Hurricane Matthew leaves its mark on eastern NC

Hannah Anglin, Editor in chief

Forming in late September, Hurricane Matthew became a powerful storm, tearing through the Caribbean and the Southeastern coast of the United States, hitting Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

The tropical wave that became Hurricane Matthew formed off the coast of the Cape Verde Islands Sept. 25.  The storm strengthened in the next days, and became a named hurricane by Sept. 29.

The storm hit Haiti and Cuba on Oct. 4 as a Category 4 hurricane.  The extreme wind and rain in Haiti caused mudslides, flooding, and accelerated the outbreak of cholera in the area.  These impacts have caused the death toll to rise to more than 1,000 people.

Hurricane Matthew then moved north, impacting the Bahamas and the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  Although the storm didn’t make landfall until it hit South Carolina Oct. 8, the Bahamas and these three states saw intense flooding, wind damage and death.

When Matthew arrived in North Carolina, it brought record breaking floods. Six to 18 inches of rain fell in the eastern part of the state causing river levels to rise, in some cases past Hurricane Floyd (1999) levels.  The Tar, Neuse, Lumber, Little Pee Dee and Lower Little Rivers all crested, breaking record levels. A levee breach in Lumberton caused 1,500 people to be left stranded, and flooding closed major interstates such as I-95 and I-40.  Matthew caused 26 deaths in North Carolina, most of them due to flooding.

In addition to flooding, Hurricane Matthew brought wind that blew down trees and power lines, causing massive power outages that lasted for days.  Due to the storm surge in the ocean, parts of Highway 12 in Kitty Hawk broke off and fell into the ocean.

“For the first few days we still had power while everyone didn’t, then ours went out and stayed out for a long time, longer than I thought it was going to be out,” senior Mabel Hathaway said.  “Thankfully we have a generator, but it was a hassle at the same time.”

School was canceled for days all over the region. Dare County students were out of school for two days after the storm. The makeup days have now been scheduled for Monday, February 20 and Friday, June 9. The University of North Carolina Wilmington canceled class the following Monday, and East Carolina University canceled classes for over a week.

“I didn’t think that Matthew was going to affect us much, unfortunately it did,” sophomore Logan Marshall said.  “The river in Greenville flooded while the students were on fall break so they canceled classes for another week. It really affected me because I had to deal with my sister for five more days than I expected.”

North Carolina was relatively unprepared for the storm, because most reports of its track showed the storm turning and heading southeast off of Georgia’s coast.

“Hurricane Matthew had way too many factors to be able to accurately predict the path of the storm, even for a super computer.  On top of that, it was a monster in size, so a small change in the actual path, meant big changes in the severity of the storm in certain areas,” environmental science teacher Chad Leary said. “The track was predicted to pass way to the south of us, bringing us only tropical storm conditions, however, it took a pretty significant jump to the north, bringing us much more intense wind and rain. I think that attitude toward a tropical storm, along with the downplaying of predicted impacts from the media, caused most people north of Hatteras to be very unprepared for this storm.

The unexpected destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew will take some communities months, and even years to recover from.