Hurricane Matthew slammed into NASA’s facilities in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where the agency launched the Space Shuttle and Apollo missions into space, is right in the path of the storm. The Center will be closed until the storm passes entirely and potentially much longer.
Matthew is apparently already damaging the Center’s roof. Cape Canaveral could see an estimated 8-to-12 inches of rain, with storm surges as high as one-to-five feet.
“Kennedy Space Center is now in HurrCon 1 status, meaning a hurricane is imminent. Hurricane preparations at Kennedy were completed early last night, and remaining employees were then sent home,” NASA officials wrote in a blog post Thursday.
The Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building is specifically designed to withstand hurricanes and is made out of 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 4,225 steel rods driven 160 feet into limestone bedrock. Back in 2004, when Hurricane Frances struck the Center, it tore open a 40,000 square-foot hole in its side of the Vehicle Assembly Building.
NASA created a “ride-out team” of 139 people who will stay at the Center while it’s closed to make sure the facility is safe and to handle any emergencies. Matthew could potentially intensify into a Category 5 hurricane before touching down in Florida.
Hurricane Matthew is currently making its way up Florida’s coast as a Category 3 storm. The storm already killed one American and left more than 400 dead in Haiti. Matthew previously was classified as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained wind speeds of 140 miles per hour as recently as Thursday.
Matthew will likely be stronger than any hurricane in recent decades, including the 2004 Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne, as well as Hurricane David in 1979, according to the National Weather Service. The storm is expected to make its way up the coast, but will head out to sea after striking South Carolina
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