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Hurricane Headlines

Lone, wild pink flamingo mysteriously appears in Florida Panhandle after hurricane

A solitary, wild American flamingo has ornithologists from Michigan, Arkansas and other parts of the country coming to Florida to catch a glimpse of it. 

>> Read more trending news 

The sight of wild pink flamingos was once plentiful in Florida’s tropical climes in the 1800s. But by the end of the century, through settlement, hunting and feather and egg harvesting sightings of the birds have been scarce, according to the Audubon Society.

The bird was first spotted Oct. 31 at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, the Tallahassee Democrat reported

“It just captivates people. How often do you get to see something like that in nature?” Refuge Ranger Robin Will told the Tallahassee Democrat. “It is that people are fascinated when nature does something unexpected like that.”

This is the second time Will has seen a flamingo at the preserve in the 40 years she has worked there. The last time was in 1995. The previous recorded sighting of one at the park as in 1972. 

It is not tagged so it is not from Busch Gardens, any other zoos, or from the established flock at the Hialeah Racetrack. 

“I am going to assume he or she was swept up in a big part of (Hurricane) Michael’s turning radius and somehow maybe landed further west then made its way to the refuge,” Will told the Democrat.

The last time the birds were seen at the park were after Hurricane Allison in 1995 and Hurricane Agnes in 1972. 

The birds are known to fly considerable distances in response to changing conditions, according to the Audubon Society. 

Before Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle, it threatened Mexico and the Caribbean, known flamingo habitats. 

Although once considered exotic to the state, researchers determined that Florida was once home to a thriving population of flamingos and appears to be repopulating.

A flock of flamingos have been seen in the Everglades coming back over the last few years, according to the Audubon Society.

“For a long time, the thought was that the majority of the free-flying birds escaped,” Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell told the Democrat. “Is it that it’s a bird that is unusual in north Florida or a harbinger of what could be one of Florida’s comeback stories?”

After the research was published in February, Florida wildlife officials removed the flamingo from its listing of nonnative species.

North Carolina mom charged after son dies in Hurricane Florence floods

Authorities filed criminal charges against a North Carolina woman for driving around barricades on N.C. Highway 218 last month during Hurricane Florence, an act that led to the drowning of her 1-year-old son, officials said.

>> Watch the news report here

>> On WSOCTV.com: Body of missing 1-year-old swept away by floodwaters found in Union County

Dazia Ideah Lee, 20, of Charlotte, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and a misdemeanor charge of driving on a closed/unopened highway.

They said the mother continued driving on N.C. 218 until her vehicle came across rushing water flowing across the road. Her car left the road but eventually stopped among a group of trees at Richardson Creek near New Salem. 

>> Read more trending news 

Authorities said the mother was able to free herself and Kaiden Lee-Welch from the vehicle, but she lost her grip on him in the rushing water. 

  Hurricane Florence aftermath: 1-year-old dies after vehicle flooded by rising waters
 

Schools to open Monday in Georgia county struck by hurricane

COLQUITT, Ga. (AP) - One rural Georgia county is preparing to reopen its schools more than two weeks after Hurricane Michael caused heavy damage in the area.

WALB-TV reports Miller County school officials had planned to resume classes last Thursday. But the southwest Georgia county pushed back the date and is now set to reopen schools Monday.

Miller County School Superintendent James Phillips says principals reported that many teachers would have missed the first day of class last week. He said hundreds were still without power last week, many roads remain impassable and some families are still displaced from their homes.

Michael made landfall Oct. 10 in Florida as a powerful Category 4 storm before carving a path of destruction across southern Georgia.

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Information from: WALB-TV, http://www.walb.com/

Driver fatally hits men repairing power lines, is charged with DUI manslaughter, investigators say

A driver fatally hit two men and injured another Wednesday and then fled the scene, investigators said. The men were working on power lines in the Florida Panhandle damaged by Hurricane Michael.

>> Read more trending news 

John Goedtke, 37, of Thonotosassa, was driving a truck that was pulling a U-Haul trailer when it hit the three men who were repairing power lines in Chipley, which is north of Panama City, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. 

George Cecil, 52, of Cole Rain, North Carolina, and James Ussery, 60, of Chipley, died. Ryan Barrett, 22, of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in critical condition, WFLA reported.

Goedtke was arrested and charged with DUI manslaughter, felony vehicular homicide and leaving the scene, the Highway Patrol said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Hurricane Michael exposes 120-year-old shipwrecks off Florida coast

Ships swept ashore nearly 120 years ago when a hurricane hit the Florida panhandle were recently uncovered by Hurricane Michael. 

>> Read more trending news 

The well-documented wrecks washed up on Dog Island in 1899, when the Carrabelle hurricane brought 100 mph winds, causing $1 million in damage and killing seven people, according to the Florida Department of State

“They’ve been mostly stationary since 1899 when they were wrecked in a hurricane,” Sarah Revell, spokeswoman with the Florida Department of State, wrote in an email to the Tallahassee Democrat. “From time to time, some parts of the site have become exposed.”

There are no plans for state archaeologists to visit the site, the Democrat reported.

  Nearly 120-year-old shipwreck discovered in Lake Erie
  Hull from 18th century ship washes ashore on Florida beach
Rescuers help hundreds of animals impacted by Hurricane Michael

Gerald Herbert/AP

Rescuers help hundreds of animals impacted by Hurricane Michael

Animal rescue groups are on the ground in the devastated Florida Panhandle, trying to help pet rescue organizations impacted by Hurricane Michael. 

>> Read more trending news 

The Humane Society of the United States is one of the groups taking part in the effort and has already moved more than 400 shelter animals into new homes across the country. 

Some of the pet shelters in the Panhandle were badly damaged by the powerful Category 4 hurricane, which knocked out power and water to many facilities. 

Sara Varsa with HSUS said moving animals from damaged shelters allows those shelters to better focus on animal-recovery efforts.

>> Related: Pets rescued from South Georgia Hurricane Michael damage zone need new homes

“Those facilities or those areas then have a lessened burden of unowned animals in care so that they can serve their community needs,” Varsa said.

Parts of the Florida Panhandle were decimated by Michael, which made landfall last Wednesday close to a Category 5 storm with winds of more than 150 mph.

“What I’m hearing back on the ground from our responders is this is like an F5 tornado,” Varsa said. “That’s what this devastation looks like. It’s going to be a long, long time in recovery.”

>> Related: Trumps visits storm-ravaged Georgia, Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael

Lawmakers are considering a House bill that would require certain licensed animal rescue groups and facilities have a disaster plan in place to keep animals safe after the next hurricane or other major storm strikes. 

 

Hurricane Michael crop damage estimates top well over $1 billion in Georgia

Cost estimates for the damage to Georgia Agriculture after Hurricane Michael are well over $1 billion, according to a new report from Georgia Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black.

>> Read more trending news 

Hurricane Michael was the first major hurricane to hit Georgia since the 1800s. It moved through southwest Georgia last week after slamming into the Florida Panhandle.

It destroyed crops, in places ripping entire pecan trees out of the ground. Some South Georgia farmers lost their entire livelihoods in just one day.

Black called the losses unprecedented and said they will impact generations to come. 

“Unfortunately, our worst thoughts were realized. We saw months and sometimes years of work just laid over on the ground in a matter of seconds,” Black said. “These are generational losses that are unprecedented and it will take unprecedented ideas and actions to help our farm families and rural communities recover.”

On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence toured the damage, pledging support to help communities rebuild.

“It’s not going to go unnoticed in this administration and we’re going to make sure the people of this region will have the support to rebuild," Pence said.

Here’s the new breakdown of the devastation by crop release Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Agriculture:

COTTON: $300 MILLION to $800 MILLION -- Cotton was the second highest contributor to Georgia’s farmgate value last year, contributing just over 7 percent. The final loss estimate will be dependent on farmers’ ability to harvest what remains in the field. Georgia had the potential of record yields for this year, so this loss is even more devastating.

PECAN: $560 MILLION -- Pecan trees that were blown over or broken are a severe, generational loss for farmers. It takes about seven years for a tree to begin producing nuts, and there is 100 percent crop loss in Seminole County, 85 percent in Decatur County and 30 percent in Grady County. Pecan farmers will take a decade to recover from the loss of a mature tree, and many of these farmers were still recovering from Irma when Michael rolled through.

>> Related: Trumps visits storm-ravaged Georgia, Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael

VEGETABLES: $480 MILLION -- Vegetables affected include sweet corn, cucumbers, squash, peppers, peas and more. Georgia is home to a wide variety of produce, much of which was affected by the high winds and hard rains of Michael. After Hurricane Florence, prices were elevated so this enhanced the loss estimate because Georgia was in a very good position to supply the market prior to Hurricane Michael. This comes as a blow to growers who had a difficult spring harvest and were counting on the fall.

POULTRY: $25 MILLION -- Poultry is Georgia’s leading agricultural industry, contributing nearly 32 percent of the state’s 2018 farmgate value in broilers and an additional 5.62 percent in eggs. Michael will make a lasting impact on this poultry industry with the loss of 97 houses and well over 2 million chickens.

PEANUTS: $10 MILLION to $20 MILLION -- While peanuts fared better than many other crops, infrastructure loss remains uncertain. The final loss estimate will be impacted by the ability to get the remaining peanuts out of the field and into storage facilities. The grading and sorting of these peanuts will play a large part of determining the final loss. Peanuts contributed nearly 5 percent of Georgia’s 2018 farmgate value. 

AGRITOURISM: Fall is typically the most important season for many agritourism sites, as it includes activities like corn mazes and pumpkin patches that bring many families and school field trips to the farms. Multiple mazes have been destroyed in addition to other farm damage. The loss estimate will be difficult to determine, even after the season is over.

>> Related: Photos: Trumps tour hurricane-ravaged Florida Panhandle

TIMBER: $1 BILLION -- Approximately 1 million acres were destroyed, most belonging to small or private landowners.

Pets rescued from South Georgia Hurricane Michael damage zone need new homes

Pixabay

Pets rescued from South Georgia Hurricane Michael damage zone need new homes

Pets rescued from south Georgia following Hurricane Michael need new homes.

>> Read more trending news 

The Atlanta Humane Society, as it often does following disasters, has taken in dogs and cats from the Albany area. Shelter facilities there were without power or water for days after the devastating storm. Last year the organization took in more than 1,000 animals from areas impacted by hurricane damage.

The Albany arrivals will be medically evaluated and then put up for adoption at the AHS’ two shelter locations. The main branch is at 981 Howell Mill Road in Midtown and the north Fulton one is at 1565 Mansell Road. Call 404-875-5331 or see atlantahumane.org for information.

Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle a week ago as a powerful Category 4 storm. The Alaqua Animal Refuge, about 70 miles from the coast, has launched a program to extend relief to animals and their owners in the hard- hit area.

The refuge’s structures and the 350 animals it houses came through the storm fine, with only minimal property damage, so it is now offering help. 

“We’re blessed, so we’re turning our focus to help others,” president and founder Laurie Hood said. “Losing a pet during this time adds more strain to people who are already over-stressed and have little or no resources.”

Alaqua is offering to help search for lost, abandoned and injured animals in addition to offering temporary refuge for pets, displaced horses and farm animals. The facility’s veterinary staff members are on stand-by to provide medical treatment.

>> Related: Trumps visits storm-ravaged Georgia, Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael

“We take the animals out, provide medical treatment and keep them safe, with the goal to eventually reunite them with their owners,” Hood said. “We work with appropriate agencies, manage the process in an organized manner, and know how to handle frightened and injured animals.”

Florida Panhandle pet or farm-animal owners can reach out by calling 850-880-6694 (leave a message) or by emailing LHood@alaqua.org. For full details see alaqua.org/michael.


            The Latest: Residents return to devastated Mexico Beach

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Latest: Residents return to devastated Mexico Beach

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (AP) - The Latest on Hurricane Michael (all times local):

11:25 a.m.

Residents of hard-hit Mexico Beach are returning home for the first time since Hurricane Michael to see homes devastated by wind and water and pieces of their lives scattered across the Florida sand.

Nancy Register sobbed uncontrollably Wednesday after finding no trace of the large camper where she'd lived with her husband Taylor. She was particularly distraught over the loss of a black-and-white photo of her mother, who died of cancer.

Husband Taylor Register found little but a stool and a keepsake rock that was given to him by a friend 40 years ago.

Residents who rode out the storm at home have been in Mexico Beach since Michael hit, but authorities told others to stay away for a week after the storm.

___

11:10 a.m.

Emergency management officials say some 124,500 customers are still without power a week after Hurricane Michael ripped through the Florida Panhandle.

Officials said Wednesday that 54 percent of hard-hit Bay County is still without electricity and about 98 percent of customers in inland Calhoun County still don't have power to their homes. In rural Jackson County, which borders Alabama and Georgia, 83 percent of customers have yet to have power restored.

State officials also say 1,157 people were still in shelters Wednesday.

