- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

President Obama received an update on Hurricane Matthew Wednesday and urged residents of the southeastern U.S. to pay attention to evacuation warnings as the Category 4 storm takes aim at the mainland.

“I want to emphasize to the public this is a serious storm,” Mr. Obama said at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “It has already hit Haiti with devastating effect. Matthew could soon affect areas all across the southeast.”

The president met with FEMA head Craig Fugate, representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and National Guard officials about preparations for the storm that is barreling toward Florida. Hurricane-strength winds could reach Florida’s Atlantic coast on Thursday.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has warned residents to prepare for power outages and evacuations; South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has ordered evacuations of some coastal communities, actions that could affect more than 1 million residents.

Because the storm will be mainly over water as it moves through the Bahamas, the president said, “it is going to be building strength on its way to Florida.”

“If there is an evacuation order in your community, you need to take it seriously,” Mr. Obama said. “We hope for the best, but we want to prepare for the worst.”

While families can rebuild homes, he said, “you cannot restore a life if it is lost.”

The storm forced the president to cancel a scheduled trip Wednesday to Florida, where he planned to promote the benefits of the Affordable Care Act in Tampa and to attend a campaign rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Miami Gardens.

He said Matthew has already “hammered” Haiti, where the storm caused at least 11 deaths. Matthew has sustained winds of 130 mph.

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