RALEIGH Hurricane Matthew claimed seven lives in N.C. as it whipped trees and raised water across the state overnight Saturday. Families are waking up to the sound of chainsaws as crews work to free blocked roadways. In a briefing Sunday morning, Governor Pat McCrory said that flood waters will continue through the early part of the week and may be at their worst in the days to come. The Neuse River is expected to crest at historic highs on Monday through Goldsboro and Smithfield. The Cape Fear River may not hit its record height until Wednesday.”This is going to be a prolonged event,” said McCrory. “Rocky Mount, Goldsboro, Kinston, Greenville and every town in between. We will have very serious issues.”McCrory also reported that neighborhoods are being cleared out as dams show signs of impending breaches. One dam broke has already broken in Lumberton. Rescue crews are also finding people trapped in their homes in rural areas as the day goes on. Seven storm-related fatalities in N.C. were related to vehicles attempting to pass flooded roads. Yesterday, one fatality was reported in Sampson County caused by a vehicle that hydroplaned and two in Bladen County due to a submerged vehicle. As of this morning, one fatality in each Pitt and Sampson counties and two more in Johnston County were reported.Additionally, one fatality was reported at a shelter in Wayne County due to a health-related issue. Matthew was a Category 5 hurricane, the most powerful classification of storm, at its peak but was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday as it headed away from the N.C. coast. It made U.S. landfall on Saturday near McClellanville, S.C., a village 30 miles north of Charleston that was devastated by a Category 4 hurricane in 1989.The storm still hit N.C. packing winds of 75 miles per hour and sending 4,200 people to 83 shelters. Early Sunday, Hurricane Matthew’s center was located in the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles east of the Outer Banks.Some 2 million people were without power and streets were darkened miles from the coast overnight as power companies work to restore power to hard hit areas. Duke Carolinas reports 663,600 outages in N.C. and S.C. Dominion reports 306,900 outages in N.C. and Va., and North Carolina cooperatives reports 200,000 outages.”The wind is bending the trees to a 90 degree angle in my backyard, I’ve lost electrical power in my home and the rain is blowing sideways,” Frank Gianinni, a 59-year-old occupational therapist, said in an email from his home in Wilmington. “Standing outside in my backyard just now, and I’m humbled by the power of nature.”Forecasters warn of widespread flooding from heavy rain and 16 inches of rain fell in some areas. In Cumberland County motorists and passengers were sitting and standing on vehicles, stuck in rushing flood waters. Crews used swift water boats to rescue more than 800 stranded people. In Cumberland County alone, more than 560 people had been rescued by crews as of early on Sunday. On Saturday evening, updating from the emergency management command center in Raleigh, McCrory urged residents to stay off roads and sidewalks to avoid “deadly conditions” caused by severe flooding and debris. Sunday morning rescues continue in the east, while trees continue to fall from saturated soil. Power outages are also causing traffic problems, forcing local police to put out instructions for drivers regarding non-working traffic signals. ‘IT’S HEARTBREAKING’So far the storm has killed at least 11 people in the United States and close to 900 in Haiti.Officials in Florida, Georgia, S.C. and N.C. had urged people along parts of a 600-mile stretch of coast to evacuate. Long lines of cars snaked along the roads leading to Florida’s barrier islands, which bore the storm’s brunt, after police began to let residents back across.Barry Fauts, 72, came back to find his property in coastal St. Augustine shattered by the storm. “It’s heartbreaking,” he said as he looked at the jagged mess of shattered wood that had once been a 2,000-square-foot ocean-facing deck attached to his two rental units. Fauts, who is retired, bought the property five years ago to rent to vacationers. “We had people in here when the hurricane came so we refunded their money and they left,” Fauts said. “I was looking at coming back with chainsaw and a dump trailer. But this is probably more than I can handle. I guess the next step is call my insurance agent.” CoreLogic, a real estate data firm, estimated the storm may have caused up to $800 billion in damage to property along the U.S. coast. Farther south police and National Guard troops still had the main road closed, saying the road was impassable. On St. Augustine Beach, streets were clogged with tree limbs and power lines. Residents trickling back in assessed their homes and began to clear their property. Elyse Deluca, a 30-year-old nurse, said she had evacuated to Tennessee, unable to find a closer hotel room. “We really wanted to get back. We were worried about this house, what we would see,” she said after seeing her home for the first time in three days. Tree branches littered her property but the home itself was undamaged. “We had water about halfway across the lawn but none got into the house,” she said.Reuters News Service contributed to this report.
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