Hurricane Matthew Avoids Direct Hit on Florida

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Hurricane Matthew churned north along the coast of Florida on Friday, staying far enough offshore to spare the state a direct hit, but still caused flooding, wind damage and power failures. By Friday evening, it was a Category 2 storm, with sustained winds of up to 110 miles per hour, and government officials and forecasters shifted their focus to the threat of more serious damage on Saturday as the storm approaches Savannah and Charleston.

The storm was blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people in Haiti, according to a Reuters report based on information from civil protection and local officials.

For much of the day, officials warned that Jacksonville could suffer the worst damage. But while there was flooding in the area, the eye of the storm remained about 40 miles offshore as it passed Jacksonville.

■ At 10 p.m., the hurricane’s center was 50 miles east-southeast of St. Simons Island, Ga., and 90 miles south-southeast of Savannah, Ga. The storm was moving at about 12 m.p.h., with maximum sustained winds of 110 m.p.h.

■ It was predicted to continue to parallel the coast into Georgia and the Carolinas, putting Savannah; Charleston, S.C.; and Wilmington, N.C., at risk, before turning out to sea.

■ Florida officials blamed the storm for at least five deaths: three in St. Lucie County, one in Volusia County and one in Putnam County. Early on Friday, the St. Lucie County fire service received a call to aid a woman who had suffered a heart attack, but winds approaching hurricane force prevented emergency vehicles from responding. An older couple running a generator inside a garage died from carbon monoxide poisoning, the county said in a social media post. Around noon, another woman was killed in Volusia, Fla., when a tree fell on her after she went outside to feed animals, according to James T. Dinneen, the Volusia County manager. In Putnam County, between Gainesville and Daytona Beach, the sheriff’s office said a woman had been killed when a tree fell onto a camper. Another man was injured.

■ Florida officials said Friday afternoon that more than 1 million customers were without electricity.

■ Significant flooding hit cities south of Jacksonville, including St. Augustine and Ormond Beach, on Friday.

■ The National Weather Service extended its hurricane warning northward into North Carolina. The Weather Service downgraded the hurricane warning for Florida’s south-central coast to a tropical storm warning, and lifted the tropical storm warning for the state’s southern coast.

■ President Obama warned against complacency. “I just want to emphasize to everybody that this is still a really dangerous hurricane, that the potential for storm surge, flooding, loss of life and severe property damage continues to exist,” he told reporters at the White House. “Pay attention to what your local officials are telling you. If they tell you to evacuate, you need to get out of there and move to higher ground.” The president has declared a state of emergency in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, allowing federal agencies to coordinate relief efforts.

■ To cover the storm and its aftermath, The New York Times has journalists deployed along the path of Hurricane Matthew. Follow our correspondents on Twitter.

In Miami’s ‘Little Haiti,’ Anxiety Over Loved Ones Back Home

Miami may have been spared the wrath of Hurricane Matthew, but for residents of the city’s Little Haiti neighborhood the anxiety over the storm was acute. Haiti, birth nation to most of the people in the Miami enclave, was devastated by the storm, which killed hundreds of people on the island and left fears of an even greater toll.

“I have two cousins I have not heard from — I’m very worried,” Daniel Fils Aimé, who has lived in Little Haiti for a quarter of a century and was last in his native Les Cayes two years ago, said. “Somebody is supposed to let me know. Someone is investigating.”

Mr. Aimé, 72, managed to get in touch with several friends in the devastated southwestern region of Haiti. “I’ve heard from some friends — not others,” he said as he bought pastries and bread at the Piman Bouk Bakery. “They’re all scattered now. People lost their houses. They had chickens and cows in the yard — everything went straight into the ocean.”

As the chairman of the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce, which he founded in 2005, Mr. Aimé said he was trying raise money to buy enough food to fill a container, with the intention of sending it to Les Cayes.

Sitting with a friend in a small park at the intersection of 62nd Street and North Miami Avenue, Maximin Raphael, 59, closed his eyes and pursed his lips as he thought about his 43-year-old sister, Gyslaine Joseph, in Les Cayes, and what she went through during the hurricane.

Mr. Raphael, who has lived in the United States for 34 years, had finally managed to reach her by telephone on Friday morning, after days of trying.

“Her house is gone,” Mr. Raphael said. “The roof flew away. Everybody that lives there has a big problem.”

At the Piman Bouk Bakery, murals, both inside and out, portray a verdant and abundant Haiti in the manner of much of the country’s art. But the crushing realities of life there, made even more so by frequent batterings it takes from natural calamities like storms and earthquakes, were all too plain to the customers — almost invariably Haitian immigrants — who lined up Friday afternoon to buy goods.

“We are all Haitian, so we have to be concerned, regardless of whether they are family or not,” said Marie-Claude Richardson, a registered nurse who was born in Cap Haitien, in the country’s north, and who moved to Miami in 1986 after completing high school in her native country.

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High Tide Warnings and Parties in South Carolina

On Friday afternoon in Charleston, S.C., officials warned of potentially record-setting high tides, urged people to evacuate if they had not done so and set a curfew, from midnight until 6 a.m. Saturday, for those who remained.

But as the wind whistled and rain began to spit on this peninsular city, those who remained here seemed remarkably relaxed.

“There’s parties all over,” said Elle Norton, 58, as she boarded up the windows of her pale pink house in downtown Charleston, and brought her potted plants inside. “I have to go to the store now to get some appetizers.”

To Ms. Norton and many others here, the emptiness of Charleston’s palm-tree-lined streets, where antebellum architecture is dotted with hidden courtyards and lush window boxes, was a refreshing break, because the city is usually brimming with tourists.

“It’s so pleasant just hearing the birds,” Ms. Norton said.

A few streets over, Normandy Farm Bakery had filled the case it normally reserved for oysters — of which there were only three left — with hot dogs and beer, and strung up a random assortment of celebratory balloons outside to signal they were staying open.

“You ride it out in your house, you’re gonna go bananas,” said the owner, Mike Ray, who seemed unmoved by the dire warnings from public officials. “I don’t think it’s gonna flood right here.”

Nearby, Jerome Monroe, a local handy man, closed the shutters on a fine arts gallery. He was planning to ride out the storm inside the Footlight Player’s Theater, where he would use a ShopVac to try to minimize flooding, though he knew he was powerless to prevent it entirely.

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