Matthew Moves Offshore After Dumping Torrential Rain On North Carolina

Oct 10, 2016
Originally published on October 10, 2016 7:59 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Victims of Hurricane Matthew are struggling to clean up and, in some cases, to simply survive. In Haiti, the death toll is in the hundreds, with fears it will rise as cholera spreads. Here in the U.S., hurricane Matthew has left at least 18 people dead, at least eight of them in North Carolina. Hundreds more were rescued. As NPR's David Schaper reports, people in North Carolina are likely to battle flooding all week.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Frankie McLaughlin and his family rode out the hurricane in their apartment in Fayetteville, N.C., when water started to rise.

FRANKIE MCLAUGHLIN: Between that water coming off the creek and merging with the other side of the apartment, it that came all together and just messed up the whole lower level of the building.

SCHAPER: As the water filled his apartment, he moved the kids upstairs.

MCLAUGHLIN: We were frightened - very frightened for my kids, basically, because the water was so high. It was - the current was so heavy it would just take you away down - down the street.

SCHAPER: McLaughlin says he and his family then just waited.

MCLAUGHLIN: Then the rescuers got there about four, five hours later, by the time we were about to go underwater.

SCHAPER: Firefighters in boats evacuated McLaughlin, his family and his neighbors. And similar dramatic rescues took place hundreds of times all across east and central North Carolina by boat, by National Guard Humvee and by helicopter.

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PAT MCCRORY: The weather map shows that hurricane Matthews is well off the shore into the ocean.

SCHAPER: North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.

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MCCRORY: But in our minds, the impact of Hurricane Matthews is still here and extremely dangerous.

SCHAPER: More than eight inches of rain fell in Raleigh and more than 15 inches in Fayetteville. Many rivers and creeks are cresting three to four feet higher than previous flood records.

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MCCRORY: The greatest threat for North Carolina is inland flooding for central and eastern North Carolina, and that is continuing and will continue for next week in many areas.

SCHAPER: Further south, officials lifted mandatory evacuation orders late Sunday in coastal counties in South Carolina and Georgia. But more than a million homes and businesses in the region remain without power, and many roads and bridges remain closed. In Savannah, Chatham County's emergency management director, Dennis Jones, warns returning residents to be careful.

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DENNIS JONES: We have a lot of trees down. There are still power lines down. There are still flooded areas throughout the community. It is not a safe place for you to get out and just travel around at your free will.

SCHAPER: All around the area are flashing white and yellow lights of utility trucks. This crew uses hydraulic chainsaws to cut up several tall pine trees that are leaning on some power lines.

STEVE CHAMBLEY: We've got to get the trees out before we can get the power - put the power back on the lines.

SCHAPER: Steve Chambley is a lineman for Alabama Power, here helping his Georgia utility colleague.

CHAMBLEY: And there's a lot more to do. Y'all got a lot of tree damage here - a lot of tree damage and pole damage and wire damage. It's going to take a while to get it back on, I promise.

SCHAPER: Power should be restored to most customers later this week, but cleaning up the debris and rebuilding from the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew could take months, if not years. David Schaper, NPR News, Savannah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.