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Track history of Hurricane Matthew: September 28 through October 9, 2016

Hurricane Matthew's track across the Caribbean and along the Southeast U.S. coast from September 28 thorugh October 9, 2016

GOES-13 Visible satellite animation of Hurricane Matthew striking the Carolina coast.  October 6-8, 2016

GOES-13 Visible satellite animation of Hurricane Matthew striking the Southeast coast.  October 6-8, 2016.

GOES-13 Infrared satellite animation of Hurricane Matthew striking the Carolina coast.  October 6-8, 2016

GOES-13 Infrared satellite animation of Hurricane Matthew striking the Southeast coast.  October 6-8, 2016.

Radar composite animation of Hurricane Matthew striking the Carolina coast.  October 7-8, 2016

Composite radar animation of Hurricane Matthew striking the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas.  October 7-8, 2016.

Hurricane Matthew was the most powerful storm of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and made its fourth and final landfall near McClellanville, South Carolina as a category 1 hurricane late in the morning of October 8th.  Although gusts above hurricane force were reported along the Carolina coast, Matthew will be remembered for its extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. According to the National Hurricane Center, Matthew was directly responsible for 25 deaths in North Carolina and four in South Carolina, all but one due to flooding.  Damage in the United States was estimated by the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) at $10.3 billion.  The name "Matthew" was officially retired from the list of Atlantic hurricane names due to the immense destruction it caused during its trek across the Caribbean islands and the Southeastern United States.

The 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season featured 15 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes.  The Carolinas were affected by four tropical cyclones in 2016 prior to Matthew:  Bonnie, Colin, Hermine, and Julia. 

STORM HISTORY

Matthew became a tropical storm at 8:00 a.m. on September 28th while moving away from the Lesser Antilles island chain. Matthew steadily strengthened as it moved westward and became a hurricane on September 29th.  On September 30th the storm rapidly strengthened and became a category 5 storm with wind speeds of 165 mph -- the first Atlantic hurricane to reach category 5 intensity since Felix back in 2007.  Matthew weakened slightly as it turned northward across the Caribbean Sea, but still reached the coast of Haiti as a category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds during the morning of October 4th.  After touching the easternmost tip of Cuba, Matthew turned northwestward across the Bahamas on October 5th, remaining a major hurricane as it turned northward on October 7th just off the Florida east coast.  Winds over 100 mph were recorded at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, FL.

As Matthew approached the Georgia and South Carolina coast early in the morning of October 8th, cool, dry air pulled in from the landmass began to weaken the storm.  Rain bands evaporated over the southern half of the circulation as the storm turned northeastward just off the coast of Charleston, SC.  Even in its weakened state, Matthew still produced wind gusts as high as 96 mph on Tybee Island, GA and 87 mph on Hilton Head, SC.  A wind gust to 103 mph was recorded by a Weatherflow station at 50 feet elevation at the entrance to Winyah Bay, southeast of Georgetown, SC.  Matthew officially made landfall at 11 AM on October 8th in the Cape Romain Wildlife Sanctuary just south of McClellanville, SC, becoming the first October hurricane to make landfall north of Florida since Hurricane Hazel did it in 1954.

After moving across Winyah Bay as a category 1 hurricane around noon, Matthew's center reemerged into the Atlantic Ocean around 1:00 p.m. on October 8th.  The storm turned northeastward during the afternoon, just missing Bald Head Island by ten or twenty miles as cool, dry air continued to pour into the storm's circulation from the north and west.  Thunderstorms diminished rapidly, and Matthew was officially declared post-tropical during the morning of October 9th while moving east of Cape Hatteras, NC.

