Florida’s Turnpike, Orlando Still Whipped By Hurricane Feeder Bands

Hurricane Matthew, Just Offshore, Pulling Energy Over Central Florida

Turnpike Service Plazas Remain Closed At This Hour; Tolls Still Suspended

Hurricane Matthew continues is sea-bound spiral up Florida’s east coast this morning, after narrowly missing South Florida Thursday and Thursday night. The storm remains a category 3 monster, and forecasters expect the system will continue to spin along the coast on a northwesterly trek, before eventually turning overnight and into the weekend to run along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.

NWS Weather Radar Melbourne - Hurricane Matthew 2016-10-17

Weather radar on the National Weather Service website shows lingering feeder bands of Hurricane Matthew continuing to influence Florida’s Turnpike weather, even as the storm has remained offshore.

The Central Florida Expressway Authority announced on their Twitter feed this morning that the Florida governor’s office had ordered tolls to remain suspended. That order will affect all toll roads in Florida, not just those operated by CFX.

CFX, which operates regional toll roads around Orlando's metropolitan area, announced on their twitter feed that the Florida governor's office had ordered tolls remain suspended on toll roads, which includes Florida's Turnpike.

CFX, which operates regional toll roads around Orlando’s metropolitan area, announced on their twitter feed that the Florida governor’s office had ordered tolls remain suspended on toll roads, which includes Florida’s Turnpike.

Meanwhile, service plazas on Florida’s Turnpike remain closed this morning as feeder bands of Hurricane Matthew continue to pelt Orlando and Central Florida, areas where people have already endured nearly 24 hours of incessant tropical whiplash. Even as Matthew was over the Bahamas, weather radar showed a steady onslaught of tropical energy flowing from the Atlantic over the central peninsula.

The danger posed by Matthew forced Disney World to close at 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon. The park remains closed today. Sea World, Universal Orlando, and other Orlando tourist destinations, most near or close to Florida’s Turnpike, are also closed. For Disney World, the closure is only the fourth time in its history, according to Mashable, that the theme park has closed. All closures were due to hurricanes, and all have happened since 1999.

Officials with Florida’s Department of Transportation have said they will reopen the service plazas along the turnpike only after Matthew has passed, and only when engineers have verified the structural integrity of any building that have been awash in Matthew’s massive wind field. “All Turnpike Service Plazas will re-open after Matthew passes and all the structures are deemed safe for operation and occupation,” officials said in a written statement.

Service Plazas Close On Florida’s Turnpike

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.

Hurricane Matthew forecast track 2016-10-06 5PM EDT

Hurricane Matthew’s forecast track brings it along Florida’s coast late Thursday night and into Friday morning. Transportation department officials have announced they are closing service plazas along Florida’s Turnpike in order to protect workers.

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.

Florida’s Turnpike Buffeted By Outer Bands Of Hurricane Matthew

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 begin 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.

Hurricane Matthew wind field 2016-10-06 8AM

The enormous wind field of Hurricane Matthew will send high tropical storm-force winds and some hurricane force-winds across many portions of Florida’s Turnpike, up and down the peninsula, and other toll roads in Central Florida.

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.

Hurricane Matthew forecast track 2016-10-06 11AM

Hurricane Matthew’s 11 a.m. forecast track from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

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.


Tolls Suspended On Most Florida Toll Roads Due To Hurricane Matthew

Category 3 Storm Continues Pushing Through Bahamas, Aiming For Florida Coastline

Tolls have been suspended on nearly all of Florida’s toll roads and the mainline of Florida’s Turnpike due to the approach of Hurricane Matthew. Chad Huff, spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, announced the toll suspensions late this afternoon in a written release. The suspensions take effect at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and will remain in effect for the duration of the storm.

Hurricane Matthew forecast track 2016-10-05 5PM EDT

The latest forecast track for Hurricane Matthew puts just offshore of Florida’s coast by late Thursday and early Friday, but the wind fields extend outward for some 175 miles from the center, according to forecasters.

The suspensions will be in effect for the following roadways:

Huff warned drivers to follow road signs and pay attention to message signs on the roadways. Specifically, he stated there would be directional signs posted at toll plazas, warning drivers to use extra care, as the plazas will be unmanned. “[Drivers] are advised to obey directional signs posted in advance of toll plazas and exercise caution when approaching the plaza structure.”

