Schools closed, evacuations ordered in Florida as Matthew nears

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WFLA/AP) — More than 1.5 million Florida residents live in evacuation zones. The following counties have mandatory and/or voluntary evacuations taking place: Palm Beach, Broward, St. Johns, Duval, Brevard, St. Lucie, Flagler, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Nassau and Volusia.

Florida has canceled classes along its Atlantic coastline and theme parks kept a watchful eye as Hurricane Matthew picked up speed heading to the East Coast.

A state of emergency is in effect for the whole state and officials in central Florida’s Brevard County are ordering residents on barrier islands and in flood-prone areas to evacuate Wednesday in advance of the powerful hurricane.

“We have to be prepared for a major hurricane,” Scott said. “We have to prepare for a direct hit.”

In a news release, Brevard County’s board of commissioners said mandatory evacuations will begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Merritt Island and other areas. County officials say shelters will begin opening at 4 p.m. In addition, officials Brevard County said Cape Canaveral Hospital near the coast began moving patients to inland hospitals.  Residents who live in mobile and manufactured homes also are being ordered to leave.

“This is a dangerous storm; it’s never too early to evacuate,” the governor said.

Government officials are worried about complacency, especially in South Florida, which hasn’t seen a major hurricane in 11 years.

In Miami-Dade County, the state’s largest school district, officials said they’ll monitor the storm on Wednesday morning before making a decision on whether to cancel classes Thursday and Friday. The county remains under a tropical storm warning.

From Broward County to the Space Coast – where hurricane warnings are in effect – officials already have closed schools for the rest of the week. Some school districts are sending students home early on Wednesday, and after school activities are canceled.

Orange County Schools announced they will be closed Thursday and Friday.

Most colleges and universities in the warning areas also have canceled classes starting Wednesday evening.


  • Polk County Schools are closed Thursday and Friday
  • Sumter County – Early dismissal Thursday, October 6, at approximately 12:20 pm for elementary schools and 1:20 pm dismissal for secondary schools. School cancelled Friday, October 7, for students and staff
  • Brevard County – Closed Thursday and Friday
  • Broward County – Closed Thursday and Friday. Eastern Florida State College will be closed until Monday
  • Indian River County – There will be early dismissal today. Schools closed Thursday and Friday
  • Okeechobee County – Schools closed Thursday and Friday
  • Orange County Public Schools will be closed Thursday and Friday. All activities on and off campus have been cancelled Thursday through Sunday.
  • Palm Beach County Public Schools has notified the state that schools will be closed Thursday and Friday.
  • Martin County Public Schools has notified the state that schools will be closing early tomorrow and will remain closed Thursday and Friday.
  • St. Lucie County Public Schools has notified the state that schools will be closing at noon tomorrow and will remain closed Thursday and Friday.
  • St. Johns County Public Schools has notified the state that schools will closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
  • The Florida School for Deaf and Blind has notified the state that schools will closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
  • The Florida Institute of Technology is suspending operations from Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 12:50 p.m. to Tuesday, Oct. 11. The Florida Tech vs. North Alabama football game is canceled. 
  • The University of Florida will be closed Friday. Go here for updates. 
  • University of Central Florida is closed Thursday through Saturday

The National Hurricane Center issued the following advisory:

  • Matthew is an extremely dangerous hurricane that will be capable of extensive to catastrophic damage along the east Florida coast
  • DO NOT FOCUS ON THE EXACT TRACK! Small changes in the forecast may bring significant changes to local impact
  • Now is the time to act. Your hurricane plans should be completed during the day today as conditions deteriorate rapidly late tonight. Thursday morning will be too late

In Florida, a message on Walt Disney World’s website Wednesday says all of its theme parks and resorts are “currently operating under normal conditions” as officials continue to monitor the storm. They advised those who plan on visiting Disney to monitor news outlets for the latest weather information. Officials at SeaWorld in Orlando announced on its website that officials “anticipate altered hours due to Hurricane Matthew.”

In South Florida, lines at grocery stores were heavier than usual on Tuesday and some essentials were in short supply. When Simone Corrado and her husband tried to buy water at their Publix in Davie near Fort Lauderdale, they mostly found empty shelves. There were a few bottles of high-end water brands, but there was so much empty shelf space that Corrado lay down and fully stretched out on the bottom shelf.

“I got scared because all that was left at Publix was just the pricey water,” said Corrado, who lived through 1992’s catastrophic Hurricane Andrew, which practically leveled the nearby city of Homestead. “They really put the fear into you here. On the television screen every few minutes is the ‘beep, beep, beep’ storm alert.”

Hurricane Hermine became the first to strike Florida since Wilma in 2005 when it hit the eastern Panhandle on Sept. 2 as a Category 1 storm, causing one death, storm surge damage to beachfront homes and downed trees and powerlines. That 11-year lull between storms hitting Florida was the longest on record.

The last storm to hit Florida from the Atlantic side was Katrina, which struck on its way to devastating the Gulf coast.

Wilma made landfall as a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds, killing five people as it pushed from southwest Florida, through the Everglades and into the Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach area, causing an estimated $21 billion in damage and leaving thousands of residents without power for more than a week. It concluded a two-year span when a record eight hurricanes hit the state.

Governors in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina declared states of emergency, and the White House said President Barack Obama canceled a campaign and health care events in Florida on Wednesday.

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