Friday, 19 October, 2018

Storm Michael: 155mph winds leave trail of devastation

Submitted by Sharon to WCTV  Tallahassee Florida Submitted by Sharon to WCTV Tallahassee Florida
Sandy Nunez | 13 October, 2018, 08:30

Rescue crews worked their way through fallen trees and heaps of rubble on Friday in the Florida Panhandle towns hit the hardest by Hurricane Michael, looking for people trapped or killed by a storm blamed for at least 14 deaths.

Search and rescue teams working through a ruined landscape found no signs of mass casualties during their initial "hasty search" afer Hurricane Michael, but Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday they still "do not know enough" about the fate of people who insisted on riding out the storm.

Virginia officials said that Michael, classified as a tropical storm by the time it plowed through the state, had killed five people there.

First responders and residents walk along a main street following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., on October 11, 2018. The storm hit the Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia hard, taking the lives of at least two people.

The worst hit areas of Florida's northwest coast saw houses ripped from their foundations, trees felled, and power lines strewn across streets. A councilwoman from there issued an urgent plea to anyone thinking of returning.

With so many residents unable to reach first-responders to request well-being checks or medical assistance or report missing people, Florida's State Emergency Response Team has set up a web page where people can request assistance.

The storm is rumbling into SC, while also bringing strong winds and heavy rains to North Carolina and Virginia amid a tornado threat, many news outlets reported.

Nearby Panama City Beach experienced similar damage along with other communities along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

A man walked through the damaged historical downtown district of Panama City, Fla., on Friday. "We had furniture in our house that wasn't even our furniture". All the stores, all the restaurants, everything.

"There's nothing left here anymore", he said of the town. The destruction in this and other communities dotting the white-sand beaches is being called catastrophic - and it will need billions of dollars to rebuild.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long is urging people to learn from the past and build a culture of preparedness.

The students and staff at Jinks Middle School have dealt with disaster before.

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As one Panama City, Fla., resident told NPR's Debbie Elliott, "This whole town's destroyed".

Principal Britt Smith choked up as he looked at images of the decimated building.

"We are not completely done".

"Our biggest thing is the downed lines and the downed trees", said Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson.

The storm dumped 4 to 8 inches of rain across a swath of Virginia, possibly more in some areas, said Jeffrey Stern, the state's emergency management coordinator.

Megan McCall says her brother Jeff and his family were riding out the storm in the Panhandle.

Her brother was able to tell a friend that his home was starting to get cracks in the walls and water was rushing in Wednesday. Some residents with destroyed or damaged homes counted themselves lucky to have survived. "Just cleaning the yard", Katia Coonan said. "I just thank God my kids and my grandkids were not in the auto".

Forecasters said it could drop up to 18cm of rain over the Carolinas and Virginia before pushing out to sea on Thursday night.

The rapid-moving rainfall from Michael triggered flash floods in parts of Virginia and the Carolinas, including areas threatened by swollen rivers during Hurricane Florence.

The sixth victim, a 38-year-old man, died when a large tree fell on his vehicle on Highway 64 east of Statesville, North Carolina, on Thursday, Iredell County Fire Marshall David Souther said. The planet has warmed significantly over the past several decades, causing changes in the environment. Photo Courtesy of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We are still getting down there", the governor added.

"I've never been so scared in my life", said Dawn Vickers.