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Northern Ireland family flee their Florida home as hurricane hammers coast

By Cate McCurry

Published 08/10/2016

Inhabitants of Baracoa, Guantanamo province, east of Cuba, clean up after hurricane Matthew passed through
Inhabitants of Baracoa, Guantanamo province, east of Cuba, clean up after hurricane Matthew passed through
A car hit by a tree
Waves pound the docks at the Sunset Bar and Grill on Cocoa Beach, Florida
Vicky with dad Ken, baby Theo, husband James and mum Chris

A mother from Northern Ireland has spoken of the moment her family fled their Florida home with their newborn baby as a powerful storm battered parts of the state.

Vicky Black, from Co Down, left her Palm Beach home with her husband James, their seven-week-old son Theo and her dad Ken Hutchinson - who is in America visiting the family - as Hurricane Matthew moved up the east coast of Florida at speeds of about 120mph.

The Donaghadee woman sought refugee at a friend's home on the other side of Florida after 100mph winds forced the family out of their home.

More than three million Americans were evacuated from their properties after hundreds of people were killed as the powerful storm swept through Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

Vicky (34), who works as an ice skating coach alongside James (36), was making her way back to her family home last night to assess any damage to their two-storey property.

"This is the first major hurricane in Florida in decades, so there is definitely a lot of concern about it," she said.

"We have been watching the news and weather channels all day in the lead-up to it.

"The day before we left, my dad and James spent hours preparing for the storm. They put hurricane shutters up across all the windows and doors and got supplies including water and dried food to make sure that if we were stuck for a week we would have enough to last.

"Our biggest concern was losing power, especially with a new-born baby as it's so hot in Florida and it's not nice not to have access to the necessities.

"While we weren't in the mandatory evacuation zone, we thought we better get out and be better safe than sorry."

Government officials declared a state of emergency in several states in an effort to plan ahead of the deadly Category Three hurricane

In what was described as a "once in a life-time storm", Hurricane Matthew could be one of the most severe to hit north and east Florida in 118 years.

It has left more than a million people without power as many head inland in an attempt to escape the worst of the storm. Some two million people have been advised to evacuate across coastal areas of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, forecasters believe the hurricane could soon head inland.

Its path was predicted to take it near or over the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia last night, and near or over the coast of South Carolina today.

Vicky, who has been living in Palm Beach for some two years, said that while she had previously experienced a hurricane, she has never encountered one as catastrophic.

"While we weren't hurt in any way ,there was definitely a feeling of worry and concern amongst us," she explained

"We can see from social media that there seems to be damage caused to cars, and trees have fallen down in the area where we live, but I don't think there's any major damage.

"Government officials are telling us that there will be deaths in this storm.

"It's really quite frightening to hear that because it could be any one of us if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, particularly those who live near the water."

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