Hurricane threatens US storied cities

October 08, 2016
An official vehicle navigates debris as it passes along Highway A1A after it was partial washed away by Hurricane Matthew, yesterday, in Flagler Beach, Florida.

Hurricane Matthew spared Florida's most heavily populated stretch from a catastrophic blow yesterday but threatened some of the South's most historic and picturesque cities with ruinous flooding and wind damage as it pushed its way up the coastline.

Among the cities in the crosshairs were St. Augustine, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; and Charleston, South Carolina.

"There are houses that will probably not ever be the same again or not even be there," St Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver lamented as battleship-gray floodwaters coursed through the streets of the 451-year-old city founded by the Spanish.

Matthew — the most powerful hurricane to threaten the Atlantic Seaboard in over a decade — set off alarm as it closed in on the US, having left more than 300 people dead in Haiti.

In the end, it sideswiped Florida's Atlantic coast early yesterdayday, swamping streets, toppling trees onto homes and knocking out power to more than 1 million people. But it stayed just far enough offshore to prevent major damage to cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. And the coast never felt the full force of its 120 mph winds.

"It looks like we've dodged a bullet," said Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat whose district includes Martin County, just north of West Palm Beach.

Two women died in separate events in Florida. One was killed when a tree fell on her house in the Daytona area and the other died when a tree came down on a camper in Putnam County. A man was also hurt in that instance.

While the hurricane was weakening quickly, several northeastern Florida cities, including Jacksonville, were still in harm's way, along with communities farther up the coast.