[Update: Flood risk has become critical for some parts of North Carolina, according to late-breaking media reports from Tuesday morning. "Get out. Get out now," North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory warned a few holdouts living near a flood control dam that is likely to fail, according to the Washington Post (see: "Extremely dangerous’ flooding to grip N.C. for days, governor warns," Chico Harlan and Angela Fritz).]
Hurricane Matthew's worst winds may have spared Florida, but the storm's torrential rains have brought a major flood disaster to North and South Carolina. NPR reported on Tuesday morning, "Early forecasts had predicted that Hurricane Matthew would turn out to sea before causing much damage in North Carolina," (see: "After Hurricane Matthew, Floodwaters Rise To Record Levels In North Carolina," by Camila Domonowski). "But the storm stayed along the U.S. coast for longer than expected, making landfall in South Carolina and bringing torrential rains to both the Carolinas. A 'serious inland flooding event' began immediately, according to the National Hurricane Center, and the consequences are still unfolding as the rainwater flows downriver. On Monday, volunteers, U.S. marshals and water-rescue crews used helicopters, boats and massive trucks to save people stranded in Lumberton, N.C., after the Lumber River burst its banks, the AP says.
"North Carolina's skies were clear on Monday after the state received as much as 18 inches (39 cm) of rain from Matthew over the weekend," reported Reuters (see: "Hundreds stranded in North Carolina floods after Hurricane Matthew," by Jonathan Drake), "but raging rivers and breached levees posed major problems. 'This storm is not over in North Carolina,' Governor Pat McCrory told reporters in Fayetteville. 'It’s going to be a long, tough journey.'"
"Major flooding was expected this week in central and eastern towns along the Lumber, Cape Fear, Neuse and Tar rivers. The National Weather Service said the Neuse River would crest on Friday night and forecast 'disastrous flooding,'" Reuters reported. "Emergency officials in North Carolina's Lenoir County issued a mandatory evacuation order on Monday afternoon for residents and businesses along the Neuse River."
South Carolina's situation is similar, Reuters reported: "In neighboring South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley warned that waterways were quickly reaching capacity around the state. 'What might not be flooded today could be flooded tomorrow,' Haley told a news conference."
Governor Haley toured the state Monday by helicopter and requested federal disaster declarations for thirteen South Carolina counties, reported the Charleston Post and Courier (see: "Gov. Haley tours Hurricane Matthew damage, requests disaster declarations," by Gavin Jackson). And flood damage could spread if rising rivers overtop banks or breach dams, the paper reported: "Officials are monitoring rising levels of the Little Pee Dee, Waccamaw, Lumber and Black rivers. Seven dams have already failed across the state and officials say others could potentially fail, including Lake Oakdale dam in Florence and the Baxley 501 pond dam in Marion. Both pose significant hazards, officials said."
Ironically, some coastal residents who responded to official warnings and fled the Carolina coastline found themselves at potentially greater risk inland, according to the New York Times (see: "Fleeing the Coast Before the Storm, Only to Be Trapped Inland," by Jess Bidgood, Lizette Alvarez, and Campbell Robertson). "Diamond Hansen and Darryl Clark rented a room in a Super 8 for a month, hoping it was a springboard to a fresh start in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Then the evacuation order came for Hurricane Matthew, so they climbed into Mr. Clark’s Volvo and drove to a place that seemed safe, his uncle’s house well inland in rural North Carolina. But it was far from the haven they expected," the paper reported. "Over the weekend, after the storm dropped torrential rain, the water rose waist-high outside the uncle’s Fair Bluff house and the couple evacuated again, this time by boat."
President Obama signed major disaster declarations for Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina on Monday, October 8, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (see: "Resources for Hurricane Matthew").