____

7 a.m.

Authorities say they're arresting about 10 suspected looters a night in an area of the Florida Panhandle left in the dark since Hurricane Michael crashed ashore a week ago.

Bay County Sheriff's Maj. Jimmy Stanford tells the News Herald that looters have targeted homes and businesses and they're almost always armed.

Victoria Smith says thieves entered her powerless townhome while she and her four children were sleeping with the front door open and snatched her purse, which she was clutching to her chest. She said she was so exhausted she didn't even hear them.

In some areas of the county, spray-painted signs warn "Looters will be shot."

Stanford says it's been a stressful time for officers, many of whom lost their homes but are working 16 hour shifts. He says the influx of resources and officers from other areas will help quell the lawlessness.

______

12:11 a.m.

The scope of the Hurricane Michael's fury has become clearer after nearly a week of missing-persons reports and desperate searches of the Florida Panhandle neighborhoods devastated by the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly 50 years.

Florida officials say the storm is responsible for at least 16 deaths in the state. That count was twice the number previously tallied by The Associated Press.

The AP's tally also includes 10 deaths in Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina.

Emergency management officials say 137,000 Florida customers remain without power in an 11-county region that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia border.

But a glimmer of hope has emerged now that cellphone service has started to return to the stricken zone.

Florida reporting 16 deaths after Michael, other states 10

Hurricane Michael killed at least 16 people in Florida, most of them in the coastal county that took a direct hit from the storm, state emergency authorities said Tuesday. That's in addition to at least 10 deaths elsewhere across the South.

Here are some of the circumstances under which people died:

FLORIDA:

-Unidentified man in Gadsden County killed by falling tree on Oct. 10, confirmed by Gadsden County Sheriffs Office.

-Unidentified man in Mexico Beach, Bay County, found in destroyed home, confirmed by search and rescue team.

-Unidentified woman in Mexico Beach, Bay County, found in destroyed home, confirmed by city mayor.

-Unidentified man in Jackson County killed by falling tree on Oct. 10, confirmed by Jackson County emergency officials.

-Unidentified person in Gulf County found in destroyed home, confirmed by district medical examiner's office.

-Unidentified man in Bay County unable to receive needed dialysis because of power outage, confirmed by district medical examiner's office.

-Unidentified woman in Bay County needing electricity for medical treatment during power outage, confirmed by district medical examiner's office.

-Unidentified man in Bay County cleaning up yard after hurricane and collapsed, confirmed by district medical examiner's office.

VIRGINIA

-Bradford Clark, 43, a firefighter in Hanover County, died when he was hit by a tractor-trailer while responding to a crash on Oct. 11, confirmed by state police.

-James E. King, 45, of Pittsylvania County was swept away from his car during a flash flood on Oct. 11, confirmed by state police.

-Ronnie Allen, 36, and Ruby S. Allen, 62, both of Charlotte County, were swept away from their vehicle during a flash flood on Oct. 11, confirmed by state police.

-William Lynn Tanksley, 53, of Danville was swept away from his vehicle during a flash flood, confirmed by state police.

-Jennifer B Mitchell, 60, of Danville was stranded inside a vehicle overrun by flash flood, confirmed by state officials.

NORTH CAROLINA

-Unidentified man of Iredell County died Oct. 11 when his car was struck by a tree, confirmed by state officials.

-Unidentified woman, 64, of McDowell County died Oct. 11 when car smashed into a tree, confirmed by state emergency officials.

-Unidentified man of McDowell County died Oct. 11 when car smashed into a tree, confirmed by state emergency officials.

GEORGIA

-Sarah Radney, 11, of Seminole County died Oct 10 when struck by carport structure that smashed into home, confirmed by state emergency officials.

State and local officials in Florida have not released circumstances for other deaths listed in the state Division of Emergency Management's tally of 16 storm fatalities.

___

This story has been corrected to show that Sarah Radney's death was confirmed by state emergency officials, not police.


            The Latest: Verizon giving credit to hardest-hit counties

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Latest: Verizon giving credit to hardest-hit counties

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) - The Latest on Hurricane Michael (all times local):

6:20 p.m.

Telecommunications company Verizon says it is going to give three months of service to customers who reside in some of the Florida counties slammed by Hurricane Michael.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Verizon Wireless Executive Vice President Ronan Dunne said the company would give a three-month credit for every Verizon customer in Bay and Gulf counties.

The two coastal counties were among the hardest hit when Michael roared ashore six days ago.

Verizon's action comes after Florida officials including Gov. Rick Scott had been critical of the slow pace of cellphone restoration by Verizon. Dunne's statement says the credit would apply to both consumer and business accounts.

___

5:15 p.m.

Six days after Hurricane Michael ripped through the Florida Panhandle, nearly 137,000 customers remain without power in an 11-county region that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia border.

Michael slammed into the region on Oct. 10 and in the immediate aftermath as many as 400,000 customers in the state were without electricity.

Nearly a week later, most people living in small rural counties near the border still do not have power, according to information compiled by state emergency management officials.

Several power companies have told the state that it will take at least another five days before the lights are back on in some of the communities raked by the deadly storm.

___

3:10 p.m.

Officials say 16 people died in Florida because of Hurricane Michael, doubling the numbers of deaths in the state The Associated Press had previously attributed to last week's storm.

Florida officials announced the state's updated death toll Tuesday. State officials did not provide details of how the victims' deaths were storm-related and the AP was not immediately able to confirm those details.

Officials say 12 of the deaths occurred in Bay County, a seaside county which took a direct hit from the storm.

The AP's tally also includes 10 deaths in Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina.

___

1:45 p.m.

Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey says two people are confirmed dead in the city that took a direct hit from ferocious Hurricane Michael.

Cathey said Tuesday that the dead were a man and a woman living in separate homes who did not evacuate.

He said the sheriff's office would release their names and the details of their deaths later.

The mayor says only one person in Mexico Beach is still missing. He says authorities are "almost certain" that person evacuated before Michael and just hasn't been contacted.

Cathey says officials are "holding steady at two (deaths) and don't expect that number to rise."

___

1:30 p.m.

Life in some of the hardest-hit areas of the Florida Panhandle improved drastically as widespread cellphone service returned for the first time since Hurricane Michael.

Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey had a one-word exclamation when his Verizon phone started working Tuesday for the first time in nearly a week: "Hallelujah!"

Verizon service also resumed in storm-damaged Panama City, where residents haven't been able to contact loved ones or call for help.

AT&T service was drastically better in the days after Michael, but even it was spotty.

Cathey says communication problems have been his biggest problem in Mexico Beach, where destruction is widespread. He says Verizon is the dominant cellphone company in the area.

_______

12:05 a.m.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Florida Panhandle residents are struggling to locate friends and loved ones who haven't been heard from, and it's unclear how many people are missing.

As President Donald Trump visited the devastation Monday, the death toll from Michael's march from Florida to Virginia stood at 17, and the search for victims continued.

Since the storm, many people have been rescued. Emergency officials said that because of widespread cellphone outages, others could be safe and just haven't been able to tell friends or family.

Cities that were hit the hardest include Mexico Beach and Panama City, both in Florida. George Ruiz of Geaux Rescue, a nonprofit search-and-rescue operation, says authorities aren't allowing volunteer groups into either city.


            Far from coast, rural counties also recovering from Michael

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Far from coast, rural counties also recovering from Michael

MARIANNA, Fla. (AP) - Haylie Byler and her husband were just beginning life in their new home when Hurricane Michael's monstrous winds mowed down a dozen trees on their property, more than an hour's drive inland from where the storm made landfall.

They had made only one house payment and no payments yet on his new truck when Michael toppled a tree onto the dwelling, another onto the truck and a third on their other car. For four days, Byler had to climb over huge pine tree trunks to get in and out of her home.

"I have cried two or three times a day," the 26-year-old elementary school teacher said as chain saws buzzed behind her, wielded by church volunteers from more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. They arrived out of the blue to help.

While much of the world's attention has been focused on badly battered coastal communities such as Mexico Beach and Panama City, Michael also devastated mostly rural areas all the way into Alabama and Georgia.

Marianna, in Jackson County, was hit with stronger winds than it has ever seen despite being about 70 miles (about 115 kilometers) north of Mexico Beach, where Michael came ashore last week.

Days after the storm, 268 people there were still in shelters, power was out throughout the county and cellphone service had only been restored within Marianna. Outlying areas have had no way to communicate. Emergency workers were still conducting search and rescue operations because many people remained stuck in their homes.

Similar destruction visited community after community in Florida, all the way from coastal Gulf County to the Alabama border, where seaside escapes give way to cotton fields, cattle and timber lots.

Parks Camp, the science and operations officer at the National Weather Service Tallahassee office, said winds reached 102 mph (164 kph) before its measuring devices failed in the middle of the storm. Wind speeds could have gone higher, he said.

Jackson County emergency management director Rodney Andreasen had his own home was destroyed. He said in his 21 years in the military and 18 years in his current position, he's never seen anything like this destruction.

Andreasen said the county's power grid was destroyed and it could be a month until it's restored, and the number of damaged and destroyed homes is too high to even estimate. One person died when a tree crushed him in the storm and the death toll could still rise, Andreasen said.

"Our house was destroyed. We're homeless right now," Andreasen said as his wife Donna sat nearby. "We're victims."

Many in Florida's inland communities usually don't make the same preparations as people closer to the coast. Few evacuate, and the frantic run for food, water and supplies also isn't as great.

Shauna Benefield, 20, and her boyfriend, Alex Edwards, 21, live just north of Marianna's historic downtown in his family's home. They didn't stock up. After the storm cleared, Edwards had to drive 50 miles (80 kilometers) to DeFuniak Springs for water, food and gas. There was nowhere nearby to get any in the immediate aftermath.

Trees around their home snapped in half, some landing on the roof and sending his family to the basement for shelter. They've cleared limbs from the roof, and put up blue tarps. But they still have no water or electricity.

Still, they say, there's been a strong neighbor-helping-neighbor response. They've given out water and bananas.

"It's not just about us, it's about everyone," said Edwards, shirtless with a tattoo on his chest that reads "Walk with God. Die when my time's up" as he helped clear the mess around the house.

That same spirit of generosity is evident across the ravaged region.

"We've got a lot of people who've lost their farms, their barns, their crops," said Jill Braxton, 46, of Vernon in Washington County, which is north of Panama City and west of Marianna.

She had a pickup truck full of hay to distribute to other horse owners.

"We've got no power and we had some downed trees but our house wasn't touched. We're good," she said. "We're just trying to help other people."

Haylie Byler said she's thankful for help from strangers who "just showed up at our doorstep and just started clearing things. I don't know what I would have done. It's a God thing. I don't know what you believe, but God has definitely shown up and showed out for us."

Trumps visit storm-ravaged Georgia, Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael

Evan Vucci/AP

Trumps visit storm-ravaged Georgia, Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael

President Donald Trump and first lady, Melania, arrived at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia Monday afternoon aboard Air Force One.

>> Read more trending news 

The first couple toured areas impacted by Hurricane Michael after first visiting the devastation in the Florida Panhandle.

The hurricane killed at least 18 people, knocked out power to millions, left a trail of destruction through four states and decimated Georgia’s agricultural industry.

During his first stop in Georgia at a Red Cross facility, the president said he would ask Congress for additional disaster aid funding. 

When he was asked about climate change and if he ever thought weather would occupy so much of his time during his presidency, he responded: “Weather has been a factor and yet, they say [the] worst hurricanes were 50 years ago.

“For a long period of time, we’ve had very few,” he said, according to reporters traveling with the president. “I have a home in Palm Beach Florida and frankly for years, we had none and then, the last couple of years we had more. Hopefully, we’ll go back to many years of having none. We’ve been hit by the weather, there is no doubt about it.” 

>> Related: Photos: Trumps tour hurricane-ravaged Florida Panhandle 

Gov. Nathan Deal greeted Trump at Robins. And U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor, and Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, accompanied Trump. 

Trump also weighed in on several other issues during his stop in Georgia, including the disappearance of a dissident Saudi journalist in Turkey. Trump said a lot of people in his administration are working on the case involving Jamal Khashoggi, the missing columnist for The Washington Post. He added he is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi King Salman about it.

The president called the nation’s immigration laws the “dumbest in the history...and we are getting them changed one by one.” Further, he responded to the news that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren had released the results of a DNA test that she said indicated she had Native American ancestry. In releasing the results, the Massachusetts Democrat was responding to taunts from Trump and others, who have mocked her as “Pocahontas” and claimed she used her heritage to gain an advantage when she was a law professor. Trump had vowed to contribute $1 million to Warren’s favorite charity if she took a DNA test and it showed she had Native American roots.

“I’ll only do it if I can test her personally, and that will not be something I will enjoy doing either,” he said in Georgia Monday.

>> Related: Hurricane Michael aftermath: Waffle House opens food truck in Panama City 

Trump left the Red Cross building to visit a local farm, where he planned to meet cotton and pecan growers who have suffered storm-related losses. 

