Hurricane Matthew Batters Florida Coast; 4 Dead as Over 1 Million Lose Power

Wind and water from Hurricane Matthew batter downtown St. Augustine, Fla., Friday, Oct. 7, 2016.  (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Wind and water from Hurricane Matthew batter downtown St. Augustine, Fla., Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(ABC News) — Hurricane Matthew battered the Florida coast today with powerful winds, potentially devastating storm surges and torrential rain, leaving over 1 million people without power as officials made last-minute appeals for any remaining holdouts to get out of harm’s way.

Four people have died in Florida from the storm.

Officials in St. Lucie County, Florida, said two people died overnight when emergency officials could not get to them because of the storm’s strong winds. One victim, a woman in her late 50s, died from cardiac arrest, according to St. Lucie fire department officials. Crews could not safely respond to her location and the woman died by the time crews arrived, officials said.

Later in the night in St. Lucie County, there was a report of an unconscious 82-year-old man breathing with difficulty. “When it was deemed safe for emergency vehicles to travel it was reported to first responders that the patient had been taken to the hospital,” according to officials. The man was later declared dead.

The third fatality was this afternoon in Volusia County, Florida. A woman in her 60s went outside to feed her animals when a tree fell on her and killed her, according to Volusia County Emergency Management.

A fourth fatality was confirmed in Putnam County, located in Central Florida southwest of St. Augustine. A woman died when a tree fell onto her camper trailer, which was along Highway 17 near Crescent City, county officials said. A man who was in the trailer with her was able to escape with minor injuries.

An elderly couple in St. Lucie County was hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning after they had been running a generator inside their garage during the storm, officials said. The husband and wife were found unconscious Friday morning by neighbors and were transported to the hospital in critical condition.

The hurricane has already claimed hundreds of lives as it tore through Haiti and other Caribbean nations.

The storm is causing devastation along the northeast coast of Florida this afternoon, mainly in the form of catastrophic storm surge. The flooding struck a beach in Jacksonville this afternoon, inundating the area with water and crushing dunes.

Forecasters in Jacksonville had warned of a “worst-case storm surge scenario” and said “if a direct impact occurs, this will be unlike any hurricane in the modern era.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told reporters this morning that he was particularly concerned about storm surge.

Matthew weakened to a Category 2 hurricane this afternoon, with maximum winds of 110 mph. As of 5 p.m., the storm is moving north at 12 mph.

The storm is expected to move near or over the coast of northeast Florida and the coast of Georgia through tonight, then near or over the coast of South Carolina on Saturday. It could make landfall near Charleston Saturday morning.

Officials in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina urged coastal residents to head inland as the most powerful Atlantic storm in more than a decade continued on its path along the coast.

President Obama this morning urged residents to pay attention to their local officials. While the focus of the storm is on Florida right now, he warned Georgia residents to be alert, as the storm will likely move north.

“We can always replace property,” Obama said, “but we can’t replace lives.”

Speaking to ABC News, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told residents in evacuation zones in Georgia and the Carolinas looking at initial reports and thinking, “‘Maybe it’ll turn and it won’t be so bad’ -– you need to go now.”

“Many of these areas have not had this level of flooding since, like, the late 1800s,” he said. “We know some people don’t evacuate.”

He added: “It is already too late for some people in Florida. Just stay where you’re at, hold on because it’s just too dangerous to be outside.”

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