RALEIGH, N.C. — A weakening Hurricane Matthew lashed South Carolina’s shores Saturday morning, as the Category 1 storm’s heavy rains threatened flooding not only along the Carolinas’ coasts, but also inland.
Matthew, a storm that left destruction and killed hundreds in the Caribbean and at least four people in Florida, continued its trek up the southeastern US coast with 75 mph winds at the center around 10 a.m. ET — 30 mph slower than just hours earlier.
Part of the storm’s eyewall — the hurricane’s strongest section — passed over parts of coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday morning, as the storm flooded low-lying areas, downed trees, made roads impassable, and cut power for hundreds of thousands.
Flooding will still be a major concern for South Carolina and North Carolina as the storm drops heavy rain — with up to 15 inches of rain are possible near and east of Interstate 95, the National Hurricane Center said. That would be “a flash-flood event on (even) a normal day,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.
“This has the potential for the worst flooding since Hurricane Floyd,” N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory said during a Saturday morning news conference. Floyd, a Category 2 storm, hit North Carolina hard in 1999.
“It’s not just about the beaches. It’s (also) inland where we can have loss of life,” he said as Matthew approached.
By the numbers
• The storm has killed hundreds in the Caribbean, almost entirely in Haiti. More than 300 people died in Haiti, according to Haitian senator Herve Fourcand. Others report much higher deaths. A count by Reuters, based on information from local civil protection officials, puts the death toll in Haiti well over 800. Four deaths were reported in the Dominican Republic and one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
• At least four people died as a result of the storm in Florida, officials said.
• As of 10 a.m. ET, Matthew’s center was still offshore, even though the outer eyewall was hitting land. The center was about 70 miles south-southwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the Hurricane Center said. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 45 miles from that center. The storm was moving northeast at 12 mph as a Category 1 hurricane.
• More than 1.6 million customers were reported without power Saturday morning in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
• Storm surges of 5 to 9 feet are possible for parts of coastal South Carolina and North Carolina, the Hurricane Center said.
Flooding in Georgia, South Carolina
Flooding plagued near-coastal communities in Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday morning. Flash flood warnings were issued in several locations across the states, including near the state line and the Summerville area near Charleston.
Matthew left more than 430,000 people without power in South Carolina and 100 roads impassable in the Charleston area Saturday morning, and damage assessments had yet to be completed in a large portion of the state officials said.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who’d warned coastal residents to evacuate ahead of the storm, asked them to stay away a while longer Saturday morning.
“I’m going to ask for patience … do not plan to go home,” Haley said, asserting that driving conditions still weren’t safe.
In Georgia, more than 241,000 Georgia Power customers were reported without electricity Saturday morning.
Glynn County officials wrote on Facebook that “conditions have deteriorated to a point that persons remaining in (the area near Brunswick) are advised to shelter in place for the remainder of the storm.”
Gov. Nathan Deal had ordered evacuations for all counties east of Interstate 95. Deal activated 2,000 National Guard troops.
In Savannah, Mayor Eddie DeLoach warned those who stayed that they’d be on their own.
North Carolina braces for Matthew
McCrory, North Carolina’s governor, warned people in his state to take the storm seriously.
“I cannot stress enough how serious an issue this hurricane could be for North Carolina, not only in damaging structures, but also risking human life,” said Governor McCrory in a prepared statement. “Beware that this will be a prolonged event that will not end tomorrow when Matthew moves away from North Carolina. We are particularly concerned about rivers cresting throughout the week causing severe and potentially life threatening flooding. We are prepared and ready for this turn of events. Be safe, be prepared and listen to your local officials now more than ever.”
Officials are concerned that areas — such as Fayetteville, home to the Army’s Fort Bragg — that were recently flooded will see more rain from Matthew.
Florida left drenched
Matthew battered the coast of east-central and northeastern Florida on Saturday, leaving four people dead and swaths of damage.
The dead included a woman in her 60s in Volusia County who was killed by a falling tree and an 82-year-old man and a woman in St. Lucie County, officials said. The latter two had medical emergencies and responders were unable to reach them in time because of hazardous weather.
A woman in northeast Florida died after a tree fell on her camper trailer, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said.
Matthew left more than 1 million people without power in Florida alone. Water from the storm rushed through streets, making roadways look more like rivers, in parts of Jacksonville, Merritt Island, Fleming Island and other Florida communities.
Florida struggled with the rising water, rain and strong winds as meteorologists said the storm surge had been measured at more than 4 feet in some areas.
Jacksonville was not battered as heavily as initially feared. But several communities nearby received extensive damage with water surging down some streets, and massive trees toppled over. The Jacksonville Beach Pier washed away Friday morning, according to WFOX/WJAX.
There was concern over Jacksonville’s St. Johns River, which could be overwhelmed by water pushed into it by the storm. The hurricane center said a tide gauge reported storm surge of 4.28 feet.