A stressed Florida sheriff issued a grave warning to Floridians who haven’t heeded previous warnings to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Matthew’s landfall.
“People do not seem to get it and are not leaving,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told NBC News. “I’m not saying this to be theatrical … I asked my captain of detectives if he had body bags because if we get 140 mph winds in mobile home parks, we are going to have fatalities.”
As of 8 p.m. local time, the storm had weakened marginally and had 130 mph maximum sustained wind speeds, according to the National Hurricane Center. It’s now 75 miles east of West Palm Beach.
On Thursday night, the storm tore through the Bahamas, smashing boats, ripping the roofs of houses, and leaving thousands without power. Crews are now clearing debris from roads, CBS News reported.
Other officials, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott and even President Barack Obama, have said Matthew isn’t a storm to take lightly.
“We’ve dealt with storms in the past,” St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said. “We’ve dealt with [Hurricanes] Charley, Frances, Jean, Wilma. This is like none of those.”
— NOAA (@NOAA) October 6, 2016
Forecasters have predicted a storm surge of between 5 and 9 feet, as well as maximum sustained winds of 140 mph.
“If you’re watching and you’re in an evacuation area, get out,” Gov. Scott told reporters, according to a live stream of a press conference. “Don’t take a chance. Time is running out. This is clearly going to either have a direct hit or come right along our coast and we’re going to have hurricane-force winds. There are no excuses. You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”
He added that the storm shouldn’t be taken lightly. As many as 1.5 million people live in Florida’s evacuation zone. Parts of South Carolina and Georgia’s coastal areas have been evacuated.
“Are you willing to take a chance to risk your life? Are you willing to take a gamble?” Scott said. “That’s what you’re doing. If you’re reluctant to evacuate, just think of all the people the storm has already killed. You and your family could be among these numbers if you don’t take this seriously.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Obama signed an emergency declaration for Florida due to the storm.