 

COASTAL IMPACTS ACROSS SOUTH CAROLINA AND NORTH CAROLINA

A combination of wind and storm surge caused extensive damage along the South Carolina coastline.  In most locations water levels were three to five feet above the normal astronomical tides.  In Beaufort County, SC damage was particularly severe on the sea islands south and east of Beaufort including Hilton Head Island, Fripp Island, Dataw Island, and at Hunting Island State Park.  Observed damage to trees and homes implies winds reached at least 100 mph in these communities.  Storm surge flooding moved boats inland, including four boats deposited on the runway of the Beaufort County airport.  One lane of the Harbor Island Bridge over to Hunting Island was scoured out by the storm surge.

In Charleston, SC storm surge flooding was extensive.  The tidal gauge in downtown Charleston recorded its third highest level ever, exceeded only by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and by an unnamed hurricane in 1940.  (Note: Matthew's storm tide was exceeded by 2017's Hurricane Irma in Charleston)  Severe beach erosion was reported from Isle of Palms and from Edisto Island where a post-storm survey conducted by NWS Charleston meteorologists indicated at least 70 homes were undermined or damaged, and roads were covered with up to five feet of sand.

Storm surge damage occurred to homes on portions of Pawleys Island, with the first floor walls and doors of many beach houses knocked out by the surge. The Town Hall was flooded, and a long portion of Springs Avenue at the south end of Pawleys Island was covered with sand two to four feet deep.  The mayor of Pawleys Island was quoted in news reports saying the frontal dunes on two-thirds of the island were destroyed.  A newsletter for the DeBordieu Beach community referenced only minor sand loss and a single area of ocean overwash onto DeBordieu Boulevard.

In Myrtle Beach storm surge and large waves destroyed most of Springmaid Pier, including the NOAA weather station which was attached to the end of the pier.  Weather and tide data was lost between 12:18 and 12:24 p.m. EDT on October 8th, implying the likely time of the pier's destruction.  Just to the south, Garden City Pier suffered damage, and Surfside Pier lost about half of its 689-foot length.  Early in the morning of October 8th an EF0 tornado touched down in North Myrtle Beach.  A storm survey indicated the tornado had winds near 85 mph and was on the ground for around 1.5 miles causing damage to a number of trees and minor structural damage to homes and businesses.

A storm surge three to four feet above normal tide levels brought ocean overwash and beach erosion to Southeastern North Carolina.  Erosion was particularly severe on Oak Island and the eastern end of Ocean Isle Beach, NC where water was flowing beneath homes at the ends of East 2nd and 3rd streets.  Damage to the dunes on Oak Island was extensive and nearly complete in some areas.  Local news video showed a 150 foot portion of the Oak Island pier collapsing during the height of the storm surge event.  Damage to dunes was less extensive at Caswell Beach.  On Bald Head Island the worst beach erosion occurred to the south- and west-facing beaches, with much less damage on the east-facing beach. Beach erosion was generally minor on the east-facing beaches of New Hanover County, although on Topsail Island the Surf City town manager was quoted in local newspapers saying escarpments up to ten feet high were cut into the beach. Although wind gusts of 60 to 75 mph were reported from a number of locations across Southeastern North Carolina, damage was primarily limited to trees and power lines with only minor damage to homes. 

A second area of significant wind damage from Hurricane Matthew occurred across the northern Outer Banks.  This was believed to be caused by the tight pressure gradient between Matthew and strong high pressure located over the Great Lakes. Wind gusts in the 75-90 mph range caused mainly minor damage to over 500 homes in the town of Duck. Ocean overwash and eroded sand closed portions of NC Highway 12 along the length of the highway from Nags Head all the way south into Hatteras Village.