The National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. hurricane advisory shows the track of Matthew has jogged back to the west, putting the storm just offshore of Stuart by Friday morning. With the windfield on Hurricane Matthew extending outward about 175 miles from the center, even an offshore storm is likely to cause extreme high winds on approach, making travel hazardous beginning around midday Thursday, according to forecasters.

Tolls will remain suspended until after the storm passes and officials have assessed damage on the roadways, Huff said.


Florida’s Turnpike Remains Open; High Winds And Gusts Still Expected

Hurricane Matthew’s Track Toward Florida Moves Farther Offshore

Storm Could Still Wobble Closer To Coastline

The majority of Florida’s east coast remains under a hurricane warning this afternoon, this as Hurricane Matthew continues its trek into the Bahamas, and eventually into the Gulf Stream near Florida. The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast track has pushed the cone slightly to the east, which could bode well for drivers on Florida’s Turnpike, particularly in South Florida. The storm’s closest approach is expected late Thursday into Friday morning.

Hurricane Matthew forecast track 2016-10-05 11 EDT

Hurricane Matthew’s updated track puts the storm’s closest approach to Florida farther to the north, mitigating danger to drivers on Florida’s Turnpike. However, the storm still has plenty of time to shift direction once more.

The storm system has prompted emergency operations offices to open across the state, and many government offices and schools, particularly in communities along the eastern shore, will be shuttered Thursday and Friday. The Florida Department of Transportation has been holding emergency meetings with various state officials, including discussions with Governor Rick Scott and federal authorities. 

However, with the latest track pushing Hurricane Matthew to the east, FDOT will leave Florida’s Turnpike operating as usual, but with additional roadway patrols. There were “no toll suspensions as of yet,” said Chad Huff, an FDOT spokesman, via email. “All Turnpike service plazas are operating normally with food and fuel.”

Whether there is a decision to suspend tolls will depend greatly on whether Hurricane Matthew either strengthens or turns west into the peninsula. The current track still has the system coming perilously close to shore, but farther north than the early morning track, pushing many of the toll roads in Florida out of the most dangerous parts of the storm.

Hurricane Matthew wind field forecast 2016-10-05 8 EDT

The wind field projections for areas likely to be impacted by Hurricane Matthew. Even on its current track, the storm will likely stream tropical storm-force winds and higher gusts.

However, the NHC wind field forecast still puts much of Florida’s Turnpike under the lash of tropical-storm force winds. The likelihood of tropical storm-force winds hitting portions of Florida’s Turnpike remains above 70%, and as high as 90% along the Treasure Coast, which includes the communities of Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie and Stuart.

The NHC’s next full forecast is due to be released at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Matthew Clears Cuba, Sets Course For Bahamas And Florida

Storm Is Weakend From Track Across Cuba

System Expected To Strengthen Before Coming Near Florida Coast

The track of Hurricane Matthew saw the storm clear the island nation of Cuba during the early morning hours today, as the storm set its sights on the Bahamas and, next, Florida. Forecasters have downgraded the storm to a category 3 hurricane, but no further weakening is expected. In fact, forecasters believe the system will strengthen some as it traverses the Bahamas, following the path of least resistance through the island nation. By Thursday morning, the storm is expected to be off the coast of Florida.

Hurricane Matthew forecast track

Hurricane Matthew is expected to turn through the Bahamas today and strike along the coast of Florida on Thursday, without making landfall. Graphic from the National Hurricane Center.

Because of that track, influenced by a high-pressure ridge in the Atlantic, Florida’s east coast is now, largely, under a hurricane warning. Those warnings went up late Tuesday night, only hours after the east coast had been  put under tropical storm and hurricane watches. The current hurricane warning area covers the Florida coastline from Golden Beach, in Miami-Dade County, to Sebastian Inlet, at the north end of Indian River County. Hurricane watches are in effect from the inlet north to Fernandina Beach, adjacent to Jacksonville. Tropical storm warnings are in effect for Miami-Dade County and portions of the upper Florida Keys.

State transportation officials are expected to make a decision today about whether to suspend tolls on Florida’s Turnpike. It is unclear how soon such a decision could be made; however, forecasters predict tropical storm conditions will begin to impact the South Florida coast by mid Thursday morning, with conditions deteriorating throughout the day.

It is not uncommon for authorities to suspend tolls and change travel directions on toll roads and other highways to accommodate evacuations.


