HOUSTON — Hurricane Matthew became a Category 4 storm Thursday, and it seems to be getting stronger all the time. It's now claimed 108 lives in Haiti alone, according to the Civil Protection Service. And it seems to be headed straight for Florida.
"We're looking at a monster," Florida Senator Bill Nelson told CNN, "The last real monster that we had in Florida was in 1992. That was Hurricane Andrew." That storm killed 65 people and caused more than $26 billion in damage.
Perhaps that's why Florida's governor Rick Scott proclaimed so emphatically, "Evacuate! Evacuate! Evacuate! This is going to kill people."
You can't really miss his point there, can you?
Two million people have been urged to evacuate Florida, Georgia and South Carolina's coastal cities. But in South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley says not many are listening. "175,000 people have evacuated. That's not enough," she said at a press conference. "If you are sitting at home, if you have not evacuated, gas stations are getting ready to close, pharmacies are getting ready to close. Everything is going to leave."
"If you're on the East Coast, you are going to lose power," said Florida's governor. "Do not believe you're not going to lose power. You are going to lose power. Millions will lose power."
Hurricane Matthew completely shut down the Bahamas Wednesday. But it also kicked relief efforts around the U.S. into high gear at places like Helping Hand for Relief and Development, a Muslim-based non-profit group in Houston.
"There's a three-member team," explains Ilyas Choudry, director of programs for the group. "One from Michigan. One from New Jersey. One from Houston. They have gone to Haiti today. They are going to provide food items, bottled water to people in shelters. They will make an assessment of what else is needed." Then, he says, items will be boxed up and sent to the team from the United States.
"One other thing we definitely will need is medical doctors," Choudry adds, "If they can volunteer with us and go out in the field, there's an opportunity." He asks potential volunteer physicians to call him at 832-275-0786 or reach out via their website.
"In the USA, we are a very blessed country," Choudry says, "whatever we can, we should do it for the humanity."
As Hurricane Matthew bares down on the East Coast, it's good to know there are folks out there ready to help pick up the pieces.