Power outages down to just over 400,000 in South Carolina

Southeast utilities respond to Hurricane Matthew

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Just over 400,000 customers remain without power in South Carolina after massive outages this weekend because of Hurricane Matthew.

Utility crews have cut the outages down more than half of the 850,000 customer peak at the height of the storm Saturday.

But utility officials warn the rate of fixing outages may slow as they get to the hardest hit coastal areas where there was major damage to the power grid.

Officials don't have an estimate on when most everyone should have their electricity back.

Officials at Edisto Beach say Hurricane Matthew dealt the beach community its worst hit since Hurricane David back in 1979.

The storm surge from Matthew destroyed one house on the island and ate away at the foundations of a number of others. Between 3 and 4 feet of sand has been washed up on the four-lane avenue along the beachfront.

Mayor Jane Darby says there's no power on the island and limited water. Residents will be allowed to go back to the island beginning on Tuesday to check on their property.

The island has only about 400 permanent residents, but on busy summer weekends the population can swell to 30,000.

Congressman Mark Sanford says it's the worst damage he's seen from Matthew in his district - the coastal First District which reaches from the Charleston area south to Hilton Head Island.

South Carolina officials say they are dealing with river flooding after Hurricane Matthew pounded the Southeast over the weekend.

Crews worked Monday to rescue about 150 people from the third floor of the town hall in the community of Nichols in Marion County.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel says more problems are expected along the Little Pee Dee River, the Lumber River, the Waccamaw River and the Black River.

Keel is working with the Department of Natural Resources to put river patrols out to make sure that the property of those forced to evacuate is safe from looters.

Three people have been killed in the storm.

State transportation officials say there have been about 300 road and bridge closures because of the storm.

About 475,000 customers are without electricity. That's down from more than 850,000 at the height of the storm.

Gov. Nikki Haley says she expected to fly over flood damaged sections of Beaufort County in her first trip after Hurricane Matthew pounded the state last weekend.

Instead, the governor on Monday headed to the Pee Dee, where she was the effects of flooding on the Lumber and Little Pee Dee River.

The governor says 150 people crowded the town hall in the small community of Nichols in Marion County, waiting for help and rescue. The governor says good word by the Department of Natural Resources, law enforcement and the National Guard helped the people to safety.

Haley said while evacuation orders have been lifted for the state, residents are not being allowed on Hilton Head Island, Harbor Island, Fripp Island and Hunting Island because of continued problems with downed trees and storm damage.

Edisto Beach is still blocked off two days after Hurricane Matthew. Police have a checkpoint about two miles from the beach in front of a convenience store and are not letting residents or sightseers in.

Several homes on the island were destroyed or damaged in the storm and power is out to the island and seems to be out for miles up the rural road leading to the town. About a dozen residents were waiting with a group of reporters at the checkpoint at midday Monday.

The mayor, police chief and other town officials planned an early afternoon news conference to discuss the damage in the community and the recovery effort. The town has only about 400 permanent residents but is a popular vacation spot for visitors who rent homes on the island during the summer.

Emergency officials say rescue crews are responding to bring out residents from a small community in Marion County where homes are threatened by the rising waters of the Lumber River.

County Emergency Management Division Director Jerry Williams said Monday morning the floods are threatening homes in Nichols. He did not have details immediately.

Nichols is in the northeastern corner of South Carolina about 10 miles from the North Carolina state line.

The Marion County area was hard hit by rains from Hurricane Matthew. More than 15 inches of rain fell in nearby Mullins while more than 14 inches was recorded in Marion.

Heavy rains that fell farther north in North Carolina have also swelled the Lumber River.

A fundraising effort started to help victims of last year's historic floods in South Carolina is being extended to help victims of Hurricane Matthew.

Gov. Nikki Haley and officials from the Central Carolina Community Foundation say that the One SC Fund is now accepting donations to help hurricane victims.

The fund was started last year in the wake of what's been called a 1,000-year flood in South Carolina.

To date, One SC has distributed $2 million in grants to nonprofit organizations supporting flood recovery projects. Officials say it has helped 1,500 South Carolina families get back in their homes.

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