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Updated 7:45 PM  |  October 8, 2016
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Similarities between Matthew and Hurricane Floyd are unmistakable in N.C.
Nick Lomasney walks through heavy wind and a flooded street as Hurricane Matthew passes through the area on October 7, 2016 in St Augustine, Florida. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina all declared a state of emergency in preparation of Hurricane Matthew. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Nick Lomasney walks through heavy wind and flooded streets as Hurricane Matthew passes St Augustine, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. — In North Carolina, the similarities between Matthew and Hurricane Floyd, the state’s worst natural disaster, are unmistakable.

“When the storm itself came through we had the ocean response, which really wasn’t too terribly bad, but then all the rain came down the rivers from the Piedmont,” Rick Luettich, director of the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, Center, said of the 1999 storm.

“If this turns into the rainmaker that some predictions suggest it could then certainly we can expect flooding in Kinston and areas along the Tar River that flooded when Floyd came through.”

Like Floyd, Matthew arrives after a prolonged period of rain in eastern and central North Carolina. Floodwaters in areas around Fayetteville, Windsor and Greenville were just starting to recede.

An average of 10 inches are predicted to fall over the next day in eastern North Carolina, with some spots expected to see 15 or more inches.

Luettich said he expects Matthew’s storm surge to average two to three feet. That’s enough to cause damage to structures along the dune line, but the timing of the storm and tides appear to be working to limit a larger surge and more damage. High tide was around 1 p.m. today, well ahead of Matthew’s strongest punch.

“When the worst of the winds get up to southeastern North Carolina, hopefully we will be past the high tide and in fact a bit closer to the low tide,” he said. “That has a huge impact impact on the amount of storm surge we end up getting.”

Luettich said one major concern about potential storm surge right now is that the storm’s farther reach up the coast will drive the waters of Pamlico Sound into low-lying communities on the sound’s western side and back up the mouth of Neuse and Tar-Pamlico rivers.

Luettich said those areas, likely to flood in the days after the storm, could see several feet of surge this evening and tomorrow.

U.S. death toll climbs to 9 in wake of Hurricane Matthew

A man puts up caution tape as people walk by and take photos of the Casablanco Inn the day after Hurricane Matthew hit St. Augustine, FL on Saturday October 08, 2016. Hurricane Matthew plowed north along the Atlantic coast, flooding towns and destroying roads in its path. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Hurricane Matthew is being blamed for three deaths in North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s office announced on Twitter Saturday afternoon. Details of those deaths are still unknown.

This brings the U.S. death toll to nine. Two people have died in Georgia, the AP reports, and four people were killed in Florida.

A woman was killed in Crescent City, Fla. after a tree fell and hit her camper trailer, according to the local sheriff’s office. Police and rescue workers arrived at the scene at about 3 p.m. A man inside the trailer had only minor injuries.

Officials in Volusia County said Friday afternoon that a woman was killed by a falling tree after going outside her house to feed some animals. It was during a lull in the storm, County Manager Jim Dinneen explained, and the woman did not realize that the wind and rain would reemerge.

Early Friday morning, a call came in to 911 in St. Lucie County after 82-year-old man fell unconscious and was not breathing. By the time emergency vehicles were able to reach his home, he had been driven in a personal car to the hospital, where he died. In the same county, a 58-year-old woman called for help after a heart attack. Emergency crews could not reach her in the storm and she died.

Charleston deals with severe flooding from Hurricane Matthew
Hundreds of pumpkins are strewn across St. Augustine — ‘They just floated away’
First United Methodist Church, which is more than 100 years old, ships them in from New Mexico every year for a youth group fundraiser. Hundreds of them floated away during Hurricane Matthew. (Renae Merle for The Washington Post)
First United Methodist Church, which is more than 100 years old, ships them in from New Mexico every year for a youth group fundraiser. Hundreds of them floated away during Hurricane Matthew. (Renae Merle for The Washington Post)

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The victims — escapees, maybe? — were found scattered more than 100 feet away. Some rested in the parking lot of the burger restaurant down the street, while others were discovered badly scabbed and broken at a nearby gas station.

“They just floated away,” said Lauren Birkhimer, 17.

The pumpkins, that is. Hundreds of them.

First United Methodist Church, which is more than 100 years old, ships pumpkins in from New Mexico every year for a youth group fundraiser. It’s an annual tradition and has been going for at least 20 years, according to a group of church members, including one who drove more than an hour to join the rescue mission.

Hurricane Matthew tore through St. Augustine on Friday, causing major flooding in historic parts of the city. The National Guard is now stationed in key thoroughfares. There is no power or water service in parts of the city.

But for now, Jayce Ginn, the church’s youth director, can think of nothing more than finding the lost pumpkins. He evacuated ahead of Hurricane Matthew on Thursday and hasn’t even attempted to go home yet. “I came straight here from Palatka,” he said.

