Greg Stanley reporting from the Collier County Emergency Operations Center 7:30 p.m.
With the eye of the storm just about due east, Collier County emergency officials are cautiously optimistic that the area will be spared any major damage.
“We’re going to have intermittent rain and wind throughout the night,” said Dan Summers, director of emergency services. “It looks like the track has held rather steady and consistent. It’s moving forward at 13 to 14 mph and a little east. So it’s looking really good. We’re very fortunate.”
The county opened up its Emergency Operations Center and will keep a partial staff on throughout the night in case the weather turns.
“And that’s out of an abundance of caution in case there is any severe weather tonight,” Summers said.
There were a few scattered cases of sudden down pours and heavy wind throughout the county.
“We paid close attention to Immokalee and the rural areas just in case,” Summers said. “We had generators prepared at the high school. Immokalee had one strong rain with 30 to 40 mph winds. We can expect more of that as these few bands from the storm reach us. You’ll see intense wind for a bit and very heavy rain and then you’ll get a break.”
The county is preparing for regional help in case it’s needed on the east coast. The state is keeping a mobile hospital and other quick response vehicles at the county’s emergency center, ready to go after the hurricane makes landfall.
Collier has been working with Lee County officials to set up shelters for those evacuating the east coast.
There has been a steady but moderate stream of cars and RVs coming this way over Alligator Alley, Summers said.
“We’re seeing about the usual amount of RVs setting up overnight in parking lots,” he said. “We know FEMA is leaning forward and ready to help with logistical efforts. The state has been on top of this. The governor is pushing hard. I feel really good at this point in the storm with how the state is positioned.”
Eric Staats reporting from Broward County 9:30 p.m.
Broward and Miami-Dade counties escaped Hurricane Matthew without major damage as the Category 4 storm stayed far enough offshore Thursday on a track toward a landfall on Central Florida’s east coast Friday.
At its 8 p.m update, the National Hurricane Center lowered a hurricane warning in Broward County to a tropical storm warning, matching Miami-Dade’s status.
In a tweet, Miami-Dade communications director Mike Hernandez said the county would lower its state of preparedness by 8 p.m.; emergency officials in Broward said they hoped to reduce their level of emergency activation overnight.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re hopeful,” said Broward County spokesman Ric Barrick. “We still have a couple hours.”
Florida Power & Light reported some 5,000 customers without power in Broward, and almost 8,500 customers were without power in Miami-Dade.