Florida residents were urged this morning to stay away from windows and doors as Hurricane Matthew’s howling wind and driving rain pummeled the state, at the start of what is expected to be a ruinous, dayslong battering of the Southeast coast.
The strongest winds of 120 mph were just offshore, but Matthew’s wrath still menaced more than 500 miles of coastline and 26 million Americans.
As the eyewall – the most dangerous part of the storm – almost reached land, the National Weather Service issued an Extreme Wind Warning for Port and Cape Canaveral.
At 5am the western edge of Hurricane Matthew’s eyewall was heading straight towards the cape’s Air Force Station and NASA’s $11 billion Kennedy Space Center.
Hurricane force winds have been recorded raging just 5-10 miles east of the Florida coastline and the eye of the storm is now just 40 miles east-southeast of Cape Canaveral, moving northwest at 13mph.
At 4.30am, Florida Governor Rick Scott said: ‘The eyewall of Hurricane #Matthew is now within 5 miles of the Central Florida coast and extremely close to land. Stay aware.’
Government officials have declared a state of emergency in several states in an effort to plan ahead since the deadly Category Three storm is expected to wreak havoc with its 120mph winds.
Two million people across the Southeast were warned to flee inland as tens of millions along 500 miles of coastline battened down the hatches. Residents of high-rise buildings are at particular risk of strong winds.