NEW: Widespread flooding expected for several days in North Carolina
Matthew is now a post-tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph
Matthew, the deadly storm that’s spread misery from the Caribbean to the Carolinas, is no longer a hurricane. But even as it heads out to sea, the storm is causing serious problems for the southeastern United States.
North Carolina is feeling the brunt. The eastern part of the state will deal with devastating flooding for several days as rivers top their banks.
One thousand people in North Carolina have been rescued, some in dramatic helicopter operations, and 3,000 people are still living in shelters, authorities said Sunday. More than 585,00 customers still lacked electricity Sunday night.
“Hurricane Matthew may be off the map, but it is still with us,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Sunday.
As of 5 p.m. ET Sunday Matthew was about 200 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and heading east at 15 mph.
• The National Hurricane Center says Matthew is no longer a hurricane and is now considered a post-tropical cyclone. Despite its new title, it’s still packing maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) – the same as a Category 1 hurricane, forecasters said.
Matthew’s only change is in its “core structure,” hence the change to a cyclone, CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said. However, she warned, the change in name does not mean it’s any less dangerous.
“It’s still packing the same hurricane-force winds and potential for flooding and is still as deadly as a hurricane,” she said.
• Matthew killed at least 17 people in four states – seven in North Carolina, four in Florida, three in Georgia and three in South Carolina, authorities said.
• Nearly 1,000 people have been rescued in North Carolina after Matthew battered the eastern part of the state. That number includes 701 rescued in Cumberland County alone, authorities said Sunday. The number is expected to rise as people remain trapped in their homes, authorities said. Four people remain missing in Cumberland County.
• City officials in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia, declared a local state of emergency. Officials in both cities issued statements urging citizens to stay off roads and opened emergency shelters.
Others reported much higher deaths. A count by Reuters, based on information from local civil protection officials, puts the death toll in Haiti at well over 800. Four deaths were reported in the Dominican Republic and one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
• President Obama, speaking Sunday at an event for an Illinois candidate, said people affected by the storm will receive the aid they need. “There’s been a really serious hurricane,” the President said. “People were hit. They weren’t hit as directly as we had feared but it has left a lot of destruction in its wake.”
Out to sea
Although it’s slowly moving out into the Atlantic, Matthew will continue to lash eastern North Carolina with heavy rainfall and strong winds Sunday, and as a result massive flooding will continue to plague that part of the state, CNN meteorologist Jennifer Varian said.
But these will likely be the storm’s last gasps. Forecasters say Matthew will die out in the Atlantic in about 48 hours, meaning it won’t have a chance to loop back and hit land again as previously predicted.
“It’s going to die off too quickly,” said Chinchar. “It’s going to go to the east and die off.”
North Carolina’s McCrory said the flooding – aided by wind-driven storm surges of up to six feet – is the state’s big concern right now.
“We have major neighborhoods under water, (there) could be back roads where people were swept away,” McCrory said during a news conference Sunday. Some of the rescues included people being pulled off of rooftops and a nurse found clinging to a tree in the flood waters.
McCrory said 400 buildings flooded in Lumberton, and authorities are forecasting 300 buildings in Greenville will flood. More than 1,000 people have been rescued in the state, he said. The Coast Guard deployed a helicopter to pluck eight people from rooftops in the town of Pinetops.
The Tar River is expected to crest at 35.8 feet, more than 15 feet above flood stage, authorities said. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Sunday for parts of Greenville, Goldsboro, Princeville, Tarboro and other towns because of the flooding.
“It’s just like Floyd,” said Kim Denny, a county employee, referring to the impacts of Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
The governor said there are reports of a hotel in Southport that had to be abandoned because of a potential wall break, so 70 people were put into a shelter there. He also received a report that a pier at the seaside town of Oak Island had been damaged.
About 585,399 customers are without power, the North Carolina Emergency Management said late Sunday on Twitter. Interstate 95, which traverses eastern North Carolina, is closed in three locations in the state.
One of the cities hardest hit by the flooding has been Fayetteville, where National Guard members waded through chest-high waters to save those stranded. Trees are down throughout the city.
Matthew’s heavy rains caused two dams to be breached in North Carolina: the Lake Benson Dam near Raleigh and a dam near Lumberton.
The problems won’t ease soon. “This is a prolonged event,” North Carolina Emergency Management said on Twitter.
Flooding in Georgia, South Carolina
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Sunday that evacuation orders had been lifted in Charleston, Dorchester, Berkeley and Colleton counties. But evacuation orders remain in Beaufort, Georgetown, Horry and Jasper counties.
Three people died In South Carolina, David L. Outlaw, 66, was found pinned beneath his wheelchair in standing water at a nursing facility’s courtyard. The cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation (drowning), Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said. In Florence County, Deputy Coroner Bo Myers said bodies were found in vehicles in Florence and Pamplico. Autopsies are pending, he said.
Officials in the state are dealing with more than just floodwaters in Matthew’s wake. A large fire ripped through several beachfront condos and homes in North Myrtle Beach Saturday night. The area had been evacuated in advance of Hurricane Matthew, so officials believe the buildings were empty when the fire hit, according to CNN affiliate WPDE.
Ordnance disposal teams were sent to Folly Beach, South Carolina, on Sunday morning after a beach walker discovered old military ordnance washed up on the beach, Andrew Gilreath, city director of public safety, told CNN. Officials told CNN affiliate WCSC the ordnance appeared to be Civil War cannonballs.
The storm left more than 2 million utility customers without power Saturday night in South Carolina (833,000), Florida (673,000), North Carolina (457,000) and Georgia (276,000).