Hurricane Matthew slammed into South Carolina on Saturday, packing a diminished yet still potent punch after killing almost ۹۰۰ people in Haiti and causing major flooding and widespread power outages as it skirted Florida and Georgia.
Now weakened, the most powerful Atlantic storm since ۲۰۰۷ unleashed torrential rains and damaging winds in Florida before churning slowly north to soak coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. Wind speeds at midday had subsided by nearly half from their peak about a week ago to ۷۵ miles per hour (۱۲۰ kph), reducing the storm to a Category ۱ hurricane, the weakest on the Saffir-Simpson scale of ۱ to ۵.
Matthew, which topped out as a ferocious Category ۵ storm days before, made U.S. landfall near McClellanville, South Carolina, a village ۳۰ miles (۴۸ km) north of Charleston that was devastated by a Category ۴ hurricane in ۱۹۸۹.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Matthew passed over Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Saturday afternoon, and warned of potentially life-threatening flooding in Georgia and North Carolina even as the storm slowed as it plowed inland.
As of ۱۱ p.m. EST (۰۳۰۰ GMT), the storm was about ۳۵ miles (۵۵ km) south of Cape Lookout, North Carolina, the center said in an advisory.
The center of the storm will move near or south of the North Carolina coast early on Sunday and east of the state later in the day as it weakens.
The storm was blamed for at least ۱۱ deaths in the United States - five in Florida, three in North Carolina and three in Georgia, including two people killed by falling trees in Bulloch County, the county coroner said.
Power was reported knocked out to more than ۲ million households and businesses in the U.S. Southeast, the bulk of those in Florida and South Carolina.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory urged residents on Saturday evening to stay off roads and sidewalks to avoid "deadly conditions" caused by severe flooding and debris.
Conditions in eastern and central North Carolina were expected to worsen as the storm edged along the coast and toward the Outer Banks barrier islands, the governor said.
Forecasters warned that widespread flooding was possible from heavy rain - ۱۵ inches (۴۰ cm) was expected to fall in some areas - along with massive storm surges and high tides.
The storm-stricken stretch of the Atlantic Coast from Miami to Charleston, a nearly ۶۰۰-mile drive, encompasses some of the most well-known beaches, resorts and historical towns in the southeastern United States. Parts of Interstate ۹۵, the main north-south thoroughfare on the East Coast, were closed due to flooding and fallen trees, state officials said.
Roads in Jackson Beach, Florida, were littered with debris, including chunks from an historic pier dislodged by the storm, with some intersections clogged by up to a foot of standing water. Beachfront businesses suffered moderate damage.
"We rode out the storm. It wasn't this bad at our house, but here there's a lot of damage," said Zowi Cuartas, ۱۸, as he watched bystanders pick up shattered signs near the beach.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said more than ۶,۰۰۰ people stayed in shelters overnight, but he appeared relieved that the state had been spared from greater harm.
"We're all blessed that Matthew stayed off our coast," he said. He predicted electricity would be restored to most homes by Sunday evening.