South Floridians on Wednesday stocked up, boarded up and locked up as they began to prepare in earnest for what is expected to be the first major hurricane to hit the state in more than a decade.
Gov. Rick Scott, at a news conference Wednesday, urged residents — particularly those in flood-prone coastal areas, to evacuate in advance of the storm —and not wait until it is bearing down on the coast to leave.
"My biggest concern is people don't take it seriously enough," said Scott, who was at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. "This could turn, and are we going to be ready?"
Using grim language, and words like "devastating" and "catastrophic," the governor stressed that reports showing that Hurricane Matthew may ride up the coast, brushing eastern Florida, doesn’t reveal the full extent of the storm, which has already claimed 11 lives and injured dozens more in the Caribbean.
Stores and gas stations were already crowded in Broward and Miami-Dade on Wednesday. By 8:30 a.m., the Publix in Oakland Park was filled with shoppers stocking up on water, ice, toilet paper, food and batteries.
Marc and Cheryl Farnan of Fort Lauderdale are used to semi-camping because their house is under construction. They have no kitchen and do most of their cooking on the grill anyway.
"I was born and raised here so I'm OK," Marc said.
"I don't worry about anything," Cheryl said, as they stocked up on meat for the grill.
But Gail Thornton, who cares for a 23-year-old disabled son, was worried. Her son relies on a ventilator to breathe at night and Thornton doesn’t have anywhere to go. She her and son plan to hunker down in her Oakland Park home and hope for the best. Her grocery list included water, cat litter, Cheerios and lentil soup.
"Of course you never want soup since it is so hot in the house — but just in case we run out” of food, she said. “I get a little nervous — it's just my son and myself. We get a little worried. The roof is not real good and we have no insurance."
Real estate property managers were also taking measures to ensure that office buildings, shopping centers and warehouses are protected.
Keeley O'Leary, a senior property manager of Colliers International South Florida, had already warned tenants that once a hurricane warning goes into effect, they have two hours to move out their valuables and important papers from their office before the building is shut down.
“It’s very simple, we bring it in or tie it down,” O’Leary said. “Sandbag the doors if it is an area prone to flooding. Inside, wrap computer equipment and ensure that the elevator is at least parked midway up in case of flooding. Take photos or video of everything,’’ she said. Once the storm has passed, O’Leary has an army of contractors ready for repairs and cleanup.
Meanwhile, other residents were lining up, waiting to fill their cars with gas. The Hollywood Boulevard Shell station just east of Interstate 95 had long lines at almost every pump.
As the last step in his overall Matthew preparations, Pembroke Pines resident Lance Randall pumped 30 gallons into a massive tank in the back of his Dolphins logo-dotted pickup truck: generator juice.
Hurricane Andrew in 1992 left him without power for two weeks, and he was without electricity for a month during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Randall was taking it in stride.
"I got married with no power," he said. "We had to get married at the house because the place we were going to get married was closed."
Other residents also recalled surviving some of the state’s most harrowing storms.
"I lived through Hurricane Andrew," said Paul Schnell of Oakland Park. "These hurricanes are not a problem."
Miami Herald staff writers Amy Sherman, Kristen M. Clark, Nancy Dahlberg and David J. Neal contributed to this report.