About a quarter of the pumpkins are believed lost forever, while others may be too damaged to be sold, group members said. The pumpkins typically go for 50 cents to $20, depending on their size and plumpness.

“We’re still assessing the damage,” said Birkhimer, the co-president of the youth group. “It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year.”

First United Methodist Church, which is more than 100 years old, ships them in from New Mexico every year for a youth group fundraiser. Hundreds of them floated away during Hurricane Matthew. (Renae Merle for The Washington Post)
First United Methodist Church, which is more than 100 years old, ships them in from New Mexico every year for a youth group fundraiser. Hundreds of them floated away during Hurricane Matthew. (Renae Merle for The Washington Post)
Armed National Guard officers block roads in St. Augustine
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL - OCTOBER 8: Members of the National Guard stand blocking the Bridge of Lions from vehicles but allowing people to walk across the day after Hurricane Matthew hit in St. Augustine, FL on Saturday October 08, 2016. Hurricane Matthew plowed north along the Atlantic coast, flooding towns and destroying roads in its path. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – OCTOBER 8: Members of the National Guard stand blocking the Bridge of Lions from vehicles but allowing people to walk across the day after Hurricane Matthew hit in St. Augustine, FL on Saturday October 08, 2016. Hurricane Matthew plowed north along the Atlantic coast, flooding towns and destroying roads in its path. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Four camouflaged National Guard troopers, rifles slung over their shoulders, stood blocking cars in the roadway. The Bridge of Lions runs from historic downtown St. Augustine to the barrier islands offshore. It is impassable to cars on Saturday afternoon, but the troopers allowed people on foot and bicycles across.

Surfers with their boards slung under their arms pedaled across the bridge. Robin Dougherty, 54, parked her car and strode up the bridge with her house keys in her pocket and her pink-encased iPhone to walk the mile to her vacation home in Davis Shores. Dougherty is from Bethesda, Md., and evacuated on Thursday morning after police with megaphones marched down her street, telling people to leave.

Dougherty’s home sits on the inlet where the Mantanzas River feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. With a storm surge predicted at 14 feet, she figured the water would reach the second story of her home. Dougherty found a hotel room in Ocala.

She was frustrated that she couldn’t find any information on the conditions in St. Augustine during the storm. She evacuated, as told, she said, and she thinks that the county’s emergency management could have done a better job of communicating what was happening on the ground. She said the media didn’t have much information either.

All she found was a Twitter video of people on the front porch of the the Casablanca Inn next to the Bridge of Lions with a torrent of water streaming down the street in front of them. “In this era of communication, I think the county should be able to do a better job of communicating,” she lamented.

In historic downtown St. Augustine, it looked like a typically sunny day with people standing on the seawall gazing out over the Matanzas River and strolling along with waterfront. The Casablanca Inn had become something of a tourist attraction and people climbed up the stairs to the front porch and looked around. The owners of the inn had fastened police tape across the front of the building. An employee said that the people who weathered Matthew inside the bed and breakfast were employees. The inn was closed on Saturday.

Even the National Guard blocking the Bridge of Lions had become an attraction in this tourist town. St. Augustine teachers Jenna and Scott Miller walked down to the waterfront from their home in Gulf Shores with their children Dani, 7, and Keegan, 9. The National Guard posed for pictures with the children.

“They’ve never seen them with guns,” said Jenna Miller, 37. “They’ve seen the National Guard before, but they’ve never seen them deploy,” said Scott Miller, 36.

The family walks down to the historic downtown the waterfront every weekend. On this walk, they noted downed trees and debris, flooding but not much wind damage. “This is their first hurricane,” said Jenna.

On the route, she said, Dani had counted 61 dead trees. “It was 100,” Dani corrected.

“I’m surprised we didn’t see more damage,” said Jenna.

Flash flood emergency unfolds in Carolinas as Florida begins to clean up
(National Hurricane Center)
(National Hurricane Center)

Hurricane Matthew is making its closest approach to Florida on Friday morning as a powerful Category 3 with sustained winds of 120 mph. The storm is hugging the coast as it tracks north, churning just 25 miles offshore.

Cape Canaveral has endured the strongest winds so far — a 107 mph wind gust was recorded Friday morning after an extreme wind warning was issued in the early morning hours.

Matthew is expected to continue north along the coast and reach Georgia and South Carolina by Friday night. The hurricane will continue to weaken gradually thanks to the interaction with land, but it will remain a dangerous storm with serious impacts for the coastline. A storm surge warning is in effect to the central South Carolina coast.

On Saturday night, Matthew will begin to turn east away from the coast, likely before any serious impacts reach the Outer Banks.

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