Death toll at 16; Virginia, Carolinas take blows
Hurricane SPRINGFIELD, FLA. — Michael’s death toll rose to 16 Friday and was expected to climb higher as emergency workers searched rubble, and the storm’s grim consequences stretched from the Florida Panhandle into Virginia.
Rescue teams were in the early stages of combing a region razed by a Category 4 hurricane that flattened blocks, collapsed buildings and left infrastructure crippled. Some of the hardest-hit communities have yet to report any fatalities, and although officials said they hoped they would find survivors, a resigned gloom was setting in throughout the disaster zone.
Dr. Jay Radtke, the medical examiner for some of the areas of most concern, including Panama City and Mexico Beach, said he could not release any information on the number of dead in the six Panhandle counties under his jurisdiction. “We are swamped,” he said. “It’s a disaster zone down here.” Here’s the latest:
■ At a news conference Friday afternoon in Marianna, Florida, Sheriff Lou Roberts confirmed three storm-related deaths in Jackson County.
■ Authorities in Virginia said five people had died, including several who had drowned and a firefighter who was responding to an emergency call. Two other people were feared dead.
■ Four deaths occurred in Gadsden County, west of Tallahassee, according to Lt. Anglie Hightower, a spokeswoman for the sheriff ’s office. The victims included a man who died when a tree crashed down on his home in Greensboro.
■ An 11-year-old girl, Sarah Radney, was killed Wednesday when a carport was torn away and was sent hurtling into a modular home in Seminole County, Georgia.
■ North Carolina officials reported two more deaths Friday, raising the death toll there to three. Authorities said a man and a woman had died in McDowell County when their car struck a large tree that had fallen in a road.
■ At least 1.5 million customers were without electricity in states stretching from Florida to Virginia.
■ Many health institutions in Florida remained closed, including four hospitals, 13 nursing homes and 14 assisted living facilities, according to information distributed at a senior federal leadership briefing Friday and shared with The New York Times. The figures were slightly higher than those distributed by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Several dialysis centers were also closed.
■ President Donald Trump said Friday that he would visit Florida and Georgia next week. “People have no idea how hard Hurricane Michael has hit the great state of Georgia,” he said on Twitter.
■ It has been a tough few weeks for the Carolinas. After thrashing the Florida Panhandle, Michael slogged through states still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Florence last month.
■ Much of the coast of the Florida Panhandle, including Mexico Beach and Panama City, was devastated. The area is dotted with small, rural communities, some of them among the poorest in the state.
Most of the people who died in Virginia were drowning victims; another was a firefighter who had responded to a car crash on an interstate highway.
The firefighter, Lt. Brad Clack of the Hanover County Fire-EMS Department, was one of four firefighters struck by their fire engine when a tractor-trailer slammed into it, pushing it into them, around 9 p.m. Thursday outside Richmond, according to the Virginia State Police.
Clack was at the scene of a two-vehicle crash on Interstate 295 during the storm. The fire engine’s lights were on, and the roads were slick when it was struck by the tractor-trailer on the side of the road, police said. The driver of the tractor-trailer suffered serious injuries, police said, and charges were pending.
The other three firefighters were taken to a hospital in serious condition.
One of the drowning victims died in Charlotte County, near the North Carolina border, after a car was swept away on a bridge Thursday night, according to state police. Two other people were in the car, with one rescued and the other missing.