For many native Floridians, this hurricane season is not our first rodeo. For some, that means a certain sense of brio rather than caution (we're talking to you, surfers in Sebastian Inlet). While it's necessary to urge some people to take Matthew seriously, fear-mongering can have devastating consequences.
That is exactly what Gov. Scott did this morning when he addressed Floridians.
"If you need to evacuate and you haven't, evacuate," he said. "This storm will kill you. Time is running out. We don't have that much time left."
Since many Floridians are now operating under the fear of certain death unless they hustle, the governor's words could spur a panic in which people are likely to forego well-reasoned plans that would ensure them and their loved ones safety.
This is especially true for the many hurricane novices who live in South Florida. The last major hurricane to touch down in the Sunshine State was Wilma, about 11 years ago. Since then, millions more people have moved to South Florida, where Matthew is poised to make landfall. Many first-timers don't know what to expect.
Naivete, along with a lack of preparation and a sense of panic, during a natural disaster could lead to outright tragedy. People might head north from South Florida. They might take off in the rain. They could try to put shutters on as the storm rages or wander into places with downed wires.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to New Times Broward-Palm Beach's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling South Florida's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Although dozens of people have been killed in Haiti, especially in areas with poor infrastructure, Scott's words could prompt reactions that are disproportionate to the level of risk here in South Florida. Since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, homes and buildings in Broward are among the strongest in the nation when it comes to enduring storms like Matthew (although they are not entirely storm-proof).
Because of this, the main concern with Scott's words is that they could spur reactions from locals, just before the natural disaster hits, that could leave them stranded in the storm rather than in safety — especially since they are safer, both in terms of building integrity and the path of the storm, staying where buildings can take a beating.
Now that it is the afternoon, it is no longer the time to evacuate if you're in Palm Beach or Broward, especially if you do not have a structured plan. Get off the roads, and get hunkered down somewhere safe.
Stay calm, though, and enjoy your spam.