Hurricane Warnings Go Up On Florida East Coast

Parts Of Florida’s Turnpike Within Warning Area

Some Central Florida Toll Roads In Hurricane Watch Areas

Hurricane warnings were issued late Tuesday night for most of Florida’s east coast, from Golden Beach, on the north edge of Miami-Dade County, north to the Sebastian Inlet in Indian River County. The hurricane watch area extends north of Sebastian to the border of Volusia County and Flagler County, just north of Daytona Beach. A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are likely within the warning area within the next 36 hours. A hurricane watch means conditions may impact the watch area within 48 hours.

Hurricane Matthew's 11 p.m. forecast track

Hurricane Matthew, weakened slightly from its encounter with the eastern tip of Cuba, remains a category 4 hurricane.

Florida’s Turpnike, one of the main evacuation routes for South Florida, in the event of a direct impact, or even a glancing blow, is well inside the warning area. Most of its southern leg, from Fort Pierce, in St. Lucie County, to the start of the Homestead Extension in Miramar, are only a few miles from the coast. Much of that area is now likely to be impacted by high tropical-storm force winds and, potentially, hurricane force winds, according to the latest forecasts. Hurricane-force gusts are likely, in any case.

Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise and the Florida Department of Transportation have already been ordering construction crews to tied down equipment at construction sites. Lane barricades and barrels were ordered removed Tuesday night to prepare for added traffic. The decision to suspend tolls on Florida’s turnpike and elsewhere may come Wednesday, according to Chad Huff, from FDOT. Officials had not made that decision late Tuesday night.

Tropical storm force wind speed forecasts

The graph, issued by the National Hurricane Center, shows the likelihood of being hit by tropical-storm force winds over the next five days. According to the graph, Florida’s Turnpike is increasingly likely become too dangerous to drive by Thursday.

The Beachline Expressway’s eastern-most leg fell within a hurricane watch area Friday evening, as well. The toll road’s length traverses central Florida from Orlando to the eastern end of Brevard County, ending at US-1 in Cocoa, which became part of the watch areas late Tuesday. A spokesman for the Central Florida Expressway Authority, Brian Hutchings, said any decisions about suspending tolls on the Beachline would be issued by the Florida’ governor, not CFX.

While Hurricane Matthew has weakened some during its trek across the western tip of Cuba, the storm remains a category 4 hurricane, with winds topping out at 130 miles per hour, according to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane-force winds extend outward 45 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical storm-force winds extend 175 miles from the eye.

Florida Braces For Tropical Tango As Matthew Forecast To Glide Along Coast

Hurricane Watch Area Expands; Transportation Department Braces For Major Hurricane

Tropical Storm Nicole Forms In Atlantic Basin, Adding To Forecaster’s Woes

The National Hurricane Center's 8 p.m. interim update shows the track of Hurricane Matthew shifting father west, putting more inland Florida under a hurricane watch.

The National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. interim update shows the track of Hurricane Matthew shifting father west, putting more inland Florida under a hurricane watch.

Much of Florida’s Turnpike now sits inside a hurricane watch area, now that the National Hurricane Center has issued its 8 p.m. interim advisory on Hurricane Matthew. The NHC forecast track continues to shift to the west, which compelled the agency to add more areas of inland Florida to the hurricane watch area.

Meanwhile, the Florida governor’s office today consulted with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Highway Administration and Florida Department of Transportation as emergency preparations for Matthew continue. The FDOT has ordered all construction to halt on all roadways, including all toll roads, in watch areas. Additionally, all construction barriers are being removed on travel lanes that can be reopened. The latter is preparation for potential evacuations, which could be ordered if Matthew’s track shifts farther to the west.

While Hurricane Matthew is forecast to remain offshore of Florida, the NHC’s most recent track has shifted the storm’s path farther west, bringing the storm perilously close to Florida’s coast. While Matthew has weakened somewhat, and its wind field has contracted, hurricane-force winds still extend outward 45 miles from the center, and tropical storm-force winds extend outward for 175 miles.

Moreover, forecasters, already weary from tracking Matthew, are now issuing advisories for Tropical Storm Nicole, which formed in the open Atlantic this afternoon. However, it is not expected to pose a threat to the United States. A third system is also being monitored for potential development.

