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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. 

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.

120-Year-Old Shipwrecks Exposed by Hurricane Michael

120-Year-Old Shipwrecks Exposed by Hurricane Michael

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.

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

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.

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.

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: 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.

Photos: Before and after Hurricane Michael

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:

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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

 

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