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Hurricane Matthew will spin near the southeastern U.S. coast with a swath of flooding, power outages and damaging winds in parts of the Carolinas through Sunday morning.
Problems related to Matthew could occur as far to the north as southeastern Virginia.
Matthew approached the Florida coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Thursday night, before weakening to a Category 2 hurricane near the coast on Friday afternoon. Matthew, now a Category 1 hurricane, will continue to gradually weaken through this weekend, but the hurricane will continue to cause dangerous conditions. In fact, some of the worst conditions in terms of coastal flooding will continue through Saturday night.
Track Matthew on radar as the hurricane moves northward.
Hurricane Matthew officially made landfall southeast of McClellanville, South Carolina around 11:00 a.m. EDT Saturday. Data suggests the center of circulation had crossed the coast near the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
Matthew will continue to hug the coast over the next 12 to 24 hours.
"Matthew will continue to bring major impacts to the Carolinas going forward, with heavy, flooding rainfall continuing to be the most widespread and life threatening situation,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Evan Duffey said.
Matthew will remain a hurricane through at least Saturday evening as it parallels the Southeast coast.
Hurricane Matthew will create a fire hose effect of high winds, heavy rain and storm surge as the system moves northeastward.
Such a track will put millions in harm's way along the coast and inland from impacts ranging from storm surge flooding, flash and urban flooding, flying debris and scores of downed trees to structural damage to weakly constructed dwellings.
The worst conditions will occur across parts of the Carolinas through Sunday morning. Then, the storm may take an unusual track and head back toward the Bahamas or Florida.
Along the immediate coast of the Carolinas, gusts will range between 60 and 80 mph as the western part of the outer eye wall moves along.
Winds this strong can cause significant property damage and widespread power outages.
Because of gusts between 40 and 60 mph and bursts of heavy rain, motorists planning to venture along I-95 across South Carolina and into North Carolina may want to consider taking a more western route for safety concerns.
In fact, according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, many roads across South Carolina, including parts of I-95, are closed due to flooding or trees and power lines down on the road.
Gusts to tropical storm force, roughly 40 mph or greater, can occur as far west as Columbia, South Carolina. Gusts at this speed can cause sporadic power outages.
In addition to high winds, a few tornadoes could occur over eastern North Carolina into tonight.
Airline passengers should expect flight cancellations in the southeastern U.S., with the potential for ripple effects elsewhere in the nation as crews and aircraft are displaced.
Powerful onshore winds will push Atlantic Ocean water toward the coast. This water will build up in the bays and along the mouths of the many rivers in the region.
A storm surge of 3-6 feet will occur along low-lying areas of the coast. Water levels this high will put some communities and access roads under water, which is why evacuation orders were issued by officials in the region. Storm surge could be locally higher near high tide.
The combination of heavy rainfall and storm surge can cause major flooding in areas along the coast.
Widespread rainfall totals of 8 to 16 inches will be seen in eastern North Carolina. However, there can be localized amounts of up to 20 inches through Saturday night. This will lead to catastrophic flooding.
Flooding is responsible for two deaths near Clarkton, North Carolina Saturday afternoon after a vehicle was swept away, according to an emergency manager.
Even lesser rainfall as far north as northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia can cause flash and urban flooding.
Portions of eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia were walloped with more than a foot of rain during September.
Even a moderate amount of rain, combined with tropical storm-force wind gusts, can topple trees and cause sporadic power outages in this area.
Seas can build to dangerous levels for bathers as far north as the Delmarva Peninsula and southern New Jersey coasts this weekend.
Waters will be too dangerous for bathers, boarders and boaters along the southern Atlantic coast even where the storm retreats to the north and east.
Small craft should remain secured in port, and cruise and freight interests should consider rerouting their trips to avoid the monstrous seas that will develop. Offshore, seas can top 25 feet at the height of the storm.
The path of Matthew from Sunday and beyond could be chaotic.
How soon an eastward turn begins may determine the severity of the wind and rain in eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia on Sunday.
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Matthew is expected to curve out to sea Sunday but its track after remains uncertain. Matthew could stall over open waters or it could possibly make a loop and impact the Bahamas or eastern Florida again.
"It would be wise for those in South Florida, the Greater Antilles, and the Bahamas to pay attention to the system as it makes its loop for a potential impact," Duffey said.
At the very least, such a path would translate to long-duration rough seas, dangerous surf and beach erosion along the southeastern U.S. coast.
However, most of the Southeast should endure great weather for cleanup early this coming week.
Rare, unusually strong hurricane for northeastern Florida, Georgia waters
From a historical perspective, landfall by a hurricane along the northeastern Florida and Georgia coasts is extremely rare.
Since the mid-1800s, when reliable records have been kept, no major hurricanes (Category 3 or greater) have ever made landfall along the upper Atlantic coast of Florida," Kottlowski said.
During the late 1800s, there were fewer than a handful of major hurricanes (Category 3 or greater) that have made landfall along the Georgia coast, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell.
The center of Matthew passed very close to Cape Canaveral, Florida, at daybreak, local time. Gusts topping 100 mph occurred along the Space Coast.
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