At least six killed by Hur­ri­cane Michael in Florida, Ge­or­gia and North Carolina

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - MARK BER­MAN, AN­TO­NIA NOORI FARZAN, ELI ROSEN­BERG, J. FREE­DOM DU LAC

Trop­i­cal Storm Michael con­tin­ues to march through the South­east, still pack­ing pow­er­ful winds and flood-caus­ing rains.

Michael made land­fall in the Florida Pan­han­dle on Wed­nes­day as a “po­ten­tially catastrophic” Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane – the strongest on record to hit the area – and charged north through Ge­or­gia and into the Caroli­nas, wreak­ing havoc and caus­ing emer­gen­cies. In the storm’s wake lay crushed and flooded build­ings, shat­tered lives and at least six deaths, a num­ber that of­fi­cials worry could rise.

Au­thor­i­ties said Thurs­day they have linked at least six deaths in Florida, Ge­or­gia and North Carolina to the storm, a toll of­fi­cials have wor­ried could rise as search and res­cue ef­forts con­tinue.

In Florida, the Gads­den County Sher­iff’s Of­fice re­ported four deaths re­lated to the storm. A spokes­woman said that one man was killed when a tree crashed through the roof of his home in Greens­boro. The sher­iff’s of­fice said that it also had three other “storm-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties fol­low­ing Hur­ri­cane Michael,” although it did not im­me­di­ately re­lease fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about what hap­pened be­yond say­ing that all four deaths were “in re­la­tion to or oc­curred dur­ing the storm.”

Gads­den, a county in north­west Florida not far from Tal­la­has­see, took a di­rect shot from Michael as it churned north­ward on Wed­nes­day.

In North Carolina, a 38-year-old man was killed Thurs­day af­ter­noon shortly be­fore 1 p.m. in Ire­dell County, north of Char­lotte, when a tree fell on the ve­hi­cle he was driv­ing, ac­cord­ing to David Souther, the county’s fire mar­shal.

And in Ge­or­gia, of­fi­cials in Semi­nole County, on the Florida bor­der, said early Thurs­day said an 11-year-old girl in a mo­bile home was killed by a metal car­port that was thrown in the air by Michael’s gust­ing winds.

Wil­liam “Brock” Long, the FEMA ad­min­is­tra­tor, said early Thurs­day that “search and res­cue is where we are hy­per-fo­cused this morn­ing.” He warned that the death toll may go up, say­ing in an ap­pear­ance on CNN that “those num­bers could climb as search-an­dres­cue teams get out.”

Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam, D, on Thurs­day de­clared a state of emer­gency in ad­vance of the storm’s im­pact, warn­ing peo­ple in the com­mon­wealth to get ready for a siz­able hit from the

former hur­ri­cane.

“I want to urge all Vir­gini­ans to pre­pare for the se­ri­ous pos­si­bil­ity of flash floods, trop­i­cal storm force winds, tor­na­does and power out­ages,” Northam said in a state­ment.

In his ex­ec­u­tive order, Northam said he was ac­ti­vat­ing the state’s emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­ter as well as the Vir­ginia Na­tional Guard.

Northam’s an­nounce­ment comes af­ter of­fi­cials in the five states al­ready hit by Michael – Florida, Ge­or­gia, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina – all de­clared emer­gen­cies.

Much of Vir­ginia was un­der tor­nado watches and flash flood watches Thurs­day, with rain­fall of up to seven inches pre­dicted in some parts of the state, a to­tal that could lead to dan­ger­ous flood­ing.

Michael pum­meled Tyn­dall Air Force Base, near Panama City, Florida, caus­ing “wide­spread roof dam­age to nearly ev­ery home and leav­ing the base closed un­til fur­ther no­tice, of­fi­cials said.

Tyn­dall is lo­cated just east of Panama City, which en­dured pun­ish­ing winds and took in­tense rain from the storm.

“At this point, Tyn­dall res­i­dents and evac­u­ated per­son­nel should re­main at their safe lo­ca­tion,” said Col. Brian Laid­law, 325th Fighter Wing com­man­der. “We are ac­tively de­vel­op­ing plans to re­unite fam­i­lies and plan to pro­vide safe pas­sage back to base hous­ing.”

In a state­ment, of­fi­cials said the that the “catastrophic” storm de­liv­ered a di­rect hit to the base, “bring­ing down trees and power lines, rip­ping roofs off build­ings and caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant struc­tural dam­age.”

Michael’s winds topped 150 miles per hour. No in­juries have so far been re­ported, the base said, but the con­di­tion of Tyn­dall’s run­way is not yet known.

Tyn­dall’s manda­tory evac­u­a­tion order was de­clared Mon­day, and it re­mains in ef­fect. The 600 fam­i­lies who live on base were of­fered space in lo­cal shel­ters.

