Matthew rakes At­lantic coast; US deaths at 10

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD - By Bruce Smith and Russ Bynum

CHARLESTON, S.C. >> A fast-weak­en­ing Hur­ri­cane Matthew con­tin­ued its march along the At­lantic coast Satur­day, lash­ing two of the South’s his­toric cities and some of its most pop­u­lar re­sort is­lands, flat­ten­ing trees, swamp­ing streets and knock­ing out power to hun­dreds of thou­sands.

The storm was blamed for at least 10 deaths in Florida, Ge­or­gia and North Carolina. In its long wake, it also left at least 470 dead in Haiti in one hard-hit dis­trict alone, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials, with other stricken ar­eas still un­reach­able four days af­ter the disaster struck.

Matthew raked Ge­or­gia and South Carolina with tor­ren­tial rain and stiff winds, and — for the first time in its run up the U.S. coast­line — its storm cen­ter blew ashore, mak­ing land­fall north of Charleston, near the town of McClel­lanville, where it caused se­ri­ous flood­ing.

Up un­til then, the cen­ter, or eye, mer­ci­fully stayed just far enough out at sea that coastal com­mu­ni­ties didn’t feel the full force of Matthew’s winds. As the storm passed one city af­ter another, the re­ac­tion was relief that things were nowhere near as bad as many feared.

“We are all blessed that Matthew stayed off our coast,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. “We are blessed that we didn’t have a di­rect hit.”

As of 2 p.m., Matthew — by some mea­sures the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane to men­ace the U.S. in more than a decade — was just barely a hur­ri­cane, with winds of 75 mph, and was hit­ting Myr­tle Beach, S.C., and Wilm­ing­ton, N.C. Its winds were down from 145 mph when it roared into Haiti.

From there, the storm was ex­pected to veer out to sea and loop back around through the Ba­hamas and to­ward Florida, though as a barely no­tice­able wave.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory warned peo­ple not to let their guard down just be­cause Matthew was los­ing steam.

As the hur­ri­cane be­gan mak­ing its exit, it looked as if fore­cast­ers had got­ten it right. Matthew stayed near the mid­dle of the National Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter map’s “cone of un­cer­tainty” as it scraped the coast. Fore­cast­ers de­fended the large-scale evac­u­a­tions.

“What would you rather have as the al­ter­na­tive?” said Colorado State Univer­sity me­te­o­rol­ogy pro­fes­sor Phil Klotzbach.

In Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia, a his­toric town of moss-draped squares and an­te­bel­lum man­sions, flood­wa­ters sev­eral feet deep sub­merged a long stretch of Pres­i­dent Street, which links down­town to the high­way to Ge­or­gia’s Ty­bee Is­land. A home­less woman was seen stag­ger­ing through wa­ters up to her neck.

The shiv­er­ing woman made it to the wa­ter’s edge. A by­stander handed her a sheet, which she wrapped around her neck.

A Coast Guard he­li­copter crew also res­cued a man stranded on a sail­boat in a river near Ty­bee Is­land. And North Carolina of­fi­cials said they had to res­cue sev­eral peo­ple from cars and homes.

Matthew also brought some of the high­est tides on record along the South Carolina coast. Streets in Charleston — a city of hand­some pre-Civil War homes, church steeples and ro­man­tic car­riage rides — were flooded.

Leigh Web­ber watched the tor­ren­tial rains from the porch of her home in the city’s his­toric dis­trict.

“It’s not as bad as maybe I was ex­pect­ing,” she said.

“I feel badly for a lot of the busi­nesses down­town that have been closed since Wed­nes­day,” she added. “I no­ticed a lot of ho­tels were com­pletely closed. I know it was a huge fi­nan­cial loss for a lot of peo­ple.”

STEPHEN B. MOR­TON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A home­less woman who iden­ti­fied her­self as Va­lerie works her way along flooded Pres­i­dent Street in Sa­van­nah, Ga., af­ter leav­ing her home­less camp when Hur­ri­cane Matthew caused flood­ing Satur­day. The woman said her camp was washed away and she had to leave with­out her nine kids. No other de­tails were known.

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