Hurricane Matthew Causing Serious Flooding in the Carolinas

Hurricane Matthew produced heavy rainfall which led to serious flooding in South Carolina and North Carolina on Saturday.  The total rainfall in some locations exceeded 10 inches (25 cm) in numerous locations in those two states.  Heavy prolonged rain caused creeks and rivers to rapidly rise and flood.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) still classified Hurricane Matthew as a hurricane in its 11:00 p.m. EDT advisory.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on the center of Hurricane Matthew was located at latitude 34.1°N and longitude 76.5°W which put it about 35 miles (55 km) south of Cape Lookout, North Carolina.  Matthew was moving toward the east-northeast at 14 m.p.h. (22 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 90 m.p.h. (145 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 982 mb.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Little River Inlet to Surf City, North Carolina.  A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the portion of the coast from Surf City to Duck, North Carolina including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Surf City to Duck, North Carolina including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.

According to NHC the center of Hurricane Matthew made an official landfall near Cape Romain southeast of McClellanville, South Carolina at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Saturday.  Since that time the center of Hurricane Matthew has moved back out over the Atlantic Ocean.  New bands of showers are forming closer to the center south of the coast of North Carolina.  The winds to hurricane force are occurring over a small area on the southwestern side of Hurricane Matthew.

Easterly winds blowing around the north side of Hurricane Matthew converged with northerly winds blowing along a cold front to generate a broad area of rising motion.  The rising motion and the existing rainbands of the hurricane combined to produce very heavy rain over South Carolina and the southeastern half of North Carolina.  The area of heavy rain spread into southeastern Virginia around Norfolk on Saturday night.  The prolonged heavy rainfall caused the water in creeks and rivers to rise very quickly.  Serious flooding was occurring in parts of South Carolina and North Carolina.  Numerous roads were closed because of flooding in those two states.

Along the coast of North Carolina southeasterly winds were blowing water toward the coast and Hurricane Matthew was still generating storm surges.  When Matthew moves east of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the wind will change direction and it will blow from the northwest.  Those northwesterly winds will push water in Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds onto the western sides of the Outer Banks.  Storms surges caused by Hurricane Matthew caused varying amounts of damage from Florida to North Carolina.  The most destructive storm surges appear to have been near Jacksonville Beach, Florida, around the barrier islands of Georgia and South Carolina.  However, a full damage assessment has not been made of those locations at this time.

Even though the center of Hurricane Matthew stayed over the Atlantic Ocean most of the time, gusty winds caused power outages from Florida to North Carolina.  As the heavy rain saturated the ground, gusts of winds toppled trees which fell onto power lines.  More power outages are likely in eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia as more trees are uprooted.

Hurricane Matthew will slowly move out to sea on Sunday.  Matthew appears to be making a transition to an extratropical cyclone.  During that transition the wind field is likely to expand.  So, conditions should improve slowly over North Carolina and Virginia on Sunday.