East coast Floridians flee inland as Matthew looms

Natives of the state's east coast are on the move in advance of the hurricane.

Of the Bay area counties, Polk is closest to the eye of the storm. Many people there are preparing for what's likely to come with Hurricane Matthew: high winds and flooding possible, while others who live along the coast are heading to Polk County for safety.

“It's heading right towards us,” says Alan from Ormond Beach.

Alan and his brother-in-law, Jeff say they didn't want to face Hurricane Matthew as it potentially pummels their homes in Ormond Beach, just blocks from the Atlantic Ocean.

“We don't want those 120, 130 mile an hour winds,” Alan says.

Their families are heading inland to Lakeland and snagging three of the last rooms at the Howard Johnson. The 110-room hotel is sold out like many others in the city the next few nights as people wait for Matthew to pass.

“I went through Andrew in 1992, which was a Category 5. They say this is going to be a Category 4 and very, very scary,” says Jeff. As of late Wednesday night, Matthew was a Category 4 hurricane

A couple from Satellite Beach decided to leave their home ahead of a now-mandatory evacuation order.

“We’ve been through too many hurricanes. I know what it's like. We always left a few days ahead of time. That's the way to do it,” says Bill.

As east coast neighbors are finding shelter in Polk County, many locals are taking the storm seriously too.  Wednesday night, some shelves at the Bartow Wal-Mart were bare as people stocked up.

“Water, ravioli, bread, everything, terrible! It was like a mob scene in there,” says shopper Cory Pavlick.

Jerry Higgs survived the rash of hurricanes in 2004. “I'm scared to death of them,” says Higgs. “Charlie, all four of them actually, came up to the bottom of the floor. That's how high the water was back in here,” says Higgs.

Still, Floridians say the Sunshine State is worth weathering these storms, insisting the hurricanes won’t run them out to other states. “Nope, they never have and never will,” says Jeff, the Ormond Beach native.

Some gas stations like the Bartow Circle K have temporarily run out of gas, but Gov. Rick Scott says there's not a statewide shortage. Scott says the state's current supply can last at least eight days even if all ports close.

The Polk County Emergency Operations Center will open at 7 o’clock Thursday morning, and will be staffed in 12-hour shifts through the storm.

The county is setting up shelters at Alta Vista Elementary in Haines City, Ridge Community High, 500 Orchid Drive in Davenport, and Spook Hill Elementary in Lake Wales.

There will also be a shelter for those with special needs and the elderly in Bartow. For more information on shelters, visit Polk County’s web site.

(© 2016 WTSP)


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