North Carolina residents prepared for deadly flash flooding Sunday as the death toll for Hurricane Matthew in the United States climbed to at least 17 victims. At least eight people had died because of the storm in North Carolina, while Georgia reported three storm-related deaths and Florida saw six. In Haiti, where Hurricane Matthew begun its destructive path last week, nearly 900 people had died from the massive storm that was at one point wider than the state of Florida.
"I wouldn’t assume that there aren’t people clinging for life right now in houses that are underwater that we have yet to reach, especially in lower-populated areas," Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters in Raleigh, the state capital. "That’s what my major concern is."
Matthew was about 150 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and heading east at 15 mph Sunday afternoon as state officials warned the storm was far from over.
"This is still an extremely dangerous situation," McCrory said. "And I cannot stress it more especially in the areas of Rocky Mount, Kinston, Greenville, Goldsboro and other eastern towns, cities. We’re going to have major issues with rivers and flooding."
The storm was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone early Sunday morning, but officials in the Carolinas warned heavy rain and engorged rivers would remain a problem. Areas along the Neuse River in Goldsboro, North Carolina, were expected to see the most flooding the region has seen in nearly 20 years, the New York Times reported. Nearly 900 people were rescued by state boat crews Sunday and 4,000 were staying in shelters, McCrory said.
In Georgia, the storm surge reached 12.5 feet, a new record. In South Carolina, roads became rivers and trees fell to the ground as the storm made landfall north of Charleston. More than 430,000 people around the state were without power Saturday night.
“We had a lot of rain, for many hours,” said Capt. Bob Bromage, the public information officer for the Sheriff’s Department in Beaufort County, southwest of Charleston. “We had flooding, we may have had some surge that we’re not aware of yet, we have downed trees, we have reports of downed trees on houses already.”
In Florida, where the storm hit Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida said the state had begun to tackle "unbelievable amounts of beach erosion," and damaged roads.
“The first thing we can say is we are all blessed that Matthew stayed off our coast,” he said. “I worried the whole time that even though the track was off our coast, that it would turn in and have a direct hit at some point.”
President Barack Obama vowed Sunday that the storm's victims would receive some form of aid. "There's been a really serious hurricane," he said. "People were hit. They weren't hit as directly as we had feared but it has left a lot of destruction in its wake."