from Hurricane Matthew could cause worse flooding in downtown Charleston than the October storm of a year ago.

During the October 2015 flooding, the city was closed for several days.

Forecasters are posting flash-flood watches on the coast from Friday morning through Saturday night.

An advisory warns that 8 to 14 inches of rain are expected with locally higher amounts. It said residents should be prepared for the possibility of widespread street flooding and property damage on the Charleston peninsula.

Forecasters say the storm could bring severe flooding even though the center of Matthew is expected to stay offshore.


1:50 p.m.

President Barack Obama has declared an emergency in the state of Florida and has ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts to Hurricane Matthew.

Obama’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate efforts to alleviate the suffering caused by the hurricane. The directive applies to more than two dozen counties in Florida.

Emergency declarations are designed to help provide emergency services to protect lives and property, and to lessen the threat of a catastrophe.


1:45 p.m.

Airlines are canceling hundreds of flights as Hurricane Matthew pelts the Florida coast with high winds and heavy rain.

The Fort Lauderdale airport shut down on Thursday morning, and farther north the Orlando airport expected to do the same by nighttime.

Before 2 p.m. Eastern time, flight-tracking service FlightAware.com reported that 1,500 Thursday flights within the U.S. had been scrapped, with the largest numbers at Fort Lauderdale and Miami. American Airlines, which has a major hub in Miami, was the hardest-hit carrier, followed by Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

FlightAware said airlines had already canceled 1,300 more flights scheduled for Friday. Delta Air Lines said cancellations were likely to spread to coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday.

Airlines often cancel flights before storms hit to prevent passengers from being stranded at airports and to keep their planes in position to recover after the bad weather passes.


1:30 p.m.

With dangerous Hurricane Matthew approaching Florida’s coastline, officials at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld say they’ll be shutting down until the storm passes.

Disney officials said on the company’s website Thursday afternoon that theme parks, water parks, Disney Springs, the miniature golf course and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex would close at 5 p.m. The theme park will remain closed through Friday.

Alyson Lundell is director of public relations for Universal Orlando. She said in a statement that Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Citywalk would close at 5 p.m. and remain closed on Friday.

Earlier Thursday, SeaWorld announced on its website that the park would close at 2 p.m. and remain closed on Friday.


1 p.m.

The death toll in Haiti from Hurricane Matthew has risen to at least 108.

Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph announced the figure in the capital on Thursday as authorities and aid workers work to gauge the extent of the deaths and damage in the impoverished country.

Details on the deaths were not immediate available.

Previously, officials said there had been at least 23 deaths from the storm in Haiti. There were also four people killed in the neighboring Dominican Republic, one in Colombia and one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Hurricane Matthew roared across the tip of the peninsula on Tuesday but authorities have struggled to reach people in the most remote areas including around the town of Jeremie and throughout the Grande Anse area.


12:30 p.m.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are warning that large waves pushed by Hurricane Matthew could threaten lives and property hours before the Category 4 storm’s eye nears the shore.

Jamie Rhome is leader of the storm surge team at the hurricane center in Miami. Rhome says levels were up to a foot higher than normal as far north as Jacksonville on Thursday as a strengthening Matthew tore through the Bahamas toward Florida.

Rhome said parts of Florida, such as the Cape Canaveral area or communities along the St. Johns River, could see waters rise up to 9 feet above ground — a level well overhead for most adults.

Rhome says such levels are life-threatening because they are accompanied by “waves and currents and floating debris.”

The hurricane center has issued storm surge watches and warnings for life-threatening flooding from Boca Raton in South Florida all the way up the coast north of Charleston, South Carolina.

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