Lessons from Hurricane Matthew

Lessons from Hurricane Matthew
Matthew satellite image. (Source: WECT)
Matthew rainfall totals. (Source: NWS ILM)
Matthew rainfall totals. (Source: NWS ILM)

SOUTHEASTERN, NC (WECT) - Hurricane Matthew will go down in history as a one-time category 5 storm that killed over 500 people, mostly on the island of Haiti.

The storm also made brief landfalls on Cuba, Grand Bahama Island, and just south of McClellanville, SC. But residents in southeastern North Carolina will remember the storm for the devastating inland flooding the storm caused.

Like Hurricane Floyd in 1999, we were reminded hurricanes are not just events that occur along our coastal areas and that everyone needs to prepare each year.

North Carolina had 24 direct fatalities because of Hurricane Matthew. Sadly 23 were flood related and 19 occurred when people drove their vehicles into floodwaters.

Two men in Bladen County, ages 44 and 22, died when their vehicle plunged into floodwaters covering a washed-out road. There were many other related stories in eastern North Carolina.

Hurricane Matthew's rainfall totals were staggering over eastern NC and exceeded only by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Prior to Matthew, southeastern North Carolina soils were already saturated and river levels highs due to heavy rains from prior tropical storms Hermine and Julia in September.

On average, much of southeast NC saw 10-18 inches of rain from Matthew.  Much of the area saw over 20 inches of rain between September 1 to October 15.

Area streams, creeks, and rivers were overwhelmed after all the rainfall. Among the areas that saw mass evacuations and damage was the town of Fair Bluff in Columbus County due to massive flooding on the Lumber River.

Many homes, businesses, and cars were lost to floodwater.

The Black River in Pender County saw mass evacuations and damage as river levels topped those seen with Hurricane Floyd. Major flooding of the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Rivers had impacts in Bladen, Pender, and Brunswick counties.

Even downtown Wilmington saw tidal flooding for many days after Matthew moved away.

Hurricane Matthew taught us you don't have to have a direct strike from a strong hurricane to have a devastating impact on our region.

We tend to focus on where the storm's center will go instead of impacts, which were well forecast prior to the storm's arrival.

Storms such as Matthew and Floyd disprove the myth that hurricanes are only coastal events.

The bottom line is everyone in southeast North Carolina should prepare for hurricane season. And don't forget, home insurance does not cover floods. You need to purchase a separate policy.

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