Hurricane Matthew, now a tropical depression, is slowly retreating after days of destruction on the east coast.
Matthew formed in late September off the coast of Africa, quickly developed into a deadly storm and reached peak intensity on Sept. 30 as a Category 5 storm with winds reaching 160 mph. Just days later, on Oct. 4, the then-Category 4 storm made landfall in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.
The devastation in Haiti — a country of about 10 million people — is just beginning to be realized. According to the Huffington Post, to date, Matthew has taken over 1,000 lives in the Haiti alone, destroying its communities just six years after the country was decimated by a 7.0 earthquake. The cities of Chantal, Jérémie and Les Cayes in the southern part of the country were in Matthew’s direct path. The United Nations has declared that a “massive response” is needed to aid in relief and rebuilding in Haiti.
Although far less severe than in the Caribbean, the storm also caused major damage across the southeastern United States. As of Oct. 11, at least 27 deaths across five states have been attributed to the hurricane, with the highest number occurring in North Carolina.
One day after hitting Haiti, Matthew tore through the Bahamas as a Category 3-4 storm, causing significant damage to the popular tourist destinations of Freeport and Nassau.
Meanwhile, in Florida, citizens were urged to evacuate coastal areas as the hurricane neared. Though it did not make landfall in Florida as originally expected, deaths, flooding and damage were recorded from Miami to Jacksonville. A storm surge of almost four feet made roads look like rivers, eroding beaches and destroying homes across the state.
Georgia experienced severe flooding and power outages up its eastern coast as the storm drew closer to the United States.
On Oct. 8, Category 1 Matthew made landfall near McClellanville, S.C. Over 800,000 people were left without power on Saturday night, according to CNN. The storm’s landfall also caused part of the eyewall to pass over surrounding states, causing further damage. Major tourist destinations including Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island were rocked by wind and water, while Charleston experienced a storm surge of almost six feet.
Matthew’s force required thousands of rescues due to record flooding and left hundreds of thousands without power in North Carolina. Coastal communities experienced storm surges of up to six feet, while inland communities were wrecked by flooding of rivers and streams due to the copious amounts of rain that accompanied the storm. Governor Pat McCrory has told multiple news sources that citizens must “stay away from the water” as the worst is yet to come.
Virginia’s eastern coast, including Norfolk and Virginia Beach, also experienced significant flooding and at least one death related to the storm.
Sophomore John Paul Oueis of Jupiter, Fla. said his family did not evacuate but put hurricane shutters over the windows, stayed away from the roof and windows and stocked up on canned food and water before the storm. Oueis said that there is “fortunately, no known damage” to the property.
Junior Jennifer Martens Morton also said her family, located in northern Florida, did not need to evacuate. But Morton said her brother, a member of the National Guard, traveled to St. Augustine during the storm to assist.
Matthew is now a mere tropical depression several hundred miles off the coast of North Carolina. Its 11-day reign shattered flooding records and made it the longest-lived Category 4-5 hurricane in the eastern Caribbean, the longest-lived Category 4-5 hurricane in October in the Atlantic Basin, the southernmost Category 5 in the Atlantic Basin and the longest-lived major hurricane forming after Sept. 25. It was also the first Category 4 landfall in Haiti in 52 years, according to the Weather Channel.
Jamie Aten, founder and co-director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, said HDI is getting ready to launch a couple of studies “and findings will be shared with local community stakeholders who can use this information to guide relief decision making.”