On Sunday, Trump issued a disaster declaration for Georgia and ordered federal aid for parts of the Peach State affected by the storm. The president's decision makes federal funding available to people in Baker, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Miller, and Seminole counties. That funding can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs.

Federal funding will also be made available to state and local government agencies and nonprofit groups on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in the the following counties: Baker, Bleckley, Burke, Calhoun, Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Emanuel, Grady, Houston, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Laurens, Lee, Macon, Miller, Mitchell, Pulaski, Seminole, Sumter, Terrell, Thomas, Treutlen, Turner, Wilcox, and Worth.

Georgia residents and business owners can begin applying Monday for assistance by registering at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

 More: President Trump issues disaster declaration for Georgia, orders federal aid for Peach State 

The president stopped in Georgia after surveying hurricane damage in Lynn Haven, Fla., where volunteers were registering storm victims. 

“These are some of the people who make it work, and they do it beautifully,” Trump said, according to reporters traveling with the president. 

“Somebody said it was like a very wide, extremely wide, tornado,” Trump said, standing next to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “This was beyond any winds they’ve seen for — I guess — 50 years. Nobody has seen anything like it.” 

Scott thanked Trump for the federal response. 

“I want to thank the president for always taking my call — and for showing up. And I want to thank the First Lady,” he said. 

Georgia Power said that as of noon Monday it had restored power to 97 percent of its customers impacted by the storm. 

Candace Reese, spokeswoman for Dougherty County, said Sunday that about 14,000 people were without power in the Albany area but officials expected power to be back by midweek. Churches and Tyson Foods were offering hot meals as 10 extra chainsaw crews headed down to cut the city out from under the many trees that fell.

Phil Buckhalter, an Early County farmer near the Alabama border, said Saturday that conditions were getting worse and would continue that way, with farmers and residents alike running out of gas to power generators. With no clear answer to when power will return, Buckhalter and other farmers have been sharing the precious fuel they have on their farms with desperate residents, who don’t have the means to get their own. The farmers want to help less fortunate residents who aren’t as well off, and certainly not after an unprecedented hurricane. 

But that means the farmers can’t use the gas to power machinery for saving the few crops they have left in their battered, soggy fields. 

“It’ll run out directly,” Buckhalter said. 

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said his office is scrambling to get generators up and running and to reopen sites where peanuts can be graded and dried.

“One of the things we are working on right now is bringing things back on line,” he said as he awaited Trump in Macon. “There are so many places and people that are still without power. And our team has been working together on some of those priority places to get plants back open.”

>> Related: Hurricane Michael: Neighbors come together to donate supplies for hurricane victims

The hurricane has also whipped up the race for Georgia governor. Republican Brian Kemp traveled to southwest Georgia on Saturday to help local officials prepare for the start of early voting and returned to the area on Monday. His campaign organized a disaster relief drive and briefed supporters from a distribution center in Bainbridge. 

“The response on the ground, while there is much to do, has been unbelievable from the federal, state and friends and neighbors who are helping men and women indeed,” Kemp said. “It makes you proud to be in Georgia.” 

His rival, Democrat Stacey Abrams, ticked through the spate of hurricanes that ravaged her hometown of Gulfport, Miss., to a crowd in Macon as she outlined how she would handle disaster recovery if elected. 

“It’s about immediate response and also about long-term planning,” she said. “And I’m running for governor because I believe in making sure that we have a leader who sees these communities not only in the moment of devastation and the immediate aftermath, but a year out when folks have walked away and supplies have dwindled. “ 

The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Washington Post and AJC staff writers Ben Brasch, Greg Bluestein and Joshua Sharpe contributed to this report.

Voter registration extended in 4 hurricane-hit GA counties

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has issued an executive order extending the voter registration deadline in four southwest Georgia counties hit by Hurricane Michael.

Deal announced on Monday that the deadline for registering to participate in the Nov. 6 midterm election would be extended to Oct. 16 for residents of Clay, Grady, Randolph, and Turner counties.

His office said that election offices in those counties were forced to close early on the day of the original deadline, Oct. 9, due to the Category 4 hurricane approaching from the Gulf of Mexico.

Deal had declared a state of emergency at 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 9 for most of central and south Georgia ahead of the storm.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is in charge of voter registration and elections in the state, applauded the decision by Deal.

"We have been working together to assess the potential impact of this devastating storm on southwest Georgia, and we decided that an extension of the deadline was the most appropriate course of action," Kemp said in a statement. "With this extension, we can ensure that citizens in these counties can register to vote or update their voter record in time for the November 6, 2018 election."

Michael, which was a Category 4 hurricane when it came ashore in Florida, entered Georgia as a Category 3 and later weakened to a tropical storm as it headed for the Carolinas.

But its high winds and pounding rains left downed trees and power outages behind.

President Trump visits storm-damaged Florida, Georgia after Hurricane Michael

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have landed in Florida to survey the damage Hurricane Michael left behind last week.

He was greeted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long when he arrived at Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The president embarked on an aerial tour of the area via Marine One. He is also scheduled to meet with officials and first responders in both Florida and Georgia today, CNN reported.

Check back for the latest on this developing story.

 

Proceeds from 40-pound, $2,000 pizza will go to Hurricane Florence victims

40-pound pizza you can only find in New York City goes for $2,000.

>> Watch the news report here

However, the owner of Champion Pizza said every penny he makes off the cheeseburger pie will go toward Hurricane Florence victims in North Carolina.

>> On WSOCTV.com: GOP lawmakers say they're ready to OK $800M in Florence aid

The pizza has five layers and takes a lot of preparation.

It’s so big that at least two people have to load it into the oven, and the pizza has to be split in half to fit.

The pizza is sold at seven locations across New York City.

>> Read more trending news 

"I wish or I hope like someone who likes pizza and makes $100,000 – you never know – maybe someone will buy that,” owner Hakki Akdeniz said.

 

Trump, first lady set to tour Hurricane Michael damage in Florida Panhandle, Georgia

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will visit Florida and Georgia on Monday to survey damage from Hurricane Michael. 

>> Read more trending news 

The couple is slated to tour the wreckage from the storm in the Florida Panhandle, the Associated Press reported Sunday. The White House has yet to provide additional trip details. 

Vice President Mike Pence is also expected to visit south Georgia towns damaged by the storm on Tuesday, although his office has yet to confirm those plans. He scrapped a trip to Atlanta last week because of the hurricane. 

Trump spoke with Gov. Nathan Deal on Saturday to discuss recovery efforts. The president “expressed his concerns and said the federal government is fully available and committed to helping state and local agencies,” the White House said. 

>> Trending: Georgia Gov. hopeful Stacey Abrams makes history at Atlanta Pride march

“People have no idea how hard Hurricane Michael has hit the great state of Georgia,” Trump tweeted Friday. “I will be visiting both Florida and Georgia early next week. We are working very hard on every area and every state that was hit - we are with you!” 

Trump declared a state of emergency in Georgia on Wednesday, a designation that allows the state to tap into federal money, debris removal and other services to supplement local cleanup and rebuilding efforts. 

The Category 4 storm made landfall in the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon and pounded portions of southern and Middle Georgia with rain and wind. It was the first major hurricane to enter Georgia since 1898, according to WSB-TV meteorologist Brad Nitz. 

>> Trending: Trump on missing Saudi journalist: Pledged to get to ‘bottom of it,’ vowed ‘severe punishment’

Michael has killed at least 18 people, including 11-year-old Sarah Radney in Seminole County, and left at least 400,000 Georgians without power. It has also devastated crops in southern Georgia, including cotton and pecans. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black estimated the damage could take a $1 billion toll on the state’s economy. 

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Black took an aerial tour of the damage earlier Sunday. 

The Associated Press and staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.

Hurricane Michael: Neighbors come together to donate supplies for hurricane victims

Neighbors in Atlanta are coming together to deliver food and water to victims of Hurricane Michael in Florida. 

>> Read more trending news 

Young and old came together in the city’s Candler Park neighborhood to help load a truck with supplies. 

A neighborhood mom posted online asking for donations and within hours, supplies like water and medical supplies poured in, not only from neighbors, but as far away as 

Birmingham, Alabama.  

Carrie Shevlin, who organized the drive, owns two vacation rentals in hurricane-ravaged Cape San Blas. 

On Friday afternoon, she put out a call for help and then went on a Costco run for supplies. 

"When I came back, I couldn't even get in my front door," Shevlin said. "The entire front porch was filled. My living room was filled."

>> Related: Hurricane Michael: Georgia's lone death is 11-year-old girl 

There were non-perishable food items, thousands of bottles of water and even cat food. 

About 30 people gathered at Shevlin’s house Saturday afternoon to donate, pack boxes and provide support. 

"The Cape is such an important place to so many people and to my family, and to see this outpouring of love for a place that's typically called the Forgotten Coast was really nice," Shevlin said. 

Carol and Eric Pittman, who Shevlin contacted through Facebook, drove a 26-foot truck from Birmingham to Atlanta.The truck will leave for Gainesville tomorrow and then be flown to people in need in Florida. 

Sheviln hopes that when the supplies arrive it will help people to prepare for the long road to recovery ahead. 

>> Related: Photos: Hurricane Michael leaves behind path of destruction

"I hope it gives them a little bit of hope and gives them the reassurance they are not alone," Shevlin said. "Hang in there, Gulf Country, we're coming. We're going to help you."

Florida man accused of defrauding FEMA of thousands of dollars after hurricanes, tropical storm

As people in Florida are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, a Jacksonville man is wanted on allegations of defrauding FEMA of thousands of dollars.

>> Watch the news report here

Lepoleon Spikes is accused of claiming damage to different homes in Jacksonville for three separate storms.

>> Visit ActionNewsJax.com for the latest on recovery efforts in Hurricane Michael’s aftermath

A grand jury indictment claims he provided FEMA with fraudulent lease agreements as proof of damage.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: 17 Florida DCF workers fired over emergency food stamp applications

Documents say Spikes was awarded thousands of dollars after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, as well as Tropical Storm Debby.

“You’re taking from people and families that really need the money,” said Scherlinda Bennett, who says her home was flooded during both Matthew and Irma.

>> Read more trending news 

ActionNewsJax went to one of the homes where Spikes supposedly lived, but learned that was years ago. The home’s current owner claims it never had storm damage.

 

Hurricane Safety: How to make your home stronger against the next storm

When evacuation orders are given it doesn’t matter how strong your home is; you should heed the warning. 

>> Read more trending news

However, there are ways you can make sure you have a home to come back to, one design expert said. It’ll take some investment, but it’s worth it.

Mike Kleinschmidt, the principal of Design Cooperative, whose firm was behind a home on Neptune Beach, Florida, showed WJAX-TV what makes the home unique.

“In this case, it’s all concrete,” said Kleinschmidt.

From the roof to the floors and the walls, Kleinschmidt said it was like creating a bunker.

“You could certainly build this house out of wood, but you’re not going to get the same sort of sense of security,” said Kleinschmidt.

Building an all-concrete home doesn’t come cheap, here is what you can do now to make sure your existing home can survive a storm.

“Go in and look at the weak points of your house and try to fortify those points,” said Kleinschmidt.

He said weak points are generally any openings, like doors and windows.

“You could put in missile-impact windows, you can put in stronger doors,” said Kleinschmidt. 

If your house was built before the current building codes, you should take it a step further.

“You want to make sure your trusses are tied down securely to the wall,” said Kleinschmidt.

Missile-impact windows can also run you in the thousands of dollars, but Kleinschimidt said that if that’s not in your budget, it’s worth updating older windows with newer ones that meet current code requirements.

Hurricane Michael: Looter shot trying to steal fire marshal’s car

A looter was fatally shot Friday trying to steal a Florida state fire marshal’s vehicle, officials said. 

>> Read more trending news 

The man yelled at a witness that he was looting, got into the vehicle which had its flashing lights running and shut the door, WPMI reported

“As I’m crossing the doorway, I look back, saw the officer at the passenger side. I don’t believe the door was open yet. Then I got about three more feet inside, and I heard the shot,” witness Landon Swett told WPMI

The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed a state fire marshal was involved in the shooting, WPMI reported.

With many businesses with broken windows and doors, looting has been an issue in some areas, WPMI reported.

  Hurricane Michael: How to help
  Hurricane Michael: Waffle House in Panama City closes ahead of storm
  Dozens of baby sea turtles wash ashore at Florida-area beaches
  Photos: Hurricane Michael leaves behind path of destruction
Hurricane Michael: Georgia's lone death is 11-year-old girl

Amber Radney/AP

Hurricane Michael: Georgia's lone death is 11-year-old girl

The family of an 11-year-old Georgia girl killed in Hurricane Michael is trying to do right by her, but is facing tough odds.

>> Read more trending news 

Sarah Radney died, according to authorities, after debris from a carport crashed into the home where she was staying in Seminole County. As of Thursday night, she was the state’s lone reported death attributed to Michael.

