Palm Beach County residents are seen getting comfortable inside of the Park Vista Hight School shelter in Boynton Beach, Fla., while waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew on Thursday. Much of south Florida avoided significant damage as the storm skirted the coast overnight. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
PORT ST. LUCIE , Fla., Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Emergency officials in St. Lucie, Fla., said they were unable to tend a woman who had a heart attack during Hurricane Matthew, making her the first recorded fatality due to the storm.
The emergency call came at 1:20 a.m. Friday, after the St. Lucie County Fire District suspended operations due to the storm and crews could not respond. The unidentified woman, 58, did not live on one of the barrier islands, which are between the Florida mainland and the Atlantic Ocean and closest to the hurricane's impact.
Her death is considered storm-related because emergency officials were not able to reach her.
Meanwhile, nearly 600,000 homes were without power in the state, largely in Martin and St. Lucie counties, as Hurricane Matthew makes its pass along the state's east coast with strong winds and flooding rain. The Florida Public Service Commission reported 593,875 homes were without power at 9 a.m. Friday.
Hurricane Matthew is a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds, moving north-northwest at 13 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm is currently 40 miles east-southeast of Cape Canaveral and about 90 miles southeast of Daytona Beach.
As of 7 a.m. Friday, the National Hurricane Center discontinued a tropical storm warning south of Boca Raton, including the Miami-Dade County area. A hurricane warning has been downgraded to a tropical storm warning from Jupiter Inlet to Boca Raton.
"The satellite appearance of Matthew has become rather disheveled king in infrared satellite imagery since the previous advisory," forecasters said.
Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy, two of the larger electric utilities in the state, reported outages in coastal counties that included Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and inland counties such as Orange and Seminole. As of 5 a.m. Friday, Brevard County had 100,140 customers and Palm Beach County had 52,500 without power.
"As the feeder bands come onshore, wind gusts can blow tree branches and other debris into power lines, causing outages," FPL spokesman Bill Orlove told the Sun-Sentinel, located in South Florida.
With some of the strongest weather now reaching Volusia County, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office's Communications Center is receiving numerous calls reporting blown transformers catching fire and knocking out power, power lines down, arcing and sparking tree fires and downed trees and tree limbs blocking roadways.
As of early Friday, the eye of the hurricane had not made landfall, perhaps sparing south Florida more significant wind damage. Strong waves damaged the pier in Deerfield Beach, Fla., but there were no reports of damage in Broward County to the south.
Forecasters warn Matthew could still bring storm surges and flooding, and strong wind gusts to coastal areas as it moves north.