Sunday, September 24, 2023
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Hurricane Matthew Forecast Seen as Grim for S.C. Coast

(CN) - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Friday issued a new appeal for coastal residents to evacuate, warning that the latest forecasts suggest Hurricane Matthew will be much harder on the state than originally expected.

Haley issued a mandatory evacuation order on Tuesday, but stragglers remained behind, intent on riding out the storm.

Since then, projections for Matthew's impacts on the state have steadily improved, with the Category 3 hurricane appearing to veer away from the coast before it reached major population centers.

That is until Friday afternoon, when the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning for the entire South Carolina coast and released projections that show Matthew coming very close to the coast near Charleston early Saturday morning.

At a news conference Friday, Haley said the area must gird itself for the storm's most significant winds, incredible storm surges and significant flooding.

Widespread power outages are also expected.

Haley said an estimated 310,000 people have been evacuated from the South Carolina coast.

"This is the last time you will hear my voice asking you to evacuate," the governor said.

Even before the governor spoke, the U.S. Coast Guard has closed the Port of Charleston, saying no vessels can leave Charleston or enter the port until the hurricane emergency has passed.

The Coast Guard also announced that its smaller boats have been removed from the water and larger ones have moved to safe harbor.

The agency also said it will stop search-and-rescue missions during the height of the storm and its helicopters will not be flying.

Beyond the forecast, widespreading flooding from Matthew in Jacksonville and especially St. Augustine, Florida is stoking fears that more of the same may be coming as the storm heaves north.

St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver said the city that purports to be "America's oldest" has been battered by waves and storm surge approaching 8 feet.

In a telephone interview with the Associated Press Friday afternoon, Shaver said the flood water in her city "is just going to get higher and higher and higher."

She also said damage in St. Augustine is "widespread" and that some homes may never be habitable again.

In Georgia, Chatham County emergency management director Dennis Jones said time is running out for coastal residents to flee Matthew.

"Once the wind starts blowing, we're pulling all emergency services off the street," Jones said during a news conference Friday.

Savannah police said they also will enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Already, emergency responders have left Tybee Island, a popular beach community near Savannah, because heavy rains at high tide threatened to flood the only road to the mainland.

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