A deteriorating Matthew was stripped of hurricane status Sunday morning and began making its slow exit to sea after unloading more than a foot of rain on North Carolina, flooding homes and businesses as far as 100 miles inland. What will go down as one of the most potent hurricanes on record in the US was blamed for at least 10 US deaths and more than 500 in Haiti, reports the AP. Dozens—including a woman and her small child—had to be rescued from their cars as life-threatening flash floods surprised North Carolina. As night fell Saturday, authorities warned people to stay off the roads until the storm had passed, and the full extent of damage was not expected to become clear until daylight. Unofficial rainfall totals were staggering: 18 inches in Wilmington, 14 inches in Fayetteville, and 8 inches in Raleigh. "This is a very, very serious and deadly storm," Gov. Pat McCrory said.
Before daybreak Sunday, the hurricane was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. As of 8am EDT, the storm was centered about 60 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, NC, moving out to sea. It still had hurricane-force winds of 75 mph. Forecasters said North Carolina and Virginia could get even more rain and warned of life-threatening flooding through Monday night. Other places in the South began getting back to normal, with millions relieved that the storm wasn't the catastrophe they had braced for. Matthew was to veer out to sea, lose steam and loop back around toward the Bahamas and Florida, too feeble to cause trouble. By hugging the coast, the storm pretty much behaved as forecasters predicted. A shift of just 20 or 30 miles could have meant widespread devastation. "People got incredibly lucky," says a meteorology professor. "It was a super close call." Property data firm CoreLogic projected $4 billion to $6 billion in insured losses; Hurricane Katrina caused $40 billion and Superstorm Sandy caused $20 billion. (Read more Hurricane Matthew stories.)