Hurricane Matthew slammed into North Carolina and Virginia yesterday, packing a diminished but still potent punch.
It caused major flooding and wide spread power outages along the US Atlantic coast, after killing hundreds in Haiti.
The hurricane killed at least 11 people in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina since Thursday – and has left more than two million businesses and homes without power.
Weakening yesterday, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007 unleashed torrential rains and powerful winds as it churned slowly north after pummelling the southeastern coast of the US.
Storm damage in the US, however, was much less than in Haiti, where nearly 900lives were lost and at least 13 people have died from outbreaks of cholera on the Caribbean island in the wake of the storm.
Matthew threatened coastal communities in North Carolina and Virginia, where flash-flood warnings were issued and gusts of winds of 120km/h were recorded.
“The wind is bending the trees to a 90-degree angle in my garden, the rain is blowing sideways and I’ve lost power in my home,” therapist Frank Gianinni, 59, of Wilmington, North Carolina, said.
“I’m humbled by the power of nature.” Forecasters warned that wide spread flooding was possible from heavy rain expected in some areas – along with massive storm surges and high tides.
Virginia Beach spokeswoman Erin Sutton said: “We are looking at significant flooding. Almost every road in the city [of about 500 000 people] is impassable.” North Carolina Governor Pat Mc Crory had urged residents to stay off roads and pavements to avoid deadly conditions caused by severe flooding and debris.
Television footage from throughout the region showed motorists and passengers sitting and standing on vehicles stuck inrushing flood waters as crews used swift boats to rescue the stranded.
In Cumberland County, North Carolina alone, more than 500 people were rescued by crews, the Weather Channel reported.
However, the centre of the storm was set to move east of North Carolina as it weakened, downgraded to a Category 1storm from a ferocious Category 5 earlier.
The storm was blamed for at least 11deaths in the US – five in Florida, three in North Carolina and three in Georgia, including two people killed by falling trees in Bulloch County.
More than two million households and businesses in the US Southeast were without power, the bulk of those in Florida and South Carolina.
The storm-stricken 960km stretch of the Atlantic Coast from Miami to Charleston, encompasses some of the most well- known beaches, resorts and historical towns in the southeastern US.
Parts of Interstate 95, the main north south thorough fare on the East Coast, were closed due to flooding and fallen trees, state officials said.
Flooded roads in Jackson Beach, Florida, were littered with debris, including chunks from a historic pier dislodged by the storm. Beachfront businesses suffered moderate damage.
Streets in downtown Charleston, known for its historic waterfront architecture, were flooded, and a few residents could be seen wading near the city’s sea wall as high tide approached.
The National Weather Service said record-high tides were recorded along the Savannah River at the South Carolina-Georgia border, peaking at 3.85m, surpassing those from Hurricane David in1979.