- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Hurricane Matthew has moved on to the Carolinas and is currently hitting the South Carolina coast with powerful winds, heavy rain, and dangerous storm surge. The National Hurricane Center reports that the storm’s intense center has made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane southeast of McClellanville, South Carolina.
The most intense part of the storm is expected to hover near the coast of South Carolina throughout Saturday, moving near the North Carolina coast Saturday night. It is already causing serious inland flooding.
Matthew’s winds have lessened slightly to 75 mph, though higher gusts are still being measured. While the storm is now less powerful than the 140-mph Category 4 monster it was Thursday, it continues to threaten severe floods in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, adding to the damage it’s already caused.
As the National Weather Service points out, decreased winds do not mean the storm is less dangerous. Storm surge and flash flooding caused by rain are responsible for more than 75% of hurricane deaths in the US.
The 17.49″ at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah (meanwhile “only” 11.51′ at Savannah Int’l) shatters the previous record (POR since 1937) pic.twitter.com/VGR2XXwYOx
— MDA Weather Services (@MDA_Weather) October 8, 2016
The storm surge in parts of Georgia peaked at the highest on record and even at low tide, Matthew has caused the second highest storm surge flooding in history in downtown Charleston:
— kelly cass (@kellycass) October 8, 2016
Just after 2 pm Friday, footage began to come in of a major storm surge in Jacksonville, Florida. A video shared on Facebook by user Bradley Hatcher captures a particularly dramatic angle:
As the Washington Post reports, the first news of severe flooding arrived before noon on Friday. Twitter posts show dangerous floodwaters in St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. The St. Augustine sea wall has “vanished under the waves.”
— Jeff Goodell (@jeffgoodell) October 7, 2016
— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) October 7, 2016
— Reed Timmer (@reedtimmerTVN) October7, 2016
— WESH 2 News (@WESH) October 7, 2016
“The video footage is revealing that the water is coming in with extreme force,” said NHC storm surge specialist Jamie Rohme in a video released on Periscope, “You can’t swim in it. It can throw you up against a wall. The bottom line is here is: It is life-threatening conditions.”
He added, “What’s more disturbing about all this is how many people you had in mandatory evacuation zones who are not leaving,” saying residents up the coast with time to evacuate should do so now.
As Al Jazeera reports, the scale of destruction in Haiti, which took a direct hit from Matthew, is devastating. The latest tallies put the death toll at 877, up from 478 earlier Friday morning. That makes Matthew the deadliest natural disaster in the country since the 2010 earthquake.
Many of the deaths were in small towns on the western end of the Tiburon Peninsula, including at least 50 in the coastal town of Roche-a-Bateau and 90 more in Chantal, per Al Jazeera’s report.
— WPLG Local 10 News (@WPLGLocal10) October 7, 2016
Floodwaters remain the most severe danger from Matthew, impacting areas not used this kind of storm. Earlier Friday, southern parts of Florida avoided the devastation of a direct landfall.
Friday night, the NHC continued to warn of the potential for a life-threatening storm surge of 6 to 9 feet from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida to Edisto Beach, South Carolina, including portions of the St. Johns River. Surges of 5 to 7 feet are expected from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to Cape Fear, North Carolina. And 2 to 4 feet are possible as far north as Duck, North Carolina, and are also considered very dangerous.
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has been urging residents to flee areas under mandatory evacuation orders since Wednesday. Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina also initiated evacuations along her state’s coastline.
Tammy Smith, a resident physician in the University of Florida hospital system, described to Business Insider a controlled but hectic scene as evacuated patients arrived from low-lying medical centers along the Florida and Georgia coasts. Patients were cleared out of the intensive-care unit to make room for the sudden influx of new arrivals.
WESH 2, a local NBC News affiliate in Florida, reported that people who ignored orders to evacuate found themselves cut off from aid as they faced the worst of the storm. At least one Merritt Island family described to emergency officials that the roof of their home “just flew off.”
Meteorologists are keeping an eye on Matthew as the threat of an inland wobble remains severe.
Eye has gone more egg shaped … a wobble could rotate the northern eyewall over the coast north of Daytona Beach pic.twitter.com/GLNMQ7KlJ7
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) October 7, 2016
This article was updated with news of the storm surge 11:27 am Saturday, with new news of power outages at 3:30 pm Friday, and with new death tolls and forecast updates at 11:27 am.
Rebecca Harrington contributed reporting.