The death toll in South Carolina rose to three on Sunday after officials blamed Hurricane Matthew for two deaths in Florence County and another in Richland County.
In separate incidents, two people were either swept away in floods or drove into washed away bridges or roads, according to the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.
On Saturday, authorities recovered the body of a man from his vehicle on Old River Road which had been swept about 100 yards from the road by floodwaters.
On Sunday, a dive team recovered the body of a man in a submerged vehicle at a bridge washout on National Cemetery Road. The sheriff’s office said the county’s coroner is investigating and notifying family. No names were released.
“Driving on our roadways right now at any time of day is treacherous,” Sheriff Kenney Boone said. “At night it is deadly.” He urged everyone to stay off the roads until workers can clear them of fallen trees and power lines and inspect the roads to be sure they are safe.
The Associated Press reported 66-year-old David L. Outlaw drowned in Richland County after he was found under his electric wheelchair in standing water at the National Health Care facility in Columbia around 7:45 a.m. Saturday, Coroner Gary Watts said.
The storm is blamed for at least 15 U.S. deaths, including seven in North Carolina, as well as hundreds more when it roared through the Caribbean.
Matthew has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone and was 200 miles east of Cape Hatteras with 75 mph maximum sustained winds as of 5 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
Gov. Nikki Haley lifted evacuation orders on Sunday in Berkeley, Colleton, Charleston and Dorchester counties. She said that residents in Georgetown and Horry counties may be allowed back on Monday. Conditions in Beaufort County were improving, but there still are a lot of drainage issues and the evacuation order has not been lifted there.
In counties where the evacuation has not been lifted, Haley warned that “you are going back at your own risk. Be prepared that you could go back and not be let back in.”
All interstates have been reopened, although secondary roads still may have some debris. Beaufort, Jasper, Charleston and Dorchester counties are closing schools and county offices Monday.
Two rivers will crest well above flood stage this week. The Waccamaw and the Little Pee Dee will rise higher than last year’s historic flooding, she said. The Waccamaw is expected to be at 16.7 feet by the end of the week. The Little Pee Dee River at Galivants Ferry is at 11 feet now and is expected to rise to 13.1 feet.
At least 338 roads and 14 bridges were closed Saturday night and officials were urging people not to travel. On Sunday morning, more than 740,000 customers remained without power, down from more than 860,000 Saturday night.
As residents return home, they should expect congestion and consider alternate routes. She said those returning need “patience, patience, patience.” Evacuees should fill their gas tanks and take any supplies they might need, she said.
The city of North Charleston was reporting 250 damaged structures on Sunday morning.
Folly Beach was without power Sunday and there was flooding. “SCE&G is aware of the situation on Folly Beach and knows of downed power lines and damaged poles. They are working on the situation and power could be restored,” the town posted.
Law Enforcement aided by National Guardsmen kept all but residents from the town.
John and Judy Manzi, who have a home on Little Oak Island on the other side of Folly, went onto the beach Sunday and said a friend uncovered 16 Civil War-era cannonballs.
“There was a gun emplacement there during the Civil War and this must have been a stack because they were all consolidated together,” John Manzi said.
He said authorities were going to destroy the cannonballs at 9 p.m. Sunday.
He said the town did not appear to have much damage but the beach “has taken it on the shin” with erosion from the storm.
Roger Salway and Donna Michalski returned Sunday to check on the home they bought in August. He said they found about a foot of water under their home but none inside.
On Pawleys Island, five of the residents who live on this thin sliver of a barrier island opted to stay, signing a form provided earlier by police that asked for next-of-kin information.
Among them was Joe Bullard, 65 and Fred Collins, 63, who both live in a condominium complex near the island’s center.
On Sunday afternoon, the men stood at the edge of a bridge that affords entrance to Pawleys, just inside a police barricade. An evacuation order remained in place, meaning no one could enter, and should Bullard or Collins leave they would be not be allowed to return.
One house caught fire in the storm, another lost a roof. The storm surge was heaviest on Pawleys south end, nearly pushing a car into the creek that flows on the backside of the sandbar and sweeping items stored under houses away.
Trees, power lines, propane tanks and other debris remained littered throughout the area, said Police Chief Michael Fanning. No injuries were reported.
A lift of the evacuation order could come Monday, he said, but any return was contingent on the governor’s decision.
Collins said he spends most of the year in Columbia, and as a ham radio operator who worked with the state during Hurricane Hugo, came to his Pawleys home to serve as backup communication should major systems go down.
Pennsylvania resident Bullard went to his condo to secure his vast collection of fishing gear.
As Matthew reached the area, the men twice visited the 860-foot pier that extends into the Atlantic, and watched as crashing waves claimed the cross braces on its end.
At that point, Collins said, “You turn and go the other way really quickly.”
“You pull up your fishing rods really quickly,” Bullard said.
Some Isle of Palms residents returned Sunday pleasantly surprised to find little damage from Hurricane Matthew. Some yards flooded and the hurricane caused some beach erosion but appeared to have left structures there unharmed.
The storm left an unusual treasure trove of shells and hundreds of starfish washed onto the beach.
"I've never seen shells like this before," said Michael Enright, as he watched his wife, Gami, and his 10-year-old daughter, Talula, pick up shells. Talula tossed a starfish into the ocean in hopes of saving it.
"We got lucky, I think," the father said of the little damage to the community.
Residents of McClellanville, where Hurricane Hugo made landfall in 1989, counted their blessings Sunday, the day after Hurricane Matthew made landfall near here. Matthew tore down trees and left the town without power, but residents were cheered by Sunday's sunny skies and the lack of structural damage.
"I'm just rolled over tickled," said Ricky Thomas, who found no damage to his home when he returned Sunday.
Richard Billington and his wife, Celeste, had only planned to visit Billington's docked shrimp boat, Village Lady, for coffee and breakfast and then realized the hurricane was upon them and rode it out.
"It was scary," she said.
"It was windy," he said.
Those interviewed said the strong winds of the storm's backside surprised them.
Mayor Rutledge Leland said overall the town fared well. "This was nothing compared to Hugo," he said of the storm that delivered a 20-foot storm surge. "Hugo was a whole different animal."
ccess to North Myrtle Beach was closed Sunday morning after a day of flooding and an overnight fire. US 17 was blocked by National Guard. Only emergency and military vehicles were being allowed in. Cell service also was patchy in the area.
Three military vehicles were passed through the barricade and cleanup continued. Drivers on a bridge to Cherry Grove are being turned around. Others on State 9 also were being turned back.