The National Weather Service said Hurricane Matthew has come ashore in South Carolina, reaching the mainland in rural Charleston County northeast of the Holy City.
Matthew took the route Saturday forecasters had been expecting, following the South Carolina coastline offshore from the Georgia border until its noon Saturday position 45 miles south-southwest of Myrtle Beach. The National Weather Service said the storm made landfall near McClellanville in late morning. It is the first time a hurricane has made landfall in South Carolina since 2004.
As of 2 p.m., Matthew’ s center had reached the Grand Stran region. Area media report wind and water damage, including to sections of the Springmaid Resort pier in south Myrtle Beach.
Gov. Nikki Haley is warning residents along the areas already affected not to return home this weekend until they hear law enforcement has cleared their home neighborhood.
Haley said it’s still too early to know full damage reports, especially since many of the barrier islands remain cut off from the mainland due to downed trees or water on roadways. In particular, Charleston County officials have noted Kiawah and Seabrook islands south of Charleston are completely inaccessible. The state Department of Transportation (SCDOT) said Interstate 95 is closed from mile marker 49 to the Georgia border due to downed trees. Another section in Dillon County was also shut down.
SCDOT has told drivers not to cross the causeway into Hilton Head until they have time to inspect it for structural integrity. They also closed the Ravenel Bridge over the Charleston harbor until inspections could be conducted to check on possible storm damage. (See map of road closings here)
Matthew is expected to pass northeast of the Charleston region around midday and reach the Grand Strand overnight. “We are not out of the woods,” Haley said in a Saturday morning press briefing.
The governor said state officials are not aware of any deaths at this time, but worried that may change as recovery crews re-enter affected areas. “They just can’t get in,” she told reporters. “This will turn into a search-and-rescue mission, but I’m praying it stays that way.”
High tide storm surges were at historic levels early Saturday morning. A National Weather Service station at Fort Pulaski outside Savannah reported a 12.52-foot surge, the highest it has ever recorded. A 9.29-foot surge was recorded in Charleston harbor, the third-highest on record and unmatched since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
More than 437,000 customers lost power overnight in South Carolina, according to the state Emergency Management Division. The National Weather Service said it will investigate a potential tornado that was reported in North Myrtle Beach early Saturday morning, although it confirmed there was damage in the area.
Haley also warned of a possible cyberthreat in the storm’s aftermath. In particular, she said state officials have become aware of emails telling recipients to click a link to see “outages” in their area. If the recipient clicks the link, the cyberattacker will then be able to access their computer.