 

Hurricane Matthew's Wind Gusts across the Carolinas (mph)
South Carolina   North Carolina
Winyah Bay (weatherflow) 103 - Nags Head-Jennette's Pier (weatherflow) 97
Murrells Inlet (weatherflow) 87   Pamlico Sound (weatherflow) 87
Hilton Head Island airport 87   Duck 85
Beaufort (weatherflow) 83   Hatteras-Coast Guard Station 84
Fort Sumter (weatherflow) 75   Alligator River Bridge (weatherflow) 84
Folly Beach Pier (weatherflow) 75   Ocracoke Sound (weatherflow) 84
Myrtle Beach airport 74   Fort Fisher 82
Charleston Battery Point (weatherflow) 72   Wrightsville Beach-Mercer Pier 77
Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station 71   Cape Lookout 76
North Myrtle Beach airport 70   Jacksonville-New River Marine Corps Air Station 72
Charleston airport 69   Wilmington airport 70
Beaufort County airport 69   Manteo regional airport 70
Myrtle Beach-Lake Arrowhead (weatherflow) 67   Beaufort airport 70
Sullivan's Island (weatherflow) 66   Oregon Inlet 69
Pinopolis-Lake Moultrie 64   Lumberton airport 67
Isle of Palms (weatherflow) 64   Holly Shelter Swamp-Back Island 64
Myrtle Beach-Springmaid Pier 61   Hatteras-Mitchell Field 62
Darlington 61   Cherry Point-Marine Corps Air Station 62
Charleston downtown airport 58   Kill Devil Hills airport 60
Mount Pleasant regional airport 55   Southport airport 59
Georgetown airport 47   Greenville airport 59
Florence airport 44   Whiteville (USFS fire weather station) 59
Bennettsville jetport 43   Jacksonville-Ellis airport 58
Hartsville airport 40   Bogue Field-Marine Corps Air Field 58
Kingstree airport 36   New Bern airport 56
      Kinston regional airport 51
      Kenansville-Duplin county airport 49
      Elizabethtown airport 43

 

EXCESSIVE RAINFALL AND RECORD RIVER FLOODING

Matthew's largest impact across the Carolinas was flooding from historic rainfall.  Twelve to eighteen inches of rain fell over large portions of interior South and North Carolina.  This occurred at the end of a wet period which had seen six to ten inches of rain recently dumped by Tropical Storm Hermine. 

Rainfall rates increased to one to two inches per hour early in the morning of October 8th and stayed there for most of the day, leading to exceptional flash flooding.  The first reports of significant flooding arrived between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. with road closures reported in Garden City, Marion and Florence, SC.  By 9:00 a.m. storm-total rainfall amounts were already approaching 10 inches in portions of Williamsburg County, SC.  Flooding became widespread by late morning with road closures reported in Wilmington, Whiteville, and Pembroke, NC and in Conway, SC.

Two people in Florence County, SC died when their vehicle was swept away by floodwaters.  In Marion County, SC a man was trapped in his home by rising floodwaters and died.  Additional fatalities from flash flooding occurred around 1:30 p.m. near Clarkton in Bladen County, NC.  Rosindale Road washed out and swept a vehicle off the road, killing two of its three occupants.  According to data tabulated by the National Hurricane Center, 22 additional fatalities due to flooding occurred in Cumberland, Gates, Hartnett, Johnston, Lenoir, Pitt, Robeson, Wayne, and Wilson counties in North Carolina, the majority from floodwaters sweeping vehicles off the road.

Hurricane Matthew's Rainfall across the Carolinas (inches)

Hurricane Matthew struck after a month of wet conditions across the Eastern Carolinas due, in part, to Tropical Storms Julia and Hermine.  Soils were already wet, making Matthew's 12 to 18 inches of rain even more destructive.  A few locations recorded 45-day rainfall totals with average return intervals of 500 years!

South Carolina   North Carolina
Edisto Island 16.90 - Evergreen 3.3 miles NE 18.95
Hilton Head Island 4.0 miles N 16.58   Elizabethtown 6.2 miles NW 18.85
Mullins 15.57   Garland 11.2 miles W 18.52
Marion 4.0 miles E 15.02   Hope Mills 4.8 miles SE 17.05
Marion 14.52   Duart 3.0 miles N 16.87
Wedgefield Plantation 5.0 miles SE 14.36   Kinston 1.3 miles NNW 16.50
Kingstree 7.9 miles NW 13.70   Elizabethtown 4.0 miles NNE 14.97
Florence airport 12.77   Lumberton 5.0 miles WSW 12.59
Conway 5.7 miles NW 12.17   Pembroke 12.09
Georgetown 4.9 miles NNE 11.83   Belville 2.0 miles WSW 11.85
Beaufort 3.6 miles NNE 11.03   Whiteville 1.0 mile W 10.86
Charleston 5.0 miles WNW 10.92   Raleigh/Durham airport 6.96
North Myrtle Beach airport 9.38   Wilmington airport 6.59

