MIAMI (AP)– The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday warned boaters to start preparing for Hurricane Matthew, and Gov. Rick Scott announced plans to visit the state’s emergency operations centers along Florida’s east coast.
Scott canceled Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting to make the trip. He wants to make sure counties are prepared if the storm moves toward Florida, spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said. Scott signed an executive order on Monday declaring a state of emergency for every Florida county.
Matthew was a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (220 kph) Monday evening, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The hurricane was centered about 225 miles (360 kilometers) south of Port Au Prince, Haiti. The storm was moving north at 7 mph (11 kph). Matthew’s center will approach southwestern Haiti Monday night, move near eastern Cuba late Tuesday, and move near or over portions of the southeastern and central Bahamas Tuesday night and Wednesday, the center said.
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Coast Guard officials set “port condition whiskey” for ports in southeastern Florida: Ports and facilities currently remain open to all commercial traffic, but all oceangoing vessels and barges greater than 500 gross tons should start making plans to leave the port, officials said in a news release.
Vessels seeking to stay in the port should contact the captain at each facility to receive permission, according to the release, which also warned pleasure boat owners to seek safe harbor.
In addition, the Coast Guard warned mariners to heed weather watches, warnings and small craft advisories and to monitor the progress of the storm through local TV, internet and radio.