Hurricane Matthew continued its churn up the eastern coast of Florida on Friday afternoon, after a slight wobble in its track spared Florida from potentially catastrophic conditions. The storm was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane with winds of about 120 mph, but significant storm surges for the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were all still of concern, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A state of emergency was declared in all three states and more than 2 million people in the hurricane’s path were under evacuation orders.
A storm surge is one of the most dangerous aspects of a hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center. It occurs when winds generated by a coastal storm push large waves water onto land.
Gov. Nathan Deal ordered mandatory evacuation for six coastal counties, home to some 500,000 residents. He also advised the 100,000 residents of low-lying areas west of Interstate 95 to evacuate voluntarily. It is the first time in 17 years that residents of the entire Georgia coast have had to evacuate, according to the Associated Press.
Most of Savannah's city core is forecast to remain intact, with the worst of potential flooding occuring East.
More than a million residents in coastal areas were ordered to flee the storm’s path no later than noon on Thursday and Gov. Nikki Haley advised people to get 100 miles away from the coast. Around 1,400 South Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated.
Much of the city's low-elevation peninsula is expected to experience flooding from the storm surge, though not many of the areas are densely populated.
Around 1.5 million of the state’s citizens were ordered to evacuate as the storm approached, and Gov. Rick Scott activated some 2,500 members of Florida’s National Guard to help with Hurricane Matthew response and recovery efforts. The storm is expected to be the strongest to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, according to the Weather Channel.
Some of the most expensive property in the state was at risk of damage – including the Donald Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago Club.
The barrier island that houses the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station could face extensive flooding.