 

Rivers rose to all-time record levels in many locations with severe and life-threatening impacts occuring.  Much like happened during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, flooding occurred well outside of typical river floodplains into areas that residents did not believe could flood.  In North Carolina Matthew's flood damage estimated at $1.5 billion.  In South Carolina private insurance claims totaled $550 million, with $100 million in damage to public roads, and $52 million in insured crop damage.

Specific impacts by river are listed below.

 

LUMBER RIVER

Lumber River at Maxton, NC

Crested at 15.49 feet on October 11, 2016, the highest in history.  Many roads were flooded in Maxton including portions of NC Highway 71 and McLeod Drive.

 

Graphic showing the all-time record crest of 24.39 feet on the Lumber River at Lumberton

Graphic showing the all-time record crest of 24.39 feet on the Lumber River at Lumberton, NC on October 8, 2016.  The large amount of missing data is because the city water plant was inundated by floodwaters, making the gauge unusable.

Lumber River near Pembroke, NC

Crested at 13.43 feet on October 11, 2016, the highest in history.  Water entered homes in Pembroke, and power outages and flooding affected the UNC-Pembroke campus.

Lumber River at Lumberton, NC

Crested at 24.39 feet on October 9, 2016, the highest in history.  This exceeded flood stage by over 11 feet.  High water flooded large portions of the city, and covered a portion of I-95 closing the interstate between exits 31 and 20.  Lumberton's water treatment plant was flooded, shutting down the city's municipal water supply for weeks.  Thousands of people were displaced from homes and public housing.  Contrary to early news reports, the town's levee system did not breach; water instead flowed beneath I-95 along railroad tracks at VFW Rd., bypassing the levee.

Lumber River at Boardman, NC

Crested at 14.43 feet on October 11, 2016, the highest in history.  Severe flooding essentially destroyed the nearby town of Fair Bluff.  NC Highway 130 and U.S. Highway 74 and 701 were closed due to persistent flooding.  Most of the town's businesses and about one-fifth of its homes were damaged by floodwaters.

 

WACCAMAW RIVER

Waccamaw River at Freeland, SC

Crested at 19.00 feet on October 12, 2016, the second highest crest in history behind Hurricane Floyd.

 

Graph showing the Waccamaw River's record-breaking crest at Conway, SC on October 18, 2016

Graphic showing the all-time record crest of 17.87 feet on the Waccamaw River at Conway, SC on October 18, 2016.  This crest broke records previously set during the October 2015 floods, Hurricane Floyd in September 1999, and the 1945 Homestead Hurricane.

Waccamaw River at Longs, SC

Crested at 16.95 feet on October 14, 2016, the second highest crest in history behind Hurricane Floyd.

Waccamaw River above Conway, SC

Crested at 15.77 feet on October 16, 2016, the highest in history.

Waccamaw River near Conway, SC

Crested at 17.87 feet on October 18, 2016, the highest in history.  This exceeded flood stage by almost 7 feet.  Severe flooding in back-to-back Octobers devastated neighborhoods along the Waccamaw River.  Over 1,000 Horry County residents had to take refuge in shelters.  Flooding closed 170 roads including U.S. Highway 501.  Waccamaw floodwaters backed up through Crab Tree Swamp and flooded portions of the Conway-Horry County Airport. 

Waccamaw River near Bucksport, SC

Crested at 23.67 feet on October 18, 2016, the highest in history.  The Waccamaw River connects to the Intracoastal Waterway near Bucksport.  This allowed Waccamaw River flooding to spread northward along the Intracoastal Waterway into the town of Socastee. 

