Hurricane Matthew is leaving a trail of damage along Florida as it continues to bear down on the eastern side of the state Friday, and the full extent of the storm’s damage will not be known for days, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday.
“We’re still on the front end of this hurricane,” he said. “We’re not on the back end. We don’t know how bad the damage will end up. We don’t know how severe the storm surge could end up being.”
On Friday, President Barack Obama warned the big concern from Matthew is now potential storm surge and the area north of Jacksonville and Georgia. In its 10 a.m. update, the National Hurricane Center said the eyewall is brushing the coast near Daytona Beach.
People should evacuate to higher ground if ordered by officials, Obama said in a press pool event.
Meanwhile, Florida’s governor warned the worst could still come.
“We are very concerned about storm surge,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a press conference Friday morning.
“The worst part of this is still to come. … We still have potential for a direct hit and we’re seeing 100-mile-per-hour winds,” he added.
The storm could end up inflicting $25 to $30 billion of insurance losses, making it the second costliest U.S. hurricane on record for insurers, Reuters reported, citing a source familiar with data modeling firm RMS’s research.
Overnight, the storm avoided a worst case scenario path with the western eyewall remaining offshore overnight, thereby avoiding as much damage as initially feared from West Palm Beach to Melbourne.
Still, the surge caused by the storm could be historic as it moves toward Daytona Beach and further north. Along the coast of George and South Carolina, flash flooding and river flooding are major concerns.
The storm left more than 590,000 people without power, as of 9 a.m. ET on Friday.
“We’re only halfway through,” Scott said. “We’re going to have more outages.”
Florida Power & Light, which provides electricity to 4.8 million families and businesses in the state, expects to restore power to all customers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties along with the majority of Palm Beach County by the end of Friday.
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio said the city is “in pretty good shape” so far.
“We were prepared for the worst and hoping for the best,” she said.
Airlines have already cancelled 4,482 flights that were scheduled to occur Wednesday through Saturday due to the storm, which had been as strong as a Category 4 hurricane before weakening to a Category 3 overnight.
Damage assessments are just starting to trickle in for Florida. Heritage Insurance Holdings estimated losses from the deadly could be about $500 million.
Scott said the state’s fuel supply currently stands at at least five days, adding that there is “plenty” right now.
In Haiti, the death toll has reached 572.
—Reuters contributed to this report