Brett Murphy reporting from Ave Maria, 3:42 p.m.
Most of the stores in downtown Ave Maria are remaining open while Hurricane Matthew begins dropping rain in eastern Collier County. Marta Valle, an employee at By Way of the Family home supply store said she doesn't plan on closing early, but that could change. "We'll wait and see," Valle said, peeking outside at the rain.
But university buildings have begun to empty. Several university buildings are closing at 4 p.m. and 5:30. Michell Dimuro, a manager at the book store and Massachusetts native said this is her first hurricane. "I'm worried about it," she said, "even though other people don't seem to be." She told a student employee on the phone that they plan to be open tomorrow but they're playing it "minute-by-minute."
"Just charge your phone and crank the A/C," she said over the phone
Greg Stanley reporting from Collier County 4:02 p.m.
Collier County’s airports in Marco Island, Everglades City and Immokalee are open and Manager Justin Lobb said he expects them to remain open throughout the evening.
With the wind picking up, most small planes are choosing to stay grounded, Lobb said.
“We’ve had a number of private aircraft fly in from Miami and east coast seeking shelter,” Lobb said. “They’re flying in to tie down the aircraft and get them out of the way. We know a lot of them are trying to stay in hotels but it seems like all the hotels are booked up.”
A few scheduled flights have cancelled to avoid the storm.
“We’re going to keep monitoring things, but we’re fully staffed at all three airports and I expect to remain open,” Lobb said.
Most evening classes and events are cancelled Thursday night at Ave Maria University, according to an announcement from the school's communication's department.
Jason Sylester, director of the physical plant for Ave Maria, said the university is working with the community and residences to make sure they're ready for Hurricane Matthew. Outer bands started touching down late afternoon Thursday. Sylvester said the major task in preparation is taking down anything loose before the wind gets to it, like signs, debris and generator fuel. He's confident that relationships with local diesel companies will keep the university buidlings running in the event of a power outage.
"These buildings are like a fortress," Sylvester said when asked if there was a shelter protocol in place. "These are concrete structures, hurricane proof windows. The buildings are very, very safe."