Hurricane Matthew death toll at 21 in U.S.;
aftermath unseen since 1999
Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
October 12, 2016
Hurricane Matthew is gone, but the disaster it
unleashed will slowly unfold this week as rivers across eastern North
Carolina rise to levels unseen since a similar deluge flooded thousands
of homes and businesses during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
Emergency planners are now using models that can pinpoint exactly how
high the rivers can get and which buildings will be flooded days in
advance. But they can't predict whether dams and levees will bust from
the stress of more than a foot of rain in some places. At least one
In Lumberton, a
levee broke overnight and crews scrambled to rescue
1,500 people. Most of them were in knee deep water, but
there were people on rooftops waiting for boats or
helicopters, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said.
Evacuations were ordered in cities along three different
rivers. Some rivers were expected to be at record levels
Friday — six days after Matthew's rains ended.
State resources are stretched to their limit, McCrory
"If you've been told to evacuate, then evacuate. If you
don't we have to divert resources to the area to save
you," the governor said Monday.
Immediately after Saturday's rains, thousands of people
found themselves suddenly trapped in homes and cars
during the torrential rains. Rescuers in Coast Guard
helicopters plucked some of them from rooftops and used
military vehicles to reach others, including a woman who
held on to a tree for three hours after her car was
overrun by flood waters.
Beachgoers check out damage left by Hurricane
Matthew along historic State Road A1A in Flagler County, Fla.,
on Oct. 8, 2016.
The storm killed more than 500 people in Haiti and at
least 21 in the U.S. — nearly half of them in North Carolina. Most were
swept away by flood waters.
At least two of the five people reported missing in North Carolina have
been found. McCrory and others fear the death toll may rise though, as
impatient people drive around road barricades into swiftly moving
Princeville, a town of 2,000 that disappeared in the waters of the Tar
River during Floyd, was evacuated Sunday. The river was expected to rise
to 17 feet above flood stage by late Monday — a level not seen since
Floyd, which was another storm whose eye brushed by North Carolina's
coast but poured 15 to 20 inches of rain inland.
David Bullock's sister called him as he bought lottery tickets and told
him police were knocking on doors in Princeville saying they had to go.
He rebuilt his home after the 1999 flood.
"If I get flooded again, I can't take it. I can't go back and take the
expense. If I get flooded again I'm going to say, 'It's yours, I'm
gone,'" Bullock said.
Floyd killed 35 people in North Carolina, destroying 7,000 homes and
damaging 56,000 others, causing more than $3 billion in damage.
Several sections of Interstate 95 — the main artery linking the East
Coast from Florida to Maine — were still closed in North Carolina.
The levee break in Lumberton County poured even more water on the
interstate and McCrory said it is impossible to determine when the
highway might reopen.
The Lumber River in Lumberton crested 4 feet above its record level
Sunday afternoon and was forecast to remain above its previous record
until at least next Saturday.
At least 38 school districts in the state closed classes, some for at
least the entire week.
Matthew's flooding was made worst by heavy rains in September. Many
areas east of I-95 got at least twice their normal amount of rain in
September, in part because the remnants of Tropical Storm Julia parked
off the coast for several days.
In addition to the 10 deaths in North Carolina, there were four in
Florida and three each in Georgia and South Carolina. One death was
reported in Virginia on Monday.
Some were killed by falling trees, others by carbon monoxide fumes from
a generator. One 66-year-old man near Columbia, South Carolina, died at
a nursing facility when he got pinned under his electric wheelchair in
Nearly 1 million homes and businesses still did not have power Monday
morning in North Carolina and South Carolina. Authorities in coastal
Georgia and South Carolina warned residents it may take days or even
weeks to restore electricity and clean up all the debris left behind by
the winds and ocean flooding.
Matthew plowed into desperately poor Haiti with winds of 145 mph and
sideswiped hundreds of miles of the U.S. coastline from Florida through
the Carolinas, its eye staying far enough offshore that the damage in
many places along the coast was relatively modest. A shift of just 20 or
30 miles could have meant widespread devastation nearer the ocean.
An estimated 2 million people in the Southeast were ordered to evacuate
their homes as Matthew closed in.
The National Hurricane Center issued its last advisory on Matthew at 5
p.m. Sunday, when the storm was about 200 miles off the North Carolina