“It’s rough, I’ve never lost a kid,” said her father, Roy Radney. “One minute I’m OK, and the next minute I’m falling apart. And I’ve got five (other) kids to coach through this. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Sarah Radney’s loved ones have started an online fundraising effort to help pay for her funeral. Kim Hendrix, the child’s aunt, who moved from South Georgia to Mississippi a couple of years ago, started the GoFundMe account.

The accident, which happened in the midst of the storm, left Sarah injured and out of reach of rescuers for several hours. Her father, who was in Thomasville with his other children, ached to rush to her side, but others stopped him for his own safety.

“It’s just so hard being a father two counties away while your child is dying,” Radney said Thursday night to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He doesn’t blame rescuers for not going out into the teeth of the storm. “When people get these damn warnings, they need to listen. If you stay, that’s what they really mean: No one is coming.”

Hendrix said Sarah loved her family, was in advanced classes at a school in Cairo, and enjoyed being in a band. Sarah played the trumpet, her dad said. And she would call Hendrix every Sunday to make sure that her aunt picked her up for church, Radney said.

Sarah and her 12-year-old brother were staying with their grandparents near Lake Seminole for fall break when Michael hit the area hard.

“We knew Michael was coming, but we had no idea it was going to be like this,” Radney said.

Radney said he called Sarah and her brother every 30 minutes or so during the storm. But then the cell signal got spotty.

He told Sarah to go to her grandma’s closet and put a mattress over them if she was scared.

“That’s the last advice I’d given her,” Radney said.

He pointed out that his son, who is his only male child, witnessed everything. 

“He went through a lot worse than I did,” Radney said. “He’s definitely a new hero of mine.”

Radney, a welder, said any assistance would mean a great deal to the family because he expects to be out of work for awhile.

Hendrix said that Radney, her brother, “does a great job” giving his children what they need. 

By Friday evening, the online fundraising effort had brought in more than $19,000 from more than 415 people.

“Unfortunately, the family is going through a tough time and while money cannot heal or make the situation a happy one, the funds will assist the family in working through some tough battles in the coming days and months,” the GoFundMe narrative reads.

Because of widespread power outages across Georgia Sarah’s body was taken to Dothan, Alabama, Hendrix said.

She said Radney will travel to Dothan to take care of arrangements to get the body back — a tough task, considering fuel shortages and travel difficulties in South Georgia in the wake of the storm.

Hurricane Michael: Georgia father struggles after 11-year-old daughter dies

John Spink/AP

Hurricane Michael: Georgia father struggles after 11-year-old daughter dies

The family of an 11-year-old Georgia girl killed in Hurricane Michael is trying to do right by her, but is facing tough odds.

>> Read more trending news 

Sarah Radney died according to authorities, after debris from a carport crashed into the home where she was staying in Seminole County. As of Thursday night, she is the state’s lone reported death believed to be caused by Michael.

“It’s rough, I’ve never lost a kid,” said her father Roy Radney on Thursday night. “One minute I’m o.k. and the next minute, I’m falling apart. And I’ve got five (other) kids to coach through this. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

The loved ones of Sarah Radney have started an online fundraising effort to help pay for her funeral. Her aunt Kim Hendrix, who moved from South Georgia to Mississippi a couple years ago, started the GoFundMe account.

Hendrix said the girl had five other siblings.

>> Related: Hurricane Michael live updates: ‘Looks like an atomic bomb had hit,’ survivors sift through rubble

The accident, which happened in the midst of the storm, left Sarah injured and out of reach of rescuers for several hours. Her father, who was in Thomasville with his other children, ached to rush to her side, but others stopped him for his own safety.

“It’s just so hard being a father two counties away while your child is dying,” Radney said.

He doesn’t blame rescuers for not going out into the teeth of the storm. “When people get these damn warnings, they need to listen. If you stay, that’s what they really mean: No one is coming.”

Hendrix said Sarah loved her family and playing band. Hendrix said her niece was in advanced classes at a school in Cairo.

>> Related: Photos: Hurricane Michael leaves behind path of destruction

Hendrix said that Sarah and her 12-year-old brother were staying with their grandparents near Lake Seminole when Michael hit the area hard. Their father was with the other four children in Thomasville.

Roy Radney, a welder, said any assistance would mean a great deal to the family because he expects to be out of work for a while. “He does a great job giving them what (they need),” Hendrix said of her brother.

By Thursday night, the online fundraising effort had brought in more than $1,200 from about 30 people in less than a day.

“Unfortunately, the family is going through a tough time and while money cannot heal or make the situation a happy one, the funds will assist the family in working through some tough battles in the coming days and months,” the GoFundMe narrative reads.

>> Related: Hurricane Michael: How to help

Due to the power outages, Sarah’s body was taken to Dothan, Ala., Hendrix said. She said her brother will travel to Dothan to take care of arrangements to get her body back, a tough task considering fuel shortages and travel difficulties in South Georgia in the wake of the storm.

Hurricane Michael live updates: ‘Looks like an atomic bomb had hit,’ survivors sift through rubble

Hurricane Michael obliterated towns along the Florida Panhandle when it slammed into the region Wednesday afternoon just shy of a powerful Category 5 hurricane, packing winds of up to 155 mph.

>> Read more trending news 

The monster storm carved a path of destruction as it crashed ashore and moved inland, destroying homes and businesses, flooding roads and downing trees and power lines, according to news reports.

Piles of debris and splintered wood, twisted metal and concrete rubble dot the landscape. Hospitals, schools and stores were damaged or destroyed.

Mexico Beach was ground zero when the fierce storm made landfall. It was practically destroyed and so was Panama City.

>> Related: Photos: Mexico Beach decimated by Hurricane Michael

State officials are still trying to get a grip on the death toll. The fast-forming storm didn’t leave a very big window for evacuations and many people stayed behind, trying to ride out the hurricane.

Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm early Thursday as it swept through central Georgia and was still packing 50 mph winds late Thursday as it barreled through North Carolina.

Live updates:

Hurricane Michael path of destruction

Update 8:00 p.m. EDT Oct. 11: As Hurricane Michael continued its march through the Carolinas and Virginia Thursday, it left a path of destruction in it’s wake stretching from the Gulf Coast to Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management confirmed the storm knocked out power to 145,000 homes and business Thursday.

The National Weather Service is warning about dangerous flash flooding in places like Farmville.

A video shot near Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida shows what 155 mph winds look like.

Parts of the Florida Panhandle have been wiped out by Hurricane Michael. Emergency responders are still trying to get an accurate number of fatalities, but can’t get into some areas yet.

Complete devastation in Florida Panhandle

Update 6:30 p.m. EDT Oct. 11: The scenes along the Gulf coast are shocking. Whole towns in the Florida Panhandle, like Mexico Beach and Panama City, were mostly destroyed by Hurricane Michael. 

The devastation stretches for miles, with lone structures dotting the landscape where entire neighborhoods once stood.

Thousands of volunteers, rescue crews and first responders spent Thursday trying to assess the storm damage and search for survivors. 

Utility crews are on standby to help restore power to thousands of customers, but they can’t get through yet because roads are still impassable in many areas.

6 dead in aftermath of Hurricane Michael

Update 5:20 p.m. EDT Oct. 11: The death toll from Hurricane Michael in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina has increased to six so far, according to The Washington Post.

In Florida, the Gadsen County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed four storm-related deaths, but other than confirming a man’s death Wednesday from a falling tree, officials have not released any information yet on the other victims.

An 11-year-old girl was killed in Georgia by a piece of metal that was whipped into her home when Michael barreled through.

A 38-year-old man was killed in Iredell County, North Carolina when a tree fell on his car, the Post reported.

>> Related: Photos: Hurricane Michael leaves behind path of destruction

Meantime, life-threatening flash flooding is underway in parts of North Carolina and Virginia as the storm rips across the region, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center. 

The NHC is also warning of dangerous storm surge along portions of the North Carolina coast.

Death toll increases

Update 3:03 p.m. EDT Oct. 11: The death toll from Hurricane Michael is rising as first responders and survivors  comb through the rubble along the Florida Panhandle. So far the total number killed is three, according to The Associated Press.

A man in Gadsden County, Florida, died Wednesday when a tree fell on his home. Another man reportedly died from a heart attack and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia was killed when a  carport that was ripped away by the storm crashed into her home.

>>Photos: Mexico Beach decimated by Hurricane Michael

‘Looks like an atomic bomb had hit’

Update 1:28 p.m. EDT Oct. 11: One survivor of the hurricane that battered the panhandle said that his city “looks like an atomic bomb had hit our city,” The Panama City News Herald reported.

Some areas are not allowing residents who did evacuate to come back into their neighborhoods until crews can clean up power lines and trees that fell during the storm, the Associated Press reported

Tyndall Air Force Base is closed as officials deal with “widespread catastrophic damage.” No one was injured, but nearly every home on the base has damage to roofs. About 600 families who live on the base were evacuated before the storm, the AP reported.

Power is starting to come back on in some areas with about 713,000 homes and businesses across five states still without power, according to CBS News.

In North Carolina, crews have had to conduct water rescues after neighborhoods were swamped by flash flooding, the AP reported.

In Georgia, the Seminole County coroner has identified the 11-year-old girl who was killed by Hurricane Michael. The coroner says Sarah Radney died after a portable carport was picked up by the wind and dropped on her home’s roof. The leg of the carport broke through the roof and hit her in the head. The coroner believes she died of massive blunt force trauma, WSB and the AP reported. Originally Seminole County EMA Director Travis Brooks said it was a tree. 

State of Emergency in Georgia

Update 9:25 a.m. EDT Oct. 11: President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency in Georgia. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that his declaration will allow the state access to federal resources to help local and state efforts to remove debris and recover from the storm.

Gov. Nathan Deal had already declared a state of emergency for most of the state and activated 1,500 National Guard troops.

Meanwhile more than 750,000 power outages have been reported in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama, The Washington Post reported.

Tropical Storm Michael moves over South Carolina

Update 8 a.m. EDT Oct. 11: Tropical Storm Michael is now moving over South Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 a.m. EDT advisory

The storm is about 40 miles west-northwest of Columbia and is moving northeast at 21 mph, the advisory said.

The center’s director, Ken Graham, is scheduled to provide an update on the storm at 8:30 a.m. EDT via Facebook Live.

Visit the Facebook page here.

11-year-old killed by falling tree

Update 5 a.m. EDT Oct. 11: According to WSB-TV, an 11-year-old was killed when a tree fell onto a structure in south Georgia as Michael swept through the state, Seminole County EMA Director Travis Brooks said early Thursday.

Meanwhile, the tropical storm continued to weaken over eastern Georgia with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 a.m. EDT advisory

The storm is about 30 miles west of Augusta and 90 miles northeast of Macon. It is moving northeast at 21 mph, the advisory said.

Read more here.

Tropical Storm Michael continues to weaken

Update 2 a.m. EDT Oct. 11: Tropical Storm Michael is continuing to weaken over central Georgia, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 2 a.m. EDT advisory.

The storm is about 25 miles east of Macon and is moving northeast at 20 mph, the advisory said.

Read more here.

Michael downgraded to tropical storm

Update 12:38 a.m. EDT Oct. 11:  Michael is no longer a hurricane and has been downgraded to a tropical storm, the National Hurricane Center said in its 12 a.m. EDT update. It is about 30 miles south-southwest of Macon, Georgia, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. Michael is moving northeast at 17 mph, the update said.

Read more here.

Hurricane Michael weakening through Georgia

Update 11:55 p.m. EDT  Oct. 10: Hurricane Michael is still a Category 1 storm, but barely. The hurricane’s wind speed has dropped to 75 mph, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is picking up speed, too, as it whips through Georgia, moving at 20 mph toward the northeast, the NHC said in its 11 pm report.

Hurricane Michael losing steam

Update 10:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Hurricane Michael is weakening as it moves through Georgia on track for the Carolinas.

The storms wind speeds have dropped to 80 mph as it moves in a northeasterly direction at 17 mph, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.

The NHC is predicting a moderate risk of flash flooding as the storm moves through Georgia.

“Heavy rainfall from Michael could produce life-threatening flash flooding from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region into portions of southeast Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and southeast Virginia,” according to the NHC’s latest update.

Tropical storm warnings are posted along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas. 

The storm is expected to reach southern North Carolina sometime Thursday.

Parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast in shambles

Update 9:00 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: The scenes of destruction in the Florida Panhandle in places like Mexico Beach and Panama City are staggering.

Shattered buildings, flooded streets, stripped and downed trees. Entire swaths of the region are completely without power.

State authorities said it could take up to a week to get power restored in some areas, although Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that repairing the grid is a top priority once first responders can get into communities damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Michael

>> Related: Photos: Hurricane Michael makes landfall, leaves destruction behind

The Category 1 storm is now moving through Georgia and marks the first time since 1898 that the state has taken a direct hit from a hurricane.

