Hurricane Matthew pelted Florida with heavy rains as the deadly storm steamed ever closer to the coast with potentially catastrophic winds of 130 mph Thursday. Two million people across the Southeast were warned to flee inland.
It was the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. Atlantic coast in more than a decade, and had already left more than 280 dead in its wake across the Caribbean.
“This storm’s a monster,” Gov. Rick Scott warned as it started lashing the state with periodic heavy rains and squalls around nightfall. He added: “I’m going to pray for everybody’s safety.”
As it moved north in the evening, Matthew stayed about 100 miles or more off South Florida, sparing the 4.4 million people in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas from its most punishing effects.
But by Thursday night, more than 80,000 homes and businesses were without power. Streets in Vero Beach were partially covered with water, and hotel guests in Orlando were told to stay inside, though a few sneaked out to smoke or watch the rain.
The lobby of the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort was crowded with people and pets, including dogs occasionally snapping at each other. Some meals were served buffet style while other people waited more than 2 hours for a pizza delivery.
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