Four now reported dead in Georgia in wake of hurricane

An ivy-laden tree crashed across Old Jesup Road in Brunswick overnight. Saturday morning neighbors were gathering to remove trees from the roadway, saying they weren't sure when cleanup crews would be able to respond. (Ben Brasch / AJC)

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An ivy-laden tree crashed across Old Jesup Road in Brunswick overnight. Saturday morning neighbors were gathering to remove trees from the roadway, saying they weren't sure when cleanup crews would be able to respond. (Ben Brasch / AJC)

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Four people have now been confirmed dead in Georgia following heavy winds and flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew.

A Chatham County official said at a press conference late Saturday afternoon that two people were killed in that area.

Two other deaths in Georgia occurred in Bulloch County, according to the AP report.

Bulloch deputy coroner Richard Pylant says Matthew Ward and James Altman died Saturday morning, the AP report stated. Pylant says the 28-year-old Ward died when his car slammed into a tree that fell across the roadway. The 68-year-old Altman was home alone and killed when he was struck in the head after two trees fell on his home.

Officials continue to urge people in Chatham County to remain home.

"We're encouraging everyone to stay sheltered," Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott said in a county news release. "The safety of our citizens is paramount."

The Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport is closed and expected to reopen Monday.

A nighttime curfew instituted as Hurricane Matthew approached Savannah remains in effect tonight, CEMA said on its website.

Hurricane hits South Carolina

Hurricane Matthew made landfall in South Carolina Saturday morning, weakening slightly after it spent the night pummeling Georgia's Tybee Island with high winds, slanting rains and flooding.

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.

Massive flooding in Charleston left more than 100 roads impassable and major freeways shutdown early Saturday afternoon, according to Weather.com.

In Georgia, after sunup Saturday, the "hurricane holdouts" — the people who ignored evacuation orders and stayed put — ventured out to see what Matthew had wrought. They found a lot of torn-up trees, downed power lines and standing water, but apparently minimal structural 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.

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A fleet of power trucks head south on I-95 near Jesup to begin restoring power in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

A fleet of power trucks head south on I-95 near Jesup to begin restoring power in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

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A fleet of power trucks head south on I-95 near Jesup to begin restoring power in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Emergency crews began early Saturday assessing the damage from Hurricane Matthew, which barreled into Georgia during the overnight hours. But it's still too early to know the extent of the destruction or how long recovery efforts may take, Deal said during a press conference Saturday morning.

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 still left without power on Saturday, according to Georgia Power.

“We are still in a dangerous situation,” Deal said. “Please be patient a little while longer.”

Tybee Island: Flooded by storm surge

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.

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St. Simons Island Pier is closed as Hurricane Matthew moves closer to Georgia on Friday morning, October 7, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

St. Simons Island Pier is closed as Hurricane Matthew moves closer to Georgia on Friday morning, October 7, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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St. Simons Island Pier is closed as Hurricane Matthew moves closer to Georgia on Friday morning, October 7, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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.

About 100 diehards remained on Tybee, a beach community of 3,000 residents.

Sonja Edleman, who has lived on the island for 45 years, was among those who remained. Edelman has waited tables at the Sunrise diner for 28 years and stopped by the diner on Friday to feed the fish. The diner on Saturday morning showed damage along the front, its awning torn and thrown askew.

“Everybody thinks I’m crazy and stupid,” Edleman said Friday. “But I don’t care. It’s like an adventure to me. I’ve stayed out here for every storm that’s come this way. I just prepare good and I don’t scare easily. I’m watching the TV and I’m pretty sure it won’t be as bad as Florida or the Bahamas. It seems to be dropping off some as it comes up here.”

Savannah/Chatham County: Mass power outages

It's unclear when evacuated Savannah and Tybee Island residents will have full clearance to return home.

The Chatham Emergency Management Agency said in a late morning news release the county, which includes Savannah, was in Phase One of the re-entry plan.

That essentially means first responders and utility crews.

Dennis Jones, executive director of the CEMA told the Savannah Morning News a timeline for re-entry was unknown.

"As far as the timing that is extremely difficult to tell right now because we simply don't know," Jones told the Morning News. "We don't know the extent of the damages. We don't know the extent of the bridges that have to be inspected. We're just now getting into the community to evaluate that."

Utility crews were dealing with mass power outages across the county as numerous trees snapped power lines. I-16 was closed to eastbound traffic east of I-95. Police were at major entry points to the county to manage entry.

Along I-95, dozens of trees were down partially blocking lanes of travel.

And a portion of President Street, which connects to the freeway that connects to Tybee Island, was flooded with six feet of water. One motorist this morning attempted to cross the flooded road only to see their vehicle become submerged. A police officer on the scene said he did not know if the motorist was injured in the incident.

Sea Island: Bridge shut down

The bridge leading to Sea Island has been shut down and many of the aging trees lining Sea Island Road did not survive Hurricane Matthew.

Tim Buie was trying to get across the bridge and inspect landscaping for some homeowners on the island when he saw a Glynn County sheriff’s deputy blocking access to the span. He regretted seeing the fallen trees on the road leading up to the bridge.

