Hurricane-turned-tropical storm Matthew had barely pulled away from North Carolina Sunday but was already one to remember for local weather forecasters.
Meteorologist Lara Pagano of the National Weather Service office in Newport said peak winds were diminishing but the forecast of catastrophic river flooding in inland counties of Eastern North Carolina will continue into the upcoming week and will make a mark much like Hurricane Floyd.
“I’ve been here six years and this one is going to stick in my memory. Every storm has different impacts. This one had incredible amounts of rain inland causing catastrophic flooding and the strong winds behind the system are like nothing I’ve seen before,” she said.
While Onslow County overall has fared better than other areas, there have been widespread reports of trees down, power outages and roads washed out or flooded and travel is not advised in the region’s hardest-hit areas.
Waterfront communities such as Swansboro and Sneads Ferry experienced coastal flooding that was worst around Saturday afternoon’s high tides and beach communities, particularly those on Topsail Island, were hit with erosion and dune breaches.
Pagano said Hurricane Matthew approached North Carolina from South Carolina, coming up as a category 2 storm. As it approached Wilmington the storm was downgraded to a Category 1 and crossed just south of Cape Fear and moved north off Cape Lookout, downgraded to a tropical storm Saturday night.
First came the rain bands that drenched the area, with inland areas taking the greatest hit. Even within Onslow County, rainfall totals showed that to be true.
According to rainfall totals issued Sunday by the NWS, Richlands saw the highest amount of rainfall, with 6.63 inches reported at Albert J. Ellis airport. Rainfall reported from five sites around the Jacksonville area ranged from 4.5 inches to 5.26 inches.
Coastal communities saw the least rainfall, with observations in Swansboro ranging from 2.98 inches to 3.23 inches.
Rainfall amounts in neighboring Carteret County ranged from 1.19 inches in Indian Beach on Bogue Banks to 3.98 inches in Beaufort. The only report in Duplin County was for 5.8 inches.
The highest rainfall totals reported in the coverage area were in Lenoir and Pitt counties which had reports of more than 9 inches of rain.
Pagano said the storm was interacting with a trough coming through and areas north of the center of the storm saw the most rain.
On Saturday afternoon as the rain bands moved into the area, there were indications on radar of possible funnel cloud formation, which sparked warning that including the Sneads Ferry, Atlantic Beach, Newport and Down East communities.
Pagano said there hasn’t been confirmation of a tornado touching down.
As the rain cleared out, the winds picked up and reached their peak late Saturday night.
Wind gusts around Onslow County ranged from 46 mph to 72 mph.
Most of the power outages around the county coincided with the arrival of the worst winds.