“This storm will kill you.” That’s how Florida Gov. Rick Scott described Hurricane Matthew as he warned residents to flee the strongest storm system to threaten the US in a decade.
The western eyewall of the hurricane brushed by Cape Canaveral this morning, producing wind gusts of 115 mph. More than 300,000 people are already without power across the state of Florida. Officials are predicting that power will eventually be lost to 2.5 million as further “catastrophic damage” is expected.
Forecasters warn that this storm could be “unlike any hurricane in the modern era.” About 3.1 million people are under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders in three states. Some areas in the hurricane’s path could be uninhabitable for weeks or months to come.
The region has instituted the largest mandatory evacuation since Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. However, the storm surge is expected to be much larger than the New Jersey shore saw during that tragedy. As the hurricane continues to hug the coast through Saturday, the National Weather Service warns that Matthew could deliver “the strongest, most destructive winds anyone in parts of the northeast Florida coast and Georgia coast has seen in their lifetime.” Catastrophic flooding is predicted as well.
How should we respond today?
One: Obviously, we need to pray.
Pray right now for God to move Hurricane Matthew out into the sea and to protect those in its path. The psalmist said of God, “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:29). Ask him to do the same with this storm and to help those facing its devastating power.
Two: Focus on what matters most.
Urging people to flee the storm, President Obama noted: “You can always rebuild. You can always repair property. You cannot restore a life if it is lost, and we want to make sure that we minimize any possible loss of life or risk to people in these areas.” The president is right: material possessions lost to the storm can be repaired or replaced, but souls are eternal. Pray for people in Florida and along the coast and for those in your life today. Serve those you know in Jesus’ name. Seek ways to share God’s love in yours.
Three: Trust the protection and provision of the God who is with us in every storm of life.
Our Father calls us to “be strong and courageous,” knowing that “it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). He promises, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you” (Isaiah 43:2). Here’s why: “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (v. 3). As we hurt, God hurts. Where we go, God goes.
Hurricane Matthew is a storm of historic strength and devastation, but our God is stronger than any storm. Its worst is no match for his best. So pray right now for all those facing devastation today. David said to God, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). Let’s do the same today.