JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Thursday, October 6, the day before Hurricane Matthew would make landfall in Florida, the Category 4 storm swirls closer and closer to Florida's eastern edge. The massive hurricane had just devastated the Caribbean. As many as 900 people are believed dead in Haiti and thousands upon thousands of homes are destroyed.
Knowing the destruction this storm could cause, Florida Gov. Rick Scott warns state residents they need to leave.
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"Evacuate, this storm will kill you," said Scott.
Local governments start evacuating flood zones. Thousands leave, facing lengthy backups on Interstate 10. Others pack local shelters as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry puts it in no uncertain terms that this could be a deadly storm.
"We have a catastrophic event upon us," Curry warned first responders.
Channel 4's Tom Wills, who has witnessed 40 years of storms in Jacksonville, makes an urgent plea on television.
"I want to talk to you people just a minute. Not as Tom the newsman," he emotionally stated. "We've been together for 40 years -- you and I. It's time to take precautions. It's time to protect yourself. This is not going to be anything like we've seen before. Think of Katrina. Think of what Hugo did. Think of Baton Rouge. We're in for a terrible, terrible experience."
Early Friday morning, there was a bit of good news. Matthew downgrades to a Category 3 and wobbles away from the coast The storm skirts the eastern edge of the central Florida coast, with winds topping at a deadly 145 miles hours.
The storm pummels cities in its path -- cameras capturing billboards tossing around in Juno Beach and transformers blowing in Cocoa Beach.
Matthew inches its way northward at daylight, continuing its path of destruction in Daytona Beach -- ripping apart buildings and blowing debris with ease.
Matthew's high winds prevail and push a wall of water into beachfront homes as it moves into Flagler and St. Johns Counties.
"Here at the fort behind me, the water is coming over the wall at an incredible rate," reported Channel 4's Chris Parenteau, reporting live from St. Augustine.
The beautiful waterfront district of St. Augustine is submerged in sea water and low-level ground nearby is inundated. Surrounding neighborhoods are battered by the punishing winds and that -- combined with saturated soil -- causes tree after tree to topple.
In Jacksonville Beach, a strong storm surge washes onto and over 11th Avenue South, flooding the entire area.
Places further inland aren't spared. Miles from the beach, in the St. Nicholas neighborhood of Jacksonville, the steeple of a church snaps right off.
Once the storm is done with Florida, Scott and Curry invited Channel 4's Kent Justice up for a helicopter tour to survey the damage. It was extensive.
"We could see where the surge hit. Just confirms, you know, when we made the decision to call for the evacuation," the mayor said to Kent.
The Jacksonville Beach Pier suffers heavy losses. Boats and homes are ruined in St. Augustine. A one-mile stretch of A1A in Flagler County is destroyed. Waterfront homes in Vilano Beach are ripped apart.
Curry says it wasn't a simple decision to decide whether or not to call for evacuations. But, in light of the damage, it was the right decision.
"There is no handbook on this and we made the right call," Curry said.
As Matthew finishes battering Florida -- knocking out power, flooding homes and damaging bridges - the storm causes similar problems for Georgia's coastal communities. Glynn County suffers -- having to cancel school the rest of this week.
Matthew makes its way up the East Coast, making landfall again near Charleston, South Carolina. The storm continues a devastating northward path by North Carolina and Virginia, too.
Hurricane Matthew is now blamed for at least seven deaths in Florida. Georgia is reporting at least three Matthew-related fatalities. South Carolina is reporting at least three deaths due to Matthew and 10 are being reported in North Carolina.
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