CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Football games were postponed, other events canceled and countless contingency plans were being made Tuesday because of Hurricane Matthew, which could deliver a major blow to Florida later this week before likely spinning up the East coast.
Storm shutters were being drawn shut across windows at the University of Miami, where the 10th-ranked Hurricanes were preparing for their annual rivalry game with No. 23 Florida State on Saturday. A hurricane watch was posted for a large swath of Florida, and the southernmost portions of the state were under a tropical storm watch.
"I don't know what we'll do, to be honest with you," Miami coach Mark Richt said. "Just keep everybody safe, first. We'll do the best we can."
The schedule of Saturday games in the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences could be affected by the storm, and Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Tuesday night that there have been preliminary discussions about his team playing Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins in Nashville — if the storm necessitates a change.
"It's just now kind of a wait-and-see for us," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said.
Schools in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina were already reacting, with some soccer, volleyball and other collegiate contests scheduled for the next few days either canceled or postponed. South Carolina was still hoping to play host to Georgia in their SEC football game Saturday night, though even the state's governor suggested that was unlikely.
"As of now I can't imagine that happening," said South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who planned to issue an evacuation order Wednesday affecting coastal areas in her state. "But certainly we're going to continue to watch this."
A pair of FCS games originally set for Saturday in South Carolina — Albany State at Charleston Southern and Bethune-Cookman at South Carolina State — have already been postponed. In North Carolina, Elon moved its football game with New Hampshire up a day to Friday due to the storm. And dozens of this week's high school football games in Florida have already been postponed.
NBA and NHL teams also were making plans. The Miami Heat were flying home after their preseason opener in Washington on Tuesday night, and weren't scheduled to leave South Florida again until Friday for a game this weekend in Kansas City. Instead, the team was considering flying out again on Wednesday, just in case.
The Tampa Bay at Florida NHL preseason game scheduled for Thursday remains scheduled, for now — though the arena the Panthers call home was in the area under a hurricane watch. The Panthers were scheduled to fly to West Point, New York, on Friday, but if winds close airports in the Miami area those plans would obviously be affected.
Cancellations included the decision by Gulfstream Park West to scrap its live thoroughbred racing cards for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday was to be first day of racing this season at the track in Miami Gardens, Florida.
"Because weather conditions the next few days remain uncertain, we thought it was best to call off the next few days," Gulfstream Park general manager P.J. Campo said.
Richt said the Hurricanes were preparing for several contingencies, including potentially using the bubble at the Dolphins' facility if inclement weather keeps his team off its own practice fields later this week.
The Atlantic Coast Conference — which could have at least five Saturday football games directly affected by the storm — said it was monitoring Matthew closely and hoped that games will be played as scheduled.
Florida State is scheduled to fly in Thursday night for the Miami game, though forecasters say Thursday could be the day when the Miami area gets the worst of Matthew's wind.
"We've looked through every scenario known to man and we'll figure it out here when it gets there and we'll fly down when they tell us to fly down and play when they tell us to play," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Other Saturday ACC games that figure to be potentially affected include Army at Duke, Virginia Tech at North Carolina, Syracuse at Wake Forest and Notre Dame at N.C. State.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said pushing his team's game back to Sunday was possible, if events warrant.
"Everything is on the table right now," Kelly said.
COAST GUARD STORM GUIDELINES
The Coast Guard is encouraging boaters Tuesday to stay off the water due to Hurricane Matthew extending through Columbus Day.
All boaters and beachgoers are encouraged to monitor weather conditions as the hurricane approaches Florida.
Adverse weather effects generated by a tropical storm or hurricane can cover an area hundreds of miles wide. Even recreational boaters and commercial vessels outside of the direct path of the storm are advised to be aware of weather conditions and to take appropriate precautions to stay safe.
"Columbus Day weekend is very popular for our boating community," said Capt. Megan Dean, Coast Guard Sector Miami commander. "As Hurricane Matthew approaches, people should strongly consider rethinking weekend plans on the water."
The Coast Guard is urging the public to heed these important safety messages:
Stay off the water. The Coast Guard's search and rescue capabilities degrade as storm conditions strengthen. This means help could be delayed. Boaters should heed weather watches, warnings and small craft advisories. Boaters should not place themselves in danger to get to a boat. Do not try to board a partially sunken boat. Seek salvage assistance from a professional. Storms move quickly and are unpredictable.
Evacuate as necessary. If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public should evacuate without delay. Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate or rescue those in danger during the storm.
Secure belongings. Owners of large boats are urged to move their vessels to inland marinas where they will be less vulnerable to breaking free of their moorings or to sustaining damage. Trailerable boats should be pulled from the water and stored in a place that is not prone to flooding. Those who are leaving their boats in the water are reminded to remove EPIRBs and to secure life rings, lifejackets and small boats. These items, if not properly secured, can break free and require valuable search and rescue resources be diverted to ensure people are not in distress. Contact local marinas to ask for advice about securing your vessel. Marina operators are knowledgeable and can advise you on the best methods for securing your boat.
Stay clear of beaches. Wave heights and currents typically increase before a storm makes landfall. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents caused by hurricanes. Swimmers should stay clear of beaches until local lifeguards and law enforcement officials say the water is safe.
Be prepared. Area residents should be prepared by developing a family plan, creating a disaster supply kit, having a place to go, securing their home and having a plan for pets. Information can be found at the National Hurricane Center's webpage.
Stay informed. The public should monitor the progress and strength of the storm through local television, radio and Internet. Boaters can monitor its progress on VHF radio channel 16. Information can also be obtained on small craft advisories and warnings on VHF radio channel 16.
Take action now. The effects of a storm can be felt well in advance. Check with local authorities before entering any storm-damaged area.
Information on how to prepare your boat or trailer for a hurricane can be found at the Coast Guard's Storm Center webpage.