Matthew touches off severe flash flooding in North Carolina

2016-10-09 17:22
Pedestrians navigate a flooded Water Street in Wilmington as Hurricane Matthew moves into the Carolinas. (Gerry Broome, AP)

Pedestrians navigate a flooded Water Street in Wilmington as Hurricane Matthew moves into the Carolinas. (Gerry Broome, AP)

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WATCH: Hurricane Matthew batters Florida's coast

2016-10-07 15:37

Residents of Florida, USA, finally began to feel the effects of Hurricane Matthew on Friday as the storm battered the East Coast with devastating winds, rain and storm surges. Watch.WATCH

Wilmington - A deteriorating Matthew was stripped of hurricane status on Sunday morning and began making its slow exit to the sea after unloading more than 30cm of rain on North Carolina that flooded homes and trapped people in their cars as much as 160km inland.

What will go down as one of the most potent hurricanes on record in the US was blamed for at least 10 deaths in the US and more than 500 in Haiti.

Dozens of people - including a woman and her small child — had to be rescued from their cars as life-threatening flash floods surprised many in North Carolina.

As night fell on Saturday, authorities warned people to stay off the roads until the storm had passed, and the full extent of the damage was not expected to become clear until daylight.

The unofficial rainfall totals were staggering: 45cm in Wilmington, 35cm in Fayetteville and 20cm in Raleigh. Rivers and creeks were overflowing, driving people from their homes.

"This is a very, very serious and deadly storm," Govenor Pat McCrory said.

Before daybreak on Sunday, the hurricane was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. As of 08:00 EDT, the storm was centred about 96km southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, moving out to sea. It still had hurricane-force winds of 120km/h.

Forecasters said North Carolina and Virginia could get even more rain and warned of the danger of life-threatening flooding through Monday night.

While the crisis was far from over in North Carolina, other places to the South began getting back to normal, with millions relieved that the storm wasn't the catastrophe that many had been bracing for.

$4bn to $6bn in insured losses

In many places along the Southeast coast, the damage consisted mostly of flooded streets, blown-down signs and awnings, flattened trees and power outages.

As the skies cleared on Saturday, people started cleaning up, reopening their businesses or hitting the beach. The power started coming back on. And all three major theme parks in Orlando, Florida, including Walt Disney World, were up and running.

On Saturday, Matthew sideswiped two of the South's oldest and most historic cities - Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina - and also brought torrential rain and stiff wind to places like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

After pounding North Carolina and drenching parts of Virginia, it was expected to veer out to sea, lose steam and loop back around toward the Bahamas and Florida, too feeble to cause any trouble.

For nearly its entire run up the coast from Florida, Matthew hung just far enough offshore that communities did not feel the full force of its winds.

Its storm centre, or eye, finally blew ashore just north of Charleston on Saturday, but only briefly. And by that time, Matthew was just barely a hurricane, with winds of just 120km/h.

Matthew's winds were howling at a terrifying 233km/h when the hurricane struck Haiti, where five days later the full extent of the tragedy was not yet known because some devastated areas were still unreachable.

Property data firm CoreLogic projected the storm would cause $4bn to $6bn in insured losses on home and commercial properties. That compares with Hurricane Katrina's $40bn and Superstorm Sandy's $20bn.

Read more on:    us  |  haiti  |  weather  |  hurricanes  |  hurricane matthew

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