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Emotions raw in Clewiston remembering Wilma, prepping for Matthew

Posted at 8:11 PM, Oct 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-05 06:59:11-04

CLEWISTON, Fla. -- The emotion is still very raw for people like Richard Barker who lived through Wilma, a category 2 storm that destroyed the mobile park he lives in.

"My mobile home was about the only one left from Wilma," Barker said.

The memories of devastation Wilma left are etched on his mind. He says this time around he's not taking any chances with Hurricane Matthew.

He's piling up on propane and plywood and prepping his mobile home for whatever tropical storm conditions Matthew may bring.

Strong winds, heavy rains, and dangerous storm surge is expected. Hurricane Matthew is pushing people to shutter up or get out.

"I'm not wasting my time putting shutters up," Jared Moss said. "I think the safest bet is to get out of here."

Moss tells Four In Your Corner he fears the damage hurricane Matthew may bring with the condition of Lake Okeechobee.

"The lakes level is at 16 feet. I'm worried the dykes going to bust and we're going to have a big problem around here."

Four In Your Corner reached out to the city manager who says he is concerned about the lake being so high because the weakest park of the dyke is in Clewiston's backyard. He also says the Army Corp has started releasing water as quickly as they can before the storm.

As people start boarding up their homes, hotels in the area are also preparing. Vivian Perez, the hotel at the Best Western in Clewiston says people she been calling from West Palm, Boca Raton, and Fort Lauderdale to make reservations.

Many locals have also been calling since many people in the area live in mobile homes. If there is an evacuation advisory, people who live in mobile homes are required to leave for a shelter or another safe location. With only a few shelters in the area, Perez says hotel rooms are on high demand.

"The phone has been ringing off the hook," she said. "We're getting so many calls because Clewiston is a safe area."

As of right now the city of Clewiston is asking people to board up and stock up on any necessary items to get through the week. The city manager tells Four In Your Corner he will have an update at 8:30 am if people will need to evacuate or not. If an evacuation advisory is issued, officers will be going door to door to make sure people have evacuated safely before the storm hits.

If you would like additional resources to find shelter information, evacuation zones, and route maps for you or your family, please visit floridadisaster.org