Update 8:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Hurricane Michael has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm. 

First death reported in Panhandle, storm weakening

Update 7:10 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: The first death from Hurricane Michael has been reported in the Florida Panhandle, according to The Associated Press.

A man was killed at his home by a falling tree, the AP reported, citing a sheriff’s official.

The National Hurricane Center is reporting that Michael is weakening and is now a Category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 100 mph as it moves through Georgia.

Hurricane Michael moves into Georgia

Update 7:00 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: The outer bands of Hurricane Michael are already being felt in Atlanta as the storm’s center moves through the southwestern part of the state.

Tornado warnings are posted in Atlanta. 

WSB-TV Meteorologist Glenn Burns said that radar showed a large area of debris lofted over 11 thousand feet into the air in Crawford County, Georgia earlier, indicating that a strong tornado possibly touched down there. 

Catastrophic damage in Mexico Beach, Florida

Update 6:45 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: When Hurricane Michael made landfall early Wednesday afternoon along Florida’s Panhandle, it crashed ashore in Mexico Beach.

Parts of the town look like a bomb went off with debris from homes, businesses and boats strewn about.

Catastrophic storm surge also caused massive flooding.

At least one storm victim was caught on video trying to hold onto the wall of his house as Michael’s powerful winds tore it down.

Emergency response to start when storm passes

Update 6:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: The Florida National Guard is waiting to begin assisting in storm recovery efforts in Florida.

Utility companies have thousands of workers preparing to deploy to hard hit areas, as soon as they can safely begin fixing power outages, according to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

National Guard on standby in four states

Update 5:50 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: The National Guard is on standby in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina and is prepared to deploy where needed to help with emergency responses after Hurricane Michael passes through.

Major damage in parts of Florida

Update 5:45 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Hurricane Michael has caused major damage in parts of Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend region and the storm is still moving through the state as a powerful Category 3 hurricane.

Power crews are on standby to help restore power in Florida when Michael moves out late Wednesday.

Florida gov. requests federal disaster declaration

Update 5:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already requested that President Donald Trump issue a  major disaster declaration in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

Scott is also warning people in the Panhandle and other areas to stay off the roads and to shelter in place as the storm continues moving through the state.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a press conference that people who did not evacuate need to make sure they’re in a strong structure and that they get to the highest point.

Tornado threats in Panhandle and Big Bend areas

Update 4:54 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Tornado warnings are posted in parts of Florida and southern Georgia as Hurricane Michael spawns twisters as it moves inland.

The storm has caused major flooding in parts of the Panhandle and Big Bend areas, submerging roads and inundating homes, according to news reports.

Flash flood warnings are posted in several areas.

Dangerous storm surge is still a major concern along the Panhandle as Michael, now downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane, blows through the region, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Downed trees and power lines are causing power outages along the storm’s path.

Reports of major damage

Update: 4:35 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: The extent of the damage from Hurricane Michael in Florida’s Panhandle is still largely unknown, but there are reports that the powerful storm has caused major damage in some areas. Damage assessment is underway in some areas and more information is expected by Wednesday evening.

Michael moving northeast

4 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: At 3 p.m. the National Hurricane Center says Michael has moved well inland and the storm’s winds are sustained at 140 mph. From the NHC:

Marianna Florida airport: 102 mph

University of Florida/Weatherflow Mexico Beach: 83 mph 

Panama City Beach National Ocean Service: 80 mph 

Tallahassee International Airport: 71 mph

Donalsonville Georgia: 67 mph 

Downtown Tallahassee: 63 mph 

Still a very strong Category 4

3:20 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Hurricane Michael is inland now and moving northwest. Maximum sustained winds remain at 150 mph.

More scenes of damage

3:18 p.m. EDT Oct 10

Michael uproots tree, pushes water inland

2:56 p.m. EDT Oct. 10

Some scenes from Michael:

2:36 p.m. EDT Oct. 10

How did the storm get so big so fast?

2:23 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: From The Associated Press: “Moist air, warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, and ideal wind patterns turbocharged Hurricane Michael in the hours before it smacked Florida's Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael's wind speed increased by 50 mph in 24 hours, to 140 mph Wednesday.” 

Click here to read the rest of the story about how Michael grew into a monster storm.

One of the lowest pressures ever

2:08 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Michael had the third lowest pressure of a landfalling hurricane in the United States when it crossed the coast at Mexico Beach, Florida. The “Labor Day Hurricane” of  1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969 were the only storms with a lower measured pressure at landfall.

Michael makes landfall

1:44 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Hurricane Michael has made landfall northwest of Mexico Beach, Florida. The highest sustained wind measured during the storm was 155 mph. A Category 5 storm has sustained winds of 157 mph.

Eyewall coming ashore

1:10 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: There are reports of 116 mph gusts as the eyewall of Michael comes ashore. Landfall is not official until the center of the eye (where the lowest pressure is) crosses the coastline. It appears that will take place around Mexico Beach, Florida.

1:06 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: The storm is beginning to come ashore.

Power outages growing

12:39 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Nearly 30,000 customers are without power as Hurricane Michael nears the Florida Panhandle. 

Water continues to rise

12:31 p.m. EDT Oct. 10: Apalachicola Police Chief Bobby Varnes tells CNN that water is rising in his city. The surge is about 6 feet now, at low tide. The city is expecting up to 13 feet of storm surge. U.S. Highway 98 has been closed in Apalachicola.

NHC latest update

11:58 a.m. EDT Oct. 10:  The National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. CDT update puts Hurricane Michael 35 miles southwest of Mexico Beach, Florida, near Panama City. The storm has sustained winds of 150 mph. That is 7 mph from a Category 5 hurricane.

Michael gets stronger

11:45 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: Michael has strengthened, according to the National Hurricane Center, with winds now at 150 mph. Gust are 175 mph.

What does a Category 4 storm look like?

11:15 a.m. EDT Oct. 10Click here to see a few livestreams of the storm as it makes landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

Michael is now moving north-northeast

10:50 a.m. EDT Oct. 10The NHC has issued a 10 a.m. CDT update on Hurricane Michael. The storm remains at 145 mph and is now moving north-northeast. Michael’s speed has increased to 14 mph and at 10 a.m. CDT, it is located 60 miles from Panama City, Florida.

Michael is moving fast

10:10 a.m. EDT Oct. 10According to the NHC, Michael is maintaining a fast forward motion of 13 mph. Ian Sears, flight director on a NOAA “Hurricane Hunter” airplane, says the pressure in Michael continues to drop. That means the storm is getting stronger as it moves towards the Florida Panhandle.

Water is rising

10 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: Water levels are continuing to rise quickly along the coast of the Florida Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center says. A National Ocean Service water level station at Apalachicola has reported more than 4 feet of inundation above ground level there.

Warnings about the storm surge

9:32 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: Florida Gov. Rick Scott is warning coastal residents that the storm surge from Hurricane Michael can reach 13-feet in some areas.  

An ‘unprecedented event’

9:15 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: The National Weather Service in Panama City, Florida, warns that Hurricane Michael’s landfall will bring “catastrophic damage” to the Florida Panhandle. 

“This is an unprecedented event as there are no Category 4 storms on record to have made landfall along the Florida Panhandle coast,” the NWS statement said.

No emergency services help now

9:05 a.m. EDT Oct 10: The Bay County Emergency Management Agency tweets that fire and emergency medical services are “now unable to respond to calls” because of deteriorating weather conditions. Panama City is located in Bay County.

The latest from the NHC

9 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: Here is the latest update from the NHC:

Michael would make history

8:40 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: If Hurricane Michael maintains its current strength when it makes landfall along Florida’s Panhandle, it will be one of the strongest storms to ever hit the state. No Category 4 or Category 5 storm has hit the Panhandle since the National Weather Service has been tracking hurricanes.

The latest updated from the National Hurricane Center

7:45 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: Hurricane Michael has sustained winds of 145 mph and is continuing to move north in the Gulf of Mexico. At 7 a.m. CDT, Michael was located 95 miles southwest of Panama City, Florida. The storm is moving north at 13 mph.

The latest from the NHC

7:05 a.m. EDT Oct 10: Here is the latest update from the NHC.

Storm surge will be high

6:45 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: Storm surge levels could reach up to 13 feet in some areas as Michael makes landfall.

Michael update from the National Hurricane Center

6 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: Michael is 120 miles south-southwest of Panama City Beach and 115 miles southwest of Apalachicola, Florida, with winds of 140 mph. The storm is moving north at 13 mph. A landfall near Panama City is expected around 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Michael has winds of 140 mph

5 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: Here is the 4 a.m. CDT update from the National Hurricane Center

Michael is a Category 4 hurricane

Update 1:59 a.m. EDT Oct. 10: Michael has become “an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane” with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 2 a.m. advisory

The storm is about 180 miles south-southwest of Panama City, Florida, and 170 miles southwest of Apalachicola. It is moving north at 12 mph, the advisory said.

Read more here.

What it is like to be on a cruise ship in a storm

Update 11:16 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas cruise ship apparently got caught in the outer bands of Hurricane Michael early Tuesday on its way to Cuba. One of the ship’s passengers posted video of the encounter on Twitter.

Hurricane Michael inching toward Category 4 status

Update 11:00 pm. EDT Oct. 9: Hurricane Michael’s wind speeds have increased to 125 mph as it maintains a steady pace of 12 mph, tracking for the Florida Panhandle, according to the latest briefing from the National Hurricane Center.

Roads in Alabama are already flooding as Michael closes in.

The National Weather Service has put out a bulletin urging everyone in Michael’s path to move inland “immediately.”

Warnings and watches all the way to South Carolina

Update 10:10 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: Warnings for Hurricane Michael now extend from Alabama and Florida along the Gulf Coast to South Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.

Powerful winds and storm surge are a big concern as Michael tracks toward a landing early Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael becoming better organized

Update 8:40 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: Federal agencies are warning residents about the potential for deadly storm surge as Hurricane Michael closes in on the Gulf Coast.

The National Hurricane Center is predicting Michael could cause storm surge between nine and 13 feet. 

The chart below shows just how dangerous just a couple feet of surge is.

Michael’s winds hit 120 mph

Update 8:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: Hurricane Michael is packing 120 mph winds as it barrels toward the Florida Panhandle.

According to the National Hurricane Center’s latest briefing, the storm has become better organized posing a graver danger to those in its path as it nears the Gulf Coast.

It is still moving in a northerly direction at 12 mph and has the potential to increase to a Category 4 hurricane before making landfall somewhere in the Panhandle early Wednesday morning, NHC officials said.

Storm surge could hit 13 feet

Update 6:40 p.m EDT Oct. 9: The National Hurricane Center has continued to warn that Hurricane Michael could cause potentially life-threatening storm surge.

Some areas along the Gulf Coast could see up to 13 feet of storm surge.

The agency is predicting the worst surge will occur between Mexico Beach and Keaton. 

With severe storm surge comes flooding.  Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are warning people in Florida and in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas to brace for potentially dangerous flooding as Hurricane Michael makes landfall and moves inland.

Where will it hit

Update 6:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: Hurricane Michael could make landfall in the Florida Panhandle as early as Wednesday morning anywhere  from Destin, Florida, to Apalachee Bay as a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center. The center is also projecting the storm will track northeast through Georgia and the already storm-weary Carolinas before blowing into the Atlantic late Thursday.

Unlike Hurricane Florence, Michael is moving much faster and forecasters expect the storm to moving quickly once it makes landfall.

Hurricane warnings are posted from the Alabama-Florida border to Florida’s Suwanee River. A hurricane watch is posted as far west as the Alabama-Mississippi border, the NHC reported.

Florida gov. issues another warning

Update 5:30 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: Florida Gov. Rick Scott is warning residents in the Panhandle and Big Bend areas that Hurricane Michael is a serious storm.

“This is your last chance to get prepared for this monstrous and deadly storm,” Scott said on social media Tuesday afternoon. 

“The state is not taking this storm lightly and neither should any family,” he said as Michael bears down on the Gulf Coast.

Michael strengthens into Category 3 hurricane

Update 5:00 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: Hurricane Michael has been upgraded to a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is moving in a northerly direction at 12 mph.

How to find shelter

4:15 p.m. EDT Oct.9: If you need help finding a shelter:

Warning from the National Weather Service

2:35 p.m. EDT Oct 9: Michael could develop into a potentially catastrophic event for the northeastern Gulf Coast," the Tallahassee National Weather Service office is warning in its area forecast discussion. Storm surges of more than 12 feet are not out of the question, the NWS says.

Airports closed

2:14 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: United Airlines has canceled flights scheduled for Tuesday evening through Wednesday afternoon to three airports in Florida -- Pensacola, Panama City and Destin.

Thousands have been ordered out

1:45 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: More than 120,000 coastal Florida residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes in advance of Hurricane Michael. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has issued mandatory evacuation orders for 11 Florida counties.