Hurricane Matthew wind speed probabilities as of 2pm EDT October 4, 2016

The wind field forecast of Hurricane Matthew includes a significant risk to drivers, as tropical storm-force winds extend outward for 175 miles from the center of the storm. Note this graphic includes the track for the newly-formed Tropical Storm Nicole, right, as well as Hurricane Matthew.

All that means that Matthew, on its current track, will be delivering high winds and rain to much of Florida’s east coast beginning Thursday. That leaves only a day for authorities to finalize emergency plans, and that is if Matthew does not slide too far to the west, which could push outer bands and wind fields onshore sooner than expected.

The NHC will release its next full advisory at 11 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Hurricane Matthew Could Impact Florida’s Turnpike

Turnpike And Other Toll Roads In Central Florida Could Be Affected By Massive Storm

Officials with Florida’s Department of Transportation said today they do not know whether there will be a need to change traffic patterns on Florida’s Turnpike as a result of Hurricane Matthew. Much of Florida’s east coast and most of the Florida Keys are under either a tropical storm watch or a hurricane watch, after the National Hurricane Center in Miami released its 11 a.m. update today.

NHC forecast track for Hurricane Matthew 2016-10-04 at 11AM EDT

The National Hurricane Center’s forecast track for Hurricane Matthew clearly puts Florida, and its toll roads, in the danger zone.

It is not uncommon for authorities to suspend tolls and route traffic in a specific direction, to accommodate evacuations. However, FDOT spokesman, Chad Huff, said it was too early to know whether a traffic a pattern change would happen or whether tolls might be suspended. Huff said he and other officials were very busy today in the face of Hurricane Matthew’s approach. “We wont’ know that until [Wednesday],” he told TurnpikeInfo.com.

Florida’s Turnpike runs through the middle of the peninsula at its north leg, but it turns to the east, just north of the Fort Drum Service Plaza, then runs close to Florida’s east coast, often getting within five miles of the coast. That is close enough to feel the impact of Hurricane Matthew. The storm is projecting hurricane force winds some 60 miles from the center of the storm, and tropical storm force winds extend 185 miles from the center of the storm, according to the NHC.

Hurricane Matthew wind speed probabilities

The National Hurricane Center’s forecast for wind speeds over the next five days shows most of Florida’s east coast will confront tropical storm force winds.

In Central Florida, where hurricane watches apply along the coastline, up to the Brevard County-Volusia County border, Hurricane Matthew could still create high winds and dangerous rain conditions well inland, affecting the Beachline Expressway, which runs from Interstate 95 west to Orlando. Any decision to alter traffic or suspend tolls on the Central Florida Expressway roads, however, will still come from the Florida governor’s office, said Brian Hutchings, spokesman for the CFX in Orlando.

However Hutchings did note decisions will be made in the next day about whether to shut down construction operations along the CFX toll roads. He said if such a decision is made, workers would spend the day Wednesday “buttoning up work areas and making sure anything that could go airborne is either tied down or removed from the site.”

Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, declared a state of emergency late Monday, after the track for Hurricane Matthew shifted considerably to the west.  Scott observed that Hurricane Matthew is the most powerful storm to threaten the Sunshine State in nearly a quarter of a century. While a host of hurricanes and tropical storms have hit the state in that time, none has had the potential for such extreme damage as Hurricane Matthew. “If Hurricane Matthew directly impacts Florida, there could be massive destruction which we haven’t seen since Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami-Dade County in 1992,” Governor Scott told reporters Monday.

Editor’s note: This story has been modified to include the comments of Brian Hutchings from the Central Florida Expressway Authority.

Beachline Expressway Ramps Closing This Week

528 Beachline ExpresswayOvernight Closures Impact Orangewood Boulevard and Universal Boulevard

The Florida Department of Transportation announced the overnight closures of some of the entrance and exit ramps to Orangewood and Universal Boulevards. Both roads share the same exit, with Universal Boulevard running north from the Beachline Expressway, while Orangewood Boulevard runs to the south.

The road closures will impact the southbound lanes of Universal/Orangewood Boulevard at the Beachline Expressway interchange, where construction crews are setting beams as part of a road widening project. As a result, drivers traveling southbound on Universal Boulevard will not be able to take the eastbound entrance ramp for the Beachline, and drivers traveling westbound on the toll road will not be able to exit to the southbound lanes of Universal/Orangewood Boulevard.

The closures are scheduled to last overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning only.