On 6 October 2016, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith reported that Hurricane Matthew would likely kill all Floridians (and their children) in its path:
A smiling Smith gestured to a moving satellite map as he reported, stating:
[If Hurricane Matthew] moves 20 miles to the west … you and everyone you know are dead. Because you can’t survive it. It’s not possible … unless you’re very very lucky. And your kids die too.
Smith’s warnings were not exclusive to the brief and subsequently viral clip. A longer clip he anchored opened with warnings that residents who did not evacuate might “die a violent death,” adding that his pleas were “not to scare you” but “to remind you what happened when Katrina hit” and that “some [victims’] bodies [were never] recovered.”
Smith asserted that “Matthew [was] expected to be stronger and last longer than Hurricane Katrina,” that residents who delayed evacuating “risk[ed] death on a freeway in a traffic jam from hell later,” and concluded “this storm will kill you … it will kill your children, it will kill your pets.”
Finally, Smith said of those who chose to remain in their homes that “we will not cover your funerals and we will not feel sorry for you”:
The direness of the predictions wasn’t reserved for Fox News viewers, as Smith also phoned a friend on air and admonished her for not evacuating. The woman (Dolores Berhalter) told Smith her household was “hopeful” that the predictions were overstating the risk, and Smith responded by saying that “[residents] were hopeful in [nearby] South Miami-Dade and Kendall [during Hurricane] Andrew … they were very, very hopeful — until they were dead.” He went on to scold Berhalter for not seeking shelter at his home:
Hope is not a strategy, Dolores! Why didn’t you come up and visit us for the weekend?
— Shepard Smith (@ShepNewsTeam) October 6, 2016
Smith was not the only public figure plainly warning Floridians to evacuate or risk death:
Gov. [Rick] Scott’s message to Floridians was equally dire in Thursday morning news conferences through the state.
“This storm will kill you,” Scott said during a morning briefing at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. If “you’re in an evacuation area, get out. Don’t take a chance.”
“Do not surf. Do not go to the beach. This will kill you,” he added.
“My biggest concern is people aren’t taking this seriously enough,” warned Scott at his third hurricane briefing of the day from St. Johns County Thursday afternoon. “I don’t want people to lose their life.”
Flanked by servicemen, Gov. Scott urged Floridians to “evacuate, evacuate, evacuate”:
— CNN (@CNN) October 6, 2016
And an anchor on The Weather Channel warned viewers to brace themselves for a “heartbreaking loss of life,” adding that Hurricane Matthew was likely to “make history … and we don’t want you to be part of that history”:
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 6, 2016
As of 7 October 2016, The Weather Channel reported that Hurricane Matthew had led to storm surge flooding of Florida’s northwest coast and broadcast social media photographs and footage of damage caused by the Category 3 hurricane.