Weakening Matthew rakes Atlantic coast; US death toll now 4
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP):
A fast-weakening Hurricane Matthew continued its march along the Atlantic coast Saturday, lashing two of the South's most 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 four deaths in the US, all in Florida. 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 US coastline — its storm center blew ashore, making landfall north of Charleston, near the town of McClellanville, where it caused serious flooding.
IN PHOTO: A truck passes a fallen tree caused by Hurricane Matthew on I-95 North, on Saturday.
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 11 a.m., Matthew was just barely a hurricane, with winds of 75 mph. That was down from 145 mph when the storm roared into Haiti. It was moving at 12 mph.
Among the cities bracing for its effects later in the day were Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina. From there, the storm was expected to veer out to sea and loop back around toward the Bahamas, though as a much-weakened storm.
North Carolina Gov Pat McCrory warned people not to let their guard down just because Matthew was losing steam.
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 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.
"I'm homeless," said the woman, who identified herself only as Valerie. "I've got nine kids, but I couldn't evacuate with them."
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.