Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner is calling on cellular providers to suspend data overage charges.

Joyner urged the state’s cell phone providers to halt overage charges for customers who live in areas impacted by Hurricane Matthew. She also called on Gov. Rick Scott to support her request, saying the charges are the “last thing victims of this monster storm need to worry about.”

“As Floridians ready for evacuations or hunker down in their homes as this hurricane approaches, communication is more critical than ever,” the Tampa Democrat said in a statement. “Data overage charges can not only be prohibitively expensive, but (are) the last things victims of this monster storm need to worry about. My goal is to keep them connected when Wi-Fi is down, and for most, using their cellular data will be the only way to do that.”

Scott has warned Floridians up and down the east coast of power outages. He has urged residents to make sure their cell phones are charged up, telling Floridians it could be their only form of communication once the power goes out.

“The last time Florida was hit by a major hurricane, communications were not as heavily dependent on internet technology,” said Joyner in a statement. “As he continues to deliver storm updates and prepare emergency measures, I hope Gov. Scott agrees that these relief measures are needed to ensure that storm victims are kept abreast of the latest developments.”

The National Hurricane Center said Thursday Hurricane Matthew has strengthened to a Category 4 storm.

About two million people, from Florida across Georgia to South Carolina, were warned to head inland. The storm killed at least 16 people in the Caribbean as it sliced through Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

Florida emergency officials said more than 3,000 people were already in 48 school-based shelters, mostly in coastal counties where evacuations both mandatory and voluntary were underway. Patients also were transferred from two Florida waterfront hospitals and a nursing home near Daytona Beach to safer locations.

“This is a dangerous storm,” Scott warned. “The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida.”

— For shelter information in Florida, including for those with special needs, click here.

— For travel information, including evacuation routes, click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.

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