Hurricane Matthew weakens to Category 1, makes landfall

Hurricane Matthew made landfall Saturday morning south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after dousing historic cities and slashing power to hundreds of thousands as it continued its deadly crawl along the southeastern seaboard.

The storm weakened to a Category 1 hurricane overnight after being blamed for at least four deaths in Florida. It left a long trail of devastation across the Caribbean, leaving hundreds dead in impoverished Haiti.

Although the toll in Florida was not nearly as devastating as feared, forecasters warned it could still wreak havoc in places like Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Wilmington, North Carolina.

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Heartbreaking photos of Haiti recovering from Hurricane Matthew
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Heartbreaking photos of Haiti recovering from Hurricane Matthew

The port city of Les Cayes flooded, suffering badly in the storm.

(Photo via REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A flooded river in Jérémie. Rising water has prompted fears of a surge in the cholera epidemic.

Source: The Guardian

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Many homes in Jérémie were heavily damaged.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

In Port-au-Prince, a street or a waste yard?

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Some homes are on the verge of collapse. Shelter is a huge concern.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Sifting through the damage. 

(Photo via REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

People carrying their belongings through flooded streets.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Citizens take part in a gathering while Hurricane Matthew passes in Port-au-Prince.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Looking after children is one of the biggest concerns here.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

A girl cries with her relatives at a heavily damaged school.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

An injured man at the hospital after Hurricane Matthew passed Jérémie.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Rescue workers bury the dead.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

An injured woman breast-feeds her baby at a shelter.

Source: The Guardian

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Homes are gone, but life goes on.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

A relative cries in the funeral of Anne Dit Trozitha Zamore, who died during Hurricane Matthew, in Chantal, Haiti, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A relative cries before the funeral of Anne Dit Trozitha Zamore, who died during Hurricane Matthew, in Chantal, Haiti, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Aerial view of damages in small village of Casanette near Baumond, Haiti on October 8, 2016 after Hurricane Matthew passed the area. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged over 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country's south. / AFP / Nicolas GARCIA (Photo credit should read NICOLAS GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Florida governor Rick Scott (C) visits a damaged beach in St Augustine, Florida, on October 8, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew passed the area. Hurricane Matthew weakened to a Category 1 storm Saturday as it neared the end of a four-day rampage that left a trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean and up the US Atlantic coast. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged past 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country's south. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A man leans on a damaged boardwalk at a debris covered beach in St Augustine, Florida, on October 8, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew passed the area. Hurricane Matthew weakened to a Category 1 storm Saturday as it neared the end of a four-day rampage that left a trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean and up the US Atlantic coast. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged past 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country's south. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A man leans on a leftover of a boardwalk in a debris covered beach in St Augustine, Florida, on October 8, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew passed the area. Hurricane Matthew weakened to a Category 1 storm Saturday as it neared the end of a four-day rampage that left a trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean and up the US Atlantic coast. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged past 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country's south. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives get ready for the funeral of Anne Dit Trozitha Zamore, who died during Hurricane Matthew, in Chantal, Haiti, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A woman tries to get food at a shelter in the school Liliane Mars Dumarsais Estime after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Relatives cry in the funeral of Anne Dit Trozitha Zamore, who died during Hurricane Matthew, in Chantal, Haiti, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
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"We're already starting to see houses being impacted, and the heart of the storm is starting to hit us," North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said at a news conference Saturday morning. He warned of as much as 15 inches of rain and what could be the worst flooding since 1999, when Hurricane Floyd ravaged the state, killing 52 people and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Matthew was already thrashing the Georgia and South Carolina shorelines with ferocious winds and rain Saturday morning. In historic Charleston, streets were inundated with floodwaters as surrounding areas braced for potential destruction.

"Now is the time we ask for prayer," South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday night.

The storm cut power to more than 150,000 customers in South Carolina and some 250,000 in coastal Georgia, according to The Associated Press.

Matthew, the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. in more than a decade, alarmed meteorologists and public officials as it swirled around the U.S.

But by and large, Matthew spared much of Florida, sidestepping the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas.

The deepest pain was inflicted on Haiti, where the death toll reportedly soared past 800. NBC News could not immediately confirm that figure.

The first reports trickling in from the remote southwestern peninsula hit hardest by the storm were dire. The United Nations warned that more than a million people were directly affected by Matthew and that some 350,000 people were in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Tens of thousands of people were left homeless.

"We have nothing left," Saintful Jean Perpetu, who lives in the storm-ravaged town of Jeremie, told reporters. "Our personal things, important documents like birth certificates — it's all gone. We sleep on streets with our children and nobody came to help us until now. "

The monstrous storm, Perpetu said, "took shirts from our backs."

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been beset by disaster for many years. In addition to hurricanes, the island was rocked by a catastrophic earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 220,000 people, left 1.5 million others homeless and caused an estimated $14 billion in damage — a series of misfortunes from which it still has not recovered.

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