HUTCHINSON ISLAND (Florida•) • Heavy rain from Hurricane Matthew lashed Georgia and South Carolina as the storm began to lose some of its strength.
Charleston and Savannah were both reporting flooding yesterday, with water breaching the sea wall in Charleston. Videos of Savannah showed water rushing through the streets amid reports that the Savannah River was out of its banks.
In Georgia, where the governor had ordered residents in six coastal counties to evacuate, the hurricane set a storm surge record for Tybee Island, near the state's border with South Carolina.
The Chatham County Emer- gency Management Agency said storm surge on the island had reached 3.8m, exceeding the previous high of 3.7m, which was set when Hurricane David roared ashore in 1979.
As of 8am yesterday (8pm yesterday Singapore time), the National Hurricane Centre had downgraded Matthew to a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 137kmh, down from 169kmh.
Although the storm has weakened substantially, the hurricane centre still warned of "strong winds and dangerous storm surge" along South Carolina's coast as well as "heavy rains and gusty winds spreading inland", ABC News reported.
The National Weather Service also posted a new tornado watch for parts of north-east South Carolina and eastern North Carolina until 4pm yesterday.
In Florida, the mood across much of the state shifted from alarm to relief as the worst of the storm passed by without the catastrophic effects forecasters had predicted.
There were no immediate reports of significant damage in Florida's cities and towns, where Matthew swamped streets, toppled trees and knocked out power to more than one million households and businesses.
Six people were reported killed in the storm, even as some Florida residents began to return to areas that had been evacuated.