Weak­en­ing but still pow­er­ful Matthew plows up At­lantic coast

Malta Independent - - FEATURE -

Some of the South’s most his­toric cities faced the weak­en­ing but still pow­er­ful Hur­ri­cane Matthew as it plowed north along the At­lantic coast, flood­ing towns and goug­ing out roads in its path.

The storm killed at least four peo­ple in Florida and knocked out power to more than 1 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses, even though its strong­est winds stayed just off­shore.

Matthew was mak­ing it­self felt in South Carolina Satur­day morn­ing. Hur­ri­cane-force winds were mov­ing on­shore at Hil­ton Head and Pritchards Is­land, South Carolina, the National Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter re­ported. At least one wind gust of 61 mph (98 kph) was recorded at Beau­fort, South Carolina.

More than 150,000 elec­tric cus­tomers in South Carolina — most in Beau­fort and the Charleston area — were with­out power Satur­day morn­ing.

The Cat­e­gory 2 hur­ri­cane will near North Carolina’s south­ern coast by Satur­day night, the cen­ter says.

“Now is the time we ask for prayer,” Gov. Nikki Ha­ley said as she fin­ished an up­date on storm prepa­ra­tions and bowed her head.

Matthew — the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane to threaten the At­lantic Seaboard in more than a decade — set off alarms as it closed in on the U.S., hav­ing left at least 300 peo­ple dead in Haiti.

In the end, it brushed the heav­ily pop­u­lated ar­eas of Florida and raked the Ge­or­gia coast, in­clud­ing some of the state’s is­lands such as St. Si­mons and Ty­bee.

Steve Todd de­fied or­ders to evac­u­ate Ty­bee even af­ter the mayor called and pleaded with him to leave. As con­di­tions rapidly de­te­ri­o­rated Fri­day night, Todd wasn’t sound­ing quite so bold.

“I’m not re­gret­ting stay­ing,” Todd said by phone. “But I’m not go­ing to lie: There’s a lit­tle bit of ner­vous tension right now.”

Todd said he was stay­ing with friends at a third-story condo, which had lost elec­tric­ity.

“It’s throw­ing down right now,” Todd said. “The trees are bend­ing over. We saw a bush fly by. It’s rain­ing side­ways now.”

In Florida, the storm gouged out sev­eral large sec­tions of the coastal A1A high­way north of Day­tona Beach and had nearly com­pletely washed out the north­bound lane for about a mile at Fla­gler Beach.

“It’s pretty bad; it’s jagged all over the place,” said Oliver Shields, whose two-story house is within sight of the high­way.

The deaths in Florida in­cluded an elderly St. Lu­cie County cou­ple who died from car­bon monox­ide fumes while run­ning a gen­er­a­tor in their garage and two women who were killed in sep­a­rate events when trees fell on a home and a camper.

About 500,000 peo­ple were un­der evacuation or­ders in the Jack­sonville area, along with another half-mil­lion on the Ge­or­gia coast. More than 300,000 fled their homes in South Carolina. The lat­est fore­cast showed the storm could also scrape the North Carolina coast.

“We have been very for­tu­nate that Matthew’s strong­est winds have re­mained a short dis­tance off­shore of the Florida and Ge­or­gia coasts thus far, but this should not be a rea­son to let down our guard,” the Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said in a fore­cast dis­cus­sion.

St. Au­gus­tine, which is the na­tion’s old­est per­ma­nently oc­cu­pied Euro­pean set­tle­ment and in­cludes a 17th-cen­tury Span­ish fortress and many his­toric homes turned into bed-and-break­fasts, was awash in rain and gray sea­wa­ter that au­thor­i­ties said could top 8 feet.

“It’s a re­ally se­ri­ous dev­as­tat­ing sit­u­a­tion,” Mayor Nancy Shaver said of the city of 14,000. “The flood­ing is just go­ing to get higher and higher and higher.”

His­toric down­town Charleston, usu­ally bustling with tourists, was eerily quiet, with many stores and shops boarded up with ply­wood and pro­tected by stacks of sand­bags.

The city an­nounced a mid­night-to-6 a.m. cur­few Satur­day, about the time the coast was ex­pected to take the brunt of the storm.

Matthew lashed Sa­van­nah, a city that was set­tled in 1733 and has a hand­some his­toric dis­trict of moss-draped trees, brick and cob­ble­stone streets, Greek Re­vival man­sions and other 18thand 19th-cen­tury homes.

Matthew was ex­pected to bring winds of 50 to 60 mph that could snap branches from the burly live oaks and dam­age the his­toric homes. And 8 to 14 inches of rain could bring some street flood­ing.

The ex­tent of the dam­age wasn’t clear early Satur­day.

A small crew of work­ers Thurs­day set out to but­ton up the Owens-Thomas house, one of Sa­van­nah’s ar­chi­tec­tural gems. The 1819 Greek Re­vival man­sion serves as a mu­seum.

Sonja Wallen, a cu­ra­tor, said an­tique rugs and fur­ni­ture were moved away from the home’s more than 40 win­dows, many of them still with their orig­i­nal glass. Win­dows were fit­ted with ply­wood and other cov­er­ings, while sand­bags were stacked at the base­ment en­trance.

“It’s ba­si­cally a lot of lit­tle de­tails — sand­bags and duct tape around door­ways where wa­ter can get in,” Wallen said. “It’s pretty much the same stuff you would do for any home.”

At 5 a.m. EDT, Matthew had max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 105 mph (165 kph), and was cen­tered about 20 miles (130 km) south­east of Hil­ton Head, South Carolina. It was mov­ing north about 12 mph (19 kph).

Air­lines can­celed at least 5,000 flights Wed­nes­day through Satur­day, in­clud­ing many in and out of Orlando, where all three of the re­sort city’s world-fa­mous theme parks — Walt Disney World, Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios and SeaWorld — closed be­cause of the storm.

But things be­gan get­ting back to nor­mal, with flights re­sum­ing in Mi­ami and other South Florida air­ports. And power com­pa­nies in Florida promised that elec­tric­ity would be al­most fully re­stored by the end of the week­end.

In ar­eas the storm had al­ready passed, res­i­dents and of­fi­cials be­gan to as­sess the dam­age.

Robert Tyler had feared the storm surge would flood his street two blocks from the Cape Canaveral beach. Tree branches fell, he could hear trans­form­ers ex­plod­ing overnight, and the win­dows seemed as if they were about to blow in, de­spite the ply­wood over them.

But in the morn­ing, there wasn’t much wa­ter, his home didn’t ap­pear to be dam­aged on first in­spec­tion, and his ve­hi­cles were un­harmed.

“Overnight, it was scary as heck,” Tyler said. “That de­scrip­tion of a freight train is pretty ac­cu­rate.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.