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Florida Readies for Hurricane Matthew

National Hurricane Center

Florida is bracing as Hurricane Matthew’s path moves closer to the state. Preparations are being made all the way up to the Panhandle.

The latest from the National Hurricane Center has Matthew about 55 miles from the eastern tip of Cuba. Movement is north at around ten miles an hour, with top sustained winds at 145 miles per hour -- making it a Category-4 storm.

“We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, and we’re not going to take any chances,” said Gov. Rick Scott, who on Monday declared a state of emergency for all 67 counties in Florida.

“Everyone needs to take this storm seriously; no one should take any risks,” said Scott. “We have projections on where this storm is going, [but] we don’t know exactly where this storm is going. Storms change; we cannot rule out a direct hit.”

About 700 family members from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are staying aboard NAS Pensacola after they were evacuated on Sunday. Their stay here is indefinite.

“In the end, we’re all one Navy family; and being able to support our family in a time of need, there’s no better feeling,” said Capt. Christopher Martin, the base commander.

Meanwhile, counties out of what could be the affected area are gearing up for any help they can provide. That includes Escambia County Emergency Ops, where John Dosh is Director.

“The state’s placed some of the counties that are not in the impacted area on standby, to help those counties that may be impacted, said Dosh. “That could be technical support, it could be response on incident management teams that are surrounding the state, or it be resources.”

The counties are staying in touch through conference calls organized by the state Department of Emergency Management each morning and afternoon. Dosh says they don’t anticipate opening shelters in the western Panhandle – that’s likely to be handled downstate.

If tropical storm-force winds reach the Florida coast, that would keep OneBlood’s fleet of red buses off the road and force cancellation of scheduled blood drives. Spokesman Pat Michaels urges residents statewide to donate now.

“If we can’t collect in south or central Florida, because of Matthew, and it shuts down our operations, we would hope that people up in the Pensacola area, up in the Panhandle, would be able to take up the slack and help us,” said OneBlood spokesman Pat Michaels.

While they’re accepting all blood types, Michaels says the greatest needs are for type-O, both positive and negative. Also being sought are plasma and platelets.

“Platelets are used for cancer patients.” Michaels says. “O-negative is the universal blood type that can be given to any patients, when we don’t know their type.”

You can give blood every 56 days if you’re 16 years old and above; weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health. More information is available at www.oneblood.org.