Coastal areas of Bay, Citrus, Dixie, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson, Levy, Okaloosa, Taylor,  Wakulla and Walton counties are under mandatory evacuation orders.

Michael could be the strongest in more than a decade

12:35 p.m. EDT  Oct. 9: Michael could be the strongest storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in 13 years. With winds just 1 mph below the threshold for a Category 3 storm, forecasters say it is a good likelihood the storm will be a Category 3 as it makes landfall. 

Deal declares state of emergency

12:30 p.m. EDT  Oct. 9: Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order on Tuesday declaring a state of emergency and warning that Hurricane Michael could have “significant inland impacts” in Georgia after the storm makes landfall in the Florida Panhandle.  

“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Michael,” Deal said in a statement. “In light of the storm’s forecasted track, I encourage Georgians in the affected counties to be prepared and remain vigilant." 

The latest on Michael

12:00 p.m. EDT Oct. 9: The National Hurricane Center says Michael is a Category 2 storm with winds at 110 mph. According to the 11 a.m. update, Michael is headed north and is about 360 miles south of Panama City, Florida. Michael is moving at 12 mph. 

Related stories:

Hurricane safety: 15 tips that could save your life during a storm

Hurricane safety: Here’s what to do if your car is swept away by water

Hurricane Safety: What are hurricane categories and what do they mean?

Hurricane evacuation: Helpful apps for finding gas, hotel rooms, traffic routes 

Here's how to keep your pets safe during a hurricane

How to use internet during a storm when your internet is down

 

Hurricane Michael: How to help

Joe Raedle/Getty Images/Getty Images

Hurricane Michael: How to help

Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida as a Category 4, nearly Category 5 storm, leaving 750,000 people without power and at least two people dead.

The storm, with winds up to 155 mph, left behind a large path of destruction, bringing flash floods, downing trees and power lines, and wrecking homes and businesses.

>> Read more trending news 

Early Thursday, Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm. Recovery efforts have begun. Those who were in the path of the hurricane or had to evacuate can let loved ones know they are safe on Facebook’s Safety Check or the American Red Cross Safe and Well page. Family and friends can also use these sites to check on affected loved ones.

Here is how the public can help the victims of hurricane Michael.

Give blood

Following Hurricane Florence in August, the American Red Cross reported a critical need for blood and blood platelet donations. Matthew led to the cancellation of dozens of drives in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Red Cross drives can be located on the American Red Cross Blood Services website.

LifeSouth, a community blood center in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, is also holding blood drives, including mobile ones. They can be located on the LifeSouth website

Donate money

Habitat for humanity is assisting with long-term recovery efforts. “Donations will be used to respond to families affected by Hurricane Michael until Habitat for Humanity's role in meeting the need is met, at which time funds will be used for Habitat's disaster response efforts where most needed,” the organization said. Donations can be made at the Habitat for Humanity website.

Related: Hurricane Michael live updates: 750,000 without power, 2 killed as Tropical Storm Michael weakens

Fundraising site GoFundMe created a general relief fund with a $50,000 goal to directly help storm victims.

“Funds raised on this campaign will be managed by The Direct Impact Fund, an independent, registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization” GoFundMe said. “The Direct Impact Fund collects and distributes funds to verified GoFundMe campaigns and aid organizations created to help those affected.”

Related: Photos: Hurricane Michael leaves behind path of destruction

The American Red Cross is also taking donations

People can also donate to the Florida Disaster Fund, which is the state of Florida’s official private fund to help communities recover from disasters and emergencies.

The International Medical Corps has sent teams of doctors to affected areas to help at medical facilities and shelters. They accept donations to help provide medical care and pay for medical supplies.

Volunteer time

VolunteerFlorida is recruiting volunteers to register and help disaster response organizations in the state. Once registered, organizations like the Salvation Army or American Red Cross will reach out to qualified volunteers depending on need.

Hurricane Michael: Videos, photos show devastation along Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael battered Florida's Panhandle on Wednesday, bringing with it destructive 155 mph winds and life-threatening storm surge.

>> Hurricane Michael: Latest updates

Its winds ripped apart homes, and feet of storm surge left homes underwater.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Florida here.

>> On WSBTV.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Georgia here.

Photos and video from the Panama City area show the path of destruction left behind by the near-Category 5 storm.

>> Read more trending news 

Check them out below:

 

Hurricane Michael: Trump likely to visit Florida, Georgia next week to survey storm damage

President Donald Trump is likely to visit storm-ravaged areas of Florida and Georgia hit by Hurricane Michael early next week, White House officials told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.

>> Hurricane Michael: Latest updates

The president spoke with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey during the flight to receive updates on the storm, which barreled into Florida on Wednesday and pounded parts of south and middle Georgia with rain and wind.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Florida here.

>> On WSBTV.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Georgia here.

The White House said Trump “offered any federal resources necessary and continues to receive regular updates.”

>> Read more trending news 

Read more here.

 
Historic Hurricane Michael: How it stacks up to other U.S., Florida storms

Ivy Brown/News | WSBTV

Historic Hurricane Michael: How it stacks up to other U.S., Florida storms

Even as the storm still rages, Hurricane Michael is already making its mark on history.

>> Watch the news report here

Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle with winds of 155 miles per hour. A hurricane reaches Category 5 status when winds reach 157 miles per hour.

>> Hurricane Michael: Latest updates

Only a few storms have made landfall in the United States stronger than Hurricane Michael. Only three Category 5 storms have ever hit the continental United States; Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3, was not one of them.

Before meteorologists and weather experts named storms, a Category 5 hurricane hit the Florida Keys on Labor Day 1935. That storm holds the record with winds of a staggering 185 miles per hour.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Florida here.

The second-worst storm to hit the continental U.S. was Hurricane Camille, which hit far western Mississippi in 1969 as a Category 5 storm.

The third-worst storm on the list is one still fresh in the minds of many Floridians: Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in August 1992. The storm tore through Homestead as a Category 5 with winds peaking at 165 miles per hour.

>> On WSBTV.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Georgia here.

That brings us to the present with Hurricane Michael, which is now the fourth-strongest hurricane in U.S. history.

When it comes to hurricanes that hit Florida’s Panhandle, Michael’s wind speed at landfall surpassed Hurricane Opal, which was the previous record holder. Opal made landfall near Pensacola as a Category 3 in 1995.

Nine people died in Hurricane Opal, and the damage totaled more than $4.7 billion.

>> Read more trending news 

Michael is stronger still than Hurricane Irma when it slammed into the Keys in 2017 with winds of 130 miles per hour – and Michael’s winds are three times stronger than what Central Florida experienced from Irma.

One comparison that will resonate with people is to last year’s “M” hurricane, Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and killed thousands. Maria made landfall over southeast Puerto Rico with winds of 155 miles per hour – the same intensity as Michael when it hit Mexico Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, though the eye of Maria was slightly larger, which allowed for more widespread damage.

  /video/hot-video/video-hurricane-michael-rips-through-southeast/
 

Hurricane Michael: Mike Pence cancels Atlanta trip as storm pounds Georgia

Vice President Mike Pence canceled his Thursday visit to Georgia to host a high-dollar GOP fundraiser as Hurricane Michael roared through the state. 

>> Hurricane Michael: Live updates

It was the second time the Republican was forced to scrap a visit to Georgia to boost Brian Kemp’s run for governor due to a major storm. He canceled a September visit because Hurricane Florence was barreling toward the Southeast.

>> On WSBTV.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Georgia here.

He was set to visit Delta’s TechOps maintenance facility before heading to the Grand Hyatt Buckhead for the Georgia GOP’s Victory Dinner. Democrats planned to greet him with a large rally outside the hotel featuring supporters of Democrat Stacey Abrams.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Florida here.

He was likely to face a cascade of criticism if he went through the trip, similar to the pushback President Donald Trump faced for traveling to a political rally for a Pennsylvania lawmaker shortly after the hurricane made landfall. 

>> Read more trending news 

Trump said the decision to go was a “quandary” but that he did not want to disappoint the crowd expecting him. 

“I hear they have thousands of people lined up, so we are in a little bit of a quagmire," he said.

 

Hurricane Michael: Waffle House in Panama City closes ahead of storm

If the forecasts from meteorologists weren’t enough indication of the possible severity of Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle, this alternative tracking method might -- the Waffle House in Panama City is closed

>> Read more trending news 

With more than 1,500 restaurant locations across the Southeast that are typically open 24 hours every day of the year, a closure is a big deal, so much so that emergency officials informally determine how bad a storm is based on the Waffle House Index. 

“If a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it’s yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red. Because Waffle House is well-prepared for disasters… it’s rare for the index to hit red,” according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Panama City location is expected to reopen after Hurricane Michael passes.

The Category 4 storm has 140 mph sustained winds and is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon.

  12 things you didn't know about Waffle House
  Hurricane Florence: Waffle House Index prepared for storm
  Hurricane Michael: Scenes from Florida as the storm approaches
  Hurricane Michael: What damage can a Category 4 hurricane do?
  Hurricane Michael: What kind of damage will a Category 5 hurricane do?

Hurricane Michael: Has image of skull appeared on satellite image?

As the Florida Panhandle region braced for Hurricane Michael, some eagle-eyed weather watchers noticed what looks like a skull in one of the satellite images of the storm.

A photo of the image was posted to Twitter by WZVN meteorologist Jim Dickey, USA Today reported.

>>Read: Hurricane Michael live updates

>> Read more trending news 

>>Read: Hurricane Michael: What kind of damage will a Category 5 hurricane do?

CDO means “central dense overcast” or the thunderstorm clouds around the hurricane’s eye.

Hurricane Matthew had a similar image just over two years ago on Oct. 6, 2017, as the storm passed over Haiti, USA Today reported

  Photos: Hurricane Michael makes landfall, leaves destruction behind
 

Hurricane Michael: Scenes from Florida as the storm approaches

Ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Michael, thousands of people on the Florida Panhandle are heeding the warning to prepare for the worst or get out.

>> Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Florida here.

>> Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Georgia here.

Photos on social media show deserted store shelves, stacked sandbags, busy evacuation routes, and ominous clouds closing in on the coast.

>> Read more trending news 

Check out some of the posts below:

 

How to know whether your tree will fall during Hurricane Michael

Trees provide many benefits, but during severe weather, they can fall and create a dangerous situation.

>> Read more trending news 

As Hurricane Michael intensifies this week, it’s crucial for state residents to keep an eye out for falling trees.

The following guide will help you keep your trees from falling (when possible) and know what to do if it happens.

Why do trees fall?

Trees can fall during storms for a variety of reasons, including:

Winds: Winds can uproot a tree, with the tree trunk acting as a lever. This is a greater problem for tall trees, because the force that's applied to the roots and trunk is greater as the tree's height increases, according to Scientific American. This can also happen if a tree was previously in a more forested area, protected by other trees that have since been cut down (to create a new housing lot, for example).

Rain: When the ground becomes saturated from large amounts of rain, trees can topple more easily. The more wet the ground is, the less wind it will take to make it fall.

>> Related: Hurricane Michael live updates: Storm close to Category 4 storm with 125 mph winds

Ice: During an ice storm, the weight of ice can increase the weight of branches by 30 times.

Lightning strikes: Lightning strikes can cause a tree to fall or weaken it so it's more vulnerable in future storms.

Health issues: A tree that's unhealthy is more likely to fall.

How to reduce the chances that a tree will fall

There's no guarantee that, under the right conditions, a tree won't fall. However, Greg Levine, co-executive director of Trees Atlanta, offered the following tips to help increase the chances that your trees will survive a storm:

Check for signs of fungus: Fungus growing on the roots or root flare (where the trunk widens as it transitions to the root system) can weaken the tree, making it more likely to fall in a storm.

Don't compact tree roots: Parking on tree roots or rolling over them can cause compaction, which weakens the roots and tree.

Use mulch: Mulch helps create healthy soil and a good environment for "critters" that will promote soil and tree health.

Don't "top" your trees: Cutting main branches back to stubs creates structural issues that can weaken the tree.

Take care when redoing utilities: If you're having a water line replaced or an irrigation system put in or replaced, don't dig a trench near the root system of your trees. This can cause tree roots to be accidentally cut.

>> Related: How dangerous is a hurricane? Understanding hurricane categories

Look for multiple trunks: Big trees can develop two trunks that will push against each other, causing cracks that let moisture seep in. This can make the tree rot.

Have trees pruned when needed: Eliminating dead branches helps keep trees healthy.

Consult a certified arborist: If you think a tree is damaged, consult a certified arborist for advice so you can avoid a bigger problem. It's especially important to have trees near your house checked.

» RELATED: Hurricane safety: 15 tips that could save your life during a storm

What to do after a tree falls

If a tree has fallen after a storm, take the following steps:

Be careful: If the tree hits a power line, the line may be knocked down and should not be touched.

Call your insurance company: If you have a fallen tree on your house, fence or other structure, call your insurance company before having the tree cleared away.