Waccamaw River at Pawley's Island, SC

Crested at 10.34 feet on October 17, 2016, the highest in history.  This flood wave exceeded Matthew's storm surge at this point on the Waccamaw river by 0.70 feet.

 

CAPE FEAR and NORTHEAST CAPE FEAR RIVERS

Cape Fear River at William O. Huske Lock and Dam

Crested at 68.46 feet on October 10, 2016, the second highest in history behind the 1945 Homestead Hurricane.

 

Graphic showing Hurricane Matthew's crest on the Cape Fear River at William O. Huske Lock and Dam.

Graphic showing Hurricane Matthew's crest of 68.46 feet on the Cape Fear River at William O. Huske Lock and Dam on October 10, 2016.  This crest was the second highest in history behind the 1945 Homestead Hurricane.

Cape Fear River at Elizabethtown, NC

Crested at 36.44 feet on October 11, 2016, the fourth highest in history.  Major flooding occurred in the towns of Clarkton, White Oak, Tar Heel, Bladenboro, as well as in Elizabethtown.  Many area roads including state highways were closed due to high water.

Cape Fear River at Lock and Dam 1

Crested at 28.58 feet on October 13, 2016, the second highest in history behind the 1945 Homestead Hurricane.

Cape Fear River at downtown Wilmington, NC

Crested at 8.17 feet on October 8, 2016 during Hurricane Matthew's storm surge, the highest in history.  A second crest of 7.35 feet occurred due to river flooding on October 17, 2016, the fourth highest in history.  Water over a foot deep covered Water Street in downtown Wilmington, and even closed a portion of U.S. Highway 421 near the Battleship for a period.

Northeast Cape Fear River near Burgaw

Crested at 17.81 feet on October 13, 2016, the second highest in history behind Hurricane Floyd.  Flooding along the nearby Black River was particularly severe, with water backing up across large portions of rural western Pender County.  Multiple neighborhoods were evacuated along Canetuck Road between the Black and the Cape Fear Rivers.

 

Additionally, the Black River at Kingstree, SC crested at 17.81 feet on October 13th, the second highest in history behind Hurricane Floyd.  The Black Creek at Quinby, SC crested at 16.46 feet, the third highest in history.

 

PHOTOS

The following is a selection of photos taken by NWS meteorologists from Northeastern South Carolina and Southeastern North Carolina showing some of the damage from Hurricane Matthew.

Oak Island, NC.  Siding damage to a home on West Beach Drive caused by Matthew's strong winds.

Oak Island, NC.  Siding damage to a home on West Beach Drive caused by Matthew's strong winds.

Significant flooding of the Cape Fear River reached U.S. Highway 421 near the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial in Wilmington.

Significant tidal plus freshwater flooding of the Cape Fear River reached U.S. Highway 421 near the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial in Wilmington.

Flooding in western Bladen County, NC along Tar Heel Ferry Road, east of the Cape Fear River.

Flooding in western Bladen County, NC along Tar Heel Ferry Road, east of the Cape Fear River.

Deep sand covers the Springs Road in Pawleys Island, SC, carried in by Hurricane Matthew's storm surge.

Deep sand covers Springs Road in Pawleys Island, SC, carried in by Hurricane Matthew's storm surge.

Huge waves from Hurricane Matthew destroyed Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach, SC.  This also caused the loss of the NOAA weather station on the pier.

Huge waves from Hurricane Matthew destroyed Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach, SC.  This also caused the loss of the NOAA weather station on the pier.

Hurricane Matthew's storm surge heavily damaged the first floor of this home on South Waccamaw Drive in Murrells Inlet, SC, and caused significant beach erosion.  Note how much sand was eroded from around the posts supporting the balcony and stairs.

