RALEIGH Much of the state is braving intense rain and downed trees as Hurricane Matthew bears down on central and eastern N.C.Hurricane Matthew won’t hit N.C. full force until Saturday evening, but the outer bands of rain and wind have already pummeled the state. Governor Pat McCrory warned Saturday morning that storm surges and high winds could cause serious problems. He said he was “extremely concerned” the downgrade to a Category 1 would cause people not to take warnings seriously.McCrory called for citizens to stay off the roads and sidewalks as severe flooding and winds have turned Hurricane Matthew into a deadly storm in North Carolina. To date, there have been three storm-related fatalities in North Carolina. One in Sampson County caused by a vehicle that hydroplaned and two in Bladen County due to a submerged vehicle. “The worst case scenario appears to be coming true as Hurricane Matthew has become a deadly storm in North Carolina,” said Governor McCrory. “Our team will continue to shift resources, including National Guard troops, State Highway Patrol troopers and swift water rescue teams, to assist the impacted communities. I cannot stress enough for everyone to stay off the roads and sidewalks as there are deadly conditions from Fayetteville, the Triangle and east as a result of severe flooding.” Wind gusts up to 65 miles per hour have been reported in southeastern North Carolina and 55 miles per hour in the Sandhills region. Most of the Fayetteville region has had nearly 9 inches of rain today alone, while Bladen County has reported close to 12 inches of rain. Cumberland County has already performed approximately 70 water rescues and more are underway. Today, McCrory spoke with President Obama to discuss North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Matthew and federal assistance. The governor’s office says he is also in constant communication with mayors and local officials, as well as Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler about impacts of the storm on the agriculture community.Fallen trees and isolated flooding in counties throughout central and eastern North Carolina have closed many roads. Crews are actively working to remove debris from blocked roadways and place barricades where necessary. As conditions worsen, additional road closures are expected.”Hurricane Matthew is presenting major challenges across the state, with heavy impacts on road conditions across eastern and central North Carolina,” McCrory said. “We are seeing lots of fallen trees, downed power lines and flooded roads. I urge people to stay off the roads until conditions improve. If you must travel, drivers should slow down, avoid roads with standing water and obey all traffic signs, including barricades.” More than 300,000 power outages have been reported in 65 counties throughout North Carolina. Utilities have deployed more than 5,700 personnel to help respond to power outages.The state is currently monitoring dams at locations across the state, particularly in Hoke, Moore and Bladen counties. Hoke County has reported that two dams are near failure and some homes are being evacuated. The governor encouraged people to stay tuned and listen to your local officials.The Week AheadOnce Matthew leaves N.C., major inland flooding is expected as rivers begin to crest early in the week. McCrory pointed out that some of the worst damage during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 came days after the storm when the rivers crested.The Cape Fear River, near Burgaw and Chinquapin, is expected to crest Monday near 20 feet. The Tar River at Greenville will likely crest Monday at almost 18 feet and the Neuse River in Kinston is expected to crest Monday at nearly 18 feet. Governor McCrory noted particular concern with the Cashie River near Windsor that is expected to crest as early as tomorrow with a peak of nearly 11 feet.As part of the state’s emergency management plan, more than 200 National Guard troops and 78 high water rescue vehicles have been deployed. Another 26 vehicles and 78 troops will be positioned tomorrow. Additional State Highway Patrol troopers have been sent to Wilmington and Raleigh and all essential personnel are on standby and ready for deployment across the state. More than 51 swift water rescue boats and 131 rescue technicians are available and ready to respond. More than 1,000 people are housed in 60 shelters in central and eastern parts of the state. For those needing information including nearby shelter, housing, and other storm-related details, call 2-1-1.Forecasters warned of flooding as 15 inches (40 cm) of rain were expected to fall in some areas along with massive storm surges and high tides.Further SouthEight inches of rain fell in the Savannah, Georgia area, over the past 24 hours, downing trees and causing flooding.The National Weather Service said record-high tides were recorded at the Savannah River at the South Carolina-Georgia border, peaking at 12.6 feet, surpassing those caused by Hurricane David in 1979.Though gradually weakening, Matthew was forecast to remain a hurricane until it begins moving away on Sunday, the NHC said.Hurricane Matthew slammed into South Carolina on Saturday, packing a diminished yet still powerful punch after killing almost 900 people in Haiti and causing major flooding and widespread power outages as it skirted Florida and Georgia.Now weakened, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007 left flooding and wind damage in Florida before moving slowly north to soak coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. Wind speeds had dropped by nearly half from their peak about a week ago to 75 miles per hour (120 kph), reducing it to a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest on the Saffir-Simpson scale of 1 to 5.Matthew, which topped out as a ferocious Category 5 storm more than a week ago, made landfall near McClellanville, a village 30 miles (48 km) north of Charleston that was devastated by a Category 4 hurricane in 1989.The National Hurricane Service said Matthew was over Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Saturday afternoon, and warned of potentially life-threatening flooding in Georgia and North Carolina even as the storm slowed as it plowed inland.Two people were killed by falling trees in Georgia’s Bulloch County, the county coroner said. The storm knocked out power to almost 1.6 million households and businesses in the U.S. Southeast.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. Parts of Interstate 95, the main north-south thoroughfare on the East Coast, were closed due to flooding and fallen trees, state officials said.In Florida, 775,000 were without power, according to state utilities, while in South Carolina 433,000 had no electricity, Governor Nikki Haley said. Georgia Power said at least 275,000 were without power in the state.Roads in Jackson Beach, Florida, were littered with wood, including sections of a historic pier, and foot-deep, water-clogged intersections. Beachfront businesses suffered moderate damage.”We rode out the storm. It wasn’t this bad at our house, but here there’s a lot of damage,” said Zowi Cuartas, 18, as he watched people pick up shattered signs near the beach. “We were prepared to lose our house.”Governor Rick Scott of Florida said more than 6,000 people stayed in shelters overnight, but he appeared relieved at a news conference on Saturday the storm had not done more harm.”We’re all blessed that Matthew stayed off our coast,” he said. He predicted most people would have power back by Sunday evening. He did not comment on the death reports, which were confirmed by local officials.Streets in downtown Charleston, known for its historic architecture, were flooding up to the tops of tires on some cars and a few residents waded near the city’s sea wall as high tide approached.Tony Williams, 54, who said he is homeless, rode his bicycle against huge wind gusts after spending the night in the garage of a bank. “I just got tired of laying where I was laying,” he said.On Daufuskie Island near the Georgia border, writer Roger Pinckney, 70, said he was fine on Saturday morning after refusing pleas from officials for residents of low-lying barrier islands to evacuate. “It blew like hell,” he said.Charleston officials said they were not aware of any deaths, injuries or significant structural damage. Winds and the threat of surges were expected to diminish through the day.Death toll in HaitiThe toll in the United States was far less devastating than in Haiti, where at least 877 people died earlier, a death tally that ticked up as information trickled in from remote areas.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 U.S. military was deploying aid to Haiti by air and sea. Mesa Verde, a U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship, was due to arrive on Sunday with heavy-lift helicopters, bulldozers, fresh-water delivery vehicles and two operating rooms. Iwo Jima, a second Navy ship, was due to arrive on Oct. 13. The U.S. government was also airlifting emergency supplies, according to the United States Agency for International Development.Aid group Doctors Without Borders was flying personnel to Haiti by helicopter. The Haitian government warned a deadly outbreak of cholera could worsen, confirming dozens of new cases of the water-borne disease since the storm, 13 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.”We have got to get rid of standing water as quickly as we can,” Governor Scott told reporters.
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