Call a tree removal company: Many offer 24-hour emergency service and can do the job safely and quickly.

Here are airlines that are waiving fees for flights impacted by Hurricane Michael

With Hurricane Michael expected to make landfall Wednesday, multiple airlines have issued travel advisories for the areas in Michael's path.

>> Read more trending news 

Hurricane Michael is currently projected to hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 3 storm Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Here’s a the list of the airlines that have waived fees as of Tuesday afternoon.

ALLEGIANT AIR

Allegiant Airlines will have flights impacted at six airports that they service in the Southeast. This includes:

  • Destin, Florida
  • Gulfport, Mississippi
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Savannah, Georgia

The travel advisory is in effect from Tuesday until Friday Oct. 12. Customers can call their customer service at 702-505-8888. 

Canceled flights for Wednesday and Thursday have already been posted on Allegiant's site. 

AMERICAN AIRLINES 

American Airlines will waive a change fee for flights at the following airports:

  • Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Florida
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Panama City, Florida
  • Pensacola, Florida
  • Tallahassee, Florida. 

The waivers are available if your tickets were scheduled to travel between Oct. 9 and Oct. 11 and if you purchased your ticket by Oct. 8.

>> Related: Hurricane Michael live updates: Storm strengthens into a powerful Category 3 hurricane

All changes must be booked by Oct. 13 or completed within one year of original ticket date. 

The Atlanta-based airline is waiving fees for flights scheduled Oct. 9-11, 2018 to these airports:

  • Albany, Georgia
  • Augusta, Georgia
  • Dothan, Georgia
  • Fort Walton Beach, Florida
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Panama City, Florida
  • Pensacola, Florida
  • Tallahassee, Florida
  • Valdosta, Georgia

Tickets issued on or before Oct. 9 are eligible for the waivers and tickets must be reissued by Oct. 14. A change fee will be waived if the rescheduled date is past Oct. 14, but a fare difference may apply. 

Delta is also waiving all baggage and pet cabin fees for Fort Walton Beach, Mobile, Panama City, Pensacola and Tallahassee. Those guidelines can be found here.

FRONTIER AIRLINES

Frontier Airlines said they have enacted guidelines through Thursday at the airports in Pensacola, Florida, Atlanta, Birmingham, Alabama, and Tampa.

Customers who booked their flights between Oct. 9 and Oct. 11 before Monday Oct. 8 will have their fees waived. They have until Oct. 31, 2018 to complete their travel. Canceled flights may be eligible for a refund. 

JET BLUE

Jet Blue Airlines will waive the change fees for customers traveling through Atlanta on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11. Only flights booked before or on Oct. 8 are eligible for the waivers. 

Customers will have until Oct. 13 to rebook their flight either online or by calling 1-800-JETBLUE. 

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

Southwest Airlines says that flights may be delayed, diverted or canceled during these dates at the following airports:

  • Oct. 8-Oct. 10: Tampa
  • Oct. 8-Oct. 12: Atlanta
  • Oct. 9-Oct. 11, New Orleans, Panama City, Florida and Pensacola, Florida
  • Oct. 9-Oct. 12: Charleston, South Carolina
  • Oct. 9-Oct. 13: Norfolk, Virginia and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Customers with reservations during these dates can rebook within 14 days of their original flight without charge. If your flight is canceled, you can request a refund for an unused ticket. 

UNITED AIRLINES

United Airlines will waive change and fare difference fees for flights impacted by Hurricane Michael at the following airports:

  • Alabama: Mobile
  • Georgia: Atlanta, Savannah
  • Florida: Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola and Panama City
  • South Carolina: Charleston, Columbia, Greenville-Spartansburg and Myrtle Beach

The original travel dates must be between Oct. 9 and Oct. 11. 

Home Depot sends truckloads of supplies to Florida in preparation for Michael

When Hurricane Michael storms ashore along the Gulf Coast, residents may be a little better prepared thanks to Atlanta-based Home Depot.

>> Read more trending news 

The home improvement retailer has already shipped a few hundred truckloads of supplies, such as generators and plywood, to the Florida panhandle, according to a company spokesperson.

“We maintain close communication with leadership that’s in the impacted area and we become aware of any needs that may arise," Home Depot’s Jeff Partin said.

The giant retailer literally has a hurricane command center  where it had hundreds of generators and pallets of trash bags waiting to be shipped to the Carolinas ahead of Hurricane Florence last month.

“The response is going to be the same and sustained regardless of how many storms we have,” Partin said.

>> Related: Hurricane Michael live updates: Storm strengthens into a powerful Category 3 hurricane

Home Depot is planning to close five stores in the hurricane zone along the Gulf Coast Tuesday night, and then re-open them on Thursday after the storm passes.

WSB’s Michael Seiden contributed to this report.

Red Tide: How Hurricane Michael will affect toxic algae

Toxic algae, known as the red tide, has been wreaking havoc along the Florida coastline for months.

As Hurricane Michael approaches, many are wondering what effect this storm will have on this harmful bloom. 

>> Read more trending news 

According to marine biologists, there may be two different scenarios that play out: one positive and the other negative.

The positive would be strong offshore winds that would help to break up the algae and push it away from the coastline. On the flip side, if the track alters and winds blow onshore, this could push the bloom inland into interior channels and canals. 

Related: Hurricane Michael live updates: Storm strengthens into a powerful Category 3 hurricane

The bigger concern is whether Hurricane Michael becomes a heavy rainmaker leading to flooding. Runoff from agricultural areas could send fertilizer filled with nutrients to the beaches and coastline. If these nutrients reach the toxic algae, they would feed the bloom and cause it to grow. 

Hurricane Michael: If you live in the Florida Panhandle, do this by the end of Tuesday

Experts will continue monitoring the red tide and the effects Hurricane Michael may have on it.

Hurricane Michael: If you live in the Florida Panhandle, do this by the end of Tuesday

The National Hurricane Center on Tuesday warned that Hurricane Michael is likely to be a major hurricane as it nears the coast of Florida on Wednesday.

Michael, forecasters said, could be a Category 3 storm with winds in excess of 125 mph when it makes landfall.

>>What is the Saffir-Simpson scale, how does it work; is there a Category 6? 

Federal and state emergency management agencies are advising those living in coastal areas along the northern Florida Gulf coast to be aware and finish preparations for a probable landfall somewhere in those areas.

Here are some of the preparations you should complete as soon as possible if you live along the coast of Florida, and some information from a Ready.gov publication that includes a checklist of what to do in advance of the storm:

Basic preparedness tips (Complete these Tuesday) 

1. Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.

Florida: Click here for the Florida Emergency Management Department.

2. Put together a go-bag: disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, medications and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate.

3. If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.

4. Make a family emergency communication plan.

5. Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city or county name and the word “alerts.”

Preparing your home 

1. Hurricane winds will cause trees and branches to fall. If you can, trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe.

2. Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property. Clear your yard of unsecured items such as lawn chairs.

>>Why you should never use a generator during a storm 

3. Consider buying a portable generator. Generators can be deadly if used incorrectly. Remember to keep generators and other alternative power sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture. That means you cannot use a generator during a storm.

What does 'hurricane warning' mean and what should I do if one is issued? 

A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.

Steps to take 

1. Follow evacuation orders from local officials, if given.

2. Check in with family and friends by texting or using social media.

3. Follow the hurricane timeline preparedness checklist below, depending on when the storm is anticipated to hit and the impact that is projected for your location.

What to do when a hurricane is 18-36 hours from arriving 

1. Bookmark your city or county website for quick access to storm updates and emergency instructions.

2. Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks) and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.

3.  Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8-inch exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.

What to do when a hurricane is 6-18 hours from arriving 

1. Turn on your TV/radio or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

2. Charge your cellphone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.

>>How to use the internet during a storm when your internet is down

What to do when a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving 

1. If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are, and let friends and family know where you are. It is too late to safely evacuate. You run the risk of being caught in traffic on a roadway when the storm makes landfall.

2. Close storm shutters and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.

3. Turn on your TV/radio or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

4. Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.

>>How a coin, frozen cup of water could keep you from getting sick 

After the hurricane 

1. Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.

2. Check in with family and friends by texting or using social media.

3. Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.

4. Watch out for debris and downed power lines.

5. Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and 1 foot of fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

6. Avoid floodwater, as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.

7. Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.

8. Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm. 

9. Never plug your generator directly into your home outlet. That’s known as “backfeeding” and puts people at risk of electrocution.

Jim Cantore gets ‘trespass warning’ from Florida sheriff

You know when Jim Cantore shows up, the weather is going to be bad. But one Florida county is rolling up the welcome mat for the Weather Channel reporter. 

The sheriff of Santa Rosa County has issued a “trespass warning” on Facebook, telling the television personality to stay away, the Pensacola News Journal reported

The “warning” says Cantore is a person of interest and should only make “non-business related visits” during the winter months.

>> Read more trending news 

According to the post, “Everyone knows what’s in store when Jim Cantore shows up. So we issued a little notice.”

But the “warning” was all in jest, with a message to Cantore that says, “This is not a real trespass. We like Jim, just not under these conditions,” the News Journal reported.

 

Hurricane Michael: Delta caps some airfares due to storm

Delta Air Lines says it is capping airfares for travel to and from certain cities in Florida and Alabama later this week due to Hurricane Michael.

>> Hurricane Michael: Live updates

Atlanta-based Delta said it is capping fares at $299 each way Oct. 9-11 for coach class to and from Pensacola, Panama City, Destin-Fort Walton Beach and Tallahassee, Florida; and Mobile, Alabama.

>> On AJC.com: Delta, Southwest warn Hurricane Michael could disrupt flights

First-class fares are capped at $499 each way for those cities during that Tuesday-Thursday time period.

>> Read more trending news 

Delta is also waiving certain change fees for passengers flying to, from or through those cities Tuesday or Wednesday who want to change their plans to avoid the storm. 

 

Hurricane Michael: Delta, Southwest warn storm could disrupt flights

Delta Air Lines is warning flights in Florida and Alabama could be disrupted by Hurricane Michael.

>> Hurricane Michael: Live updates

Atlanta-based Delta said flights to, from or through Florida's Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, Pensacola and Tallahassee, as well as Mobile, Alabama, could be affected by the hurricane.

Delta passengers with flights booked to, from or through those cities on Tuesday or Wednesday can change their itineraries to avoid the storm without paying certain change fees.

>> On AJC.com: Delta caps some air fares due to Hurricane Michael

The airline said it is monitoring the storm, which is predicted to move through south Georgia and the Carolinas “by mid-week into Friday as the storm weakens,” according to the carrier.

Meanwhile, Dallas-based Southwest warned that flights could be disrupted in Atlanta through Friday. Flights also could be disrupted through Tuesday in Cancun, Mexico, and Havana, Cuba; and from Tuesday through Thursday in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Panama City and Pensacola, Florida, according to Southwest. 

>> Read more trending news 

Flights may be delayed, diverted or canceled, the airline said.

Southwest said customers who have flights booked to, from or through those cities on those dates can rebook without paying an additional charge, under certain restrictions.

 

Hurricane Michael strengthens; National Hurricane Center warns of ‘life-threatening storm surge’

Hurricane Michael is barreling toward the Florida Panhandle as people in the storm’s path prepare for the arrival of a possible Category 3 storm.

>> Read more trending news 

The National Hurricane Center is warning of “life-threatening storm” surge of 8 to 12 feet, which could cause flooding of roads, homes and businesses.

Mandatory evacuation orders are already posted in three Panhandle counties: Gulf, Wakulla and Bay Counties, according to news reports.

Here are the latest updates:

Update 8:11 a.m. EDT Oct. 9: Hurricane Michael has strengthened and is now a Category 2 storm. it has top wind speeds of 100 mph, The Associated Press reported.

The storm is scheduled to hit the Florida coast Wednesday then will hit Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday night and Thursday, the AP reported.

About 120,000 people are under evacuation orders in Bay County, Florida. And county officials have advised them that they need to leave earlier rather than later. If anyone decides to stay, officials say stock up on supplies and “don’t expect the government to help take care of you. You need to take care of yourselves.”

Update 2:12 a.m. EDT Oct. 9: Hurricane Michael “has changed little in strength during the past few hours,” the National Hurricane Center said in its 2 a.m. advisory.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 90 mph and is about 455 miles south of Panama City and 425 miles south of Apalachicola. It is moving north-northwest at 12 mph, the advisory said.

Read more here.

Update 11:30 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: Hurricane Michael could bring dangerous winds and storm surge to parts of the Florida Panhandle when it makes landfall along Florida’s Gulf Coast sometime Wednesday.

The storm is moving north at 12 mph with 90 mph wind speeds, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A State of Emergency was issued in 26 counties as Florida’s State Emergency Response Team projected Michael will make landfall as a 115 mph Category 3 hurricane and could continuing intensifying over the next 36 hours.

