RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It has been five years since Hurricane Matthew brought widespread destruction to North Carolina. Although the tropical system did not officially make landfall in our state, Matthew left a devastating mark on our communities.
Matthew first become a tropical storm on Sept. 28, then strengthened into a hurricane by the next day. From there, Matthew underwent rapid intensification, where the hurricane went from a category 1 to a category 5.
The powerful hurricane trekked through the Caribbean and made landfall along the coasts of southwestern Haiti, far eastern Cuba and western Grand Bahama Island. Matthew then hugged the East Coast from Florida to the Carolinas.
The only U.S. landfall occurred near McClellanville, South Carolina with is just north of Charleston. Matthew made landfall as a category 1 hurricane.
Although Matthew had been “downgraded” to a category 1 hurricane, that only means the winds were weaker with the tropical cyclone. The impacts were still incredibly significant.
With respect to winds, most areas east of I-95 saw wind gusts over 50 miles per hour. The strongest winds were along the coast. Here in the Raleigh area, wind gusts over 40 miles per hour were common.
Gusty winds and tropical downpours proved to be a costly combination. Trees came down and power outages went up across the state. It was reported that over 1.6 million customers lost power in North Carolina during Hurricane Matthew.
Although Matthew’s winds were weaker overall, there was still plenty of tropical moisture at play. Ultimately, Hurricane Matthew will be remembered for the heavy rain and devastating flooding.
The ground was already saturated from heavy rain, so any additional water had nowhere to go. Many of our rivers, including the Tar, Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers reached major flood stage.
Some areas in central North Carolina saw their highest 1-day rainfall totals. Raleigh saw a 1-day rainfall total of 6.45 inches on Oct. 8. That total broke the old record from June 2006.
In Fayetteville, a total of 14 inches of rain fell. That also broke the 1-day record which was set just a few days earlier in September 2016.
Tarboro was another site with a record 9.5 inches of rain. Their record went back to October 1872.
Unfortunately, twenty-five people lost their lives directly from Hurricane Matthew. All but one of them were flood-related. Four lives were lost in South Carolina.
Matthew was the strongest storm of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Due to the lives lost and significant damage left in its wake, the name Matthew was officially retired from the Atlantic tropical cyclone name list.
As we reflect back on Matthew’s impacts, we must also remain on alert for the next storm. Now is a good time to review your preparedness plan with your family and make sure you have the right supplies ready.