Deadly Matthew sideswipes Fla.

Death toll at 4 in U.S., over 300 in Haiti as hur­ri­cane grinds way to Ga.

Baltimore Sun - - HURRICANE MATTHEW - By Bren­dan Far­ring­ton and Holbrook Mohr

ST. AU­GUS­TINE, Fla. — Hur­ri­cane Matthew spared Florida’s most heav­ily pop­u­lated stretch from a cat­a­strophic blow Fri­day but threat­ened some of the South’s most his­toric and pic­turesque cities with ru­inous flood­ing and wind da­m­age as it pushed its way up the coast­line.

Among the cities in the crosshairs were St. Au­gus­tine, Sa­van­nah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.

“There are houses that will prob­a­bly not ever be the same again or not even be there,” St. Au­gus­tine Mayor Nancy Shaver lamented as bat­tle­ship-gray f l ood­wa­ters coursed through the streets of the 451-year-old city founded by the Span­ish.

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

The death toll was ex­pected to rise in Haiti as aid teams reached ar­eas cut off by washed-out bridges or fallen trees.

“Dev­as­ta­tion is ev­ery­where,” said Pilus Enor, mayor of Camp Per­rin, a Haitian town near the port city of Les Cayes. “Ev­ery house has lost its roof.”

In the U.S., Matthew sideswiped Florida’s At­lantic coast early Fri­day, swamp­ing streets, top­pling trees onto homes and knock­ing out power to more than 1.1 mil­lion peo- Micah Beemon, left, chats with a neigh­bor af­ter winds snapped a large tree in his yard Fri­day in Day­tona Beach, Fla. ple. But it stayed just far enough off­shore to pre­vent ma­jor da­m­age to cities like Mi­ami, Fort Laud­erdale and West Palm Beach. And the coast never felt the full force of its 120 mph winds.

“It looks like we’ve dodged a bul­let,” said Rep. Pa­trick Mur­phy, whose dist rict i ncludes Martin County, just north of West Palm Beach.

Four peo­ple died in Florida. One woman was killed when a tree fell on her house in the Day­tona area and an­other woman died when a tree came down on a camper in Put­nam County. St. Lu­cie County au­thor­i­ties say an el­derly cou­ple ap­pears to have died from car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing from a gen­er­a­tor.

While the hur­ri­cane was weak­en­ing quickly, sev­eral north­east­ern Florida cities, in­clud­ing Jack­sonville, were still in harm’s way, along with com­mu­ni­ties far­ther up the coast. Au­thor­i­ties warned that not only could Matthew eas­ily turn to­ward land, it could also cause deadly flood­ing with its surge of sea­wa­ter.

The storm gouged out 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 twos­tory house is within sight of the high­way.

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

“If you’re hop­ing it’s just go­ing to pass far enough off­shore that this isn’t a prob­lem anymore — that is a very, very big mis­take that you could make that could cost you your life,” Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter Direc­tor Rick Kn­abb warned.

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-and­break­fasts, was awash in rain and sea­wa­ter that au­thor­i­ties said could top 8 feet.

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

Down­town Charleston, usu­ally bustling with tourists who flock to see the city’s an­te­bel­lum homes, was eerily quiet, with many stores and shops boarded up with ply­wood and pro­tected by sand­bags.

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

Matthew’s outer bands be­gan lash­ing Sa­van­nah, a city that was set­tled in 1733 and has a his­toric dis­trict of moss-draped trees, brick and cob­ble­stone streets, Greek re­vival man­sions and other 18th- and 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 his- toric homes. And 8 to 14 inches of rain could bring some street flood­ing.

Steve Todd, who stayed on a Ge­or­gia is­land to ride out Matthew, said “trees are bend­ing over” and it’s “rain­ing side­ways” as the storm ap­proached.

Todd said he and a friend ven­tured out in a truck af­ter dark Fri­day to pick up a cou­ple of bud­dies who had be­come fright­ened of rapidly wors­en­ing con­di­tions on Ty­bee Is­land. He said they were all go­ing back to his third-floor con­do­minium to spend the night.

Lo­cal of­fi­cials or­dered a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion for Ty­bee on Wed­nes­day, but some res­i­dents in­sisted on stay­ing put. Todd said he doesn’t regret his de­ci­sion, “but I’m not go­ing to lie. There’s a lit­tle bit of ner­vous ten­sion right now.”


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