Prep time passed, coastal counties feel Matthew's effects

Posted October 8, 2016 1:03 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:38 p.m. EDT

— In South Carolina Friday night, a heavy steady rain was falling and the sea churned ever faster as Hurricane Matthew approached at Category 2 strength. Just to the north, in Brunswick County, North Carolina, more than 100 people had checked into three Red Cross shelters to ride out the storm.

Those who planned to evacuate had done so, and the bridge to Holden Beach would be closed when wind gusts reached 45 mph, authorities there said.

The eyewall of Hurricane Matthew was located off the coast along the South Carolina-Georgia border at 11 p.m. Friday, and the storm had already shown a shift to the east, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

In Myrtle Beach, authorities settled in, waited for the worst to pass on Saturday and planned the post-storm response.

"We've had several major washouts on some major thoroughfares, so we know what to look for and anticipate," Lisa Bourcier said.

Mickey Geddings, who lives inland in Myrtle Beach, said he planned to stay home, but expected to see some high water.

"If we get heavy rains, I'm sure we're going to have some flooding," Geddings said.

Calabash resident Bob Donatello and his friends were among those taking shelter at West Brunswick High School. He had just returned from a New York vacation only to meet Matthew on his doorstep.

"We were up there for the last three weeks. I couldn't wait to get home so I could sleep. Now we're facing the storm," he said.

The county government, the city of Southport and all six beach towns had declared states of emergency by Thursday and issued voluntary evacuation notices. Oak Island, Caswell Beach and Bald Head Island have imposed mandatory evacuations, ordering visitors to leave.

Wilmington ready for heavy rain, flooding

Wilmington-area officials are bracing for flash flooding and possible widespread power outages.

New Hanover County Emergency Management Director Warren Lee said Friday that new forecasts have increased concerns about high winds beginning Saturday afternoon and rain totals approaching 1 foot. Downed trees and minor structural damage to buildings are possible.

Lee said at a media briefing that voluntary evacuations have been issued for local beaches and low-lying areas prone to flooding, but they could become mandatory if projections worsen. He strongly urged people to stay out of the ocean.

Two emergency shelters opened in New Hanover County Friday afternoon.

Residents of Wrightsville Beach were keeping a close eye on Matthew's path. Some said they weren't too concerned about potential damage from the storm.

"Not as bad as Fran, Bertha, Floyd. I think we'll be all right. What do they say, '"Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,'" Palmer Williams, a Wrightsville Beach resident, said.

McCrory warns of flooding risk

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says he's worried about current projections of Hurricane Matthew that show the storm could lead to heavier rains than previously estimated at or near the coast and power outages from high winds.

McCrory said in a storm media briefing that wind gusts could push above 65 mph, and that citizens should be prepared to remain without electricity for some time because utilities may have to focus first on other affected regions.

He says the North Carolina National Guard and emergency equipment are being assembled, including high-water vehicles and swift-water rescue teams. The state is also providing a helicopter rescue team and other resources to South Carolina. McCrory says a mobile hospital unit is ready to go to Florida when it's safe to do so.

On Friday afternoon, McCrory announced that the state's request for a federal disaster declaration for 66 counties in eastern North Carolina by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This declaration makes federal resources available to help local and state government agencies respond to the potential disaster and gives quick access to stockpiles of disaster supplies like bottled water and meals that FEMA has already staged at Fort Bragg," McCrory said in a statement.

McCrory said swift-water rescue teams have been deployed to the following counties: Bladen, Craven, Martin, Brunswick, Pamlico, Camden and Pasquotank.