Hurricane Matthew Turns Out to Sea
Emergency crews in boats rescued hundreds of people from floodwaters and plucked others from rooftops by helicopter in North Carolina as former hurricane Matthew flooded much of the U.S. Southeast before weakening on Sunday and turning out to sea.
Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday after its rampage through the Caribbean killed nearly 900 people in Haiti. In the United States, 17 people died and more than two million U.S. homes and business had lost power.
The storm continued moving out to sea, according to the National Hurricane Center's 2 p.m.(1800 GMT) report, which placed the center of the storm about 150 miles (240 kilometers) off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Although Matthew lost its tropical characteristics, the storm still packed hurricane force winds as far as 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds 240 miles (390 kilometers) away.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sounded warnings about flash floods, the leading cause of weather-related deaths.
Officials said many coastal and inland communities were still under water, either from coastal storm surge or overrun rivers and creeks, and dangerous conditions existed from downed power lines and damaged homes.
U.S. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Georgia and Florida, freeing up federal money to help the states repair damaged infrastructure and remove debris.
In North Carolina, where at least eight people died, Governor Pat McCrory pleaded for outside help, asking the country not to be too distracted by the U.S. presidential campaign, currently transfixed by a 2005 video of Republican nominee Donald Trump making vulgar comments about women.
Florida reported five storm-related deaths, Georgia three and South Carolina one.
McCrory said 334 rescue workers risked their lives carrying out 877 rescues overnight.
"These rescue teams, I've got to let you know, they are extremely exhausted at this time," McCrory said.
In one of the dramatic rescues in North Carolina, out-of-state firefighters helped save three people from the roof of an SUV in inland Cumberland County, where more than 500 rescues took place.
Flash flooding turned a creek into a "roaring, raging river" that swept the vehicle off the roadway on Saturday night, said Battalion Chief Joe Downey of the Fire Department of New York. He was part of a team from three states that carried out 64 rescues on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
In Virginia, where more than 300,000 customers had lost power, the city of Norfolk declared a state of emergency and urged its citizens to remain off the road, while the city of Virginia Beach closed all parks, recreation centers, libraries and the Virginia Aquarium.
South Carolina Hit on Saturday
The hurricane slammed into South Carolina on Saturday. Earlier on Saturday, wind speeds had dropped below 85 miles per hour (135 kph), making it a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest on the Saffir-Simpson scale of 1 to 5.
Matthew, which topped out as a Category 5 more than a week ago, made landfall near McClellanville, a village 30 miles north of Charleston that was devastated by a Category 4 hurricane in 1989. The National Hurricane Service warned of serious flooding in the area as the storm drove inland.
At least four deaths in Florida were attributed to the storm, which knocked out power to least 1.5 million households and businesses in the southeastern United States. The stretch of the Atlantic coast from Miami to Charleston, a nearly 600-mile drive, encompasses some of the most well-known beaches, resorts and historical towns in the southeastern United States.
Roads in Jackson Beach were littered with wood, including sections of a historic pier, and foot-deep (15 cm) water clogged intersections. Beachfront businesses suffered moderate damage.
Death Toll in Haiti
The toll in the United States was far less devastating than in Haiti, where at least 877 people died. Matthew howled through Haiti's western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain. Some 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said, after the storm hurled the sea onto coastal villages.
The Mesa Verde, a U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship, was en route to Haiti to support relief efforts with heavy-lift helicopters, bulldozers, fresh-water delivery vehicles and two operating rooms. The U.S. government was also airlifting blankets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting for emergency shelters, according to the United States Agency for International Development.
Aid group Doctors Without Borders was flying personnel in by helicopter. It warned a deadly outbreak of cholera in Haiti might worsen, with at least 24 new cases of the water-borne disease reported since the storm, seven of them fatal.
Officials in Florida, which has been grappling with an outbreak of Zika, said they hoped the flooding would not worsen the spread of the mosquito-borne virus, which causes fever and birth deformities.