* Death toll reaches at least 877 in Haiti, 11 in United
States Storm downgraded to Category 1 with winds of 75 mph
* Matthew makes landfall 30 miles north of Charleston, S.C.
By Harriet McLeod and Scott Malone
CHARLESTON, S.C./SAVANNAH, Ga., Oct 9 Hurricane
Matthew slammed into North Carolina and Virginia on Sunday,
packing a diminished yet still potent punch as it caused major
flooding and widespread power outages along the U.S. Atlantic
coast after killing hundreds in Haiti.
Now weakened, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007
unleashed torrential rains and powerful winds as it churned
slowly north after pummeling the southeastern coast of the
United States, killing at least 11 people in Florida, Georgia
and North Carolina since Thursday and leaving more than two
million businesses and homes without power.
Early on Sunday, the storm threatened coastal communities in
North Carolina and Virginia, where flash flood warnings were
issued and gusts of winds of 75 miles per hour (120 kph) were
"The wind is bending the trees to a 90 degree angle in my
backyard, I've lost electrical power in my home and the rain is
blowing sideways," Frank Gianinni, a 59-year-old occupational
therapist, said in an email from his home in Wilmington, North
"Standing outside in my backyard just now, and I'm humbled
by the power of nature."
Forecasters warned that widespread flooding was possible
from heavy rain - 15 inches (40 cm) was expected to fall in some
areas - along with massive storm surges and high tides.
"We are looking at very significant flooding. Almost every
road in the city is impassable," Virginia Beach spokeswoman Erin
Sutton told the Weather Channel on Sunday from the city of
almost 500,000 people that sits between Chesapeake Bay and the
On Saturday evening, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory had
urged residents to stay off roads and sidewalks to avoid "deadly
conditions" caused by severe flooding and debris.
Local and national media showed footage from throughout the
region of motorists and passengers sitting and standing on
vehicles stuck in rushing flood waters as crews used swift water
boats to rescue the stranded. In Cumberland County, North
Carolina alone, more than 500 people had been rescued by crews
as of early on Sunday, the Weather Channel reported.
As of 2 a.m. EST (0600 GMT) on Sunday, the storm was about
50 miles (80 km) east of Morehead City, North Carolina, the U.S.
National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. The center of the
storm was set to move near or south of the North Carolina coast
early on Sunday and east of the state later in the day as it
Matthew, which topped out as a ferocious Category 5 storm
days before and killed at least 877 people in Haiti, has now
been downgraded to Category 1.
It made U.S. landfall on Saturday near McClellanville, South
Carolina, a village 30 miles (48 km) north of Charleston that
was devastated by a Category 4 hurricane in 1989.
The storm was blamed for at least 11 deaths in the United
States - five in Florida, three in North Carolina and three in
Georgia, including two people killed by falling trees in Bulloch
County, the county coroner said.
Power was reported knocked out for more than 2 million
households and businesses in the U.S. Southeast, the bulk of
those in Florida and South Carolina.
The storm-stricken stretch of the Atlantic Coast from Miami
to Charleston, a nearly 600-mile drive, encompasses some of the
most well-known beaches, resorts and historical towns in the
southeastern United States. Parts of Interstate 95, the main
north-south thoroughfare on the East Coast, were closed due to
flooding and fallen trees, state officials said.
Roads in Jackson Beach, Florida, were littered with debris,
including chunks from an historic pier dislodged by the storm,
with some intersections clogged by up to a foot of standing
water. Beachfront businesses suffered moderate damage.
"We rode out the storm. It wasn't this bad at our house, but
here there's a lot of damage," said Zowi Cuartas, 18, as he
watched bystanders pick up shattered signs near the beach.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said more than 6,000 people
stayed in shelters overnight, but he appeared relieved that the
state had been spared from greater harm.
"We're all blessed that Matthew stayed off our coast," he
said. He predicted electricity would be restored to most without
power by Sunday evening.
Streets in downtown Charleston, known for its historic
waterfront architecture, were flooded to the tops of tires on
some parked cars, and a few residents could be seen wading near
the city's sea wall as high tide approached.
Some 8 inches (20 cm) of rain fell in the Savannah, Georgia
area, downing trees and causing flooding.
The National Weather Service said record-high tides were
recorded along the Savannah River at the South Carolina-Georgia
border, peaking at 12.6 feet, surpassing those from Hurricane
David in 1979.
Storm damage was far greater in Haiti earlier in the week
when Matthew plowed directly into the impoverished Caribbean
island nation. Around 61,500 people were in shelters, officials
said, after the storm lashed coastal villages in high surf.
(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, David
Bailey in Minneapolis, Zachary Goelman in Orlando, Fla., David
Shepardson in Washington, and Steve Gorman and Lisa Richwine in
Los Angeles; Editing by Bernard Orr and Susan Fenton)