Hurricane Matthew made his arrival in the Grand Strand about 1:30 p.m. Saturday - around the same time as high tide - ferociously tearing down piers in his path.
Hurricane Matthew made landfall southeast of McClellanville as a Category 1 storm as it continued to unleash its fury on the South Carolina coast.
An 11 a.m. update, showed the storm made landfall as a Category 1 storm with 75 mph winds, bringing serious flooding issues along with it, and the storm held on to that level of strength as it pounded the Grand Strand, according to a 2 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.
The center of Matthew is expected to continue its trek northeast up the coast at about 12 mph Saturday, and the storm should be near the coast of North Carolina by the evening.
Weakening is anticipated, but the storm will likely keep its hurricane-level strength while the center is near the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina, weather authorities said.
An 8 a.m. update showed the storm traveling near Charleston, weakening, but continuing its northeast path along the S.C. coast headed toward the Grand Strand at about 12 mph with maximum sustained winds at 85 mph.
A 5 a.m. update stated the north eye wall of Hurricane Matthew began lashing Hilton Head Island as a Category 2 storm around early Saturday.
Horry, Georgetown and neighboring coastal counties remained under a hurricane warning as tornado, storm surge and flash flood warnings also were issued for the area overnight as Matthew’s fury started to reach the Grand Strand.
Tropical storm warning remains in effect for Darlington, Marlboro, Florence, Marion, Dillon, Williamsburg, Robeson, N.C., Columbus, N.C., and Bladen, N.C. counties.
Gale-force winds hit the Grand Strand already have blown into the area. Gusts this morning could later reach 70 to 85 mph with winds decreasing around 10 p.m., weather authorities said.
Recent wind gust reports include: 70 mph at Winyah Bay SC, 66 mph at Murrells Inlet, 61 mph at Myrtle Beach Airport, and 52 mph at Kure Beach N.C., a new threat assessment from Steve Pfaff, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., revealed at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
“The strongest winds are expected later this morning and afternoon for northeast S.C. and this evening for southeast N.C.,” said Pfaff in the assessment.
Tornado warnings were changed to tornado watches around 7 a.m., and a tornado touched down between 18th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard in North Myrtle Beach Saturday morning, according to Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach city spokesman.
Some homes were damaged, but no one was reported injured, Dowling said a preliminary report showed.
Total rainfall predictions are still forecast to be close to 15 inches will amounts lesser farther inland, but still in the 13-inch range for most of Horry County. By about 12 p.m., Doppler radar estimates showed areas of inland Horry and Georgetown counties had gotten about 5 to 12 inches of rain with the coastlines getting about 3 to 4 inches, Pfaff said.
Rainfall pounded the western portions of Horry County with the Conway and Aynor areas already getting 10 to 12 inches of rain by noon. The coast had gotten 5 to 8 inches, according the graphic from Pfaff.
Myrtle Beach had tallied up more than 10 inches of rain by about 2 p.m. Saturday.
At 9:30 a.m., Pfaff announced another 3 to 10 inches of rainfall was forecast to drench portions of Northeast South Carolina and Southeast North Carolina over.
Pfaff said totals along the coast could start to register more rainfall than inland areas as the storm continues to move up the coast.
Storm surge forecast is showing waters as high as 5 feet in areas and will be especially hard on vulnerable places along the coast. Some models even show storm surge as high as 8 feet, weather authorities said.
Once the storm passes by, the Grand Strand still will be suffering its stings as it will take time into the evening before impacts from Matthew start to wind down, Pfaff said.
Hurricane warnings will likely remain in effect for the area through Saturday evening and possibly into Sunday.
“Remain vigilant for flash flooding and strong gusty winds,” said Pfaff.
As of 9 a.m. Saturday, there were 942 people in Horry County shelters, more than 12,000 residents without power, and 55 roads closed and/or impassable, according to Lisa Bourcier, Horry County spokeswoman.