Matthew Also Being Felt in NWFL; Navy Families From Gitmo At NAS Pensacola

Oct 4, 2016

Update 10/4/16 10am:

Hurricane Matthew has made landfall in western Haiti with maximum sustained winds near 145 miles an hour. The Category 4 storm has been pounding the southwestern coast of Haiti, where many people live in fragile shacks of wood and corrugated steel. 

The storm is headed toward Cuba, which is why about 700 Navy family members were evacuated Sunday from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to Naval Air Station Pensacola. The Navy ordered the evacuation for military spouses and children at the base in Cuba on Saturday.

Capt. Christopher Martin, NAS Pensacola base commander, said Pensacola was likely chosen because of its capacity to accommodate the evacuees.

Martin says some of the families were temporarily housed in barracks, but all of them are now staying at  Navy Gateway Inn.

"You know 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 Cpt. Martin.

As Hurricane Matthew works its way through the Caribbean, the east coast of Florida is in its sights.

"It is still entirely possible that the center of Matthew will come ashore somewhere on the east coast of Florida in the next 2 - 3 days," said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, who is monitoring the hurricane from Miami. 

Additionally, Knabb says folks who live in inland areas of the state should also be vigilant, and everyone should have a plan just in case.

Knabb says Matthew is expected to largely remain over water, providing plenty of fuel for maintaining its strength. Residents are encouraged to go ahead and make their plans for dealing with the storm, including protecting their homes and solidifying evacuation plans.

Meantime, preparations for Hurricane Matthews are underway in a number of other areas, the region’s emergency blood supply.

Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for all 67 Florida counties, due to Matthew’s severity.

"If Matthew directly impacts Florida, there will be massive destruction that we haven't seen in years, comparable to what we saw after Hurricane Andrew," said Scott.

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

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

An advantage OneBlood has, says Michaels, is their footprint over Florida, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

While they’ll take all blood types, Michaels says the greatest needs are for type-O, both positive and negative. Also needed are plasma and platelets.

And, if Matthew’s threat to Florida doesn’t materialize, Michaels says if nothing else, they’ll get a head start on the historically slow holiday season.

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.