ORMOND BEACH, Fla. — Hurricane Matthew churned along Florida’s Atlantic Coast on Friday, its center remaining just offshore as the storm battered the state with punishing rain, beach-swallowing sea surges and destructive wind gusts topping 100 mph.
By late Friday afternoon, the strongest hurricane to menace the United States in a decade had weakened to a Category 2 storm, and it was clear that Florida had dodged some of the worst-case scenarios laid out by forecasters and public officials. Yet the danger wasn’t past: South Carolina was bracing for the storm’s potential landfall there Saturday, and even residents in North Carolina faced a considerable threat.
The National Hurricane Center said Friday that the storm’s center had been “hugging the coast” in Florida as it continued toward Georgia and South Carolina and warned of a surge of up to nine feet that could cause dangerous flooding.
Late Friday night, the hurricane center said “strong winds and storm surge” were also spreading north along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina and warned of “rising water levels” expected in both states into early Saturday morning…