After more than a day of driving rains, howling winds and surging waves, Hurricane Matthew finally appears to be moving on from Beaufort County and out of South Carolina.
“The good news is (the storm) is finally pulling away from Myrtle Beach and we are seeing improving conditions” throughout the coastal parts of the state, National Weather Service meteorologist John Quagliariello said Saturday evening.
With Hurricane Matthew moving north and away from Beaufort County Saturday afternoon, drier and cooler weather is expected in the coming days.
The county, which is no longer under a hurricane warning, has only a “low likelihood of any significant precipitation” Sunday and into early next week, National Weather Service meteorologist James Carpenter said.
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“It actually looks like the weather should be pretty reasonable,” he said. “One of the saving graces of a system like (Hurricane Matthew) is that it has a tendency to take humidity with it and bring drier conditions.”
Daytime temperatures over the next few days are expected to hover in the mid-70s, dipping into the 60s and potentially high 50s at night, Carpenter said.
These relatively cool nighttime temperatures “will be nice for people without electricity,” he said.
About 100,000 Beaufort County residents were without power Saturday evening, according to figures from SCE&G and Palmetto Electric. Gov. Nikki Haley said more than 800,000 people are without power across the state.
While Beaufort County begins what is sure to be a long recovery, Hurricane Matthew — now a Category 1 storm — still poses a threat to coastal regions to the north.
Millions in the Carolinas remained under hurricane and tropical storm watches as of this evening.
“Georgetown and Horry (counties) and some counties in North Carolina are getting some pretty bad storm surge up that way,” National Weather Service meteorologist Emily Timte said Saturday afternoon.
In addition to more rain, wind and storm surges, “a couple of tornadoes are possible through early tonight along the coast of North Carolina,” according to a National Hurricane Center advisory.
The center reported that Hurricane Matthew made landfall near McClellanville earlier this morning.
Hurricane Matthew lost strength after plowing through Beaufort County this morning, according to the National Weather Service.
“Although weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, Matthew is expected to remain near hurricane strength while the center is near the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina,” according to a recent National Hurricane Center advisory.
Matthew’s eyewall edged close to Hilton Head’s coastline at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning, but just missed hitting land.
“Even though the rain is ended, the wind threat is still there throughout the evening,” Quagliariello said.
The regioin experienced “some gusts of hurricane force” Saturday, including one gust of more than 80 mph recorded in Beaufort, he said.
The tide gauge at Fort Pulaski National Monument, located between Savannah and Tybee Island, Ga., peaked at 12.56 feet. The National Weather Service ranked the measurement as the highest on record for that instrument.
Fort Pulaski’s tide gauge is the closest one to Beaufort County, he added, so it is most indicative of high tidal impacts.
Quagliariello said Charleston Harbor experienced the third highest tide in its history during Matthew.
Where is Matthew now?
As of 8 p.m., the brunt of the storm was passing off the coast about 40 miles east of Cape Fear, N.C.
Matthew is moving north at around 13 mph, bringing “torrential rain ... inland across the Carolinas,” according to a National Hurricane Center advisory. Maximum sustained wind speeds were clocked at 75 mph.
The storm could cause “record breaking flooding” in eastern North Carolina, the advisory said.
At 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Matthew’s eyewall was just five to 10 miles offshore from Hilton Head Island. There was a possibility of the eye hitting Hilton Head Island, Fripp Island or Hunting Island, but that didn’t happen, National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Efferson said.
How bad is it so far?
The National Weather Service reported rainfall amounts at Folly Field Beach on Hilton Head Island at 9.8 inches around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.
“We expect parts of Beaufort County to get a total of 15 inches of rain in total from this storm,’ said another NWS meteorologist Carl Barnes. “We’re concerned about widespread damage from storm surge and flash flooding for the next day.”
A private weather station on Tybee Island, Ga., reported a wind gust of 93 mph. At the Hilton Head Island airport, the maximum wind gust was 85 mph, and a private weather station in Beaufort recorded a wind gust if 83 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 6 a.m. advisory.
The effects of Matthew will be felt far from the Lowcountry.
“Matthew is expected to produce 2 to 6 inches of rain over central South Carolina, western North Carolina, and southeastern Virginia,” according to a recent National Hurricane Center report.
What has Matthew already done?
At least four deaths in Florida were storm-related, The Washington Post reported. Two were medical emergencies that ambulances couldn’t reach and two were women killed by falling trees.
An adult male died after a tree fell on his Isle of Hope home, Savannah Morning News reported Saturday. Another unidentified person was killed in a weather-related incident in Chatham County, according to Chatham Emergency Management Agency officials.
Haley said she was not aware of any weather-related deaths in South Carolina.
While the storm may have done significant damage, “lives are what’s most important,” she said.
Almost 500,000 Floridians are without power as of Saturday morning, Florida Power & Light reported. That’s down from more than 700,000 outages Friday night, but officials warn it could take days to restore power completely.
Earlier this week, the storm battered the Bahamas and had claimed almost 900 lives in the Caribbean, Reuters reported.