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Hurricane Matthew: Scattered power outages but no serious accidents or damage in York, Chester, Lancaster counties

High winds, rain cause downed trees, flooding in York County

As Hurricane Matthew ripped through the Carolinas on Saturday, utilities crews around York, Chester and Lancaster counties worked to restore power outages and downed trees caused by gusty winds. The storm caused flooding in some areas, but did not
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As Hurricane Matthew ripped through the Carolinas on Saturday, utilities crews around York, Chester and Lancaster counties worked to restore power outages and downed trees caused by gusty winds. The storm caused flooding in some areas, but did not

More than half a million power outages were reported across South Carolina late Saturday afternoon as Hurricane Matthew continued creating havoc on the east coast.

York and Chester counties were released from a flood watch as skies cleared Saturday afternoon; however, the area remained under a wind advisory until 2 a.m.

Most of the area received between 2 and 3 inches of rain between Friday and Saturday, according to Lauren Visin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greenville.

The peak wind gust in Rock Hill Saturday reached 40 mph, Visin said, but there were no reports of tornadic activity.

The S.C. Emergency Management Division reported 762,000 power outages around the state late Saturday afternoon.

At one point, more than 3,000 customers were without power in Fort Mill after an outage that began around 9:30 a.m. Power for those customers was restored before noon.

Clusters of local outages spotted Duke Energy’s map throughout the day Saturday. A Duke spokesperson said it high winds were sending trees and limbs down onto power lines around the Charlotte area Saturday.

Duke Energy reported at 6 p.m. that it had more than 525,000 customers affected, including 156,800 in South Carolina.

Nearly 70 customers near South Market Street in Lancaster lost power around 5:45 a.m. and were still in the dark at 5:30 p.m.

At 8:30 a.m. Sunday, only 150 customers were still without power locally, all in Lancaster County.

Some of the damage from Matthew can be extensive, and outages may last for a considerable amount of time, said Bobby Simpson, Duke Energy’s storm director.

“In some of the harder hit areas, we expect to have to rebuild portions of our system before we can restore power, and that takes time,” he said in an email Saturday. “We ask our customers to stay safe and be patient. Tomorrow may be a bright, sunny day, but that won’t erase the damage being done today.”

Simpson said line crews can begin repairs as soon as the storm passes and wind speeds drop below 39 mph. However, for safety reasons, crews cannot perform elevated work in bucket trucks if wind speeds are more than 30 mph.

State and local officials were urging residents to beware of a cyber scam related to Hurricane Matthew. The email messages ask the victims to click on a link to get more information about outages and damage.

“Attackers are sending out emails regarding updated storm information such as lists of flooding areas, projected paths and damage images,” the York County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Saturday. “The emails attempt to get the user to click a link that is actually infecting the users with malware.”

Gov. Nikki Haley warned residents about the email scam during her press conference Saturday.

“If you do not know the person sending you the email, delete it,” she said.

No major accidents or damages were reported around York County as of late Saturday. Deputy Chief Mark Simmons said the Rock Hill Fire Department responded to five calls for power lines down or trees down on power lines.

No road closures have been reported in the area so far, according to the S.C. Department of Transportation.

The hurricane continued its march along the Atlantic coast Saturday, lashing two of the South’s most historic cities and some of its most popular resort islands, flattening trees, swamping streets and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands.

The storm was blamed for at least 10 deaths in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. In its long wake, it also left at least 470 dead in Haiti in one hard-hit district alone, according to officials, with other stricken areas still unreachable four days after the disaster struck.

Matthew raked Georgia and South Carolina with torrential rain and stiff winds, and – for the first time in its run up the U.S. coastline – its storm center blew ashore, making landfall north of Charleston, near the town of McClellanville, where it caused serious flooding.

Up until then, the center, or eye, mercifully stayed just far enough out at sea that coastal communities didn’t feel the full force of Matthew’s winds. As the storm passed one city after another, the reaction was relief that things were nowhere near as bad as many feared.

“We are all blessed that Matthew stayed off our coast,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. “We are blessed that we didn’t have a direct hit.”

As of 2 p.m., Matthew – by some measures the most powerful hurricane to menace the U.S. in more than a decade – was just barely a hurricane, with winds of 75 mph, and was hitting Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C. Its winds were down from 145 mph when it roared into Haiti.

From there, the storm was expected to veer out to sea and loop back around through the Bahamas and toward Florida, though as a barely noticeable wave.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory warned people not to let their guard down just because Matthew was losing steam.

As the hurricane began making its exit, it looked as if forecasters had gotten it right. Matthew stayed near the middle of the National Hurricane Center map’s “cone of uncertainty” as it scraped the coast. Forecasters defended the large-scale evacuations.

“What would you rather have as the alternative?” said Colorado State University meteorology professor Phil Klotzbach.

In Savannah, Ga., a historic town of moss-draped squares and antebellum mansions, floodwaters several feet deep submerged a long stretch of President Street, which links downtown to the highway to Georgia’s Tybee Island. A homeless woman was seen staggering through waters up to her neck.

The shivering woman made it to the water’s edge. A bystander handed her a sheet, which she wrapped around her neck.

A Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued a man stranded on a sailboat in a river near Tybee Island. North Carolina officials said they had to rescue several people from cars and homes.

Matthew also brought some of the highest tides on record along the South Carolina coast. Streets in Charleston – a city of handsome pre-Civil War homes, church steeples and romantic carriage rides – were flooded.

Teddy Kulmala: 803-329-4082, @teddy_kulmala and wire reports

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