Watch as a brave and fearless captain and crew fly through Hurricane Matthew. Credit: Capt Tim Gallagher/NOAA
HURRICANE Matthew has lashed historic cities in America’s Deep South as it continues its deadly march along the Atlantic coast.
Four people in Florida have died, and the death toll in Haiti is now nearing 900, as the monster storm continues its destructive northern trajectory towards Georgia and North Carolina.
The hurricane has been downgraded to a category 2 but remains powerful, flattening trees, swamping streets and leaving hundreds of thousands of people across both states without power.
Matthew’s eyewall, where the most destructive winds are, had been tipped to make landfall at Hilton Head, in Georgia, about 3am local time (6pm Saturday AEDT).
Despite the lashing in Florida, the eyewall is yet to cross onto US land.
Georgia’s capital Savannah has been battered by winds of up to 160km/h and there has been widespread flooding.
Though the storm has been downgraded to a category 2 hurricane, residents of both Georgia and South Carolina are bracing for a long night.
Matthew’s eyewall has been skirting the coast of Georgia and is reportedly less than 30 kilometres from the coast.
Many Savannah residents have chosen to evacuate the city.
Except for a few folks who’ve decided to ride out the hurricane, Savannah is deserted. This is Broughton St. #HurricaneMatthew pic.twitter.com/fLJQjd2iX6
— Richard Elliot (@RElliotWSB) October 7, 2016
A midnight curfew has been issued in Charleston, South Carolina, and other coastal parts of the state.
Authorities have advised residents it is now too late to evacuate and urged them to stay inside until further notice.
North Carolina is also expected to be lashed as the storm moves north.
Downtown Savannah feeling the full fury of #HurricaneMatthew
This is Abercorn St. at Bay St. pic.twitter.com/NTPWZ6lhbd
— Richard Elliot (@RElliotWSB) October 8, 2016
Storm surge flooding is a major concern, with tide levels along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts reportedly 1.5 metres above normal.
Authorities have made last-minute appeals for any remaining holdouts to get out of harm’s way, as the storm lashes the two states.
Florida residents have inundated social media with images of the storm hitting, including this video taken from inside a beach house at Palm County.
New video of wave hitting my house!@WESH #HurricaneMatthew pic.twitter.com/t9lEQocCr8
— Grant Lynch (@grantlynch1234) October 7, 2016
The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office reported that a woman was killed and a man was injured near when a tree fell on their camper in Florida during the storm.
It is understood the two adults were attempting to see out the storm, when high winds apparently caused the tree to fall. The man escaped with minor injuries, but the woman was killed.
Earlier, a woman died after a tree fell on her house in Volusia County.
Reports more than a million homes are without power, with two million people urged to evacuate before it’s too late.
Officials in Florida have cut off access to beachside portions of Flagler County after Hurricane Matthew washed away a portion of State Road A1A.
One of Floridia’s hardest hit areas is Volusia County, where nearly 92 per cent of houses were without power.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Haiti has risen to nearly 900 as rescue workers begin to reach remote regions hit by the hurricane.
Rescue workers and international aid agencies are working frantically to clean up after the worst storm to hit the region in a decade that follows a devastating earthquake six years ago.
According to aid agency CARE, some 61,500 people have been left homeless, with an estimated 80 per cent of buildings in the hardest hit city, Jeremie, in the country’s south destroyed
CARE’s Haiti director Jean-Michel Vigreux, said people in Jeremie were in “utter despair.”
“Haiti is a country that’s wrought with these recurring disasters, they’re a very resilient people, but right now they’re in shock,” he said.
“A lot of people have lost their homes, their livelihoods and family members.”
Earlier families who opted to stay put and wait it out told Brevard County Emergency Operations spokesman David Waters “we wish we hadn’t stayed” in the area.
One family said the roof just “flew off their home” while others are being forced to wait until conditions improve and paramedics are able to reach them, he said.
On Friday afternoon the eyewall of the hurricane brushed the coast of Cape Canaveral bringing winds of up to 160km an hour.
The Category 3 storm saw panicked residents take to the shops to stockpile supplies, reinforce their homes or leave town following evacuation advice. An estimated two million people were warned to move inland before the hurricane hit.
Despite the very real threat the storm presents, Fox News weather presenter Shepard Smith was mocked for his report that warned people if they don’t evacuate they will die.
In front of a huge graphic of the hurricane’s projected path, he told the audience if “this moves 20 miles to the west and you and everyone you know are dead. All of you … and your kids die too.”
Well, if you thought THAT was scary, FOX NEWS host Shepard Smith keeps hopes high regarding Hurricane Matthew pic.twitter.com/S6wuVz2gaX
— Troy Hughes™ (@TommySledge) October 6, 2016
Station cameras captured new views today of massive Hurricane Matthew. Matthew was moving through the Bahamas as a Category 4 hurricane. pic.twitter.com/ARD2odlCcQ
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) October 6, 2016
Dramatic footage from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed a “Hurricane Hunters” crew flying blind into the eye of the storm in their WP-3D Orion as they attempt to gather information on the hurricane’s path.
It shows a close-up look at the powerful storm as they navigate dense clouds and lightning to measure “steering currents” which provide specific information on the intensity and track the storm will take.
Up to 800 kilometres of coastline is expected to be smashed by howling winds and rain on Friday.
“Matthew is likely to produce devastating impacts,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott before the storm hit
“The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida.”
Matthew has been downgraded to a Category 3 but has already left hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power across the state.
South Carolina and Georgia are expected to be in the firing line this weekend.
Senior Hurricane Specialist Bryan Norcross warned Americans the storm could have catastrophic impacts and it would be like no other on the record books.
“We are concerned about reports of people staying in areas under mandatory evacuation areas,” he said. “This is not hype, I am not kidding. Don’t assume you will survive if you choose to stay.”
On Friday the storm was expected to come dangerously close to shore west of Palm Beach and across Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville, according to the National Hurricane Center.
It could then move up to South Carolina before looping back toward Florida early next week as a tropical storm.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, freeing up federal money and personnel to protect lives and property.
Airports in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando closed with more than 4500 flights cancelled leading to disappointment for some tourists as famous theme parks Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld closed down.
Patients were moved out of hospitals and a nursing home while others took refuge in halls and high schools.
The co-ordinator for Haiti’s Interior Ministry Emmanuel Pierre told The Associated Press late Thursday that he expects the toll to rise as authorities reach remote places that were left isolated by the storm.
Bodies have started to appear as waters recede in some areas two days after Matthew smashed concrete walls, flattened palm trees and tore roofs off homes.
In the Bahamas, authorities reported many downed trees and power lines but no immediate deaths.