December 14, 2018
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Hurricane Michael leaves death and destruction in its wake

David Goldman | AP
David Goldman | AP
Damaged boats sit among debris in a marina in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.

Hurricane Michael, which ripped through the Southeast, leaving a trail of death and destruction from Florida to Virginia, finally moved off the coast, over the Atlantic Ocean overnight.

Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane — the strongest on record to hit the area — wreaking havoc and causing emergencies. In the storm’s wake lay crushed and flooded buildings, shattered lives and at least 11 deaths, a number that officials worry could rise.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management tweeted “Virginia storm updates as of 7 a.m today. 5 confirmed Michael-related fatalities. 520,000 without power. 1,200 closed roads. 5 suspected tornadoes.”

Authorities in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina had previously linked at least six deaths to the storm, a toll officials have worried will continue to 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 that 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 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-and-rescue teams get out.”

Of the power outages, “You fix the power, you solve a lot of problems,” FEMA Administrator William “Brock” Long said Thursday, of the post-Michael recovery and cleanup efforts.

Nearly 1.5 million people throughout the Southeast woke up without power Friday, including more than a half-million in Virginia — mostly in the Richmond and Hampton Roads areas, according to Dominion Energy. There are about 425,000 outages in North Carolina, according to a Duke Energy spokeswoman. The Florida State Emergency Response Team reported more than 350,000 outages.

The National Hurricane Center’s first public advisory arrived with little notice on Oct. 6, a Saturday. Michael wasn’t even a named storm then; it was simply “Potential Tropical Cyclone Fourteen,” and the center noted that it was “getting better organized over the northwestern Caribbean Sea.”

By the following day, the storm had its name – and by Monday, the center was sounding the alarm about Michael’s potential impacts on the United States.

Landfall came quickly – on Wednesday, along Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” – and Michael was as bad as advertised, delivering a devastating blow before heading north.

Early Friday, in “Post-Tropical Cyclone Michael Advisory Number 23,” the National Hurricane Center wrote that Michael had moved away from the United States, and that “all coastal tropical cyclone warnings and watches are discontinued.”

There may be lingering effects, though, the center wrote: “Gale winds may continue for a few more hours over portions of southeastern Virginia, the southern Chesapeake Bay, and the Delmarva Peninsula.”

And: “Michael is expected to produce 1 to 3 inches of rain from New Jersey to Long Island to Cape Cod, and 3 to 5 inches over Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard through this afternoon.”

And: “This rainfall could lead to flash flooding. Elsewhere, flooding and flash flooding may continue where Michael produced heavy rain very recently in the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states.”

It is gone and done, the center noted, adding: “This is the last public advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center on this system.”

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