Hurricane Matthew's storm surge heavily damaged the first floor of this home on South Waccamaw Drive in Murrells Inlet, SC, and caused significant beach erosion.  Note how much sand was eroded from around the posts supporting the balcony and stairs.

River Road east of the Cape Fear River in western Bladen County, NC was closed due to Hurricane Matthew's flooding

River Road east of the Cape Fear River in western Bladen County, NC was closed due to Hurricane Matthew's flooding

Sand and debris from Hurricane Matthew covers Pritchard Street in Pawley's Island, SC on October 13, 2016

Sand and debris from Hurricane Matthew covers Pritchard Street in Pawley's Island, SC on October 13, 2016

Hurricane Matthew's floodwater covers Owen Hill Road east of the town of Dublin in western Bladen County, NC

Hurricane Matthew's floodwater covers Owen Hill Road east of the town of Dublin in western Bladen County, NC

Neighborhoods were flooded along Old Goat Road near Lumberton, NC.

Neighborhoods were flooded along Old Goat Road near Lumberton, NC.

Significant flooding even occurred along U.S. Highway 74 near the town of Boardman, NC  close to the Columbus-Robeson county line.

Significant flooding even occurred along U.S. Highway 74 near the town of Boardman, NC  close to the Columbus-Robeson county line.

Flooding along Lovette Road a few miles south of Lumberton, NC

Flooding along Lovette Road a few miles south of Lumberton, NC

When faced with flooding, Red Imported Fire Ants form a floating ball and can survive for days while searching for dry land.  Photo from near Elizabethtown, NC.

When faced with flooding, Red Imported Fire Ants form a floating ball and can survive for days while searching for dry land.  Photo from near Elizabethtown, NC.

Businesses in Fair Bluff, NC were heavily damaged by severe flooding from Hurricane Matthew.

Businesses in Fair Bluff, NC were heavily damaged by severe flooding from Hurricane Matthew.

Hurricane Matthew accelerated ongoing beach erosion along the eastern end of Oak Island, NC.  In the past there were two additional rows of streets and beach houses at this location; Hurricane Hazel (1954) destroyed the first row and Hurricane Hugo (1989) destroyed the second.

Hurricane Matthew accelerated ongoing beach erosion along the eastern end of Ocean Isle Beach, NC.  In the past there were two additional rows of streets and beach houses at this location; Hurricane Hazel (1954) destroyed the first row, then Hurricane Hugo (1989) destroyed the second.

More damage from Hurricane Matthew's wind and storm surge in Ocean Isle Beach, NC

More damage from Hurricane Matthew's wind and storm surge in Ocean Isle Beach, NC

Significant flooding along the Waccamaw River in Conway, SC

Significant flooding along the Waccamaw River in Conway, SC

Flooding on Battleground Road near Currie, NC, likely from the combination of the Black River and Moores Creek.

Flooding on Battleground Road near Currie, NC, likely from the combination of the Black River and Moores Creek.

 

VIDEOS

Storm Surge Flooding in Myrtle Beach, SC Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach destroyed
Flooding in Nichols, SC
Flooding in Lumberton, NC

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

National Hurricane Center:  Hurricane Matthew Tropical Cyclone Report

National Hurricane Center: Archive of Matthew Advisories, Forecasts, and Discussions

US Geological Survey:  Hurricane Matthew Flood Event Viewer with high-density, high-resolution water level data

US Geological Survey:  Peak Stage & Streamflow Data for North & South Carolina

National Weather Service Charleston, SC:  Local Event Summary

National Weather Service Columbia, SC:  Map of South Carolina Rainfall and Peak Wind Gusts

NOAA Remote Sensing Division:  High-resolution Aerial River Flooding Imagery from October 9-16, 2016

NOAA Office for Coastal Management:  Hurricane Matthew Track Explorer

Wilmington Star-News:  Rundown of Wilmington area Hurricane Damage

 

 

Research & Page Author: Tim Armstrong
Page Created: September 29, 2017
Last Updated: October 7, 2017