The Latest: ‘Hasty search’ complete in 80 percent of area
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the aftermath of Hurricane Michael (all times Eastern):
Florida state emergency officials say they’ve done an initial search of 80 percent of the area affected by Hurricane Michael, and found no sign of widespread deaths.
State officials said Friday that search and rescue units spread across a vast region stretching from the sea to the Georgia border to look for survivors from the deadly storm.
The rescue teams did what was described as a “hasty search” to look for either victims or survivors. Florida officials said they planned to use the people on the search and rescue teams to now help pass out food and water to people in severely damaged communities.
Distribution centers have been set up outside retailers such as Wal-Mart and Publix because there is no way right now to let survivors know where they can get supplies.
Some supplies are being brought in by trucks, but state officials said they’re using helicopters to ferry in supplies to some coastal towns where roads aren’t cleared.
Florida authorities have gotten thousands of calls asking about missing persons in the region hammered in Hurricane Michael, but so far no reports of widespread deaths.
State emergency officials said Friday morning that they have canceled, for now, plans to set up a temporary mortuary unit in the Panhandle. But they’re still searching areas near the coast as well as counties near the Georgia border that were hit hard by Michael’s catastrophic winds.
Gov. Rick Scott said that state officials still “do not know enough” about the fate of people who remained in the region to ride out the storm.
“We are not completely done, we are still getting down there,” the governor added.
State officials said the high volume of phone calls from outside the disaster area could be due to the fact that vast swaths of the Panhandle remain without cellphone service.
Virginia State Police say a man was swept away from his vehicle and died as Michael lashed the state.
The death is among five storm-related fatalities confirmed Friday by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
A State Police news release says 45-year-old James E. King Jr. of Dry Fork, Va., was caught in his vehicle in a flash flood Thursday around 3:30 p.m.
A Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s deputy and a local resident tried to rescue King, but the floodwaters were too deep and fast-moving.
Volunteer firefighters and the State Police later found his body downstream Thursday night.
Virginia authorities are providing more details about the death of a firefighter who was responding to a crash north of Richmond as Michael lashed the state.
The Hanover County Fire-EMS Department says Fire Lt. Brad Clark died at the scene when a tractor-trailer struck his fire engine at the scene of a two-vehicle crash around 9 p.m. Thursday.
The department said that the fire engine had its lights and other emergency equipment activated, but roads were slick and the storm conditions were heavy. The state medical examiner’s office has ruled Clark’s death among five storm-related fatalities in the state.
Authorities say two others in his crew were seriously injured. The truck driver had to be extricated and also suffered serious injuries.
With four other deaths confirmed in Virginia, the overall official death toll from Hurricane Michael is up to 11.
Virginia authorities have confirmed five storm-related deaths in the state.
Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jeff Caldwell told The Associated Press on Friday that four people drowned: three in the western part of the state and a fourth in central Virginia. He says a firefighter also was killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into his fire truck while he was responding to a two-car crash in heavy storm conditions.
Caldwell says there were five suspected tornadoes in the state, but they are still awaiting National Weather Service confirmation.
The commander of Tyndall Air Force Base says the “base took a beating” from Hurricane Michael and will require “extensive cleanup and repairs.”
Col. Brian Laidlaw told the 3,600 airmen stationed at the base just east of Panama City that he won’t ask them or their families to return until their safety is guaranteed. The base was evacuated in advance of the Category 4 storm that struck the Gulf Coast on Wednesday afternoon with 155 mph winds and a strong storm surge.
Laidlaw called the damage “catastrophic.” Videos of the damaged base show roofs ripped off hangars and a fighter jet on display toppled onto the ground.
In his letter posted on the base’s website, Laidlaw says crews need to clear trees from roads, repair power lines and “assess the structural integrity of our buildings” before anyone returns.
The National Hurricane Center has issued its final advisory on Michael, now a post-tropical cyclone speeding off over the Atlantic Ocean.
And, impressively, Michael’s top sustained winds are growing again, to near 65 mph (100 kph) at 5 a.m., with forecasters saying it will grow stronger still.
It remains very large, with tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 275 miles (445 kilometers) from its center. A gauge on one offshore buoy recorded a wind gust of nearly hurricane strength.
The Hurricane Center says threats to land are diminishing. There’s a minor storm surge still along the North Carolina coast, gale-force winds may continue for a few more hours over the southern Chesapeake Bay area, and several inches of rain is expected from New Jersey up through Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Flash flooding may continue meanwhile in the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states.
At least six deaths have been blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in over 50 years.
The sheriff’s office in Gadsden County near Tallahassee says it “can now confirm 4 storm-related fatalities following Hurricane Michael,” all of which happened “in relation to or occurred during the storm.” County officials say they’re not releasing names or other details yet while families are notified.
One of those deaths would be a man killed by a falling tree. An 11-year-old girl in Georgia also died when Michael’s winds picked up a carport and dropped it through the roof of her grandparents’ home. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his car.
Some fear the toll can only rise as rescue teams get around storm debris blocking roads and reach isolated areas.
Hurricane Michael’s pounding waves and winds obliterated row after row of beachfront homes at ground zero on the Florida Panhandle when the epic Category 4 hurricane slammed ashore at midweek. Now recovery is just barely beginning from the catastrophic destruction even as a downgraded Michael spreads high winds, rains and flash flooding misery as far away as Virginia.
At least three deaths have been blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in over 50 years.
By early Friday it wasn’t nearly over yet: a tropical storm long after Wednesday’s landfall, Michael stubbornly kept up its punch while barreling over land toward an expected exit across the open Atlantic. Forecasters say the storm has already begun shedding its tropical characteristics but will take on a new chapter as a powerful extratropical storm with gale force winds on its trek out to sea.
For the latest on Hurricane Michael, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes