Students and families stocked up on groceries at the Publix in downtown Ave Maria. The store was busy, but not frantic or too crowded. Almost every cart had bottles of water, but there were still plenty left on the shelves. Employees said people have been filing in all afternoon in anticipation for the storm.
A group of three students behind a cart full of beer and hamburger buns didn't seem to worried about the storm. "You just don't know how many days it's going to be," one quipped, declining to give his name. "Could be one, could be five."
Liz Freeman reporting from East Naples, 4:34 p.m.
Shelly Dominque, 34, evacuated from the east coast of Florida and already has experienced loss; an aunt and uncle perished in Haiti due to Hurricane Matthew.
"Family called from Haiti," she said, "It's bad, mostly in the countryside."
She last saw her aunt and uncle, who were 45 and 55 respectfully, two years ago when she was last in her home country.
She's heard the earliest that airports might reopen in Haiti is Oct. 11. Her family lived in Kayes.
Greg Stanley reporting from Collier County 3:41 p.m.
Collier County gas stations are starting to feel the pinch from the storm, with some running out of Regular and others running out entirely as people stock up and fill their tanks. The county’s emergency managers are monitoring the storm, expecting moderate rainfall here with tropical storm winds possible.
County officials advise residents to have emergency supplies ready to last 72 hours, incase turns inland and power lines are lost and roads become unpassable.
Kathy and Tom Edwards sat at the Pub & Grill in downtown Ave Maria Thursday afternoon, chatting and laughing with the waitresses. They just moved to Ave Maria last week from Punta Gorda, where they lived for 17 years. They said today’s storm “almost” reminds them of when Hurricane Charlie roared through the Gulf Coast. “That’s when we learned the term ‘hunker down.’” But they didn’t seem too concerned about Matthew. “We didn’t have to hunker down this time,” they said. “We just came in for a drink.”
The Pub sold $5 Hurricanes — the New Orleans cocktail — Thursday. The manager Mike Bennett said it seemed like it could be an opportunity to get people in during the storm. Kathy told him, “You should call them $5 Matthews.”
Bennett, a Chicago native, said even though this is his first hurricane, he’s not concerned. He moved the patio furniture inside, per order of the downtown business association, but he said he thinks they’re far enough away to avoid the worst of it.
Maryann Batlle reporting from Lee County 4:55 p.m.
LeeTran, Lee County's public transportation service, is unaffected by Hurricane Matthew and will run as scheduled through Friday, according to a Thursday afternoon news release.
"LeeTran will continue to monitor the storm and maintain full service as long as conditions remain safe for operation," said Steve Myers, director of Lee County Transit, in the news release.
Lee County Transit provides 3 million rides per year and has 24 bus routes, a paratransit service and an employer vanpool program. For schedule and fare information call 239-LEE-TRAN (533-8726) or visit www.RideLeeTran.com.
Liz Freeman reporting from East Naples 5:31 p.m.
Still plenty of gas at the Race Trac on U.S. 41 East not far from Marco Island.
Shift manager Richardson Nortilis, 28, said he's been briefed by the store manager in case bad weather come in later but Race Trac never closes.
He moved to Naples from Haiti in 2010. His family in Port de Pain live south of where Matthew did damage.
"I called them," he said. "They're OK."
Mid-afternoon rain and heavy winds largely kept visitors off Collier County beaches.
But the weather didn't stop a group from kite surfing at the Naples beach access near Third Avenue North.
In fact, the surfers said they were counting on the heavy winds.
"We've been talking about it for a week," Roy Myers, 65, of Naples, said.
Myers said storm winds coming from the northwest made for ideal conditions for the group of about a dozen kite surfers who hit the beach around 3 p.m.
"I don't go out if the wind's blowing any harder than 25 knotts," Myers said. "But a lot of guys - they're just getting started at 25 knotts."
Mike Contreras and his family booked two rooms at Motel 82 in Immokalee to escape Hurricane Matthew's lashing on their Palm Beach County homes. The family lives in Belle Glade, a western Palm Beach County city located near Lake Okeechobee.
On Thursday afternoon, Contreras' group of about 12 grilled out on the motel lawn--cooking pork chops, ribs and pasta salad and drinking beer. They bought meats and coal at a local grocery store and hung out as light winds swept through.
When the family received evacuation orders, they chose to listen. They left their houses shuttered, packed up two SUVs and drove to Immokalee. They weren't certain they'd find vacancies in any Florida hotel, but they got lucky with Motel 82.
"We were thinking of going up to Georgia or Alabama," Contreras said. "We had a hard time finding hotel rooms."
Cesar Zamora, Contreras' family friend, said he considered staying in Belle Glade despite evacuation orders. He decided to leave with the family when he learned about the potential effect of the hurricane on the Lake Okechobee dike.
Laura Layden reporting from Bonita Springs 6:45 p.m.
Plenty of hurricane supplies at Rural King in Bonita Springs. They've got lots of cute — and manly — rain boots and they're on sale.
Publix off West Terry Street has plenty of water. Stacks of Publix spring water for $4.49 for 24, 16 ounce bottles. Only a few customers milling about.
It's like the calm before the storm. There's nobody at the gas station at 7-Eleven off of 41 Road.
Liz Freeman reporting from East Naples 6:53 p.m.
Alabama resident Robert Hughes sat in his pick up waiting for his wife to finish shopping at the Walmart in East Naples. He used to live in St. Petersburg so he's familiar with storms. He came to town several weeks ago to visit family.
"What happens happens," Hughes, 62, said. "It's either going to hit or it ain't. Worry about it after it's done."
About 30 people were expected to stay the night at a small church in Clewiston Thursday.
The majority of the congregation live in mobile home parks, said Baltazar Cerda, the president of the Asociación Iglesia Villa Nueva, a non-denominational Christian Church.
"They don't ask, but we know it's a necessity," Cerda said. "Most of them live in mobile homes that are pretty old."
The church will act as a sanctuary for the families for a couple of days, Cerda said.
Carlos and Silvia Hernandez arrived at the church with their family early Thursday.
"Right now we haven't felt much," Carlos Hernandez said in Spanish.
The Hernandez family, who live in a mobile home, looked for hotel rooms, but found none in Clewiston.
He said his family will decide what to do depending on the overnight weather.
Maribel Rangel and Encarnacion Silva drove from Belle Glade, a small Palm Beach County city.
They were forced to evacuate their mobile home, Silva said.
"We are better here," Silva said in Spanish. "We are safer.
"Firstly, whatever God wants, but hopefully this passes quickly."