“They exploded,” he said glumly.

His friend Tim Liles identified them as cedars, saying; “They are probably older than me and you together.”

Still, they both agreed the storm damage could have been worse. Liles lost a tool shed in his yard to a falling tree.

Buie: “This is a pleasant surprise for me. There are a lot houses that don’t have any damage and that is shocking.”

St. Simons Island: Fallen trees crash on houses, roads

On St. Simon’s Island, Hurricane Matthew knocked out power, sent trees crashing down on houses and over roads and flooded parking lots and yards here. But those who rode out the storm on the island say they felt lucky, given the dire predictions they heard.

Federica Road near the airstrip is covered with trees. And the debris lying in the park near the pier shows evidence of a powerful storm surge, though the surrounding village appears mostly unscathed.

Glynn County officials warned earlier this week the hurricane could turn into a 500-year event with 9-foot storm surges carrying 25-foot high waves.

caption arrowCaption
Timothy Seavey, of St. Simons Island, talks as his daughter Emily looks near St. Simons Island Pier on Saturday morning, Oct. 8, 2016. Hurricane Matthew knocked out power, sent trees crashing down on houses and over roads and flooded parking lots and yards across St. Simons Island. Frederica Road near the air strip is covered with fallen trees. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Timothy Seavey, of St. Simons Island, talks as his daughter Emily looks near St. Simons Island Pier on Saturday morning, Oct. 8, 2016. Hurricane Matthew knocked out power, sent trees crashing down on houses and over roads and flooded parking lots and yards across St. Simons Island. Frederica Road near the air strip is covered with fallen trees. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

caption arrowCaption
Timothy Seavey, of St. Simons Island, talks as his daughter Emily looks near St. Simons Island Pier on Saturday morning, Oct. 8, 2016. Hurricane Matthew knocked out power, sent trees crashing down on houses and over roads and flooded parking lots and yards across St. Simons Island. Frederica Road near the air strip is covered with fallen trees. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Meanwhile, a convoy of county emergency workers was driving slowly across the island Saturday morning, surveying the damage and searching for people in need of help.

“We did well,” William Cook said as he snapped photos of a huge downed tree near Mallery Park. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Timothy Seavey and his daughter, Emily, drove up to the pier to take a look after hunkering down on the island Friday night. At one point in the darkness he saw a massive flash of blue light, figuring a transformer exploded.

“We saw a big blue flash and it went ‘Boom, boom’ like some alien thing,” he said. “I guess it was a transformer or major power station. And then about 10 minutes later our power went out. We had to chop our way out of the neighborhood.”

Earlier in the morning, Bonnie and Richard Nutt drove up to the pier along with their pup, Mary Jane. As they surveyed the remains of the storm, Bonnie Nutt glanced at some photos on her phone of fallen trees in her neighborhood.

“We watched this one fall,” she said. “And this one fell right before it. It was awful. We have ridden around the island. It is really bad.”

Still, her husband, Richard, was able to sleep through it all and even snored, she said.

“I slept like a baby all night long,” he said.

She laughed: “He did… I didn’t sleep much because it was just too hot.”

Brunswick: Emergency crews start work

Brunswick before I-95 would have been eerily quiet and dark if not for the sounds of police cars and ambulances zipping by at sunrise.

The area where Golden Isles Causeway meets the interstate lost power about 12:30 a.m.

Some vehicles were doing the traffic equivalent of sticking their head out from behind a door, with drivers scanning as they pass every block. Others knew exactly where they were going. And fast.

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An ivy-laden tree crashed across Old Jesup Road in Brunswick overnight. Saturday morning neighbors were gathering to remove trees from the roadway, saying they weren't sure when cleanup crews would be able to respond. (Ben Brasch / AJC)

An ivy-laden tree crashed across Old Jesup Road in Brunswick overnight. Saturday morning neighbors were gathering to remove trees from the roadway, saying they weren't sure when cleanup crews would be able to respond. (Ben Brasch / AJC)

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An ivy-laden tree crashed across Old Jesup Road in Brunswick overnight. Saturday morning neighbors were gathering to remove trees from the roadway, saying they weren't sure when cleanup crews would be able to respond. (Ben Brasch / AJC)

The light drizzle becomes more obvious when the wind whipped.

David Borkowski, 52, joined other residents who were walking around in Brunswick's downtown to see the damage, such as it was.

"And I'm seeing it," he said, pointing at a lamppost on the ground.

Borkowski said he was watching about 3 p.m. Friday when a falling limb took out the power line near his house, zapping the transformer and killing his power. It has been out every since.

Matthew wreaks havoc

Matthew arrived in Georgia having already claimed lives in Florida and the Caribbean.

As of Friday afternoon, at least four people had died in Florida, including a woman in northeast Florida, who was killed after a tree fell on her camper trailer.

Deaths have also been reported in the Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In Haiti, which is still recovering from a devastating earthquake that hit six years ago, a reported at least 1,000 people have died since Matthew made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane.

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.

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