All eyes are now on Jacksonville as Hurricane Matthew creeps its way up Florida’s Atlantic coast, Gov. Rick Scott said Friday morning.
“This is still a 120 mph storm, and we are very concerned about storm surge,” Scott said during a briefing at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.
He was surrounded by state Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, and National Guard troops.
“It still has time to make a direct hit,” Scott said. “We are very concerned about Jacksonville; there’s a potential for significant flooding there.”
“The storm has only passed half our state,” he said. “This is not over.”
But there were no reports of Florida deaths from the storm, Scott said, which proves “the evacuations worked.”
Over 22,000 people now are in 145 shelters across Florida, and there are no “major road issues,” including the interstates. Toll suspensions will remain in effect for 24 hours after the storm passes an individual county.
The state also has five days’ worth of fuel, “even if all the ports temporarily close,” Scott said.
About 600,000 homes were without power Friday morning, many in Martin and St. Lucie counties.
“It’s really important we get the power on as quickly as possible,” said Scott, who was dogged about electricity restoration in Tallahassee after Hurricane Hermine last month. “Power saves lives.”
The state is prepared to house as many as 1,000 out-of-state utility workers at Camp Blanding near Starke.
As the National Guard finishes search and recovery efforts in South Florida, Scott said he will send them north. “Our goal is to keep solving problems,” the governor said.
“It could be the worst part of this is yet to come,” he added, referring to Duval and Nassau counties.
In a related issue, the Republican governor said he hadn’t had a change of heart on extending the state’s voter registration deadline, which is still next Tuesday.
When asked whether his decision was swayed by his support of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Scott said he was “focused on a storm.”
Democrat Hillary Clinton‘s campaign on Thursday had called for the extension because of the storm affecting the state this weekend. Scott chairs the pro-Trump super PAC.
“I’m more concerned we don’t lose a life,” Scott said.