Governor declares state of emergency in 66 counties ahead of Hurricane Matthew

RALEIGH — Bladen County is among 66 North Carolina counties placed under a state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall in Haiti this morning.

“While we do not yet know how Hurricane Matthew will impact North Carolina, we do know that we can expect some form of impacts on our state,” Gov. Pat McCrory said. “Already, we’ve seen substantial flooding in eastern and central parts of the state from recent rain events, and many areas are already saturated. We are taking this storm seriously, and I encourage residents and visitors do the same.”

The state of emergency allows for the flow of resources needed to respond to the storm. It also waives truck weight, size and hours of service restrictions so that farmers can harvest their crops before the storm hits.

This morning’s storm briefing from the National Weather Service in Wilmington says the storm’s path has shifted slightly to the west, but cautioned that its track will continue to change as it approaches the East Coast.

“Hurricane Matthew may move by as a strong to possibly major hurricane with the closest approach during Saturday,” the briefing says. ” … It is plausible that high wind, surge, and flood impacts could occur at the end of the week as Matthew makes its closest approach to the area.”

The Weather Service did not estimate how much rain Matthew could bring to Southeastern North Carolina.

The forecast for the region is calling for a slight chance of showers Thursday with “tropical storm conditions possible” Friday night and Saturday. Sunday’s forecast is calling for mostly sunny skies.

Hurricane Matthew roared into the southwestern coast of Haiti today, threatening a largely rural corner of the impoverished country with devastating storm conditions as it headed north toward Cuba and the eastern coast of Florida.

The dangerous Category 4 storm made landfall around dawn on Haiti’s southern peninsula, where many people live along the coast in shacks of wood and corrugated steel that stand little chance of withstanding the force of the system’s maximum sustained winds of 145 mph.

Matthew was also expected to bring 15 to 25 inches of rain, and up to 40 inches in isolated places, along with up to 10 feet of storm surge and battering waves, said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm was moving along the Windward Passage between Haiti and Jamaica, where it was also dumping heavy rain that caused flooding in parts of the country. It was headed for southeastern Cuba and then into the Bahamas.

The hurricane center said it would likely issue a tropical storm watch or hurricane watch for the Florida Keys or the Florida peninsula and that it could create dangerous beach conditions along the East Coast later in the week.

Haiti’s civil protection office said a number of south coast towns partially flooded overnight. Landslides and downed trees on roadways were preventing movement in numerous areas. The few places that were on the electrical grid had apparently lost power and cell phone service was spotty.

Haitian officials spent Monday trying to persuade shantytown residents to take advantage of shelters being set up. Some people took up the offers, but many refused, saying they feared their meager possessions might be stolen.

Authorities also went door to door in the south coast cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie to make sure people were aware of the storm’s threats. At least 1,200 people were moved to shelters in churches and schools.

“We are continuing to mobilize teams in the south to move people away from dangerous areas,” said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of Haiti’s civil protection agency.

Haiti’s civil protection agency reported one death, a fisherman who drowned in rough water churned up by the storm. That raised Matthew’s death toll to at least three. One man died in Colombia and a teen was killed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the storm moved through the Caribbean.

Cuba’s government declared a hurricane alert for six eastern provinces and workers removed traffic lights from poles in the city of Santiago to keep them from falling when the storm hit.

At one point a Category 5 storm, and the region’s strongest hurricane since Felix in 2007, Matthew was expected to make landfall in Cuba about 50 miles east of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where authorities flew out about 700 spouses and children of service members.

As of 8 a.m., the storm was located about 10 miles east of Tiburon, Haiti, and 125 miles south of the eastern tip of Cuba. It was moving north near 9 mph.
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