Hurricane Matthew is again at Category 4 status, on track to skirt — or perhaps makes landfall — along Florida's east coast tonight through Friday night with the possibility of 150-mph winds and up to 12 inches of rain. Locally, a tropical storm watch remains in effect for the Tampa Bay area, and a tropical storm warning is over Polk and other interior counties. If the forecast holds, gusts in the Tampa are could reach 25 to 40 mph overnight. Local residents also can expect some rain bands, forecasters say, but will be largely spared since the region is on the west side of the storm. However, Gov. Rick Scott warns that any deviations of the path to the west could make the storm even more catastrophic for Florida.
Other Matthew news:
• Pasco and Hernando schools will close on Friday due to the storm. A decision on closing Hillsborough schools on Friday is expected by 1 p.m. today. At this time, Pinellas schools are expected to be open on Friday.
• Gov. Rick Scott didn't sugarcoat the danger that awaits east coast residents who don't evacuate. "This storm will kill you," he says, adding that if "you're in an evacuation area, get out. Don't take a chance." About 1.5 million Floridians live in evacuation zones, and Scott repeatedly urged those remaining to leave immediately. Airbnb, the vacation rental company, has activated its Disaster Response Tool, which aims to connect people with free rooms offered up by hosts who are willing to open their homes to evacuees for no charge.
• Tourism officials on both sides of the bay say they expect to see a surge of bookings as evacuees from the south and east find that accommodations in central Florida and the southern Gulf coast are already full.
• Here are six important things to know about Category 4 storms.
• Many entertainment events in the region have been canceled or postponed due to the storm. Disney World, SeaWorld, Kennedy Space Center and other theme parks across Florida say they're either closing Friday or closely monitoring the situation.
• Get the latest developments of the storm in the a href="http://live.tampabay.com/Event/2016_hurricane_season" target="_blank" > Times' live blog.
DON MORRIS | Times illustration
THE TIMES RECOMMENDS: HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT
Hillary Clinton is the only candidate for president with the values, experience and knowledge to meet the challenges at home and abroad. Perspective gets lost in the Twitter era. America is on firmer ground than when President Barack Obama took office. In every respect, Clinton is well prepared to capitalize on those successes and ensure more Americans benefit.
WHAT A SCHOOL AIR-CONDITIONING CRISIS FEELS LIKE
There is a major issue with air-conditioning in Hillsborough schools, affecting facilities old and new, suburban and urban. Since the start of this unseasonably hot school year, people who run the district have given varied accounts of the problem and its severity. Officials won't let reporters on campuses to see how bad it is, but teachers and students are still able to paint of picture of what the problem smells and feels like.
WEEKS AFTER ESCAPE, HAWK RETURNS TO LARGO NATURE PARK
An elusive red-shouldered hawk that flew away from George C. McGough Nature Park six weeks ago was found Sunday. A group of residents at the Lakeview of Largo condominiums spotted Shay, the 6-year-old hawk, but she eluded several attempts by city volunteers to catch her. Finally, a volunteer caught her with a long-handled net while she was eating a dead squirrel.
WINSTON CAN'T CONTINUE TO LEAD THE NFL IN QB HITS
Sooner or later, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is going to get hurt, especially if he keeps putting himself in harm's way. Winston leads the NFL in quarterback hits with 39 through four games. He has been sacked 10 times, tied for fifth in the league. The Times' Bucs reporter Rick Stroud explains.
ROBOTS WILL TAKE OVER USF THIS WEEKEND
It is the fourth year for the local Roboticon, which will host about 65 teams and 850 participants in age group competitions from kindergarten through grade 12. About 30 of the groups are competing in the high school event, which includes the Royal Robotics team. Three teams from China are expected to participate.
[DIRK SHADD | Times (2013)]
LIGHTNING TO RETIRE ST. LOUIS' NUMBER
For the first time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Lightning will retire a number. There was only one logical choice: No. 26, Martin St. Louis. This despite him leaving the team via trade during a playoff drive near the end of the 2013-2014 season due to a bitter dispute with team management. However, he is arguably the greatest player in franchise history. The ceremony is planned for Jan. 13, when the Lightning host Columbus.
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