Helicopter rescue of eight residents from their flooded home as a result of severe weather from Hurricane Matthew. (Oct. 10) AP
South Edgecombe Fire and Rescue workers rescue several dogs that were trapped in homes flooded by rising water from Town Creek in Pinetops, N.C. on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016.(Photo: Chris Seward, AP)
Schools and businesses remained closed and more than 1 million people along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Florida awoke without power Monday as devastation from Hurricane Matthew lingered after the storm.
Some rivers, swollen from a foot or more of rain, won’t crest until later in the week. Heroic rescues continued Monday in town along North Carolina’s bloated waterways.
“Matthew is off the map in the ocean, but it’s still right here for the people of North Carolina,” Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday. “We have helicopter and swift-water rescues underway right now…. We have people on their roofs as we speak.”
More than 1,400 rescues already had been made across the state in recent days, and 1,500 people remained stranded in the city of Lumberton after an apparent levy breach overnight, McCrory said. He said many homes were flooded with knee-deep water.
Evacuations were underway as rivers continued to rise, he said.
“We predicted this three days ago, and its actually happening,” McCrory said of the inland flooding. “Flooding in eastern and central North Carolina is expected to continue all week.”
Hydrologist Mark Hamill of the Southeast River Forecast Center said flooding could continue for a couple weeks. Dozens of river and stream gauges remain in flood stage across the Carolinas and Virginia, with 5 locations in North Carolina at all-time record highs, according to the National Weather Service.
The Lumber River at Lumberton, N.C., shattered its previous record high by nearly 4 feet.
“There’s still a lot of water on the ground, outside the rivers, trying to get back in,” Hamill said.
Other North Carolina rivers and towns with the worst flooding include the Lumber River at Lumberton; the Lower Little River at Manchester; the Tar River at Rocky Mount and Greenville; and the Neuse River Smithfield, Kinston, and Goldsboro, the weather service said.
Matthew already is blamed for 10 deaths in the state, and six people remained missing, McCrory said. He said power remained out to more than 500,000 “structures,” saying that meant more than 1 million North Carolinians were without power.
More than 300,000 utility customers in Florida remained without power Monday, and hundreds of thousands in South Carolina and Georgia also were affected.
The storm, the strongest to sweep through the Atlantic Basin in almost a decade, killed hundreds of people in Haiti and at least 18 in the U.S. The high water will pose life-threatening conditions across the Southeast and could also hinder local cleanup efforts this week, AccuWeather said.
Matthew was downgraded on Sunday to a post-tropical cyclone. President Obama has signed disaster declarations for Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The declarations make federal funding available to state, tribal and eligible local governments and private non-profit organizations for debris removal and emergency protective measures for affected areas.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urged people returning home to listen to state and local officials. The agency warned that floodwater could be charged by downed power lines or could hide dangerous debris. FEMA also said people should avoid driving or walking through moving water.
“As people head back home to assess damage it is vital they do not drive through flooded roadways, avoid downed power lines and stay off the roads to let first-responders do their work, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Sunday lifted evacuation orders in two counties Monday, one day after lifting those orders in four others.