Hurricane Matthew in Georgia: Destructive but not Deadly

After pounding Tybee Island overnight, Hurricane Matthew weakened as it closed in on South Carolina on Saturday morning.

At 11 a.m. the eye of the storm came in shore at McClellanville, S.C., about 40 miles up the coast from Charleston, the National Hurricane Center said. Matthew weakened to a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, according to the 11 a.m. advisory. In Georgia, flash-flood warnings extended as far inland as Statesboro, Ga., nearly 70 miles west of Tybee, and the hurricane center said a “serious inland flooding event (is) unfolding” near Matthew’s landfall.

On the Georgia coast, residents who hunkered down and stayed put - ignoring a mandatory evacuation order - were surveying Matthew’s damage. Gov. Nathan Deal called up 1,000 additional Georgia National Guard troops to assist state and local authorities, bringing to 2,000 the number of guardsmen now activated.

Local officials warned the thousands of residents who had evacuated to give authorities time to assess damage before returning. More than 281,000 people were left without power, according to Georgia Power.

“(W)e ask for patience. Only emergency personnel are being allowed back into Chatham County,” tweeted the City of Savannah.

Tybee Island appeared to bear the brunt of the storm in Georgia. Matthew neared the coast there soon after high tide and a storm surge flooded the low-lying barrier island.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter riding out the storm on the north end of the island had to take shelter in a second floor bathroom as water climbed to at least 18 inches on the ground level.

At dawn, after hours of punishing rain and 100-mph-plus winds, the stormy dawn offered up a scarred and tattered Tybee.

Downed pines, oaks and palms blocked trees recently drained of rain measured in feet. Huge logs lay across U.S. 80 flung by the winds from the nearby marshes.

While some of the flooding had receded, many roads, particularly on the southeast end, remained flooded and impassable by 9am.

The damage along Butler avenue, the main drag bisecting Tybee, was extensive. Aluminum siding, roof shingles, porch fans and fencing turned it into a 10 mph obstacle course. Roofs were peeled away. The cheery awning for the Sunrise Diner flapped untethered in the still gusty wind.

Tybee has been cut off from the mainland since Friday night.

On St. Simon’s Island, Matthew knocked out power, sent trees crashing down on houses and roads. Parking lots and yards were flooded. Frederica Road near the air strip is covered with fallen trees. The village appears mostly unscathed. Glynn County officials are planning to give an update about the hurricane’s aftermath at a noon news conference.

Thousands of Georgians had evacuated their homes in advance of Matthew’s arrival.Georgia hasn’t had a direct strike from a hurricane in more than a hurricane in more than a century.

Stay tuned to ajc.com for updates.