TAMPA, Fla. — Organizers of the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference said today that the show’s schedule and hours will remain unchanged, based on current weather reports and tracking of Hurricane Matthew.
Organizers said exhibitors who believe they need to leave tonight can pack up their booths after the show closes at 6 p.m. In a press release, they outlined the procedures for doing so.
The Weather Channel is reporting that Hurricane Matthew will “significantly impact” the southeastern U.S. coastline late this week into the weekend.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott advised Florida residents who live near the East Coast to leave before travel becomes difficult. He told reporters Tuesday that evacuation orders could be imminent, according to CNN.
Brevard County commissioners ordered one of the state's first mandatory evacuations for residents of Merritt Island and other barrier islands. Residents are being ordered to leave, starting at 3 p.m. today.
CNN forecasters predict that the storm could hit parts of Florida, starting Thursday night. Starting late Tuesday night, the National Hurricane Center had placed parts of South Florida — including parts of metro Miami and Lake Okeechobee — under a hurricane warning.
Forecasters predict that Matthew will be a Category 4 hurricane by the time it brushes up against the East Coast — including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina — sometime between Thursday evening and Saturday.
The National Hurricane Center anticipates that Matthew will move across the Bahamas through Thursday and expects it to be very near the East Coast of Florida by Thursday evening.
Maximum sustained winds are near 115 mph, with higher gusts. Matthew is a Category 3 hurricane, although some slight strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward as far as 40 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward as far as 160 miles.
The storm is expected to affect southeast Georgia from Friday to Saturday, and the Carolinas later Friday, Saturday and possibly continuing into Sunday.
No matter how close the center of Matthew passes in relation to the Southeast coast, The Weather Channel expects “major marine impacts.”
“Matthew will generate large, battering waves along the entire coastline Thursday into the weekend,” according to the website. “Mariners and beachgoers are encouraged to stay out of the water, given this danger.”
Earlier this week Scott declared a state of emergency for all of Florida. In doing so he warned that a direct hit by Matthew could lead to "massive destruction" on a level unseen since Hurricane Andrew devastated the Miami area in 1992.
The top priority, Scott said, would be to ensure that Florida did not add to Matthew's death toll.
As part of Florida's preparation, Scott said he planned to activate 500 additional National Guard members by this morning, according to CNN.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who also declared a state of emergency, said the emergency workers would begin medical evacuations ahead of Hurricane Matthew on Tuesday and coastal evacuations this afternoon.
Kim Stenson, the state's emergency management director, said Tuesday morning that more than 1 million people might be affected by evacuation orders.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for more than half of the state's 100 counties.
Authorities in Hyde County have issued a mandatory evacuation order for Ocracoke Island, a popular tourist destination, ahead of Hurricane Matthew. Visitors began evacuating at 5 a.m. today. Resident evacuations begin at 5 a.m. Thursday.
Hurricane Matthew left 'catastrophic' devastation in Haiti, and largely spared Cuba. Eleven deaths were blamed on the storm.