Weather & Natural Disasters

President Obama: We don't know how bad Hurricane Matthew damage will be

Marilyn Whaley cleans up after Hurricane Matthew passed through the area on October 7, 2016 in Fort Pierce, Florida.
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Hurricane Matthew is leaving a trail of damage along Florida as it bears down on the eastern side of the state, but the full extent of the storm's damage will not be known for days, President Barack Obama said Friday morning.

"We're still on the front end of this hurricane," he said. "We don't know how severe the storm surge could end up being."

Obama warned that the big concern was the potential storm surge and said the focus was now on the area north of Jacksonville and into Georgia. In its 11 a.m. update, the National Hurricane Center said the eyewall is brushing the coast 35 miles from Daytona Beach. Wind speed was 120 mph.

People should evacuate to higher ground if ordered by officials, Obama said in a press pool event.

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.

"We still have potential for a direct hit, and we're seeing 100 mile per hour winds."

The storm could end up inflicting $25 billion 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, 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 north. Along the coast of George and South Carolina, flash flooding and river flooding are major concerns.

The storm left nearly 600,000 people without power Friday morning.

"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, 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." "We were prepared for the worst and hoping for the best," she said.

Airlines have canceled 4,482 flights from 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 its losses could be about $500 million.

Scott said the state's fuel supply stands at at least five days, adding that there is "plenty" right now.

In Haiti, the death toll has reached 842, local officials say.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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