Horse Communities Centered on Wellington Escape Brunt of Hurricane Matthew

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Hurricane Matthew swirling past Palm Beach. Location of Wellington is hown by black mark.
Hurricane Matthew swirling past Palm Beach. Location of Wellington is shown by black mark.

WELLINGTON, Florida, Oct. 6, 2016–Perhaps the world’s densest population of show horses centered on Wellington escaped the wrath of Hurricane Matthew Thursday with winds up to 140 miles/225 km an hour when the storm veered away just 20 miles/32 km from the Florida coast.

The storm, described by the U.S. National Hurricane Center as possibly the most dangerous in a decade, was on track to hit the Palm Beach coast at about nightfall Thursday after devastating communities in Haiti and eastern Cuba.

Millions of residents of coastal areas of Florida, Georgia and South and North Carolina had left their homes to head inland and President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida hours before the category 4 hurricane was projected to make its first landfall on the U.S. mainland at Palm Beach.

The state was in near-lockdown mode by mid afternoon after supermarkets and most gas stations closed after being swamped for days beforehand by residents stockpiling food and fuel.

As the home of the Global Dressage Festival, Winter Equestrian Festival and the International Polo Club the community of Wellington 12 miles/19km inland from the Atlantic coast is home to several thousand dressage, jumper-hunter and polo horses.

Many owners of farms and horses in Wellington and surrounding communities left the area up to two days before Matthew was predicted to arrive. Hundreds of flights into Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami airports were canceled.

The center of the hurricane with winds of about 140 miles an hour and spread at least 100 miles from the center to cover the entire width of the Florida peninsula was projected to make landfall on the Palm Beach coast at about nightfall.

However, Matthew veered slightly east late afternoon and that was enough to keep the center of the storm about 20 miles off the coast. Winds in the Wellington area did not come anywhere near predicted highs and although rain was heavy did not cause flooding  that has been typical of previous hurricanes.