A hurricane warning is posted for parts of the Gulf Coast, and the National Hurricane Center is warning of dangerous winds that are expected to move inland as the storm makes landfall, extending across parts of the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia and southeast Alabama.

The storm is expected to produce heavy rains and dangerous flash flooding.

Update 5:23 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Michael barreled north toward the Gulf coast, AL.com reported.

"Tomorrow we will start seeing the effects of Michael and those in its path will need to take shelter by tomorrow evening," the governor said in a news release. "Please stay weather aware today and tomorrow for any forecast changes. Most importantly, heed all warnings and instructions from local authorities."

The storm is expected to cause heavy rain, high winds and power outages in Alabama AL.com reported. 

Update 5:02 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: Hurricane Michael is bringing hurricane-force winds to the western tip of Cuba, according to the 5 p.m. advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center.

The storm was moving north at 9 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River. A tropical storm warning was issued from the Alabama-Florida border west to the Mississippi state line and from the Suwannee River to the Chassahowitzka River. A tropical storm watch was issued from the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island near Bradenton, Florida, and from the Alabama-Mississippi border west to the Pearl River.

Update 2:48 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: Mandatory evacuations have been ordered by the Bay County Commission in advance of Hurricane Michael. The evacuation order tells those living in Zones A, B, and C in the evacuation zone map must leave their homes starting at daylight Tuesday, the Panama City News Herald reported.

Click here to see what areas are under the evacuation order and how to proceed.

Update 2:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: President Donald Trump says that the administration will be ready when Hurricane Michael makes landfall. 

During his comments to a convention of chiefs of police being held in Orlando, Trump said, his administration is working with local and state officials in Florida and are urging everyone in the path of the storm to prepare and listen to local officials, CNN reported

Trump also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been briefed in advance of the storm, CNN reported.

Earlier in the day, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called up 500 members of the Florida National Guard to help with preparations and get ready for the storm to hit. 

“We are well-equipped, with assets including high water vehicles, helicopters, boats and generators,” the governor’s office announced.

But Florida isn’t the only state preparing for the worst. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has raised the Texas State Operations Center preparedness from “normal conditions” to increased readiness.” He has told residents in the state to prepare for flash flooding and heavy rains as Hurricane Michael moves across the Gulf of Mexico, CNN reported.

Update 11:00 a.m. EDT Oct. 8: Hurricane Michael is continuing to strengthen. The National Hurricane Center says that life-threatening storm surge could hit part of the Florida Gulf Coast.  It is expected to bring with heavy rainfall and hurricane force winds. Residents are being advised to listen to local officials when it comes to preparing for the storm.

An update from the National Hurricane Center’s director is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. EDT.

Update 7:58 a.m. EDT Oct. 8: Tropical Storm Michael is “expected to become a hurricane very soon” and is pounding western Cuba with heavy rain and strong winds, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 a.m. EDT advisory.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and is about 120 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and 70 miles south of Cuba’s western tip. It is moving north at 7 mph, the advisory said.

Read more here.

Update 5:05 a.m. EDT Oct. 8: Tropical Storm Michael has almost reached hurricane strength, the National Hurricane Center said early Monday in its latest advisory. 

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and is about 90 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico, and 100 miles south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba. It is moving north at 7 mph.

A hurricane watch has been issued for Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend, the advisory said.

Read more here.

Update 11:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 7: Florida Gov. Rick Scott has issued a state of emergency in 26 counties across the Panhandle as Tropical Storm Michael takes aim at the state.

Scott has suspended his Senate campaign to focus on the impending storm, he announced Sunday.

“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” he warned during a Sunday afternoon briefing.

“This storm has the potential to bring devastating impacts to the Panhandle and Big Bend and every family must be prepared,” Scott said.

Original story: Tropical Depression No. 14 strengthened into Tropical Storm Michael on Sunday afternoon and is heading for the Florida Panhandle, the NHC said.

Michael was moving in a northeasterly direction at 3 mph with wind speeds of 50 mph late Sunday afternoon.

Current models put the storm on track for a landfall Wednesday or Thursday morning in Florida’s Panhandle.

Remnants of the storm could blow through parts of North and South Carolina, already devastated by last month’s powerful Hurricane Florence, according to some computer models.

Tropical storm warnings were posted for western Cuba, Jamaica and parts of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the National Weather Service reported. A warning means tropical storm conditions, including gusty winds and strong surf, is expected within 24 hours.

>> Related: Photos: Deadly Florence soaks the Carolinas

The National Hurricane Center said an Air Force hurricane hunter plane would investigate Tropical Storm Michael.

Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Emergency response crew disciplined after drinking during hurricane relief mission

Several Gaston County emergency medical services personnel are under fire after allegedly drinking and partying while on a mission to assist hurricane victims.

>> Read more trending news 

The incident occurred after a Gaston County EMS crew was sent to a North Carolina town hit by Hurricane Florence. 

"They were part of the relief effort. They were on duty at all times, correct?" reporter Stephanie Tinoco asked Gaston County Chairman Chad Brown.

"As my understanding with the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) effort, you are on duty for 24/7,” Brown said. “That's the way they would pay."

"Since they were being paid for hurricane duty, were they also being paid for that time that they spent drinking or partying?" Tinoco asked.

"I do know the manager's office is looking into that,” Brown said.

Gaston County EMS officials said no one missed any calls or responded to calls after consuming alcohol, and they said that disciplinary action was taken.

“In Gaston County, we will not condone any part of that,” Brown said. "Some bad decisions were made. We do know that.”

Gaston County officials said a crew of 10 was deployed to Bladen County on Sept. 11 to assist with preparation for and the immediate aftermath from the hurricane. The deployment was initially scheduled for five days, but due to road conditions, the crew stayed an additional two days. 

County commissioners confirmed one person resigned, another was fired and multiple people have been suspended.

However, they said that not everyone participated in the drinking.

“There were people in that group that went down who didn't act in that way,” Brown said. “I've heard some had left to not be a part of that."

In a press release, officials said:

"Although these personnel provided valuable services in Bladen County, there were some poor decisions made by some personnel during their down time that were inconsistent with the values of Gaston County EMS and Gaston County government. Unfortunately, in this instance appropriate disciplinary action had to be taken for each individual involved." 

Channel 9 asked EMS officials what the standard operating procedure is for out-of-county response and if any changes to policies will be made in the future.

They have not yet responded.

Hurricane Safety: 6 scary, infectious illnesses you can catch from floodwater

Hurricanes can leave behind tons of damage, including flooding. But did you know that treading through the wrong kind of water can cause illnesses or even death?

Floodwaters and standing water are often contaminated, posing several risks, such as infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries.

Here are six sicknesses you should beware of in the aftermath:

Diarrheal diseases

Drinking or eating anything that has come in contact with floodwaters can lead to cryptosporidiosis, E. coli or giardiasis. While cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are brought on by parasites, E. coli is caused by bacteria.

Symptoms from each include diarrhea, gas, nausea and vomiting. Cryptosporidiosis, however, can even be fatal for those with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS or cancer. 

Wound infections

Open wounds and rashes that are exposed to floodwater can cause tetanus or Vibrio vulnificus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection, and it can enter the body through breaks in the skin like a cut.

>> 10 tips to stay safe when returning home after a natural disaster

Vibrio vulnificus, another bacteria, can be contracted the same way. Many people become infected by consuming undercooked shellfish or exposing an injury to brackish or salt water.

Other illnesses 

People affected by flooded areas can also get trench foot. It occurs when your feet are wet for long periods of time. It can cause pain, swelling and numbness.

>> Read more trending news 

You should also be aware of chemical hazards from materials that may have spilled into the water. And be cautious of electrical hazards, since there are puddles that may be electrified due to fallen power lines.

Curious about other diseases you can catch? Take a look at the full list at CDC’s official website

 

Hurricane Safety: What are hurricane categories and what do they mean?

The East Coast is no stranger to hurricanes and the destruction that follows. The Saffir-Simpson scale was developed to help determine damage and flooding before it strikes.  

What is a hurricane? 

A hurricane is a rotating low-pressure weather system that converts the energy of warm air into winds and waves. Hurricanes have “warm core” centers, meaning the center of the storm is warmer than the surrounding air. Warm ocean temperatures and wind patterns that spiral air inward are necessary for a hurricane to form.>>How to use the internet during the storm when your internet is down

The “eye” of the storm is produced as the warm air rises in the storm’s center and a center of low pressure is created. When the pressure in that area drops, more air is pulled in, creating a sort of heat-pump effect that causes the storm to repeat the process and grow in intensity. The storm will continue to do so until it’s supply of warm water is interrupted.

Thunderstorms spiral out from the eye and the water is pushed ahead of the storm, building what is called a "storm surge." The storm surge forms to the east of the eye.

>>What is a storm surge and why is it dangerous?

When a system has sustained winds of 39 mph, it is classified as a tropical depression. When the winds reach 39 mph or higher, the depression becomes a tropical storm and is given a name. 

At 74 mph, the system is a hurricane. 

What is the Saffir-Simpson scale and what does it have to do with hurricanes? 

The tropical system is assigned a category depending on its wind speed. Here are the categories, the wind speeds and what those winds will likely do once the system makes landfall:

>>What is the Saffir-Simpson scale; how does it work; is there a Category 6? 

Category 1 -- 74 to 95 mph: Very dangerous winds will produce some damage. Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to the roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days. 

Category 2 -- 96 to 110 mph: Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly-rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks. 

Category 3 -- 111-129 mph: Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes. Category 3 storms and above are considered major hurricanes. 

Category 4 -- 130-156 mph: Catastrophic damage will occur. Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months. 

Category 5 -- 157 mph or higher: Catastrophic damage will occur. A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and walls collapsing. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.  

Here is a video that shows the increasing level of damage in each category.

 

Hurricane Safety: Here’s a step-by-step guide to filing an insurance claim

A hurricane leaves a path of destruction and many are left trying to figure out how to begin the chore of cleaning up and repairing their property. 

>> Read more trending news 

Insurance companies will send claims teams to the affected areas after the event so that customers can get the process of filing a claim started and get the money to repair their property in a timely manner. 

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to file an insurance claim following a hurricane or flood: 

1. It is important to file the claim with your insurer as soon as possible. Thousands of people will be filing claims, and you want to get yours as high as you can on the list. 

2. The Insurance Information Institute, an organization that provides information on insurance issues, suggests you make temporary repairs to your home if they are needed to protect it from further damage. Save the receipts for supplies so you can turn them in for reimbursement. 

3. Once you are able to speak to an insurer, you will need to ask these questions:

  • Is the damage you described covered under the terms of your policy?
  • How long do you have to file a claim?
  • How long will it take to process the claim?
  • Do you need estimates for repairs?

4. This step is very important: Once you make the claim, be sure to write down the claim number. Again, insurers will be dealing with thousands of people -- make it easy for them to communicate with you about your claim by having the claim number written down where you can find it.

5. When you speak to your insurer, record the day and time of the conversation and with whom you spoke. Take notes about what is said and if any monetary amounts are mentioned.

6. You need to be ready to provide an accurate description of damages to your insurer. If you can safely do it, walk around your home and make notes on what was damaged. 

7. After you contact them, your insurance company with send you a “proof of loss” form to complete or will send an adjuster – a person trained to assess the damage to property – to your home to get the information on your losses. To speed this process along, start gathering information about your property and the items that were lost or destroyed. A proof of loss form will ask you to describe the items damaged or destroyed, provide the approximate date of purchase and estimate the cost to repair it or replace it. If you happen to be able to produce receipts for items, that would be a help as well.

8. Another step you can take to document what was damaged is to photograph or videotape the damage. Be sure to point out structural damage in the photos or video.

9. Do not throw out damaged items. You want an adjuster to see them first.

10. If you are unable to live in your home and must stay elsewhere, keep all receipts for any living expenses – hotel rooms, food, and other costs of evacuation. Most homeowner policies that cover windstorm damage will cover those costs.

11. Be wary of anyone who comes to your door offering to do repairs or claiming to be insurance adjusters. 

12. If you have no insurance, you can register for federal disaster relief at DisasterAssistance.gov. You do that by downloading the FEMA mobile app or by calling 1-800-621-3362. 

Disaster assistance can help with temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses, including crisis counseling and legal assistance. Click here for more information on FEMA aid.

Water vs. wind: What is covered?

Hurricanes cause wind and water damage. Homeowners insurance covers these hazards in a different way. 

>>Does insurance cover hail damage to your car, house?

Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage – including flooding that is caused by storm surge. You would have needed to have flood insurance to pay for damages caused by water beforehand. Structures or belongings that were damaged by flooding are covered only by flood insurance.

Wind damage is not covered in some coastal states. You would have had to purchase a separate windstorm policy in advance, which is a common thing in those coastal states. Both North Carolina and South Carolina are states where insurance companies can charge special deductibles for wind damage.

Damage to your car is generally covered by your automobile insurance.

Finally, be patient. It may take a while for someone to get to you and assess your damages.    

 
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