Hurricane Matthew Forces Closures To Protect Plaza Staff
Category 4 Hurricane Bears Down On Coast
The virulence of Hurricane Matthew and the size of its wind field has prompted officials with Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to close the service plazas along Florida’s Turnpike. Nearly all plazas were closed by 7:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, officials wrote in a news release. Only The Okahumpka Service Plaza was left off the list of closures.
The plaza closings were effected at the following times:
Authorities announced they would reopen the plazas after the storm was no longer a threat. “All Turnpike Service Plazas will re-open after Matthew passes and all the structures are deemed safe for operation and occupation,” the release read.
Editor's note: This page was updated at 9:16 p.m. EDT to reflect the following changes: Shows updated closing times for Turkey Lake and Canoe Creek Service Plazas. Changed first paragraph to show all plazas closed except Okahumpa, near Wildwood.
Category 4 Storm Clearing Bahamas And Speeding Toward U.S. Coast
Hurricane Warnings Extend North From Broward County Into Southern Georgia
The outer feeder bands of Hurricane Matthew have already begun whipping around drivers on Florida’s Turnpike in South Florida, particularly Miami-Dade County and Broward County, the first to begin feeling the impact of the storm. For those still driving Florida’s Turnpike this morning, officials have urged caution on the roads.
The Florida Highway Patrol was reporting heavy congestion on State Road 60 in Indian River County, where traffic is heading westbound toward Florida’s Turnpike in an effort to outrun the storm. Matthew is expected to graze the coastline along the Treasure Coast and Space Coast of Florida, even as its immense wind field influences most of the eastern peninsula and into the Florida Keys.
Tolls were suspended on most portions of Florida’s Turnpike and most of Central Florida’s toll roads Tuesday night, as officials prepared for evacuations from communities across a broad swath of the Florida’s east coast, particularly from Palm Beach County northward. The FHP reported all service plazas remained open, and customers were being permitted to fill up a five-gallon (19 liter) container of fuel, in addition to a vehicle fill-up.
High winds, which are already gusting across South Florida, are expected to get significantly worse through the early and mid-afternoon hours, reaching high tropical storm-force early Thursday evening. Some areas are expected to get hurricane force gusts, and sustained hurricane force winds are expected to impact northern segments of Florida’s Turnpike and, in particular, the east leg of the Beachline Expressway.
As of 11 a.m., hurricane warnings were extended farther north, well into South Carolina, and the storm, itself, had gained strength and reclaimed its status as a category 4 hurricane. However, the storm is more compact than it had been, even as it has regained strength. Hurricane-force winds extend outward about 60 miles from the center, but tropical storm -force winds only extend outward about 160 miles, a contraction of about 15 miles from the previous advisory. Maximum sustained winds are at 140 miles per hour, with higher gusts.
Editor's note: Some supplemental information has been added to this report since it was first published. Information about the service plazas was added at 12:20 p.m. EDT.