SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Five years ago, many of us woke up (or quite possibly never went to sleep) in the early morning hours of Oct. 8 to whipping wind, flooding and destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew.
Over the course of one week, Matthew went from a catastrophic Category 5 major hurricane to a Category 1 as it made landfall in South Carolina. The impact and damage caused by Matthew still live in our memory.
Matthew began as a tropical wave in late September before moving over water waters and rapidly intensifying into a Category 5 hurricane by the first of October. It moved through the Caribbean and then began to parallel the East Coast by Oct. 5. The Coastal Empire and Lowcountry began to brace for impacts and began evacuating. From late Oct. 7 into the morning hours of Oct. 8, we felt the full force of the hurricane.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 28: A tropical wave continues developing over warm ocean waters and strengthens into tropical storm Matthew near Barbados.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 29: Matthew reaches hurricane status as a Category 1 hurricane in the central Caribbean Sea.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 30 – SATURDAY, OCT. 1: Hurricane Matthew rapidly intensifies in the Caribbean Sea. In just 24 hours, the hurricane goes from a Category 1 hurricane to a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane with max winds of 165 mph and gusts up to 190 mph. Matthew’s peak intensity doesn’t last too long. By late Oct. 1, Matthew’s max winds drop to 140 mph.
**The rapid intensification from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane goes down in history as one of the fastest transitions on record.**
MONDAY, OCT. 3: Immediate coastal communities of Coastal Empire and Lowcountry get put in the cone. By late Monday night, the cone shifts even more west.
TUESDAY, OCT. 4: As a powerful Category 4 hurricane, Matthew begins to turn northward and makes its first landfall over western Haiti and then eastern Cuba.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 5: Our location in the cone remains the same. Matthew begins to move northward into the Atlantic Ocean towards the Bahamas retaining its strength. Due to increasing chances of impacts, Tybee Island gets put under a mandatory evacuation with the rest of Chatham County under a voluntary evacuation.
THURSDAY, OCT. 6: Matthew passes over the Bahamas islands as a powerful Category 4 storm with max winds of 145 mph. Tropical-storm-force winds begin to spread north into the southeast. Hurricane watches are issued for Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. By this time, mandatory evacuations are issued for communities east of I-95. Beaufort and Jasper County also get put under mandatory evacuations. Later in the evening, Matthew begins to slow down and weaken to a Category 3 hurricane.
FRIDAY, OCT. 7: Matthew continues to crawl up the east coast of Florida, now as a Category 2 hurricane about 50 miles off the Jacksonville coast. Increasing onshore wind continues to push water onshore along our coast, breaking the record for highest storm tide on record at Fort Pulaski. Throughout the day, wind and rain quickly increase. The worst would move in that night.
**OVERNIGHT: Flooding and heavy rain continue to pummel the area as the center of Matthew passes just 50 miles off the Georgia coast. Water levels continue to rise as category 2 winds push water onshore. Matthew’s wind field continues to expand, spreading hurricane-force wind gusts and impacts farther inland. Wind gusts as highs as 96 mph are reported on Tybee Island.
SATURDAY, OCT. 8: Just before lunchtime, Matthew makes landfall north of Charleston as a Category 1 hurricane. Matthew continues to hover along the east coast as it tracks towards North Carolina. Conditions begin to improve slowly throughout the day.
SUNDAY, OCT. 9: Matthew is now a post-tropical cyclone and moves away from the United States. Heavy rain continues to fall along the east coast. Mandatory evacuation orders begin to be lifted.
DAYS AFTER MATTHEW: Communities in Haiti, Bahamas, and the East Coast of the United States pick up the pieces as floodwaters finally begin to recede and winds relax.
Hurricane Matthew brought significant storm surge, rainfall, flooding and hurricane-force winds. It destroyed trees, houses and businesses as it ripped through the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. With more than 12 inches of rain quickly piling up, communities were left under almost 4 feet of water at times. Unfortunately, three people lost their lives in the Coastal Empire as trees fell on houses and roads.
As Matthew paralleled our coastline, destruction followed it. McIntosh County was the first to feel Matthew’s wrath. On Sapelo Island, several thousand trees were knocked down by Category 1 wind gusts. Following up the coast, Liberty County saw destruction to docks on St. Catherine’s Island caused by storm surge. A devastating 11% of sea turtle nesting habit was destroyed due to beach erosion. Exits between 58-67 on I-95 were closed due to flooding.
Chatham County was one of our hardest-hit counties. Fort Pulaski’s tide gauge recorded the highest storm tide on record on-site at 12.56 feet. Fort Pulaski itself was completely flooded. Matthew ruined and ripped up centuries-old wooden flooring, destroyed entryways and washed away drawbridges, allowing for the only way to get across the moat into the fort to be by boat. A month after Matthew lashed at the fort, it reopened.
On Tybee Island, dune escarpment of 7-10 feet high was recorded on 19th street. This was also near the area of our highest recorded wind gust of 96 mph. Tybee Pier had minor erosion. NWS survey crew noted a water mark of 3 feet on a damaged home located in the central part of the island. Debris leftover from flooded waters showed Highway 80 had been underwater.
Downtown Savannah was underwater. The Hyatt Regency parking lot flooded and a foot and a half of water flooded the ballroom. The Savannah River, overflowing onto River Street, flooded restaurants and businesses on River Street. Hulls of boats tied were seen reaching as high as the railings. Strong wind gusts knocked down century-old oak trees.
President’s Street, from under the Harry Truman Parkway and just past the railroad tracks towards Broad Street, was completely flooded. Storm surge pushed into river inlets caused damage to Savannah Wildlife Refuge. NWS survey team noted 3 to 3.75 feet of inundation was measured along Delegal Creek in Chatham County.
Beaufort County was also trampled by Hurricane Matthew’s strong winds. About 3 to 3.75 feet of inundation was also measured in southern Beaufort County. Significant storm surge brought eight boats aground on the north side of Highway 21. Four boats were pushed onto the Beaufort County Airport runway. Extensive tree damage was found all throughout the county. Hunting State Park on Hunting Island was inaccessible due to the number of trees knocked down.
The northbound lane of Harbor Island Bridge was washed out. Barrier Islands in Beaufort County faced a combination of strong winds and storm surge: damaging homes, destroying boats and bringing down an endless number of trees. Hunting Island pier suffered damage. Roads on Fripp Island were covered in sand and rocks with many houses faced major structural damage.
Over 1,000 feet away from the coastline, storm surge debris was found at the Harbor Town Golf Course in the Sea Pines Plantation. Matthew’s powerful winds and surge washed up 15 civil war cannonballs after 155 years.
Strongest Recorded Wind Gusts
|Tybee Island||96 mph|
|Hilton Head Island Airport||88 mph|
|Savannah International Airport||71 mph|
|Fort Pulaski||68 mph|
|Jekyll Island||56 mph|
|Evans County Airport||49 mph|
Highest Rainfall Totals
|Hunter AAF – 17.49″||Edisto Island – 16.90″|
|Hilton Head Island – 16.58″||Dafuskie Island – 14.10″|
|Beaufort MCAS – 13.97″||Garden City – 13.86″|
|Fort Pulaski – 12.56″||Savannah – 11.51″|
|Darien – 11.42″||Yemassee – 10.70″|