“Ini­tial as­sess­ments of the dam­age at Tyn­dall Air Force base have iden­ti­fied se­vere dam­age to the base in­fras­truc­ture,” ac­cord­ing to an Air Force of­fi­cial. “There is no power, wa­ter or sewer ser­vice to the base at this time. All per­son­nel as­signed to ride out the storm are ac­counted for with no in­juries. The Air Force is work­ing to con­duct aerial sur­veil­lance of the dam­age, to clear a route to the base and to pro­vide se­cu­rity, potable wa­ter, la­trines and com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment. The base will re­main closed and Air­men as­signed to Tyn­dall should not plan to re­turn at this time.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ap­proved disas­ter re­quests for Ge­or­gia and Florida stem­ming from the hur­ri­cane, moves that au­tho­rize fed­eral au­thor­i­ties to co­or­di­nate re­sponse ef­forts while also open­ing up fed­eral fund­ing to of­fi­cials in those ar­eas.

The White House said Trump de­clared a ma­jor disas­ter in Florida, while FEMA said that he had signed an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion for Ge­or­gia. In re­marks Thurs­day, Trump ad­dressed the hur­ri­cane, not­ing that it had swept through the area quickly.

“The big prob­lem with this hur­ri­cane was the tremen­dous power, and for­tu­nately it was very fast,” he said Thurs­day. “It went through Florida very, very quickly.”

Although Michael has weak­ened, it con­tin­ued to bat­ter the South­east and the im­pact will con­tinue to spread in the com­ing day.

Fore­casts now call for Michael to sweep across the Caroli­nas and then south­east Vir­ginia through the day, drop­ping up to seven inches of rain in some ar­eas, which could lead to flash flood­ing. Other ar­eas could see up to three inches of rain, but more than twice that amount could fall in a swath from Char­lotte to Rich­mond and on to Sal­is­bury, Md.

Just as they did last sum­mer in Texas dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Har­vey and last month dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Florence, sev­eral groups of grass-roots, rag­tag search-and-res­cue teams have ar­rived in Michael’s wake.

But this time, even the ex­pe­ri­enced Ca­jun storm chasers say they are more cau­tious due to the num­ber of downed trees and tele­phone poles.

“This one just looks like a bomb dropped,” said Clyde Cain, a self-de­scribed ad­mi­ral with the Lou­i­si­ana Ca­jun Navy. “This one is so pow­er­ful that my guys are hav­ing to use chain saws to cut through downed trees to get into the neigh­bor­hoods. This one is just real bad, and no one saw it com­ing. We were just re­cov­er­ing from Florence.”

Cain, who was at a com­mand cen­ter they set up in Mo­bile, Alabama, said he’s been so busy af­ter Hur­ri­cane Florence that “my mama still hasn’t seen me.” He said he was warn­ing his guys this time to be even more care­ful, “there are a whole lot of tele­phone poles drop­ping. This one is just real dan­ger­ous.”

As the rem­nants of Michael be­gan to spread across North Carolina, state of­fi­cials warned Thurs­day morn­ing that res­i­dents were feel­ing an im­pact that would only worsen. Tens of thou­sands had lost power, at least 16 roads were closed, dozens of school sys­tems shut­tered and three rivers were poised for mod­er­ate or ma­jor flood­ing, au­thor­i­ties said.

Demo­cratic Gov. Roy Cooper of­fered his thoughts for the other states that bore the brunt of the storm, some­thing that North Carolina is grimly fa­mil­iar with af­ter Hur­ri­cane Florence de­liv­ered deadly flood­ing last month.

“Peo­ple in North Carolina know all too well what that feels like,” he said to his neigh­bors to the south. “For North Carolina, Michael isn’t as bad as Florence, but it adds un­wel­come in­sult to in­jury, so we must be on alert.”

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said that shortly be­fore 11 a.m., the cen­ter of Michael was about 35 miles away from Char­lotte and “pro­duc­ing heavy rain­fall and trop­i­cal-storm-force wind gusts” across much of the cen­tral and east­ern parts of both Caroli­nas.

Trop­i­cal-storm-force winds ex­tend up to 185 miles from the storm’s cen­ter, mostly to the south and east, with a wind gust of 54 mph re­ported in South Carolina.

“On the fore­cast track, the cen­ter of Michael will con­tinue to move across cen­tral and east­ern North Carolina to­day, move across south­east­ern Vir­ginia this evening, and move into the western At­lantic Ocean tonight,” the hur­ri­cane cen­ter said.

FEMA chief Wil­liam “Brock” Long said that Mex­ico Beach, Florida, not far from where Michael made land­fall, ap­peared to be “ground zero” of the storm’s im­pact.

Wash­ing­ton Post photo by Jabin Bots­ford

A car is seen caught in flood wa­ter in Panama City, Fla., af­ter Hur­ri­cane Michael made land­fall along the Florida pan­han­dle on Wed­nes­day.

Bloomberg photo by Luke Shar­rett

A truck hauls boats past a Lowe’s Cos. store dam­aged af­ter Hur­ri­cane Michael hit in Panama City, Fla., on Thurs­day.

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