Florida residents are preparing for Hurricane Matthew, which is making its way to the United States and is expected to hit the state between Thursday and Friday. How strong is the storm right now? How does it compare with previous hurricanes?
When Matthew hit Haiti on Tuesday, the storm was a Category 4, slamming the country with 145mph winds and causing widespread damage, according to BBC News. It has weakened a bit since then, being downgraded to a Category 3 with 120mph winds. As of Wednesday afternoon, Matthew is heading northwest through the Bahamas and is on its way to the Florida coastline, projected to arrive by Thursday evening.
Floridians should not expect the hurricane to weaken much over the next two days, though. It is currently expected to be upgraded back to a Category 4 by the time it gets towards Florida.
For comparison, Hurricane Hermine, which hit Florida last month, was a Category 1 hurricane with winds going up to 80 miles per hour. That was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Wilma was a Category 5 with winds going up to 185 miles per hour; it killed 62 people and caused $25 billion in damage. At the moment, Matthew is not expected to be quite that severe.
It’s unclear if Matthew will actually make landfall at this time, but Florida Governor Rick Scott wants to be prepared. The governor said on Wednesday not to focus on the hurricane’s projected path and to assume the worst case scenario.
“My biggest concern is people don’t take it seriously enough,” Scott said, according to the Miami Herald. “This could turn, and are we going to be ready?”
He added that the result of the hurricane will be devastating no matter what path it takes. Scott also said on CNN that residents everywhere must be prepared to be out of power for several days.
President Obama on Wednesday urged those within the hurricane’s path to evacuate if given the order.
“If you get an evacuation order, just remember that you can always rebuild, you can always repair property, you cannot restore a life if it is lost,” the president said, according to CBS News.